Someone I hadn’t seen in years paid me a visit recently and brought home once again that we all have demons to deal with – they can be hidden to us, but vey obvious to others – and can cost us our best life.
In the spirit of sharing, I’m relaying three stories today about people who achieved a lot professionally, but found their life lacking. The first two set about shaking off their demons, but I’m not so sure the last one will. I’m sure some of this will resonate with you.
“I don’t want to do this any more” said the doctor. His role at the time boiled down to telling people they had weeks to live because cancer was killing them. “I want to be a clown.”
We talked. “Go for it,” was the conclusion.
Fast forward a couple of years, and he’s on a roll. It’s still a journey of self-discovery, but he’s created his own way of living. He is based outside Paris, where the theatre school is – which is more thespian than clowning around – and earns by working as a locum across the United Kingdom, flying or driving to wherever his placements are.
Dr A struggled with his chosen vocation for years, and is now very happy, embracing being a doctor as a way to earn (very well) as he fast-tracks his way to financial freedom. He is currently very busy putting together his latest production. He spent August performing for free at the Edinburgh Fringe because he dared to get off the treadmill and is enjoying every step.
Sounds like a dream deal doesn’t it – using a learnt skill or vocation to earn part-time while taking chunks of time off (you decide when) to do what you love? Not only does it mean you are fulfilled, but that you reframe how you view what you do to earn a living. And yes, there are many jobs that allow you to live this way.
“Same [junk], different day.” “I don’t want to do this any more.” He was at the top of his ladder – heading up the regional office of an international press organisation. He had lived in many countries, started up bureaus, covered global meetings – and he wanted out.
His father had worked as a cashier in a bank, but his first love was music. The son (my journalist friend) had done the “right” thing by pursuing academic excellence, but wanted desperately to start a music shop. His heart was set on breaking free and being entrepreneurial – my beautiful rosewood gong was in his first shipment of goods to the UAE. He didn’t want to repeat his father’s heartbreak, taking a much less glamorous job and burying his true passion.
Years down the line, the music business he started is still going. There have been ups and downs, but the journey was worth it. He had the option of going this route because he has a financial cushion – he had saved a chunk of what he’d earned as a journalist.
Saving money is the most important building block you can have. Having more money than you need to live means you have choice.
Someone I know came over the other evening. He’s nearly 50. He’s been getting panic attacks, thinks about death a lot and is questioning what he’s doing with his life. His father was just seven years older than he is now when he passed away – it does not take a genius to figure out there is a lot of subconscious angst at play. This person is a top manager at a company that is the biggest in the world at what it does. He loves what he does and enjoys the travel that goes with it, but has questioned what it’s all for and whether his traditional goal of ensuring a comfortable retirement is the right thing for him.
I shared the two stories above with Mr C. His eyes lit up, but only for a moment. He then went into default corporate mode, referring to his employer as “we”, with its billion-dollar value tag line, just about every time he mentioned his place of work. He reminded me of the over-PR’ed people I’d interviewed over the years.
I’m referring to people who have been prepped by their public relations counterparts to their detriment. They are no longer able to answer questions with a human touch, rattling off all manner of facts and seemingly clever marketing lines that can be utterly meaningless.
These are people I do not want to interview or chat with. I don’t learn or glean things from them. Sometimes all that’s needed is a simple, human answer. Throw in a tad of stating the obvious and context, and you’re on to something, key messages (when they’re meaningless) be damned.
This condition – being over-PR’ed – is how many of us live our lives. We go through the motions. We don’t think of context, or why things are important.
There is no one way to live. If there’s something you really want to do, do it.
I don’t mean be irresponsible. I mean be brave, and be very responsible.
What’s your life passion? Yes you can. You just need to figure out how. In the meantime, fight your demons and save, save, save your money.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website cashy.me. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and find her on Twitter at @nimaabuwardeh.
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