Selling Out Our Dreams

So when did you sell out on your childhood dreams?  Noticed I asked ‘when’ and not ‘if’.  Well that is because I’ve run into so very few people that are living their dreams.  What happen to us that this is so common now?

I’ll offer myself up as an example I could have chosen another path that was better in line with my creative side, but no I was practical instead and took an engineering degree.  I chose it because I knew it was a more sellable degree that offered a higher and consistent income.  Ironically I have done very little true engineering work during my career, perhaps a third of my career so far, but that doesn’t matter it still got me a steady pay cheque.

Yet why did I do it?  I think perhaps because in our society we value financial security over happiness.  Happiness is a nice ideal, but people are typically more driven to pick the choice that offers financial security.  Yet is that security an illusion.  If you don’t believe me ask any one of the thousands of auto workers that have been laid off recently.  I’m fairly sure a year ago they thought their jobs were secure.

So why do we sell out if the security isn’t there?  I think we do it because we want to take the easy way out.  We want the arrangement of show up and do your work and we send you a cheque every two weeks or twice a month.  To do what truly makes us happy would entail a lot of self examination and likely hard work to make that dream come true.  Then after all that you wouldn’t even be sure how much you would be making.  It would be a questionable investment of time for an unknown rate of return.  We would be living on what we produced and none of us is sure enough of our talent to make that bet.  Our self doubts haunt us so we take the easy way instead.

Yet how many of us are really suited for this whole slave away at a job we don’t like for pay cheque?  What would happen if more of us took a risk on happiness?  Would the world change or would every look the same except for a lot of happier people?  I don’t know.

So what’s your story?  What did you sell out for or are you one of the rare ones who are living your dreams?  If you feel like sharing, leave a comment.

22 thoughts on “Selling Out Our Dreams”

  1. Everyone has their own motivations. A person i worked with left his job to work with a company that has better benefits. His previous job was directly related to his degree and was very interesting. His new job is less stimulating and not related to what he study in school. Money is not my current motivation, but it seems it may be his.

  2. It’s so hard to determine what you want out of life when you’re as young as I am. I love what you say, though- do something that you love. Don’t necessarily go with practicality for practicality’s sake.

    It’s hard though. I’m going in to business right now because that’s what I “think” I’ll like. I like it a lot now, but who is to say that’s my dream.

    I guess I need to discover what I really want out of life, and then go from there.

  3. I quit architecture school for a career in a boring but hot construction-related field. This was a good move; career B has proved lucrative and although I love architecture I am not suited for it as a job.

    Over the last few years I have realized I have an adult “dream job” and am trying to figure out how to get there, or if I can.

  4. A degree doesn’t have to limit you – the only limit is when you actually spend a lot of time doing something you don’t like. I nearly switched to a business degree before graduating but chose to get real experience instead. Now I’m combining my practical skills with a chance to learn about business. At the moment I’m working partly for money but I’m interested in what I do. When I can focus more on the business side that should lead to a much higher income in the long term 🙂

    I don’t expect to stay focused on one thing for a long time though, regardless of where my degree or experience points. There are areas of business that bore/annoy me but hopefully I’ll enjoy making money for a long time to come.

  5. Wow. I could probably reiterate a portion of your text there.

    All my life I wanted to be an architect mainly cause I’ve always been a person that enjoyed being creative, either through 3d modelling or doing graphic design. But I never bothered getting formal training in art cause I hated having people tell me what to draw and ended up in Engineering cause, well it paid more and it’s a darn stable job.

    And I find your post on this rather amusing for myself because the past month I have been pondering all the “what if’s” situations if I were to quit my job and go into digital/web design, something where I could be creative without restrictions of standards and codes.

    Maybe some day soon after I save enough money I’ll grow some balls and maybe go back to school for something I enjoy or start a business doing what I enjoy.

  6. Hello,

    I read your blog quite often, and I guess I’m one of the lucky ones who is doing something they really love. My company specializes in doing creative things for companies (video production, graphic design, websites, and photography). I had this terrible co-op job in university that ended up being a huge blessing because I freaked out when I realized if I didn’t find out what I really wanted to do with my life, I’d end up working at a job I hated (and not for very good money either).

    Your comment about the illusion of financial security is totally true. It’s an illusion. I actually feel more secure with what I do because I have multiple clients giving me multiple sources of income. So, if I don’t like working with someone, I just end the relationship. I would assume it’s much harder to end a relationship if that relationship is your only source of revenue.

    In any case, I don’t think that it takes balls, or guts, or anything to make the leap. You just need to build up the self-confidence, learn to talk to people, and (most importantly) save up a rainy day fund for 3-6 months of absolute no income when you first start. You’d be surprised how much motivation the thought of having to eat mac n cheese everyday will give you. 🙂

  7. Ted LAU,

    WAY TO GO! It’s nice to hear someone loves their jobs. Thanks for the advice.


    Oh I agree. I’m considering starting a smaller experiment later this year on doing some more freelance writing work.


    Good point. I tend to forget how much writing I do at work each day. Really I’m getting paid there because I have good analytic skills and I can write a killer resume.


  8. I used to ask permission to do the things I wanted. Now I just do them. If work fails to satisfy, I find another way. A teacher of mine used to say, “there is more than one way to climb a tree.” If you feel like you’ve “sold out” then find another branch and summon the courage to reach out. It’s not easy.

  9. My mother was an opera singer and my dad was an architect and I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. My mom told me “learn how to type” for a way to make money acting–I guess that would have been the alternative to waiting tables.

    Later, my step-mother said, “learn accounting–it pays better than typing”, with the idea that I would use that as the backup–instead it became my career.

    And no, it certainly wasn’t my dream!

  10. It’s all about fear. I am 28 and work for an above average income in IT. I am also a musician. I am moving out of IT and starting to work music as my full-time ‘job’ via performing and teaching. I still fear that times may be ‘tuff’ but I only live once :).

  11. Interesting post! I spent 2 years in Education at University because I had been convinced it was the “practical choice” for me. (I became a mom at 17yrs. old and teaching was the ‘responsible’ choice–family friendly hours and decent pay.) Though I look back now and wonder how I had the guts–I dropped out of Education and got my Arts degree…I opened an art store/studio when I was 24 and never looked back! My advice to my son (now 21 and finishing HIS degree) is study what you love…the money will come and if not, it is ALWAYS better to be true to yourself.

  12. I sold out. I wanted to write. My dad told me to get a “real” degree instead so I ended up in finance. And I’m not happy in my chosen profession, though it pays well. That’s why I’m working towards financial independence, so that I can do something I really love and the pay won’t matter.

  13. Hi,

    I see that a lot of people have “sold out” for a decent paying job. But what is the opportunity cost for this? I mean, how much do you need to make in order to live your dream career, I wonder? Maybe do up a rough comparison about how much you make currently, versus how much you might make at your dream job + an assigned dollar value to how much you don’t like your present job, and see how that works out? I mean, I hear port workers, truck drivers, accountants can make $150k+ a year, but if my hate for the job is equivalent to $100k/year, would I really want to do it? (sorry, not knocking port people or truck drivers, and I don’t like numbers too much, just not my cup of mojo). thoughts?

  14. Ted LAU,

    Good point. Many people don’t consider the fact you could don’t really need a lot of extra income over $50,000 for a basic life. It’s all about what do you really want and making it happen.


  15. I would add that the “sell out” path was a lot more enticing in the past, and a lot of people haven’t adjusted yet. In my grandparents’ time there was no Internet, so very little risk of outsourcing, and 9-5 really meant 9-5. There were pensions instead of 401(k)s. Companies were more regulated and unionized which in general meant more individual security and fewer demeaning little “gotcha” policies. I get the sense that good employees were viewed as scarce valuable assets, rather than the modern view of fungible commodities, so employee loyalty was actually reciprocated in meaningful ways.

    Add it all up, and the cost/benefit outlook of traditional work is a lot worse than it used to be. Anecdotally I would say the majority of my friends in their 20s and 30s have no interest in it, and the ones that do are already planning to eventually get out. You can see the trend in the news coverage of “millennials in the workplace.” Within my family there’s been a lot of conflict because my grandparents’ and parents’ generations keep pushing the “sell out” advice, based largely on obsolete assumptions.

  16. Interesting, you have a category on your blog called happiness and I have one called depression. I pursue a dream to give myself a chance to start over, go to a new place, surround myself with new people and do something new. Simple and modest. It might not make me happy, but maybe less depressed. I suppose that’s a start. People keep telling me that it’s unrealistic, will take too long or isn’t worth it, but I continue to stubbornly throw everything I have behind my dream. During the process I’ve learnt a lot about need, want, and happiness as well as questioned a lot of basic things about life. One day, I’ll get what I want, I’m sure of it and man would this sound pretty inspirational if I was going after something cool sounding as opposed to basic.

  17. I’ve been writing a blog tracking my experiences with retirement; it’s called For The First Time. Why? Because now, for the first time in my life, I can really do whatever I want. That means I can finally go back to knowing (remembering?) who I really am and what I really value and make that what my life is about. Like so many others I made choices that I had to make along the way … choices that would let me support myself and my three children. Today there are no excuses left. So … back to real dreams it is for me.

  18. All growing up, I was going to be a great harpist. Until I realized I really loved piano, and then I was going to be an awesome accompanist. Then when I got to college I finally realized that it was what my family really wanted me to do. I realized that if I went into music, I would come to hate it, and I love it too much to want that. I then graduated with a degree in comp sci and went into programming (which I also enjoy). In a way, I kind of sold out my childhood dream, but it was never really MY dream.

  19. I got the engineering career and worked 22 years in telecommunications. The safe, stable, productive thing to do. Have now ‘retired’ at age 44, and started a spirituality blog. I discovered we don’t really know what’s killing us until we find something to contrast it to.

Comments are closed.