A couple of weeks ago, I engaged in a talk with the students of NEHU (North-Eastern Hill University) in Shillong and spoke to them about ‘living your dream and why we idolise it’. The open-ended talk focussed on two things: first that we have enough time, space and resources to actualise our dreams. And second that there is no shortcut or luck to achieve it but only through pure hard work.
In an unconnected series of events, last week I watched the Hindi film Tamasha. One of the many ideas in the film that director Imtiaz Ali brings out is how we shun our childhood dreams (or inner voice) to grow up and live a life otherwise coerced on us. By his definition, this is a regular 9-to-5 job. However, after much self-conflict the protagonist eventually listens to his heart and becomes what he had aspired for (in this case a performing artiste).
My problem with Tamasha and this whole tamasha (celebratory show) of ‘go live your dream’ campaign around the world is that no one tells you how hard you have to work for it.
In the film, we’re sporadically shown montages of the protagonist doing what he loves. In real life, these montages span up to decades and cost us our best years of life and relationships.
So, if, like me, you want to quit your job, follow your bliss, travel the world, etc., please put on shoes that allow you to climb as well as add friction as you slide down. Because there are plenty of those in the road ahead.
Be prepared to slog it out. Every day.
I am a believer of hard work. The harder I work, the luckier I get. On an average, I work 10 hours a day, seven days a week. Even when I am travelling, I work.
I don’t propose that this is the only way to do what you believe in, but we get smarter if we work hard. We’re around to recognise when opportunities open up for us. There seems to be a well-balanced correlation between working hard, opportunities and getting warmer to our aspirations.
Also, doesn’t success taste sweeter when it’s coupled with hard work? Earning that byline in a publication or securing a year-long assignment as a freelancer, definitely made me celebrate my decision.
While I work to reintroduce perseverance back in my life, I have realised that time is an imperative factor in the life of the newly self-employed. This works two ways: patience to see results and deadlines to evaluate direction.
It is a cycle of trial and errors. Giving myself the time to make mistakes and learn from them has been a crucial part of this career path. I have to admit, I am not very kind to myself. Thankfully some friends have thrown light on this aspect and made me realise that some things will go (embarrassingly) wrong and I will have to accept it.
What is passion without direction? Deadlines are a great way to assess where we stand and what our aspirations truly mean. The operative word here is ‘realistic’. I had set a realistic deadline of December 2015 to write for at least five big print publications in India and make a certain amount of money every month from my freelance work. Else, I reconsider immediately.
This is a defining aspect of working for yourself. Rejections are a part of life and thankfully I was introduced to them much earlier in life. If we don’t know how to accept ‘no’ for an answer, it’ll be wise to keep our job.
As a freelancer, we sell brand ‘self’ and there are times when no one identifies with our ideas. Not taking it personally and getting back into the game, always helps. It is healthy to work harder, identify the problem areas, accept, learn and pursue. If we’re self-driven and polite, half of the problems are taken care of.
Social media has become an integral part of our professional (and personal) lives. Here everyone assumes that their opinion matters. And even though I encourage feedback, I am non-responsive to personal attacks. This form of tangential rejection also needs to be tactfully handled.
It’s easier to say than live financially stormy days. Since I have quit my job, the lowest my bank account has touched is ₹89. And I wasn’t prepared for this. But what it taught me was immense and I am certain I will never see such low figures in my account again.
Managing money has been tough for me, especially since I was solely dependent on my freelance writing. Having diversified my work now and secured two long-term projects, I am somewhat comfortable.
Earning as a freelancer is always unpredictable, especially for the initial years. Knowing our market value, not underestimating or overrating work and negotiating smartly for our time and work is essential.
I met this one only recently. And when I did, it made me work better.
Be kind to yourself. When you do get something right— take a day off, buy your favourite collection of books, go out for an indulgent evening, sleep for another six hours—whatever your heart deserves. You’ll remember how special you felt and experience the power of motivation and hard work.
What are your thoughts?
Note: I don’t endorse quitting your day jobs to live your dream life. I think they both can be balanced simultaneously. However, if you do decide to resign, it is advisable you get a practical picture of the grass on the other side, sans the romance.