Career Changers

Dream Jobs vs. Fantasies

March 18th, 2013

Lately, I've been thinking about the meaning of work in our lives -- or more precisely, what it means to be "happy" in our job or careers. Would you say you're happy or "satisfied" with your current position? Miserable? Want to quit, but can't afford to?

Through my Career Changers TV show, I've met a lot of people who are happy with their careers and love what they do. But in everyday life, I encounter many employees who do their jobs as if they were brain-dead zombies, just clocking in to get a paycheck. The fact is, most of us at some point in our lives, have had to do work we weren't crazy about. Some rise to the challenge and make the most of bad situations. Others, like the hostess at a Kailua restaurant my wife and I had lunch at recently, act so indifferently that you wish you could fire them on the spot. Since we didn't see anyone who appeared to be in charge that I could complain to, I thought about posting a negative review on Yelp, then decided it wasn't worth my time. We just won't go back. I'm pretty sure we weren't alone in that sentiment, judging from the looks on the faces of other customers around us.

While I was brushing encrusted food off the dirty menu in this mediocre Mexican restaurant, I told my wife about a young lady who works in the parking garage booth at Alii Place. I park there whenever I have meetings or TV shoots at Remington College, which is one of my show sponsors. This particular booth attendant always greets every exiting customer with a smile and small pleasantry. She just makes me feel... happy. Let's be honest though: being confined to a small booth all day, handing out change and pressing a button to lift a gate is not the most exciting occupation in the world. Yet this worker actually seems to enjoy her job.

Even if you have to fake liking your work, by making others you deal with feel positive, the task becomes more bearable. Giving off good vibes is contagious. Conversely, employees like the Mexican zombie hostess with the glum face -- mind you, she was the one who "greets" customers -- put us in a sour mood from the moment we sat down. And yes, it affected the tip we left, which is presumably shared with the staff.

Sorry for the digression. Anyhow, there's a key difference between people who go after their dream jobs and slackers who live in a fantasy world where they are paid to do minimal work in a "fun" environment. Those who are living their dream have a clear idea of what they wanted to do from the start... even if they weren't quite sure how they would get to that point. They are the ones who say "yes" to opportunities they believe will get them closer to their goals, regardless of whether there is an immediate payoff or not. Many times those opportunities don't go according to plan. Most successful entrepreneurs have had a few busts along the way. But they adapt and keep going forward instead of dwelling on their mistakes. They are not in the habit of blaming others when things don't pan out.

When I hear younger people or students talk about their future goals, the themes that come up most are generally about making big money, having a glamorous lifestyle, or you know, doing fun stuff for pay -- music, fashion, night clubs/party business, the TV or movie industry. The truth is it takes a great deal of hard work and focus to succeed in those "fantasy job" worlds, and it takes the same qualities you find in people who give their best effort in whatever they do -- whether it's part-time restaurant work or full-time student. Creative types will find inspiration in mundane job situations... they will write stories, songs or movie scripts about soul-sucking jobs and terrible bosses. They punch in every day and do the tedious work that goes into writing or making art. Put an inventor in a "boring" job and they will get excited about possible solutions to a vexing problem they might come across that others just ignore. It will take them hours, days, months, tweaking and perfecting their "simple" product before it ever hits the market place. In short, the difference between attaining your dream job and fantasizing about it is attitude.

However, there is a higher ideal we should strive for in our career choices, which I'll get to in my next blog post. It's about finding meaning in whatever work we do, and the value of enduring difficult times.  Too often we talk about wanting to be "happy" when we really should look at happiness as a byproduct of living a good life.


For daily viewing times of my show, please visit www.CareerChangers.TV. You can also watch video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel.

2 Responses to “Dream Jobs vs. Fantasies”

  1. Dark Energy:

    Rich, you are so right. Its all about pursuing your passion but not everyone chooses to do so for different reasons. It does involve certain risks; of failure, of looking like a failure, of not achieving one's dream, etc. I know people who never did and end up being miserable throughout life.
    For myself, I had a professional design career in Honolulu but yearned for more. I also loved movies so I wanted to meld my two passions, creating art for the movies. When a certain Japanese company came to town to make an all-CG movie I tried every which way to get a job there including crashing an animator's party. But even after gaining an interview I did not get hired so I had to make a huge decision whether to keep doing what I was doing or move to the mainland and pursue my dream. Yes, leaving my family and my home were huge decisions. Some people felt I was chasing a mirage that was not worth the risk but I felt if I never tried it risks and all I would never know how far I could have gone. I ended up moving to California and went back to school on weekends and at night to learn what I needed to get the job I wanted. My plan was to give all I had for 5 years and if I could not get my dream job then move back to Hawaii.
    It took 4-1/2 years of part-time classes, a lot of lonely Saturday nights at my computer honing my skills all with no guarantee that I would succeed. But thats what it takes, focus sacrifices, and dedication, not giving up until all avenues you feel have been explored. Eventually I did get into the visual effects industry but then again the journey keeps going because you have to keep honing your skills to keep growing and achieving other levels of success.
    Conan O'Brien gave a graduation speech at an Ivy League college a few years ago and said that on your journey there will be disappointment and setbacks and that dreams can change over time but it is alright. One's dream constantly evolves over time. The setbacks and bumps, if accepted and handled right can be seen as a motivation to profound new directions. I for one believe that and am proof of it. I did not end up exactly as what I perceived in my initial dream yet am beyond it and have had the most incredible journey to where I am today.

  2. Rich Figel:

    Thanks for sharing! As a screenwriter, I know exactly what you're talking about. I've been at it for years, had some scripts optioned and was repped by a semi-famous manager (she "discovered" Tarantino and was his manager for 10 years before he really blew up big)... during that time, I've tried every avenue to get my stuff read too, while continuing to learn my craft. But I didn't make a dime during all those years, and was fortunate to have my wife's support. The reason I started Career Changers TV was out of frustration -- if Hollywood wouldn't produce my scripts, I figured I had to make something happen on my own, locally.

    So do you have your own biz now, or are you working for a design company here? Feel free to plug your business -- that's what my show and this blog is all about! I wish more readers/viewers would post their stories here as well.