When I was still involved in Multi-Level Marketing, one of the strategies we used to convince people to join was to show them the key to getting their dream house or their dream car did not lie in their little jobs but in “doing their own business.” It was often necessary for us to demonize employment as a kind of modern day slavery. There would be “baliwan” meetings when those who were successful would encourage prospects to resign and “fire your boss” because they were not working for their dreams but rather for the dreams of their employers.
This mentality still persists in one form or another and we have heard perhaps one too many “inspirational” speakers echo that sentiment. Just recently, I came across someone who said: “If you will not pursue your dreams, other people will drag you to become their slave to fulfill theirs. Its called employment.”
This is a false dichotomy. Being employed is not slavery, nor should it be seen as an opposition to the pursuit of your dreams. It is an agreed-upon exchange of time and labor for wages — you applied for a the job and your employer agreed to give you one.
Not everyone is an entrepreneur, and that is as a good thing because who would entrepreneurs employ if everyone wanted to be one? And why should pursuing a dream be slanted towards being an entrepreneur? Some people could very well dream to be a high-ranking officer, but still an employee, and there ought to be nothing wrong with that.
Why not instead see employment as a stepping-stone or as a means to achieve your dreams? There is a lot that you can learn from being employed especially if you get a good boss. But even if you get a bad boss, there are also many things to learn, especially on things you should not do when you decide to start your own business.
There are never-ending lessons you can glean by just being observant. Why is it that a highly paid co-worker is mired in debt while a relatively lower paid one manages just fine? That’s a lesson in how to manage cashflow and expenses right there. Why is the seemingly intelligent supervisor being ignored and disliked by many while the boisterous office clerk gets a lot of affection and support? That’s a lesson in leadership and influence.
Pursuing your dreams doesn’t mean throwing caution and planning to the wind and shouting, “Just do it!” Very often, you will end up falling flat on your face as I have experienced time and again. Of course, you read of the success stories of people like Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, J.K. Rowling, and so on, but you have to understand that the reason you read or watch about them is precisely because they have made it. If you could read or watch the lives of the many people who worked just as hard as them but didn’t make it, for whatever reason, you would realize that there are a whole lot more of these than the former.
Statistics in the US show that half of businesses do not survive past 5 years, and only a third make it past 10 years.
When my wife and I were in New York, we signed up for a short tour of the Juilliard School which is famous for its programs in dance, drama and music. We were shown an impressive concert hall, an opulent theater, hundreds of practice rooms, a dance studio overlooking the streets below and so on, and then we were also shown a relatively new office that assists students in planning out their career paths. They had also realized that a lot of students enroll to “pursue their dream” but have really no idea on how to go about doing that in a very practical sense, or have no clue on what sacrifices need to be made. Indeed New York has a lot of artists selling their art on the sidewalk and street performers singing and dancing in the parks and subway stations.
There is a point when dream meets reality and if your head is floating too much in the clouds, you will be in for a rude awakening when you come crashing down the pavement. Best follow the advice of Theodore Roosevelt: “Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground.”
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.
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