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How to decide where to focus

By May 13, 2018 No Comments

Today I wanted to answer a question I got by email from Michael that I know a ton of you are also struggling with:

“From the latest articles I’m struggling to understand what exactly role and skills are. The problem is not knowing how to choose. Is it the most lucrative potential thing or is it what you enjoy most. I understand the need to choose but still don’t get how you make that decision.”

In essence the question is, do you go for the thing where you’re maybe not quite as passionate but the money is probably gonna be better, or do you say fuck it and pursue the thing you’re the most passionate about?

So for example let’s say you have two things you’re passionate about, like maybe graphic design and, say, writing about movies. You like both of them, but maybe you like writing about movies a little more and that’s what you’d REALLY rather do, but obviously it’s a lot harder to make money writing about movies than it is from design.

So which one do you pursue?

Broadly speaking I think there are two options here: you can take the SAFE path or the RISKY path.

And before I get into it, just to be clear, I think both of them are 100% valid – there is no right or wrong answer here.

Option 1: The safe path

The safe path would be, focus on graphic design because there are lots of graphic design jobs out there, and not so many ways to make money writing about movies.

So pros and cons–

The cons are basically that you’re probably not going to be as creatively fulfilled by your job – you’re gonna have to work on stuff you probably aren’t that stoked on.

You’d really rather be writing about movies full time, right?

Now let’s talk about the pros.

The main one is pretty obvious, which that you have the stability of a steady paychecks, benefits, and all that.

But there’s another pro which a lot of people don’t really think about…

First of all, you don’t have to give up on the movie thing- you could start a blog about movies that you do in your spare time, maybe write a couple features in your local artsy alternative paper or whatever.

And although you aren’t doing it full time, you do still get to pursue your passion of writing about movies.

And here’s the thing nobody really talks about: it might actually be a GOOD thing to keep it as a hobby.

Because as I can tell you first hand, when something you love becomes your full-time job, sometimes that can make you fall out of love with it, because when you’re doing anything 40-60 hours a week, it starts to not feel so cool and special anymore.

For example, I spent about 2 years making videos for a living – editing and animating feature content about music and action sports, which I’ve always been super passionate about.

Can’t find the video on YouTube, but one of the coolest things we did was profile on Bam, Nyjah Houstin, Mike Vallely and some other guys to promote “Elementality” (this is Bam’s part, such a sick video)

We did stuff with like Underoath, Bam, Queens Of The Stone Age, Quiksilver and tons more like that – pretty much a dream come true for me.

And it was like, super fucking fun the first few times – yeah I had to stay up until 2am or whatever to get it done, but I didn’t care because I loved this shit, right?

But after I did 20 or 30 of them and had to stay up until 2am again and again and again, it wasn’t as fun. I got super burned out and I kinda started to hate the stuff that I used to love

I was like, “i’m gonna shoot myself if I ever have to make another video again about a fucking surfer.”

I eventually got over it and found a way to love that stuff again, but the point is that sometimes making something into your full time job can make you fall out of love with it, and so maybe if you really love it, keeping it as a hobby isn’t so bad because that will make sure you never fall out of love with it.

Which brings us to…

Option 2: The risky path

This is the path where you go all in on your passion, even if it’s something that on paper you “can’t make any money off of.”

Now you’ll notice that I said “on paper,” and that’s because I think it’s a bullshit idea that there are some things that you can’t make any money from.

The truth is that there’s a way to make a lot of money doing literally anything, especially if you’re a content creator like a lot of you guys probably are

Unfortunately, I’m with Colin on this one: I’ll bet you 10,000 gil that the FF7 remake is a total bummer :/

For example look at all the people making 5 or 6 figures off of Patreon – like one of my favorites, Colin’s Last Stand, who does podcasts and YouTube content about video games – he’s got over 4000 people paying him every month to make his content.

Or one of my favorite business sites, Stratechery.com: he’s got at least a few hundred people paying $10 a month for access to his articles. That’s especially impressive since it’s written content and it’s really fucking hard to monetize writing.

So that’s the biggest pro: not only do you get to do what you love for your full time job, you can potentially make way more money than you would at a 9-5!

But the con is, it’s way, way harder than working for someone else. WAY harder.

I want to be super clear on this point: you’re gonna have to fucking bleed for this.

Yeah, it is POSSIBLE to make money from anything you’re passionate about, but it’s gonna be hard.

No matter how hard you think it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be harder than that.

And also be aware that you’re gonna have to spend way more time than you want on tedious shit like contracts, taxes, and other stuff that people who work a 9-5 don’t have to worry about because it’s someone else’s job.

Now let me be clear, I’m NOT saying some dumb unrealistic shit like “follow your passion and the money will come!!” because that is just straight up bullshit. But I *am* saying that you can make it happen if you are truly willing to bleed for it.

And that is a big, big IF – a lot of people tell themselves they’re willing to do whatever it takes, but when the sacrifices are required, they tap out.

Also, I want to be super clear that although it is possible to make money from anything, some things are definitely easier to monetize than others.

For example, it’s gonna be a lot easier to make money from say being a freelance Javascript developer than it is being a poet.

So don’t kid yourself – go into this with your eyes open and understand the inherent difficulty level of what you’re signing up for.

And lastly, understand that no matter how hard you work and how bad you want it, it might not be enough – it could be that the world just doesn’t want what you’re selling, at least not in the specific way that you’re putting out there.

Closing thoughts

The thing I want you to take away from this is that there is no one right answer– it really comes down to the lifestyle YOU want.

On the one hand, there is NOTHING wrong with taking the safer, 9-5 route – I did it for most of my career and enjoyed it because I value stability.

I know it’s cool to be an entrepreneur these days, but there’s not a damn thing wrong with choosing stability.

On the other hand, there’s also nothing wrong with taking the riskier path, just please, go into it with your eyes open and understand what you’re getting into.

 

So to sum it all up: do whatever feels right to you, but do it DELIBERATELY.

Make it a deliberate choice, with a plan attached – because remember: if you don’t take control of your life, your life will take control of YOU 🙂

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