“The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’” – Mark Zuckerberg
All of us have dreams. But is this enough?
I had this dream since I can remember dreaming:
To touch and change people’s lives with stories.
It’s an invisible drive, a yearning that lives in every one of us, as unique and individual as we all are.
But soon, I found that a dream can ruin your life.
How life works
The most difficult time started when I finished my studies and began working. Before, there had always been a milestone set for me – finish school, finish the studies, get my Master’s degree. But as soon as all those “classical” milestones were reached, my life felt empty.
My dream still was out of reach.
There was nobody left to tell me what to do with my life. I found myself at an impasse.
I opted for the “safe” way and became a full-time employee in a creative agency. It did not take a month for me to fall into depression.
I hated this job, hated sitting at my desk and working on projects that didn’t interest me, hated having neither time nor freedom to do the things I loved.
The unfulfilled dream was nagging at me from the inside, ruining my life with its teasing whisper that seemed too far away to reach.
The truth is: In school, nobody tells us how the world out there works. Nobody warns us about the emptiness that awaits us. There are only minorities who are fortunate enough to hit their “calling” – their dream job – from the start.
We leave the secure structures of school, and we have to learn the new rules all by ourselves. Only later did I understand that it’s a process that needs time researching, trying out and thinking.
I wish somebody had told me that it was okay instead of putting me under constant pressure.
“So where do you want to work? Have you thought about a retirement plan yet?” – You know those people.
Let me tell you: Life’s too short to wait for retirement. It’s too short to live on the “safe” side (which is, by the way, not really the safe side anymore – the rules are changing).
I am truly grateful for the decision I made three months later: I decided to dive into freelance filmmaking as long as I was still young, knowing full well that the longer I’d wait, the harder it would get. I decided to start a quest for my dream life.
It didn’t give me security. But it gave me freedom.
Life’s complicated. And wherever your dream career is: you need to learn the rules your niche plays by. This requires research, conversations, experiences. This requires an open heart and mind until you find your “sweet spot”. But where exactly is this “sweet spot”? And how do you find it?
Question 1: The mind switcher
I once read one idea that changed my life.
I always had this dream of writing a bestseller or filming a blockbuster. Classic. It’s good to dream big. But what on earth do you do in between this huge dream and while real life happens?
But then I read this idea on not dreaming about one single event in your life because this is not what life’s about. Dream instead about your perfect EVERYDAY life.
Imagine it. How would your ideal morning look like? How would you like to spend your ideal Monday afternoon, evening?
This is a game changer.
I didn’t know it just then, but this was a question that started my juices flowing. The quest for my dream life began, and this question was constantly in the back of my mind: How do you want your ideal day to look like?
After try and error, I discovered that for me, it was:
1. the freedom to write and create
2. spending time with my family and friends
3. living location- and project-independently
I evaluated my activities, I tried out things, and I understood what I valued the most in my EVERYDAY life.
This changed my whole outlook on creative goals. It made them reachable and realistic because they suddenly were broken down into what all of us experience, day in, day out:
Simple everyday life.
Question 2: The body of work
The idea of “body of work” is an amazing concept.
It stands for all the work you have ever created, all the products and results you have produced in the course of your creative life. Considering this concept makes you look ahead, and think about what you want to look back at in five or ten years’ time.
First, think about the body of work you want to create. What do you want to be known by? What is the mission you want to achieve? What do you want to stand for?
Then, target the immediate projects you can work on that fit into this body. This can be building a creativity blog, writing a book or a script, starting a podcast a.s.o. Once you have the projects (I would not recommend more than three at a time), they are much easier to break into concrete steps.
Question 3: Marketing
As creatives, we are not content with “just” creating.
We want our creations to reach people and touch lives.
Why would I want to write a book nobody reads? Paint a picture that nobody sees? Our deepest desire is for people to appreciate our work, and our work to become a part of their lives and emotions.
That’s why I love creating theater and musical so much. It’s short-lived and cannot be consumed over and over again, like a book. But the feedback is instant. You see and hear the audience’s reaction, you look into their eyes when they leave the theater. This is so encouraging.
Nothing is as frustrating as a blog nobody reads, music nobody listens to. We need the audience for our work to be valid and valuable. We can only measure our creations by the lives they touch.
For people to see your work, you need to do the inevitable: book marketing. Yes, we all hate it. But there’s no way around it. We need to come out of our comfy rooms and start shouting into the world for the world to hear us. If you are unwilling to do this necessary step, you’ll never get the audience you desire.
I found it easy to do marketing considering these two rules:
1. Offer value to people and be generous
There are enough scammers on the internet. I don’t want to be one of them. If I offer people something to buy, it has to have the value of the price I ask, or maybe even more. To build their trust, I offer things for free and am generous in helping people, offering advice, communicating and being open and honest.
2. Make a plan
I write down the steps I need to do for marketing, and I do them without second-guessing. It’s like all the things necessary. I just go to the gym and work through my daily workout, no questions asked. The same applies to book marketing. I write down the steps and do them. They are necessary. Period.
Remember: Marketing is a necessary tool in order to reach your audience, touch lives and also make money doing the thing you love. Always have the target in mind.
Again, think about those three questions that will help you form your creative goals:
1. How do I want my ideal EVERYDAY life to look like?
2. What is the body of work I want to create, and what are the immediate projects I can start with?
3. How can I market and sell my work?
Answer them step by step, and they will give you a blueprint for a creative lifestyle and the steps ahead. Don’t forget that it might take time to experiment and seek the dream life you’re after.
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S.Lewis
Start living your story.