How To Move Towards a Dream While Maintaining Priorities Along The Way
Life is not a straight line. And any path with monumental goals won’t be an easy one.
With a wife and four children (plus one on the way), I don’t have the luxury of sleeping on a friend’s couch as I pursue my personal ambition of directing feature films. I also don’t want to sacrifice my family pursuing it in a conventional way. So, is there a way I can maintain my priorities and pursue my personal vocational goals?
YES. But, it’s one that’s fueled from the foundation of my priorities, not at the cost them. If it comes at their cost, like I've done before, the pursuit is selfish and damaging and not a road I seek to go down again.
When I concluded Noodlehead Marketing in 2014, my top concern was survival (not dream chasing). How would I provide for me and my family? While I explored multiple options, it turns out freelancing would become my path to success after gaining immediate traction and eventual steadiness. Upon having this stability, I was able to once again dream about pursuing my childhood dream of making movies.
While the realities of my family and personal responsibilities were on the forefront, there’s also the challenges of working in the movie industry. It requires a large amount of time to be involved and I don’t want to sacrifice my kids on the altar of my dreams. So in my exploration of how to make this happen in a way that reconciled my challenges, limitations, and obligations, I came up with a way forward that would sustain my priorities but also allow me to take baby steps along the way.
And this path is through writing, and eventually, screenplay writing. Ironically, when I made movies earlier in my life, the writing part was the last thing I wanted to do. Now it’s my vehicle to get there and something I intrinsically value.
As a screenplay writer, I could theoretically work from home and be involved in the industry without the crazy hours required to actually make a movie. But, succeeding as a screenplay writer is extremely difficult so its best if I make steps towards this in a financially sustainable way. This would empower me to pursue the craft but not be trapped into needing it to live.
Blogging was my first step. While I started blogging for the purpose of sustaining relationships, reminding people I exist, and cultivating new freelance clients, it also ended up as a great platform and starting point towards financially sustaining a writing career. It also fostered the habit of writing.
So how do I go from writing blog posts (and a short story) to screenplay writer while also laying the foundation for a career as a writer more broadly? By writing my first book, Path of the Freelancer.
What would be the best topic for my first published work? By the time I was ready to write this book, I had successfully sustained a freelance career and mentored others. The Freelancing book was already in my head, so I wouldn’t have to think through much to write it (which is one of the hardest parts about writing). It simply needed to get written and published, and that’s what I did in the spring of 2017.
With my first book completed, what would be the next best writing project to move along? My freelancing work involves growing revenue, teams, and small business owners. Much of the content of this second book was blogged about or in my head as well.
This nonfiction project would be a great next book because it would encapsulate the consulting work that financially sustains me. It would also allow me to further promote my services and give me another practice round at writing a book and building a library of work (which is important for authors).
By the time I publish my second book, I’ll be five years into blogging, giving me a larger digital platform to promote it and work on the next project. From here, it makes sense to begin shifting from nonfiction to fiction. The first project would involve my short story parable which would include both narrative and nonfiction reflection. The followup to this project could involve a complete fiction book which would fully shift me over to creative storytelling.
Ideally, by this time, I’ve diversified and increased my income through consulting, book sales, writing, and other ancillary sources. By also eliminating our debt, we’ll have strong financially margin to focus on writing. And by building the discipline of writing into my life and mastering the craft of storytelling in different mediums, I’ll be prepared and equipped to quickly learn the technical aspects of screenplay writing.
My target context involves a minimal workload for earning income, giving me the capacity to spend time writing screenplays and networking in the industry. Eventually, once the kids are older I can take substantial steps to get involved in feature film productions.
Regardless of how this journey concludes (likely different than I expect), it allows me to enjoy and learn along the way, and be well positioned at the end to pursue it, or change course and continue creating online. At this point in my life, it would be awesome to make it happen, but it's not something I need to have fulfillment.
Mapping Out A Dream Plan
While my road above is a longer one, it’s due to my contextual realities and priorities. Constraints lead to interesting and creative ways to accomplish our goals. I've also recognized many of the lessons I'm learning and personal growth that's taking place seems to directly correlate to what I want to be doing.
The key for you to traverse this constraining path is to clearly identify the end game and map out the specific baby steps you could take along the way. While it’s a long journey, each small step is realistically doable and also moves us forward on the trajectory. Fostering this focus and discipline through embracing challenging circumstances is how we execute at the highest level. Sometimes when we don't introduce these constraints in our life, life will introduce them for us.
What's your end game? What are the many little baby steps you could take to move that direction with your challenging circumstances?