I’m not sure I was ever meant to work behind a laptop (career advice for those on the wrong path)

As a child I daydreamed a lot. Growing up on an old converted farm, miles away from any other children I spent hours alone with my own thoughts.

Consumer technology hadn’t really wrapped its addictive claws around the world by the mid-90s so we still had to find stuff to do to keep ourselves entertained. For me, that was mostly outside playing football, going for long walks with my Grandad or chasing chickens that had escaped from a nearby farm.

Although the beginning of my life was rather sheltered, I never struggled for ambition. Here’s a chronological timeline of my dream career’s starting from age 5.

  • 1995 – professional footballer. My obsession with (the original) Ronaldo begins.
  • 1996 – we travel to Spain. Now I want to be an airline pilot (a dream that’s probably never really left me).
  • 2000 – I get quite good at football, the dream feels like a reality so I start pursuing it again.
  • 2004 – my Grandad buys me a guitar for Christmas, I learn really fast, something about it feels natural and of course this means I’m going to be a rockstar.
  • 2006 – I’ve been playing Rugby and Football for a few years now, I prefer Rugby but Football is something I seem to be really good at. Sheffield Wednesday invite me to a trial, I go but don’t get picked.
  • 2007 – back to being a rockstar again. I’m in a band, we’re shit but people seem to like us.
  • 2010 – I’m 20 at this point, the band hasn’t taken off and I’m aware that I need a grown up career so I decide to become a pilot. I start having flying lessons, apply to a commercial flight school and get in! Find out the fees are close to £100k and politely decline the offer.
  • 2011 – I manage a cafe. I loved that job, but my ego stops me from taking it any further.
  • 2012 – I start a business with my best friend from College. All we really care about is making lots of money, buying mansions and driving around in Porsche’s.
  • 2012 – 2016 the business works! I’m actually good at this. We grow, get a lovely office, hire employees work with massive clients and seem (from the outside) to be successful.
  • 2016 – I wake up in hospital, ten minutes after a lumbar puncture to my spinal column after suffering five major stress-related seizures.

Since that day in August 2016 I’ve been kinda lost. A year later I went on to sell that business giving myself the opportunity to find a career that fulfils me deeply. Instead I find myself back in the same routine (albeit from the other side of the World) wishing and dreaming I was doing something else.

It pains me that what I’m good at, marketing, sales and running a small business, doesn’t give me any intrinsic motivation.

Every time I speak to my Dad he tells me how he hates his job. A job that from the outside looks amazing but I swear in reality is slowly killing him.

Sometimes I think the look of pride on my Dad’s face when I first told him about the business I’d started still drives my decision to carry on trying to build something big. I don’t think I was ever really meant to be someone who sat 8 to 10 hours hunched in front of a laptop. In fact, are we as humans supposed to be hunched in front of a laptop? There’s a dark list of side effects from mental health issues to brain damage.

This is a conversation I’ve had with myself once or twice a month for the past three years. In fear of remaining stagnant and starting to regret my decisions I have to help myself find something that I love.

I wanted to be a footballer, a pilot, a rockstar but I never really wanted to be a businessman.

Entrepreneurship is fetishised. Hustle porn is considered mainstream media on Instagram and apparently if we don’t work every waking hour we’re brandished a failure by the insecure people who brag about how hard they work.

I just want to be happy. Don’t you just want to be happy?

I want a career that fulfils me. Not one that makes me rich or famous.

We get hung up on earning more money and that’s (probably) making most of us unhappy.

$75,000 a year is the magic number. Anymore and your happiness stagnates. As we slowly ascend towards that golden figure our quality of life grows. Start earning more and we just acquire more stuff to fill the bigger house we just bought. We buy bigger houses, we buy more stuff and whilst we’re doing that the self-storage industry quickly became a $38 Billion a year giant where 1 in 11 Americans now store their unwanted crap.

Derek Sivers tells the story about a billionaires party he attended where him and a friend were surrounded by all of the possessions he had collected during his life. His friend gawped in wonderment saying “look at all of the things he has” whilst Sivers replied “yes but I have something he will never have… enough.”

If $75,000 a year is the golden figure for happiness then it would make sense to use it a goal for enough. Instead of lofty goals why not, like Paul Jarvis, define what your enough figure is.

Incidentally, $75,000 is less than I earned 3 years ago but today it’s my enough figure.

I don’t want to earn more than $6,250 per month.

Life is too short to waste a third of it doing something you hate

Spending a third of your life at work doing something you hate, deferring life for the golden years of retirement is perhaps the stupidest and the saddest myth that intoxicates western society today.

Other people that talk about this tell you to go and travel the world but I don’t think that’s good advice either. You have to work, it’s part of what makes the western, non-communist world so fantastic. But no-one ever said you had to do what you hate. Fine, if you have kids then your hands may be tied but for everyone else there is no excuse. Big mortgage? Sell your house and downsize. Rent if you have to.

Expensive tastes? Maybe spend a little less this year. Or sell some of what you already have?

What did you want to do as a child? What were your dreams? Is it feasible to try it now? What is the worst that could really happen?

I’ve always adored the outdoors. Skiing, mountain biking, climbing. But my ego wouldn’t allow me to ditch the ideals of entrepreneurship for the joys of taking small groups of people on bike tours.

But now a lot of things have changed. I’m going to do a mountain bike instructors course and take tour groups out on the side. 4 hours of laptop work in the morning or afternoon and another 4 hours flying through the forests guiding a group of excited tourists down gnarly tracks and sharp switchbacks!

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You have the permission to make up your own rules.

But if the extrinsic motivation of more stuff is really more rewarding than a career you love then please carry on. I’m not telling you what to do. This is merely a posit as I think through my own problems.

How to test-drive your dream career ideas

Can you go freelance? If yes, then do it and practice a new career option every month for six months until you find something that excites you.

Freelance not an option? How about part-time work. Or negotiate a work from home policy so you can sneak out and start up your own thing in the afternoon?

  • Make a list of the careers you would like to try.
  • Decide which ones you love the most.
  • Chose one and start next week.

It’s probably that simple!

Do you want to be sat twelve months from now stuck in the same mindset wishing you’d done something about it?

I’ve spent the past three years of my life wishing I’d taken action on my dreams. No-one else gives a shit, so I’m the only person who can make the required change happen. I’m either going to continue doing the shit I hate or I’m going to start doing the shit I love.

It’s easy to make a change but it definitely won’t happen without a deliberate push towards something that you truly want to do every day. So it’s worth occasionally asking yourself:

How can I make my career more exciting without going totally broke?

Got the answer? You should probably go out and do it then.