Are our day jobs killing us? Katie asked this very question a while back, and I felt it warranted a follow-up.

In the Fall of 2011 I walked away from a secure, good paying job to pursue my dream of making films. As of this writing it’s been about nine months. There have been many difficulties, but the steps I took to test and prepare for this decision are really paying off.

If you’re itching to do the same but are not sure how to proceed, or are afraid you’re making a huge mistake, I want to invite you along for my very first multi-part blog series: How to Quit Your Day Job and Follow Your Dreams.

Part 1: Start With the Why

Many of us know what we want to do. Some of us even know how we’re going to do it. But, how many of us know why? One of my favorite TED Talks is by a gentleman named Simon Sinek. In it he asks a terrifyingly simple question:

“Why do you get out of bed in the morning, and why should anyone care?”

In this video, Sinek explains that people do not buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Step 1 of following your dream is to know and understand the why behind your ambitions. Trust me, this video is for you:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

When I focus on the what, or the result (ie. more Facebook likes, funding for my next wild idea, etc…), I disappear into an ocean of chumps. Everybody has a dream. Everybody needs to make a buck. Get on IndieGoGo or Kickstarter and you’ll see what I mean. All that pandering washes over you like white noise.

When I’m focused on my why, and I honesty believe it with every fiber of my being, people buy into what I do not because my product is superb, but because they believe the same things I believe in; they do it for themselves.

The why ALWAYS trumps the what.

“What you do proves what you believe.”

When the going gets tough (and it will), and you have to start making really difficult decisions, the strength of your why will determine whether your dream lives or dies. When you’re eating ramen noodles every night and the latest Pixar movie zips through the theaters before you can dig up enough loose change, you’re really going to start asking yourself if it’s worth it.

There’s a quote I keep on my desk. I unfortunately don’t remember who to attribute it to, but I hope it inspires you as much as it has me:

“Pick a subject matter that you absolutely love because the process is so grueling. Pick something that you have so much heart for because when the going gets tough – and it’s late at night, you’re the only person working on your film, you’re humped over a computer, you’ve run out of money, you’re too tired for it, or somebody doesn’t like your film – the thing that will keep you going is the love you have for the project.”

If you are focused on the what, the how, or the result, do yourself a favor and hang on to that day job.

Your Homework:

In the comments, tell me:

  1. What it is you want to do.
  2. How you’re going to do it.
  3. Why you’re doing it.
  4. …but write it out in the proper order.

Extra Credit:

Give Donald Miller‘s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years a read.

Dan Baker

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Dan works out his social anxieties by producing and directing films. He's a proud New Mexican, and prefers green over red.

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