In 2006 while attending grad school I stumbled upon an interesting phenomenon gripping the Elder's Quorum of the Ward: a belief that duty and passion can't co-exist in career.
A year earlier I had quit my job in public relations to figure out my passion and follow it. My wife, one-year-old daughter, and I packed up a moving truck and set out into the great unknown. We carried no debt which made the leap easier and we had calculated the bare minimum we could live off of to sustain us while I explored career paths. It was shockingly little.
I landed in a degree program that was aligned with my passion -- educational leadership -- and was knee deep in it in 2006 when we invited a family from the Ward over for dinner. He was in law school and I asked him to tell me about the day when he woke up and said, "I'm going to be a lawyer." His wife was deep in conversation with my wife and he hushed his voice and leaned in to answer my question.
"I don't actually want to be a lawyer."
Whoa. What?! Then why in the world ...
"I just didn't know what else to do when I graduated and it seemed like a viable option."
So why don't you do something else?
"I can't. I'm in deep. I figure I've just got to buckle down and earn a living. Support the fam."
Why can't you do both? Do something else and still earn a living?
"Too much unknown. It's probably not feasible anyway. Better to just do this for a decade or two and then do what I really want."
A decade. Or two. That's a long time.
Over the next year as we invited others over I heard the same story over and over again. Guy doesn't know what to do when he graduates. Driven by a sense of duty, he enrolls in a degree program to take his place in society working a job he lacks passion for but with the hope that one day he can quit and do what he really wants.
This post has a high risk of sounding judgy, so let me pause and simply state my belief. You can do both. You can both pursue your passion and bring home the bacon. They aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, we need you to do it. The world needs it. Positive change is made when people pursue passion with purpose.
There's nothing wrong with being duty-driven. That's not my angle. And if passion isn't important and duty is, that's okay too. But if you want to pursue passion AND you feel a sense of duty to provide for your family, this post is for you. It's possible, and as with anything unconventional it takes effort, intentional work, and focus. It may take some sacrifices -- the kind that the whole family has to be behind -- and you may not succeed right away. But it can happen.
I can't tell you how to do it in a 300-word post. There's simply too much to cover. But if you need some guidance start here and here. You may also want to read Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield, and Chris Guillenbeau to name a few. I also write about the topic on my blog and, in the spirit of pursuing passion and purpose, am aiming to publish a book in October to help clarify the process.
The blessing of agency is that we get to choose what we do. We choose our work. I love this advice from President Eyring's father: "You ought to find something that you love so much that when you don't have to think about anything, that's what you think about." It's never too late to choose your work.
Dustin currently lives in Houston, Texas with his wife and four children. After serving a mission in Puerto Rico, he set the tone for a happy marriage by failing Dating and Marriage Prep at BYU-Idaho. He then showed why this happened, dragging his family around the nation with nine moves in seven years, all in the name of figuring out what to do with his life. He found his way into leadership development and now works at YES Prep Public Schools training teachers to be leaders and as a private consultant for businesses and non-profits. He especially enjoys helping people figure out their best-fit career and get into it and spits serious game on the topic at www.dustinpeterson.me. He loves bacon, Dallas sports teams, and long walks on the beach. Email him at dustin (at) dustinpeterson (dot) me. Twitter: @dustin_lead.
Image credit: Czarina Cleopatra Mendoza (used with permission).