Follow Your Dreams (and End Up Broke!)

Follow Your Dreams (and End Up Broke!)

When I first heard this from one of my business law professors way back in college, I thought it was brilliant:

“Follow your dreams and the money will follow, follow the money and you’re like everyone else."

This was a small one liner in his parting speech to us as we wrapped up our final exam and prepared to traverse the long distances through the blustery December night back to our little hole in the wall that is known as a college dorm.

This little saying hit many of us hard.

It forced us to reexamine why we were getting a degree in a certain field. God knows I don’t want to be the guy that chases money but is unhappy.

I don't want to be "like everyone else."

Now I just think it’s just eloquent bullshit to impress average people.

"Passion" is term basic personal development sites and self proclaimed “life coaches” (and other new age junk food types) always harp on as if it’s some magic formula for success.

That if you follow your passion or dreams things will workout in the long run.

This does a disservice because it confuses everyone who does believe they are "passionate" about something to question why they are not leading abundant lives.

It's not enough

Passion is not the sole requirement for success, it's not even part of the equation to be honest.

Instead of following your dreams, serve an audience. This takes a cross section of:

  • Knowing how to do something well that other people don't know how to do.
  • Something that you can you talk about easily.
  • What do people want and need help with?

Knowing how to do something well that other people don't know how to do

Skills to pay the bills.

What skills do you have? What are you good at or have some unique knowledge or experience on?

I built my online teaching & teaching abroad blog because I had experience being an ESL teacher.

I can help you, the person who knows nothing about moving abroad and taking an ESL job tremendously.

I can also help you with getting started on how to teach English online.

So, what can you help other people with from a skills perspective?

If you don't have any skills, then that's a massive problem. It's time to get busy living, doing something and learning and failing.

What can you talk about easily?

What topic are you well versed in? As in you actually know what you're talking about from experience?

Not your opinion, not how you feel. What you know from experience and facts?

I could easily talk about the ins and outs of being an English teacher in Thailand, all the good and bad things. The small details, frustrations and things to look out for that you wouldn't even known to be aware of.

What do people need help with?


What are people spending money on with regards to your topic?

For my online teaching site it was people buying gear and equipment for an online classroom.

Lights, laptop, microphone, headphones, props, teaching backdrop, whiteboards etc.

So creating helpful content that linked to Amazon was an easy win for this site.

Was I "passionate" about teaching online and abroad?

No. Not exactly. It was just a topic I could help an audience with and make a good profit through my efforts.

This why the whole "follow your dreams" narrative is sometimes dangerous.

It's great if you have big dreams, but sometimes the most lucrative way for us to get ahead is to instead focus in on serving an audience properly.

You must like your topic, otherwise it's going to be a drag. But you don't need to be passionate.

But if you are passionate, then consider yourself very lucky.

Knowing when to quit and when to keep pushing

This is the most difficult part of any new endeavor.

Following your dreams when things are not working begs the question:

When do you quit and when do you keep going?

This reminds me of Letters to My Brothers by the artist Vincent van Gogh.

It’s a compilation of letters that were collected and published long after his death. Vincents desire to lead a remarkable life and to leverage his creativity drove him mad.

His art was not accepted.

He was ridiculed and pushed to the edges of sanity.

Only one shining star stayed constant in his life and that was his brother Theo. It grieved Vincent to no end to know he was a burden to his brother and a disappointment to himself and his family…but he would not surrender. 

Paintings that would be later sold for millions were at one time traded by Vincent for bread and a place to stay.

He was willing to risk it all for his art.

Is this crazy?


When it comes to quitting you must ask yourself this:

“Am I getting ridiculous results from this?”

Ridiculously good or ridiculously bad?

However, the story of Vincent Van Gogh makes this point:

You must choose

Choose to follow your dreams and lead a remarkable life where you live on the edge if need be to get to where you want.

One with risk involved where you might actually fail.

Or lead a comfortable life of mediocrity and averageness. Either way, following your dreams is not always a sure thing.

One bring the rewards of risk and the punishment of failure, the other brings about comfort through security.

Seriously though, why punish yourself?

Why go through the difficulties of failure, the heart stopping fear of collapse?

No one else does, why should you?

You must choose.

Walk the road less traveled to the end of the rainbow to claim your pot of gold, or walk the path everyone else has taken.