We wanted to leverage our privilege and our talents to do some good for the world, not languish our best years away in jobs we felt no passion for.
– Alexis Irvin and Chip Hiden, Build Your Dreams
To coincide with our series of reflections on The Artist’s Way, we’d also like to suggest another exercise-based book called Build Your Dreams by Alexis Irvin and Chip Hiden. I picked up this book in late 2013 and it resonated deeply with me – its mission, to help “anyone who wants to pursue a life filled with passionate work” and to help readers to “identify your passions, commit to your goals, overcome obstacles, and start living your dreams,” is the philosophy Killer Creatives was built on.
Irvin and Hiden admitted that after graduating college and finding office jobs post-recession, although feeling grateful to have work, they still felt something was missing: “We were cogs in a machine with no sense of calling or higher purpose,” they write. “We wanted to leverage our privilege and our talents to do some good for the world, not languish our best years away in jobs we felt no passion for.”
Well, the authors hatched a plan to travel the U.S. and interview successful people who were making a living doing what they loved, ask their advice, and “make a movie that would compile the stories and encourage young people to chase their dreams.” The book, which is an in-depth manual based on the authors’ documentary, is designed to navigate the reader through the process of realizing and pursuing his or her dreams.
That being said, Build Your Dreams isn’t just something you can blow through in one sitting. It’s a workbook that’s supposed to help you figure out what career you should choose, granted you’re not feelin’ your current one, or if you want to do something intrinsically rewarding for a living instead of just punching in a time card so you can pay the bills. The book is filled with rigorous exercises meant to reeeeeally analyze yourself and your values, and base your decision on a number of different factors. It makes you dig deep and ask hard questions. For example, in a chapter called “Your Inner Critic,” there’s a series of questions to identify the source of your self-doubt: When did you first think or feel like this? Who/what triggered this negative belief? Why did it make you feel so bad? Why do you continue to hold this negative belief? How do you reinforce this belief through your actions?
Damn, dawg. I mean, really. It’s the kind of helpful slap in the face to wake you from your lost, helpless wandering in the vast, barren wasteland of denial. I’m actually ashamed to say I started reading it almost a year and a half ago and stopped, and when I finally came back to it last month, a number of my answers to some of the problem questions remained the same. And when I had put the book down, it was right before the chapter called “Map-Making”, which contains the messy, keepin’-it-real, let’s-fucking-do-this exercises. I guess at the time I wasn’t ready to take on the intense introspection it thrusts upon you. The uncomfortable, inconvenient truth was: I’d been unhappy yet complacent, and wasn’t willing to work to solve the situation. And the solution was to start all over again and choose another career. (Can you blame me for being scared?)
But I’m ready to take the steps now, and I had no idea how liberating it would feel. It’s like a free pass where you’re allowed to make mistakes, look stupid, experiment—and fail—and it will all be OK because it’s all part of the learning process. And the learning process never stops because life isn’t a movie; you have the power to take control of your own life and to catch your dreams and take them for a ride! So I’m proud to say I’m on my way to building the foundation for a life I was too scared to give myself before, and working toward making my own dreams come true. It’ll take some time and some hard-ass work to transition, but it’ll all be worth it in the end. Because I’d rather be happy and financially unfulfilled than rich with an unfulfilled soul.
I highly recommend the book to anyone and everyone who sincerely wants to integrate their passions and values into their career. If you want to figure out what to do for a living and you’re lost or don’t know where to start, this book gives you the tools, coaching and cheerleading you need to push yourself in the right direction—for you.
Have you read Build Your Dreams and done the exercises? Are you following your dreams? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.