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When you have your dream job, you don’t spend a lot of time dreaming


When you have your dream job, you don't spend a lot of time dreamingLast weekend at WDS was full of great speeches and I wrote down a bunch of quotes. Tess Vigeland talked about leaving her dream job as the host of Marketplace Money on NPR. She is working on getting back to being remarkable again and it isn’t an easy process. She is struggling, but I’m sure she will figure it out. Anyway, here is the quote again.

When you have your dream job, you don’t spend a lot of time dreaming.

This really spoke to me. Actually, I think as you get older that statement get expanded quite a bit. Even if the job sucks, but it paid the bills and enable you to live a comfortable lifestyle, then most people will endure going to that same job every day. Inertia is hard to overcome. Why leave a sure thing to pursue something unknown?

I had a dream job too

I got a dream job right out of college. I studied ASIC design when I was pursuing my MS degree. After I graduated, I went to work for Intel designing computer chips. It was awesome because Intel was dominating the PC market and it felt great to work on bleeding edge technology. The work was interesting and I had a ton of fun as a junior engineer. It was a dream job, but it didn’t last a lifetime.

As I progress up the technical ladder, the job became more stressful and I had to deal with more and more corporate BS. Senior engineers are expected to take on more leadership roles, but I wasn’t ready for it. I tried taking on some responsibilities, but it didn’t work out well because it’s just not me. The stress became unbearable, but I kept with it. I was that frog being slowly boiled without knowing it.

In case you’re not familiar with the parable – The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. (Via Wikipedia)

When you have dream job, you don't spend a lot of time dreaming

The slow boil process took over 10 years for me. The first time I remember not enjoying the job was in 2001 and it took over 10 years for me to extricate myself out of that situation. In the last few years on the job, my body was trying to tell me to get out of there. I had mysterious dizziness spells, panic attacks, depression, migraines, high blood pressure, and various aches and pains. I should have listened to my body sooner, but I didn’t know stress could cause all that.

I think I held on for so long because it was such a dream job when I first started. It was also a very well paying job that provided a comfortable living for us.

Dream a little

Do you have a dream job? You still should dream a little and see how your life can improve. It’s always easier to make a transition from a position of strength. People with jobs have a much easier time finding jobs than unemployed folks.

If you don’t enjoy your work anymore, then what’s preventing you from trying something else? Yes, it is hard financially to change job/career so you probably need some time to prepare. Here is a small list of things to do to get you going.

  • Reduce you expenses and stop buying stuffs that you don’t need.
  • Pay off debts.
  • Save up 1 year of living expenses.
  • Find a side gig to help bring in some extra income.
  • Invest and generate some passive income.
  • Talk to your friends about trying to find a new job/career. You never know where the next opportunity will come from.

We were lucky because we were always frugal so transitioning from two incomes to one wasn’t a big stretch. We saved up and invested so we had some passive income and I was able to make a little online income.

Last year, I left the corporate job to become a stay at home dad/blogger and I love it. Yes, I’m living the dream again, but this time I know the dream isn’t permanent. The kid will go off to kindergarten in 3 years and I’ll have a lot more time on my hands then. That’s why I’m keeping my eyes open to any opportunities that come my way.

What about you? Are you living the dream or just hanging on? If you are not satisfied with your working life, what is preventing you from taking a chance on doing something else?

photo credit: wikipedia

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 31 comments… add one }
  • My Financial Independence Journey July 12, 2013, 2:55 am

    While I don’t think I’m working my dream job, my current job is probably as close as I’ll ever come to it. The work is interesting and my co-workers are great.

    The only bad point is that I’m nowhere near my dream location. I’ve lived here for a year now and I have to say that I’m slowly starting to hate the area. Everything is needlessly expensive, driving anywhere involves too much congestion, and the locals are the least friendly group of people I’ve ever met.

    After I hit financial independence I may start looking for a new job in a better place. By then I’ll have a decade or so of experience under my belt and with luck maybe a promotion or two.

    • retirebyforty July 12, 2013, 9:45 am

      Are you in CA? 🙂 It was so busy there when we took out trip. The locals were fine though.
      Where would you like to live? Good luck with the search.

  • Amanda L Grossman July 12, 2013, 5:49 am

    Great quote!

    I am in month 5 of taking the plunge: I left my position to pursue blogging/writing full-time and my first day of my new gig was February 1st. Each week I am learning something new, each day is different and wonderful in its own right. I could have continued in my position and was very good at what I did. But I have always wanted to be a writer and wanted to stretch and see where I could go.

    You are dead right about getting finances in order before doing so; we paid off our consumer debt in September 2010, and with our frugality, can live off of my husband’s paycheck plus save for retirement. It takes the pressure off of me while I attempt to make this work (I am one of those people who is self-motivated and give myself enough pressure!). So far, so great. Definitely some frustrations, and definitely SO much to learn and adapt to daily. But I am starting to see some returns from work and projects I did in the first few months of self-employment, which is fueling me on for more.

    • retirebyforty July 12, 2013, 9:47 am

      That’s great! It’s really nice to hear you’re doing well.
      You have to go for it while you can. If it doesn’t work out, you can always get a job, right?
      More people should try going after their dream like you did.
      Have a great weekend.

  • Brittany July 12, 2013, 6:06 am

    This post really resonated with me! (And I would have still said that even after this weekend. 🙂 )

    Since we are RL friends, I can’t even imagine you as a stressed out, harried guy. You’re always so cheerful and happy and it’s easy to see that you’re loving life right now. It’s awesome that you’re able to spend these years with Baby RB40. When your the time comes where you can choose a job again it’s great to know that you can afford to be choosy and take on something that you really want to do. I’m excited to see what that turns out to be!

    While I don’t think I’m in my dream job right now, I am definitely in the best job I’ve been at since I moved to Portland five years ago and I’m happy at it. Being a receptionist isn’t my end goal, but I like this work and my coworkers, so it’s affording me time until I see where life takes me. I have been feeling like there is something in the works for me, due to events unfolding over the past few months, which makes me excited for the future.

    • retirebyforty July 12, 2013, 9:49 am

      It’s a process. I think as long as we keep moving in the positive direction, it’s a good thing. I’m sure you’ll find your dream job someday. I feel like nothing can stop you. You have so much positive energy.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina July 12, 2013, 6:52 am

    I’m not in my dream job…although I’m not quite sure what my dream job is quite yet. I’m in a good team, have an okay manager, and get paid fairly well. I’m definitely keeping my eyes open for opportunities.

  • [email protected] July 12, 2013, 6:58 am

    This may sound sad, but I don’t know if I have a dream job, except rock star of course, but I am way too old for that now 🙂 .

    I do have a decision coming soon in the form of a job offer that will likely be significantly more pay but likely more stress. It comes back to that question of how worth it is it to reach financial goals faster as far as stress and health is concerned.

    Since my wife is a doctor, I may end up in a similar situation to you in staying at home and being flexible with my income streams. That is to be determined.

  • Michelle July 12, 2013, 7:05 am

    Great post! I plan on making the switch to doing what I love soon. I cannot wait! My current job is definitely not my dream job.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor July 12, 2013, 7:34 am

    Joe, every time you write about how your job at Intel affected you physically and mentally it just makes me feel sick for you. I’m so glad you got out of there at last.

    You make a key point in this post: because of your family’s frugality, commitment to saving and controlling debt, and developing other sources of income, you had the option to quit your job. This highlights the importance of good personal finance management. Imagine if, like many, you’d been living paycheck to paycheck, servicing big high-interest debt, and saving little. You’d still be at Intel, you’d be miserable, and most important your life may well have been shortened. The moral: the benefits of good financial management extend well beyond a secure retirement!

  • The College Investor July 12, 2013, 8:06 am

    I also dream of being able to work full time as an entrepreneur/blogger, but I still need to work things out and ensure that I will be able to provide well for my family while living my dream.

  • jefferson @SeeDebtRun July 12, 2013, 8:23 am

    I don’t know if I have my dream job, but I certainly do enjoy my work.

    That said, I still do find time to dream. I dream about traveling. I dream about my kids having a bright future. Work isn’t everything 🙂

  • John S @ Frugal Rules July 12, 2013, 9:52 am

    Nice post Joe & love the quote! I was not in my dream job, by any stretch, but remember many of the same things you described were going on for you were going on for me several years ago. After much thought and planning, we took the plunge and are so thankful for making the decision. It can be a different stress, but it is so much more rewarding and fulfilling at the end of the day. I could not agree more on getting your financial house in order beforehand – it helps us sleep at night.

    • retirebyforty July 12, 2013, 11:39 pm

      You can’t emphasize getting financially ready enough. The bigger war chest you have, the longer you can pursue your dream. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not easy. It’s great that things are working out for you.

  • BARBARA FRIEDBERG July 12, 2013, 10:11 am

    I believe education comes first. Education gives you options and you can then find your ideal job. Follow your interests and be willing to sacrifice (saving money and living simply) in the short term for long term gain.

    • retirebyforty July 12, 2013, 11:39 pm

      I agree with you. Once you have an education, you can always fall back on that if worse come to worse…

  • krantcents July 12, 2013, 1:55 pm

    Dreams change over time just like your job. Teaching for the first 10 years was very enjoyable, but the I lost my assignment. That meant going to a new school. State budgets issues created larger classes and layoffs. I love teaching, but under reasonable conditions. Hopefully my next assignment will be better now that the state budget if better for education. Besides, I only have 4 years until retirement.

  • Lisa E. @ Lisa Vs. The Loans July 12, 2013, 2:59 pm

    Definitely not at my dream job, but my current job is definitely teaching me a lot about what I like to do. Gonna stay for a little bit so I can keep learning!

  • Mr. Utopia July 12, 2013, 3:25 pm

    “You still should dream a little and see how your life can improve.”

    Philosophical question: Do you think “dreaming a little” can be counter-productive? I’m not trying to be pessimistic here. Rather, I know from experience that dreaming a little sometimes makes things worse – at least in the short term! For example, allowing yourself to dream too much can seemingly make your current situation all the more unbearable and more difficult to focus. Yes, you can view the dream as a possible “light at the end of the tunnel” but when that light is possibly so far away allowing yourself to indulge in the dream could be detrimental. Thoughts?

    • retirebyforty July 12, 2013, 11:43 pm

      Sure, if you are just dreaming, then it’s probably a little counter productive. You have to take action too. Maybe try to find a different job that’s a better fit while you hold down the steady paycheck. Or try a side gig to see if it is feasible.

  • JayCeezy July 12, 2013, 7:01 pm

    RB40, may I offer another perspective? There are many of us out here who never come close to a “dream job.” And taking the liberty of speaking for some of us, we envy those of you who do find employment doing something you really enjoy and excel at.

    By definition, half of us are below average; performers, intelligence, ability, etc. My thought is that those who read blogs (and especially those that write them) skew to outperform. But! There are a huge number of people who aspire to be the Assistant Manager at the Hemet, CA Pep Boys, and will never get that promotion.

    Speaking now only for myself, my employment history has been a scramble. I have never been unemployed, and often had many p/t jobs while working a f/t gig, until recently choosing an exit point. But those jobs were just the best I could do at the time. Never what I wanted, just what I could get. I did not quit, because I had seen what happens when somebody “chases a dream” or “believes there is something more for them out there.” A couple quick examples: 1) a pal quit a nice, secure, well-paying and boring quantitative job with an international corporation to “be an entrepreneuer, be (my) own boss!” He lost all his savings, his marriage, and a $100K loan from his parents. He is now 46, living with his folks (in Santa Barbara, so maybe he is living a dream!:-)) 2) a good man with a strong spiritual calling quit his good job just before Y2K, to try to “walk his walk.” The world didn’t end, and he is now 54 with a roommate in Atlanta, long since giving up on marriage and children. He is just subsisting. 3) a young and pretty woman with great people skills, and a good future with her company (the Onion has put the unemployment rate for foxy women in their 20s at 0%) quit her corporate job to follow her dream of being an actress. She has since succumbed to the temptations of nighttime leisure, and the many men who say one thing but do the other.

    So, those are some of the reasons that I didn’t just “chuck it all!” and pursue a ‘dream job’. One caveat; I did pursue a potential path, and found out the hard way that I just didn’t have what it took to “succeed” in my own eyes and the eyes of others. In any event, that is my two cents. Continued success to you, and glad you are no longer the “frog in the pot!”

    • retirebyforty July 12, 2013, 11:47 pm

      I think you’re right. I am very lucky and I’m thankful every day. Many people are not as lucky and they are stuck in boring jobs and living paycheck to paycheck.
      I didn’t quit my well paying job right away either. It took me many years to be able to walk away from it.
      We’re only able to do it because our current reduced income can cover our expenses. Lowering the cost of living is a key component in our plan.
      Everyone has to run their own number and figure out how to make it work. Of course, if it didn’t work out after 4-5 years, then maybe it’s time to try something else.
      Thanks for the input.

  • Thomas | Your Daily Finance July 13, 2013, 4:52 am

    I don’t think I will find my dream job. I already found my dream occupation in digital marketing and SEO but have not enjoyed working for companies in the past. I guess its the notion that I can do work from anywhere as long as I have internet connection yet I have to drive to work and still put in 60+ hour weeks. My wifey and I saved a lot of money and now I am taking the leap to make things happen on with my own company. However with that being said we have set a time frame and if within that period things have not worked I will go back to the 9-5. Family is always first and if it mean being at a job I don’t like so be it. I think that even if you have your dream job you still end up dreaming alot about other things you hope to accomplish and things you would like to do to challenge yourself as a person.

    • retirebyforty July 15, 2013, 8:39 am

      Good luck with your business. It’s great that you are pushing yourself. Many people get complacent once they have a nice paycheck rolling in.

  • The Passive Income Earner July 13, 2013, 8:25 am

    I also got a dream job when I finished school and I am still at it. I was ready for the extra responsibility moving from a software engineer to a technical director 5 years ago. There is always differences and competition in the products we make that change is constant and so are the challenges.

    What I want is financial independence so that I could take more time off to do other things and the blogging around investing and finance has been a good outlet to see what running a business is while taking very minimum risks. Time is limited and will always be.

    • retirebyforty July 15, 2013, 8:46 am

      You are doing really well and I’m sure you’ll reach financial independence soon. Maybe you can take a 3 months sabbatical or something like that to see what it’s like.

  • Pretired Nick July 13, 2013, 10:57 am

    Funny, I never really hated my work, I just hated the meetings, the PowerPoint, the idiots, the back-stabbing, gossip and drudgery. I used to spend hours at my desk looking at my pretirement spreadsheets, planning my escape. Life is much better now!

    • retirebyforty July 15, 2013, 8:47 am

      If I could choose what I work on, then I would have enjoyed the work much more. All the corporate BS just overpowered the whole experience though. Yes, life is much better now. Thanks goodness. 🙂

    • Marissa @ Thirty Six Months July 27, 2013, 4:38 am

      I totally can relate, Nick. But I have learned to accept the fact that there are people out there that can’t keep their mouth shut and mind their own business.

  • thepotatohead July 13, 2013, 8:47 pm

    I’ve thought about finding a new non “cubicle” job a lot this past year. I don’t exactly hate my job, but its not really stimulating in the least. There are just so many perks though to this job that I feel like it would be crazy to leave for some unknown future. That is always the debate…the grass may look greener, but is it?

    • retirebyforty July 15, 2013, 8:48 am

      You should try looking around. If it doesn’t work out, you can always change job right? Don’t get stuck in one place for too long. That’s what I did and I regret it.

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