We used to work two jobs. Our day job, and our dream job.
We were elementary school teachers by day and aspiring photographers at night (and on the weekends). But there was a huge problem: all we could ever think about was photography. Quitting our jobs. Going full time in photography. Living the life we saw others living on social media.
Living the “dream.”
The one where other photographers worked from home, in sweatpants, in complete control of their own schedule. In total charge of their own life. Walking their hypoallergenic doodles mid-morning (while we were teaching reading). Catching up with friends over lunch at a trendy restaurant (while we were eating a soggy sandwich at our desk). Working from a cute local coffee shop in the afternoon (while we were sweating on the playground covering recess duty).
We wanted it, but we just weren’t there yet.
Can you relate to that?
After a while, we even started resenting our day jobs. Because even though we loved our students and what we were doing inside the classroom, we felt like the hours and energy we were pouring out at school were holding us back from building our big dream. If we’re being honest, we even felt a little angry. Slightly bitter. And even though we’re embarrassed to admit this, we started sleeping in later and later. Hitting the snooze button over and over. Walking in the door just as the kids arrived at school. We wished we were at home working on our dream, instead of giving our best 40 hours every week to something that wasn’t.
But the reality was our dream job wasn’t paying our bills yet.
Photography wasn’t putting gas in the car or food on the table.
Our dream job was still just a dream.
Before we continue, we want to share two important things from our heart, from us to you, just to make extra sure that nothing we’ve said (to this point) is misunderstood or misinterpreted.
First, if you’re a teacher, know that we believe with our whole hearts that you’re doing some of the most important work in the entire world. It’s why we went into teaching in the first place! Just because we felt called out of the classroom, and teaching elementary school didn’t ultimately end up being our dream job, that doesn’t mean that if someone’s called to the classroom, then it’s less of a dream or less of a life. The feelings we felt while we were there are the same feelings a teacher would feel if you took the classroom away from them and put a camera in their hands. One of the blessings, though, about teaching elementary school while we built our business on nights and weekends, was that no matter how hard the days were, and no matter how bad we wanted to leave, we got to make a difference in the world every day.
Second, a lot of the negative emotions we describe were only happening internally. Our principal, colleagues, students, parents, even our own friends and family, had no idea what we were feeling — because we didn’t show it. We didn’t want anyone (especially our students) to suffer for our selfishness; and even though there might’ve been a few days where we checked our photography email during school hours, we never let micro distractions affect our macro impact, and we’re proud to say that throughout our four years in the classroom, we had some of the highest test scores in our state and has students who were happy to come to school and learn. We LOVED our kids and poured everything we had into them while we were there. We’ll always be able to look back at that time in our life and never regret a single day of it.
It wasn’t until we read Jon Acuff’s book “Quitter” that we realized the secret to balancing the transition from working full-time for someone else to working full-time for yourself is something he calls falling “in like” with your day job. When we flipped the mental switch and started getting up each morning with purpose, when we started striving for excellence again in our day job and appreciating them instead of resenting them, we got three immediate benefits:
We couldn’t be one person during the day and someone totally different at night. It doesn’t work that way. Who we were during the day carried over into the night. So, when we slacked at work, we felt sluggish at home, but when we were energized at work, we had more energy at the end of the regular workday to work on our dream at night. And, instead of feeling tired and resentful, we felt invigorated and hopeful, which was a huge emotional bonus.
No matter what job you have, you’re learning important skills every day. In other words, someone else is paying for you to learn, grow and become more valuable as an employee and business owner yourself. As teachers, we learned A TON of skills and got to practice and sharpen them every day. For example, we improved as public speakers. It turns out that standing up and speaking to a captive audience of 25 ten-year-olds for six hours every day is pretty good practice for organizing bridal parties, teaching workshops and speaking to large audiences at conferences! Also, we learned customer service. We taught in a high-income area with affluent families who had high expectations for everything in life — including us. We wanted to present ourselves well and prove our twenty-something selves to them. So, we dressed nicer than we might’ve at another school. Today, we dress nicer than we need to for wedding days, too, and it makes a difference in how people view and treat us. Sitting face-to-face across a table at parent-teacher conferences prepared us for client meetings in coffee shops. And writing emails back-and-forth in a professional manner taught us how to communicate with people, in some cases, we’d never met or only met a few times (like clients).
So, no matter what type of day job you have, if you step back and think about it, there are probably A LOT of skills you’re learning and honing every day that translate into your dream job photography business. If we could find the benefit our day job had in growing our photography business, you can, too! It’s all a matter of perspective!
We’d almost forgotten that our day jobs as teachers were PAYING OUR BILLS so we could have a roof over our head, eat three meals per day, keep our lights on, put gas in our cars and live our lives. We’d gotten so focused on our dream job of becoming full-time photographers that we’d lost sight of the great blessing that we had of two steady paychecks every two weeks. We started being much more thankful again, and that was just good for our hearts.
So, this week, today, right now, whatever you do during the day, whether you’re in a job your love or a job you hate, whether you’re the CEO of your home or the CEO of a corporation, give your best to the people around you and the ones who fund your life. Trust us, you’ll have more energy later to invest in your dream.
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