Life’s Too Short to be Spent Paying Your Dues

Happiness comes from the intersection of what you love, what you’re good at, and what the world needs.

In a different context, I’ve shared this message before. But today, I want to circle back on the idea of passion – and why it isn’t enough to be successful. That the key to success isn’t solely contingent on the amount of passion you possess.

This week Paul Jarvis, a designer and writer I very much respect, had an interesting, honest take on “paying your dues” – opening with the following:

“So you want to be location independent, have a passive income and make money off what you love, right? Don’t worry, all you need to do is start a company, sell something online and have a blog. The rest will fall into place, since you’ve got passion and know that doing your own thing is the path to happiness.”

I’ll second Paul in calling bullshit on this. Because while doing what you love is important – and ultimately it’s what we’re all working toward – doing what you love isn’t enough – it isn’t nearly enough – and it isn’t the recipe for success.

As Paul adds:

“…You have to do what you are really fucking good at, know it inside and out, and have worked at it for a long time. Going freelance right out of school or right after you learn a new skill can be both a comedy of errors and extremely egotistical (and you’re smarter than that)…I say all this not to your crush dreams, but offer a dose of reality and glimpse into the real world of working for yourself. It’s not all glamour and independence — it’s hard work, applying learned skills and having some real discipline. There’s no instant gratification to be found in freelancing, instead there’s cultivation and hard work over time, which leads to lasting success.”

This is a much needed, realistic look at what it takes to be successful as a business owner. But yet, as someone who’s 27 and has been growing his own business – and growing well – for the past three years – I find myself in disagreement with the idea that you MUST “pay your dues”.

That’s not to discount the experience I had at the big ad firm I worked in out of college – or the health-care company I worked at – and ultimately got fired from – when I moved to Chicago. Both were invaluable and teaching me and helping me understand what I liked, what I was good at, what kind of leadership I responded to – and at the end of the day – both pushed me down the path of entrepreneurship.

But I learned all of that – very quickly. I quickly learned what role I wanted work to play in my life. I knew that to be 100% satisfied, I needed to be working for myself. I believed – only a couple years removed from graduating college that owning a (successful) business was possible. And all of that led to taking a chance – taking a leap into the relative unknown of entrepreneurship.

So while experience matters – the idea of “paying your dues” is fading fast. The concept of “climbing the ladder”, nowadays, is an old-school train of thought.

This doesn’t simply apply to entrepreneurship – it applies to any career. We, collectively, seek work that matters. Work that’s challenging. Work that’s fulfilling. And we aren’t willing to wait. And really, we shouldn’t.

I’m 27 years old – far from an expert – far from having what many would call “enough” experience. But because I DO have passion – because I AM willing to work hard – because I AM committed and open to learning, every single day – from those who are more experienced – I continue to find success.

There’s a balance here: A balance that says passion, alone, isn’t enough and that experience and know-how is a key component to success. But that also says that we can’t forever hold ourselves back with the idea of “paying dues”.

Don’t let age – or experience – hold you back from doing the work you want to be and should be doing. If you believe you can do it. Do it.

Life’s too short to be spent paying your dues.