Can You Follow Your Dreams and Find Success?

Can You Follow Your Dreams and Find Success?

Can You Follow Your Dreams and Find Success?

What if you could succeed by following your deepest passion?

You know—that thing you do even if in secret, so you can avoid ridicule, naysayers, guilt-jerkers, etc. Or, the one you’ve put on the back burner for years, maybe decades, because, well, you have bills to pay, kids to raise . . . .

What if you could succeed by following your deepest passion?

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Or worse, you’ve given up on your dreams because they seemed like folly.

Sound familiar?

Last week I posted about life happening when we’re making other plans. About unforeseen twists taking us down roads we never would have imagined.

And many of the responses caught my attention.

A lot of folks talked about their passions. And how they weren’t pursuing them because of all the real-life day-to-day grind. I heard from people privately as well, about how they hadn’t been successful with those dreams. How they’d given up, they were too old, etc.

You’ve heard the advice a million times these days (and lots of folks have become rich by preaching it!) that you can be anything you want to be; do anything you want to do. And be successful at it.

Well, I believe that to be true. But it also truly depends upon how you define success . . .

There’s even a huge bestselling book about doing what you love and the money will follow. It certainly did for the author, as so many folks bought the book . . .

But I can guarantee without going out on any limbs that just because you have the dream to write a novel, that doesn’t mean you’re going to become a bestselling author. Only so many of those exist in any decade. And millions of writers have that dream . . .

Annoying, isn’t it.

As I work with writers, I’m constantly surprised how many have “bought into” that belief—that they’ll become rich and famous. Will some of them? It’s possible. But you don’t really want to know the odds . . .

Still and yet, I believe into my soul (and my life experience has born this out), if you have a true passion for something, a golden dream residing high atop that shining hill, then the wherewithal to reach it lies within you as well.

And unless you follow that star, your life will grow dimmer because of it.

But reaching the dream I’m talking about is in learning, mastering, achieving the thing itself—not some outer award.

Let’s face it—if to you success means the latter, then get ready for a lot of disappointments. Of course we all know that if our self-worth is based on other people’s reactions, we have no self-worth at all.

In my own world, writing is my life. I love, love editing, which as I mentioned last week, I fell into and am quite successful.

But it’s in the writing of fiction where my life force flourishes.

Am I successful as an author? I’ve had 6 books published. The old-fashioned way—where publishers pay you for the rights to publish.

Am I rich and famous? Lol!

But I have an audience awaiting my next book. And nothing is sweeter to me in this world. When readers actually “get” those pieces of your soul . . . well, what could be better?

Funny too, that passion thing? If you want to be truly successful, following it also becomes a job.

We think of writers living this glamourous life, no? You know, Hemingway—writing in the mornings, drinking and swimming and fishing and drinking and drinking . . . all the afternoons away.

Course, as Hemingway famously said, There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Whatever your passion, I’m sure it’s every bit as exacting. That if you truly pursue it, you know exactly what the “job” part of this means.

Is it difficult to follow that passion and still function in the world, as per paying your bills, having a life, etc.?

Sure can be, can’t it. And we see various ways to affect this. While yep, if a dream drives you, not doing it will kill your soul, the starving-artist syndrome isn’t terribly productive either.

Seth Godin tells the story of an artist friend who worked as a grunt at a record company because music was his bliss. Godin’s question: Could his friend have better served himself, and society in general, by working as a schoolteacher during the day, then spending his spare time pursuing his passion?

A la Mr. Holland’s Opus.

But interesting question, no?

And one we must answer for ourselves.

Because in essence, we’re individuals pursuing our own goals, while simultaneously part of the larger cultural whole. The psychologist Carl Jung said that while we may be the heroes in our own stories, at the same time we’re also the spear chuckers in someone else’s.

What’s the magic formula? I don’t know about you, but I came down, and continue to come down, somewhere in that middle. I love my editorial job, love working with writers.

And I’ll also keep chasing that star. Not because I can’t live if I’m not a bestselling author, but because I can’t breathe very well when not writing.

Joseph Campbell had it right all along:

“Follow your bliss ... If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”

How do you function in this world and still follow your dreams?

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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56 comments
Heather Johnson says June 14, 2017

Of course you can follow your dreams and succeed. The road to success is just sometimes a bumpy one.

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Catherine Sargent says June 14, 2017

I am a firm believer that you can follow your dreams and be successful. It may take longer than we planned, but it is all worth it in the end.

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Meghan says June 14, 2017

I feel quite strongly that I want my work to be something I’m passionate about but not my passion. The minute I altered my business focus to content (which I’m passionate about), big changes happened. But I wouldn’t want to mix some of my biggest passions with my work life, which I realize is the opposite of what most say. If my passion becomes my work, I won’t feel the same way about it. You’re so right about our journey and our contributions to each other and ourselves. Lots to ponder. Love the quote from Jung–how very true!

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    Susan Malone says June 14, 2017

    Very interesting, Meghan–that if your passion becomes your work, you won’t feel the same way about it. I have to say that’s not how writing feels to me, but man, all the promotion does! And you can’t succeed in publishing without the promotion part.
    That reminded me of something I heard a writer say recently (God forgive me, I can’t remember who). That she loved writing and sex, and actually loved sex more, but wouldn’t want to make a living at it! Kinda put passion into perspective 🙂

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Joline says June 14, 2017

I’ve put my dreams on hold for far too long. I always find excuses – bills, mortgage, etc etc. But I realize that I’m not getting younger so now I’m slowly getting into it. Scary but exciting! We only have this one life to live after all.

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    Susan Malone says June 14, 2017

    Good for you, Joline! And it doesn’t matter if you dive or stick your toes in one at a time. It only matters that you get in the water 🙂

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Liz Mays says June 14, 2017

This is great inspiration. It’s definitely important to keep doing what you love. Focusing on the end rewards too much just isn’t healthy.

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    Susan Malone says June 14, 2017

    The play’s the thing, no? It’s in the doing of something where the joy lies, doesn’t it, Liz.

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Erica Schwarz says June 14, 2017

So through a series of decisions, I ended up in a career that I hate. But I make a lot more than I would if I pursued what I should have stuck with to begin with. With a family, that is a significantly tougher position to be in. So I still try to pursue that interest, but I do so through volunteer work outside of my day job. We can pursue dreams, but sometimes, it just has to be part time 🙂

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    Susan Malone says June 14, 2017

    Sorry to hear that, Erica. But the point is you’re still pursuing your dreams, and that feeds your soul, no?

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Candess M Campbell says June 14, 2017

Susan,

I totally agree that we can follow our bliss and be successful. Often success does not equate to a work situation though. With our instant access to so much information today, I think we need to make a choice to do what we love and let it become larger in our life and push out what we do that is not life-giving.

Congratulations on your upcoming new book!

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    Susan Malone says June 15, 2017

    Oh, Candess–I love that! Do what we love and let it become larger in our lives. That’s the key, no?

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Reba Linker says June 14, 2017

Very touched by this post, Susan. It is such a leap of faith, perfectly expressed in the Jung quote you shared: “doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.”Our dreams lead us forward, we know not exactly where.

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    Susan Malone says June 15, 2017

    It is a leap of faith, isn’t it, Reba. And I love that–our dreams lead us forward. Ahhhh

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Hey Sharonoox says June 14, 2017

This is such an inspiring post! It’s so motivating to read your accomplishment. I’m passionate with what I’m doing and I think that helps drawing me nearer to y dreams.

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    Susan Malone says June 15, 2017

    Passion brings such energy with it, no? And it does draw you nearer to your dreams!

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Lisa says June 14, 2017

I think you can as long as you truly know what your dreams are and prioritize. Setting reasonable goals will help you from feeling like failing when life gets overwhelming.

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    Susan Malone says June 15, 2017

    So true, Lisa. When we keep our goals in mind, it carries us when life gets overwhelming!

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valmg @ Mom Knows It All says June 15, 2017

People can follow their dreams and succeed. But following your dreams and not achieving them does not mean you aren’t successful.

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    Susan Malone says June 15, 2017

    We all have many areas of our lives, don’t we. And success may come in one or many, at different times. We keep pushing forward!

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Divya says June 15, 2017

Your blog posts always show up at a time when I need them most. I’m in a career crisis right now, hahaha. I am not the happiest person at my job right now because I’m not actually following what I’m passionate about. Thank you for your words. I needed to hear them. <3

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    Susan Malone says June 15, 2017

    Funny how denying our passion messes with our happiness, doesn’t it, Divya. We’ve all been there! Sending you inspiration and joy!

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Lori English says June 15, 2017

Yes, a great post Susan is we continue to see the positivity in our experience and clear the path for the good to come into our life it is possible. Thanks a great post.
Lori English

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    Susan Malone says June 15, 2017

    It’s in that focus on the positive in our experience which is where the magic lies, isn’t it, Lori!

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Natasha Botkin says June 15, 2017

Very true! Bliss equals success and each persons bliss is unique to them. Just as each individual’s journey. Follow your heart to find your bliss. xoxo

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    Susan Malone says June 15, 2017

    Our hearts don’t lie, do they, Natasha! My focus this year is to lead with my heart. A work in progress!

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Beverley Golden says June 15, 2017

The idea of ‘success’ is so very subjective, isn’t it, Susan? My idea of success has always been ‘rich and famous’, like Oprah level rich and famous. Of course I would have to be doing something that I not only loved, but that would enrich and contribute to the world. Much of this is the Aquarian in me, although a friend recently mentioned that this also comes from the generation we grew up in. The belief that if you are passionate about something you can be successful at anything you want, I believe, does have a caveat. It must be something that aligns with your soul’s path in this current lifetime. Practicing being grateful and happy for the ‘small’ successes, is something I have learned to do as I have gotten older. I am not sure if I will ever let go of the huge idealistic dream, however, I see how those idealistic dreams can also lead to moments of sadness when you aren’t seeing any visible results. You shared it perfectly, “But reaching the dream I’m talking about is in learning, mastering, achieving the thing itself—not some outer award.” I get it, I get it. I will keep practicing! 😉

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    Susan Malone says June 15, 2017

    I keep practicing too, Beverley! Especially for the small successes. And at the same time, reaching for that star . . .

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Alene A Geed says June 15, 2017

I love your idea that unless we follow that dream (star) our life will grow dimmer. It is hard sometimes to deal with day to day issues and hold onto the dream. But as long as my passion remains strong, I do find that the time to create creeps into my life and helps me blossom

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    Susan Malone says June 16, 2017

    And isn’t that it in a nutshell, Alene–when your passion stays strong, you find the time to create. And blossom 🙂

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Vatsala Shukla says June 16, 2017

Following our bliss or dream also depends upon our stage in life, Susan. At 1 point as a teenager, I wanted to be a rock star (don’t ask me why, it’s a long story 🙂 ) and then I discovered the world of numbers and found my bliss as a CPA! At this stage of my life journey, the adventure is a different one and yes, doors are opening and new people are entering my life who make the journey easier – like yourself!

If I have learned anything it’s having a game plan to realize our dream is key.

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    Susan Malone says June 16, 2017

    Ah, I bet there’s a rock-star story there, Vatsala! Would love to hear it. And yep, we still need a game plan!

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Tamuria says June 16, 2017

So true that it all depends on how you define success, but yes, you can follow your dreams and succeed. Sometimes life gets distracting and you kind of forget about your passion and your dreams but then you get a little nudge from the Universe and it all suddenly makes perfect sense.

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    Susan Malone says June 19, 2017

    Isn’t that so true, Tami–sometimes we do forget. And then the Universe sends that nudge . . .

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Kimberly says June 16, 2017

I love that Joseph Campbell quote, and I love that you can’t breathe very well when you’re not writing! I know what you mean 🙂

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    Susan Malone says June 19, 2017

    Don’t you just love Joseph Campbell, Kimberly! And yep–a writer not writer is one drowning . . .

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Tandy Elisala says June 17, 2017

I believe we can have it all! The road to success is taken step by step. Small, meaningful actions make big waves. Following your passion is key to happiness.

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    Susan Malone says June 19, 2017

    It is, isn’t it, Randy. And I love that–small, meaningful actions make big waves.

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Joyce Hansen says June 18, 2017

Part of this is growing up in a culture that promotes success in all its different forms. We want to be like those we deem successful. We want role models to show us how. We want this thing that will finally make us happy and complete. I’ve come to find happiness in what makes me content, in what challenges me, and what gives me heartache in the process. I’m not interested in conquering the mountain top. I prefer to wander down all the different paths to discover myself in the process.

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    Susan Malone says June 19, 2017

    “I prefer to wander down all the different paths to discover myself in the process.” Ah! I love that,Joyce!

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Janella Panchamsingh says June 18, 2017

I totally think you can follow your dreams and find success however I personally think at that point they are more goals than dreams

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    Susan Malone says June 19, 2017

    We have to break our dreams down into goals, don’t we, Janella. That’s what gets us there!

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katrina gehman says June 19, 2017

if you dream it, you can create it. i always say to follow your dreams.

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Colleen says June 20, 2017

Totally agree, Susan. It’s not the outer rewards that come to us as a result of pursuing passions (or dreams), but something more important—personal growth and expansion. We “become” more when we go after what the soul wants. As you said, when we don’t, your life grows “dimmer,” and we’ve all seen people who’ve lost that glow. It’s hard work to keep it bright, but well worth it.

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    Susan Malone says June 20, 2017

    ‘We “become” more when we go after what the soul wants.’ I just love that, Colleen! Beautifully said.

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Cathy Sykora says June 20, 2017

Good for you. I’ve started a book but not completed it. Tomorrow I have a 3 hour session with a story teller to help pull the stories out of me. I’ll let you know how it goes :).

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Lorii Abela says June 20, 2017

Yup, that is the big question….passion can make you very busy. When you are so engrossed on it, it can take your whole life. I think even the scuba diving instructors can be tired as they are not just down there all the time looking at fish and corals, they still have to load those oxygen tanks and prepare all sorts of things.

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    Susan Malone says June 21, 2017

    Following your passion can make for a busy life, Lorii, but oh-so worth it!

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Katarina Andersson says June 20, 2017

Yes, I agree, it is important to do something ou are passionate about and feel that you are doing something that makes you feel good. 🙂

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    Susan Malone says June 21, 2017

    It brings the sweetness to life, doesn’t it, Katarina. Well, that and wine 😉

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Kristen Wilson says June 20, 2017

Awesome post… we always have to have something to strive for.. success, happiness, goals etc… something to aim for.

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