I have a degree in theater and I’m an insurance agent. I have a friend who has a degree in opera performance and she’s a bookkeeper. I have a friend who went to seminary and is a developer of e-content for a big business (and, yes, I’m still pretty sure that’s not a real thing). My man went to school for classical guitar, and he’s done everything from computer programming to day labor.

There are things we love, and there are things we do. Some people get to do the things they love and they make money at it, and I have absolutely no resentment toward them.

I do, however, resent the people who “sell” their knowledge, based on their experience and the experiences of similarly “successful” people around them, as though if you will just follow in their footsteps, you will have the same kind of success as they do.

Last week, James had me listen to a marketing coach conference call with him, and what struck me about it was that the guy conducting the call obviously LOVED marketing. He was energized by calls from people posing a problem he could solve. He answered questions they didn’t even ask, because his brain was further down the road than theirs were.

Apparently, he’d said early on in the call that his dad had kind of ruined him by saying that, to make money, you have to work hard. His point was that he was not working very hard, and all you have to do is find something people need, have passion for it, develop great ad copy, and the money rolls in.

This is the same basic idea in “The 4-Hour Workweek” and many other paid subscription services for breaking into the internet market or sales or fill in the blank.

This fails on a couple of levels.

The first is that this guy was conducing a conference call after hours, and my guess is that he actually *does* put in a lot of time and effort; he’s just not up to his elbows in insulation or sewage. But I’m not a sales person, and to hawk myself and my program the way he encourages would make me exhausted and I’d throw in the towel pretty quickly, even if the money were rolling in.

Some people have a marketing mentality, and others have a really great idea about which they are passionate. I think you have to be one of those two things for his program to have a a chance of working.

Kind of like when I used to sell stuff on eBay. I knew what would sell well for kids whose parents were going to Disney World because that’s what I researched and loved. I could find things out in the wild and sell them on eBay because I knew my market and loved it. I could not have had the same success with electronics because I don’t care enough to put in any research or pretend to care about what I was selling.

The second is that no single person’s (or dozen or hundreds of people’s) individual experience is a blueprint for what will happen for others, even if they follow “the program” exactly. You can try, but you might not be as charismatic. You might not meet the right person at the right time. You might not be good-looking or have rich parents (which, statistically, is the biggest predictor for financial success).

James has a book called “Fooled by Randomness” that goes into great detail about the part that circumstance or luck or chance or whatever you want to call it plays into everyone’s lives.

I’ve grown very tired of the arrogance of people who happen to be making money doing that they love asserting that if everyone else will only do the things they did, we, too, could be spending our vacations in the Antilles, phoning it in two hours a day, instead of clocking in like a schmuck for eight to ten hours a day.

Do I believe that we’re meant to work in cubes, under fluorescent lighting, devoting the main portion of our existence to eeking out a living? Nope. Is that the reality that most of us will live in? Yep.

Here’s why: Because while some people may just live to tend to lawns or see children learn (neither of which I understand, but it takes all kinds), probably no one grows up dreaming of putting the lids onto ice cream cartons at the Blue Bell factory. Yet there is a demand for that particular job to be filled, and someone does it.

When I was discussing this whole thing with a friend, he brought up that he was thinking of buying Jon Acuff’s newish book, Start (subtitled: “How to punch fear in the face, escape average, and do work that matters”). This is a follow-up to his book Quitter, in which he details how he “cultivated” his dream job.

This is a one-time purchase, not a subscription, but it still chafes at me a little bit. He is a Christian, and I know that he loves Jesus and means well, but it seems that he’s selling the same thing that everyone else is: discontent with your job.

“Does what makes you money leave you feeling hollow? You don’t have to do it!” Well, you know what? Maybe you DO. Jon Acuff is male, white, relatively good-looking, very charismatic, and he used to be pretty funny (how I miss “Stuff Christians Like” circa 2009). All of these things undoubtedly helped him along his path. Your path will not be his path.

He is going to be in Austin next month. Here is the blog post announcing early bird registration. It sounds just like the secular marketing coach stuff, but with Jesus! Not a fan.

I believe in keeping an eye out for and exploring every opportunity to find fulfillment in how you spend your time. But every single one of these “programs,” which seems, on the surface, to be selling dreams is actually selling a lack of contentment.

“You’re not as happy/rich/fulfilled as you could be, and I’m going to show you how to get there!”

You can’t promise that! And how dare you imply that someone who has a crappy job is somehow “wasting time”? Maybe that crappy job keeps her home with her kids when they’re out of school, and that is her priority, not being rich or starting a business that would require her whole life for three or four (or twenty) years. Maybe that crappy job has benefits that have helped him care for his wife, who has cancer.

Just because I don’t walk away from my job at the end of the day feeling like I changed the world, this does not mean that my life is without deep meaning or significance. Just because I can’t afford to vacation two months out of the year doesn’t mean that I’m doing something wrong, or inefficient, or “less than.”

To turn Acuff’s term around on him and hit him with a Jesus Juke, what about Colossians 3:23?

I have made a lot of decisions to support my lifestyle, and this includes having a job I’m VERY fortunate to have in, yep, insurance.

You know what my low-income job provides me that I value more than money? (By the way, I have been offered more hours than I work on a couple of occasions, so it’s not like “the man” is keeping me down; these are choices I am making.) Flexibility. I can go serve at a food bank. I can take off in the middle of the day to take D on a field trip. (Within reason, after having made sure it doesn’t inconvenience my employers.) I can homeschool.

I choose to find meaning in my live outside of my vocation, and I believe with all of my heart that that is what the majority of people MUST do.

At lunch today, I met with some people to collaborate on a visual art project for which not only will I not be paid, but I will actually spend some money on supplies to create. But you know what? I’m excited! I’ve never done anything like that before. I will probably never be paid to create visual art (or write, or purvey chocolate, or any other in a long list of “dream” jobs), but I think that I can manage to eek out some significance in this project, anyway.

So how about a reality check program? You send me $15 and I tell you to do whatever you want in your free time, and maybe try to balance unwinding with service and loving on your friends and family. I promise no results. How’s that?

Dreams are good, but have your own. Don’t buy someone else’s.

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