Tonight I watched Up in the Air starring George Clooney and Anna Kendrick. At one point in the movie, George asks one of the employees he’s just fired, “Do you know why kids admire athletes?” After a witty (and somewhat pissy) response from the disgruntled staffer, George says, “because they follow their dreams.”

How many people do we know – family, friends, ourselves – who toil away at jobs that make them unhappy, earning a steady paycheck with good benefits but who never experience an ounce of happiness about what they do? How many people do we know who give 10, 15, or even 20 years to a company only to have it all end one day due to circumstances completely beyond their control? How many of us wake up in the morning and stand there, looking at ourselves in the mirror, dreading getting dressed into clothes we don’t like and slogging to a cube farm with bad coffee and a receptionist with a terribly high voice? The reality is that, in the end, no one takes care of us or guarantees our happiness. If we expect good things to happen and think that everything will be OK, it will be just that – OK. Mediocre. Average. It’s up to us to do the things that put us in a place to smile and look back on a life that was truly happy. If we don’t, we might find ourselves old, tired, and full of regret.

As an executive search professional for more than a decade, I talk with people all the time about their passion, hopes, and career aspirations. It is so easy to see someone who truly IS what they do. It’s not just a job – it’s a part of who they are. It makes them whole.

Like my dad always said: “If you find something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Very true, Dad.

There’s a particular guy I admire very much. He probably doesn’t know it, but it’s true. You see, he’s a writer. He knows he’s a writer and he loves writing. It’s not just what he does, it is who he is. He’s smart, witty, funny and he has a family and friends who adore him. He’s adored because he’s happy and he’s happy because he does what he loves. His family supports his dreams and makes decisions together that allow him to follow those dreams. I’m sure they make sacrifices and – as far as I know – he’s not rich (at least money-wise). But to me, he’s the wealthiest person I know.

Like George said, kids admire athletes because they follow their dreams. As kids we have imagination and the possibilities are endless. We can do – can be – anything. But quickly the years take our hopes and dreams little by little as we ignore that little voice that says “what the hell am I doing here?” Soon enough we are full of doubt and pessimism – and then we just settle. Average becomes good enough.

The truth is, we all admire people who follow their dreams. There’s something intoxicating and powerful about someone who isn’t bound by doubt or fear or procrastination, who knows what she wants and goes after it with enthusiasm and passion. We all want that, so what holds us back? The answer: ourselves. Our own fears are the limiting factor. If we could somehow just find a way to overcome them, anything is possible.

Sometimes during our days we see or hear things that give us pause, that make us question if we are in the right job, in the right place, in the right school or class, in the right relationship, etc. Don’t ignore that voice. Don’t assume it’s just a bad day. That voice is the kid who admires athletes giving us a much needed wake-up call. But that kid isn’t full of infinite encouragement. Every whisper we ignore is one less opportunity we have to follow our dreams and do what truly makes us happy. That kid will only bug us for so long before he gives up.

So, what are you waiting for?

Until next time,