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Making Your Job Work For You

Greetings from the Pacific Northwest!

Yesterday, my father and I spent many hours sitting on the balcony of his 17th story river-front condo, watching the hundreds of boats go by on the Willamette River. Having grown up in Florida in a boating family, boats have always been another passion of mine and if I play my cards right, I hope to retire on a boat one day.

We watched big boats, little boats, “head boats” (full of tourists); everything from canoes and kayaks and jet skis to big yachts, barges and dine-aboard cruisers. Without question, every boat that went by was full of people that were having a damn good time (except maybe on the barges).

As I watched through the binoculars, I saw a curious little red boat that looked like an old-fashioned diner on a mini-barge. As it puttered through the waters and came into sight, I saw that it had banners and flags on the top that said, “Weenies on the Water,” and a menu posted on the side. It was a floating hot dog stand! It anchored right in front of my dad’s condo and we watched as boat after boat pulled up, bought a hot dog or Popsicle and then sped away. I cannot imagine that he could’ve possibly made enough money to pay for his fuel that day, let alone the cost of the customized craft, but I do know he was having a good time on the water and had a great excuse for hanging out on a boat on the river all day.

I thought about how great that would be and how innovative this guy was, even if he wasn’t getting rich. I would trade jobs with him in a heart beat—at least for a few weeks. Like any job, I am sure it has its pros and cons, but at the end of the day, if you have spent it involved in something you love to do and would gladly do for free (or maybe even pay for it), the day has been a success.

I decided very early on in my adult life, that I needed to make my job work for me and that I intended to play for work as much as possible. And for the most part I don’t regret it. Had I chosen a more traditional and lucrative career, I might’ve been able to retire to my fantasy boat a little younger, but I would’ve given up years of fun and fulfilling work in the process.

There’s always a danger in turning your passion into your profession, as Rich and I both know. You risk losing your passion. I have survived several burn-outs in my career and I have found that any passion must be nourished—whether it is passion for a sport or endeavor or for another person.

Each burn-out that I went through was resolved by some serious introspection and specific actions on my part to get back in touch with my passion. Now, with the wisdom that comes with nearly a half-century of life, I think I’ve got a path lined out for myself that is one I can live with. Although I’d love to spend a few weeks on the water flipping weenies, I’d probably be missing the horses pretty soon and come back to my “regular” job with a greater appreciation. And I probably wouldn’t make any more money from weenies on the water than from horses in the dirt. And no doubt, I wouldn’t be thinking about buying a boat in retirement but probably thinking about buying a horse farm instead (wonder how many weenies you’d have to sell to buy a horse property?).

What about you? What choices (or lack thereof) led you to your career? Do you have any regrets? Which is better– working fewer years in a career that is not necessarily fun or working more years for less money in a career you love? My answer totally depends on when you ask me.

But for the next few days, I intend to enjoy our abbreviated vacation to the fullest and worry about work later.

Enjoy the ride!


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  1. Julie, I don’t know if you go back and read these or not, but either way… I’m really struggling with this right now. I’m trying to figure out whether to try to make a living doing something I enjoy or whether to find a job that pays well and allows time to do what I enjoy (making it a hobby).

    I love to work with horses and had decided to get more into training them, but at this point am still learning how to train. After taking a hard fall, I’ve begun questioning it all. I don’t want to be crippled by the time I’m 35, but can’t imagine doing anything but working on a ranch with horses. As you know, there’s such an amazing reward in working with horses. I’m very frustrated and not sure what to do. I’m not sure if I need to find someone who has more of a natural horsemanship method to work for and learn from or what. All I know is I need to figure something out and get going on it. I feel like I should have figured this all out by now. I know I’m not that old (going to be 29) but I feel it for some reason.

    How did you get started on your own and what kind of set-up do you have?

    In advance, thanks!

  2. I stumbled into my field totally by accident. I work in Child Protection, and it’s a very strong passion for me. I can’t imagine ever not doing this. Because of how I came into this field of work, I know I was destined to do it.

    I also could never live with myself now, if I moved on to something else. It’s a field of work that needs as many dedicated people as possible.

    My family and my horses are wonderful for helping me de-stress at the end of the day, or on the weekends.

    I think most of us who love what we do, need down time. Not as much as someone who doesn’t like their occupation, but we do still need a chance to relax,and maybe flip a few weenies long the way.

  3. haha…I love the idea of “weenies on the water”! I recently decided that I did not want a career in horses. It was a tough choice, but I LOVE going to the barn every day to visit my retired horse and I wouldn’t want to do anything to risk that. I have been working part time doing barn work for years while I was in school and I know that if I double and triple up on barns that after 14 hours of seeing every one else’s horses I hardly have the motivation to see my own. Horses are a joy for me and I want to keep them that way!

  4. Julie,
    I too used to live on the Shrewsbury river in Rumson/Sea Bright, N.J., and yes it’s fun and relaxing to watch all the boats of all sizes and value go buy. Guys out fishing in little Boston Whalers to Geraldo’s beautiful, huge yacht. About this grass is greener thing. I say mostly forget it. You’ve got the gift of doing what you love and do best for a living. Unless you go to something else that you have passion for, I think that emotionally and spiritually you will only be moving horizontally. And entry level usually involves having a boss. (Unless they’re really cool and love to teach with guidance and patience, spit to that!) I’ve never had the priviledge of following my unfullfilled passion: horses. Save for a few stable jobs that I couldn’t keep, (who can survive on ten dollars an hour?!) my passion goes unfullfilled due to just trying to survive. My opinion to your question comes from a biased view: I say better to do your passion and be fullfilled. All things being equal, you’d be as wealthy as if you did something you don’t enjoy or respect for alot of monetary rewards. There are so many variables, who really knows. One could argue that if you did the latter for 20 yrs. saved alot of money, you’d still be young enough to split and follow your passion and still have youth and the most valuable asset: wisdom, on your side.

  5. I guess I could flip weenies if I wanted to. Hubby would be glad for the extra income, but that would take away from the farm work that pays for my two to stay there and the work that is falling behind here. I do have a weekend job and occassional side jobs too so there is plenty to do.
    My dream job would be to have a corral full of orphan or PMS babies to train. Up to 6 or 7 months and then someone else can take over. My orphan boy was a joy to work with but I miss that “little fellow” since he is over a year now.

    Julie check out the Parade insert of the Sunday papers. There is a story about people who take a long loop of a boat ride in the US. Hubby said when we retire we will do that, but we won’t unless there are stalls on board.

  6. Hi Julie,
    When I was young I wanted to be a musician. I wasn’t disciplined enough to put in the time even though I was quite talented. By accident, I ended up a Model Maker doing prototype machining for the Aerospace Industry with a expertise in Engraving for 22 yrs. But my passion was always Horses. So much so that I worked for a Cutting Horse Trainer for a year without pay just to learn. If given a choice I would Engrave Custom Silver for the horse industry and work for a trainer on the side.
    Now that would be the ultimate “weenie flipping job”

  7. I kind of stumbled into my current career and most days I find I suffer from The Grass is Greener On The Other Side syndrome. That said, although I work for a gallery owner, I’m pretty much my own boss. I do have a lot of freedom to organize my day the way I want to and I don’t have anyone hovering over me. I’m inside where it’s warm and dry on crappy days and I basically visit with people (clients) all day long. Working on commission presents its own challenges.

    I’ve always wanted to work with animals though, so once a week, I work for minimum wage at a local stable as a Stable Hand. I guess it’s my version of flipping weenies.

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