Sarah Avedikian

Every time I pass by the entrance of Prince of Songkla Univeristy, I see this sentence on the gate frame: ‘Our Soul is for the Benefit of Mankind’. And I always think that I’d like to kiss that person who came up with this idea as a welcome note. In fact, for me it is not a welcome note at all, but an urge to reconsider my actions and thoughts. It often brings me to a contemplation state: am I using my time in this life wisely to leave it as a better place at the time of my exit? Which type of actions I am taking are dominating which, the good or the bad?

If I wanted to narrow down my actions to my current career path, teaching, my questions became: how was I using this privilege of spending time with these people (students) to make some sort of positive influence in their lives, be it temporary or permanent? Was I not the same as (or worse than) a YouTube tutorial from which they could learn the same content I am teaching?

With kindergarteners, my strategy was always compassion, patience and understanding. And knowing that their age was a critical stage of forming characters, I tried my best to be an idol in my behavior and values. And now, as a university teacher, I always try to urge my students to think for themselves, to write down their ideas so they can observe what’s in their mind and understand it. I try to expose them to sociological and psychological ideas that have personally interested me, like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, or Pavlov’s Classical conditioning experiment. I ask them to make vision boards, to write love letters to themselves in order to highlight their best attributes, to read biographies of their favorite idols, to make plans for their futures… Every now and then, I let them watch movies that inspired me personally. Movies of remarkable teachers, such as ‘Dead Poets Society,’ stressing the idea of Carpe Diem (Seize the Day) or ‘Pay it Forward’ to understand ripple effects…

Oh, there’s much more for improvement all the time, and even though doubts about my approach come and go now and then, I’d rather be in a state of recurring contemplation, experimentation, learning and growth, than in a statue of ‘I know it all.’ Because, as Henry Ford said: ‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.’ And I’d rather keep my mind young, because ‘When a tree is growing, it’s tender and pliant, but when it’s dry and hard, it does. Hardness and strength are death’s companions, pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win’ (quote from Tarkovsky’s ‘Stalker’)

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So, you’ve made up your mind! You want to quit your lame job and start pursuing what you really love and are passionate about. But it is a bit scary to make the leap. You’ve told yourself that it’s going to be alright, but until you make sure that your new passion will start bringing you a stable and consistent source of income, there is always the tendency to just stay where you are… because it’s stable and secure. But guess what? Life itself is unstable and insecure. I mean, could you guarantee me right now that you will be here tomorrow, on planet earth, living your life and doing what you do?

I personally, don’t like security too much! But that also doesn’t mean that I take decisions on impulse. I do, in fact, think well about all the decisions that I take in my life, especially the life changing ones. Before taking my new career path, I research to understand how I would transition myself from one career to another. And so, allow me to share my findings with you, in hope that you could also make use of them, as I profoundly have.

First, you should know that there is no one single path that everyone could take. According to your current situation, at your job and in life, and based on your character, you will choose the path that fits you best. I have found that there are 3 effective ways to change your career. But before we get into that, let me tell help explain to you the importance of time.

You need to know that in order to be successful, all you need is focus and time. The former is pretty obvious, but what about time? I’ll tell you: you will need to dedicate 20 hours each week for the best career transition results. That means that, if you have a stable job that requires you to work 45 hours per week, your total working hours will rise up to 65.

But in order to understand whether you can do that while keeping your current job, let’s carefully examine the hours you spend weekly doing your different activities:

If, an average person sleeps 8 hours per day, that adds up to 56 hours per week. When we minus that from the total number of 168 hours we have in a week, we will be left with 112 hours.

Now, let’s say you work 45 hours per week, you commute for 8 hours, you also travel for 5 hours in total for non-work related stuff (like going to see friends, shopping, paying bills, etc.). Then we have your leisure hours of watching TV, browsing the internet and so on, for 15 hours per week. We will also add cleaning time that you take to 3 hours, shopping, cooking and eating food for 12 hours, bathing and getting ready to 4 hours, and doing your hobbies, like playing an instrument, doing yoga, reading, etc., to 5 hours per week. We will now add the time you socialise with friends or talk to them on the phone to 5 hours, and finally, the time you spend with your family, boyfriend/girlfriend to 15 hours.

If we add all these hours up, guess what number we will get? 117 hours!!! Now, let’s add the 20 additional hours you need to dedicate for your new career and we get a total of 137 hours!!! Do you see the predicament here? How will you free up all these 25 hours you need to make the leap towards your new career? 

If you’re really dedicated, then you would think that you can free up the hours of leisure that you have. But make no mistake here: leisure has to have its time, because the mind, as well as the body, really need it. If your mind is always working, working, working, sooner or later it will shut down and refuse to work. If your body is constantly doing, doing, doing, there will come a time when it will get sick! So, make sure that you leave some time for play. Now, if you don’t have a family or a partner, that helps also save you some time for your passion. You will also have to really consider what other options you can eliminate or substitute in order to make the necessary time needed for this transition is available. Only you yourself can make the right schedule for you. But I will also advise you here to make sure the new schedule is realistic: if you make a timetable for yourself that you know you will not be able to stick to, then it is better to reconsider planning that schedule. Sometimes, there isn’t time enough for experimentation. You will need consistency.

Now let me explain to you about the 3 different paths that you could take:

1 The adventurer’s path:

It is when you leave your job cold turkey and decide to pursue your dream career head on. Here, you don’t have to worry about not having enough hours to work on your new job. You will have all the time you need. If you choose this career path, then forget all about what we’ve discussed above concerning time management. But this path is a bit risky, because you will not have a stable source of income to back you up, so you will really need to think about how it will make you will feel. Will this corner you up and bring you back running to your old job? Or will you have enough discipline and patience to work on what you love and wait for results? This option is risky, yes, but it is totally time saving. You would have the opportunity to shift careers faster than if you choose the next 2 paths, where your time is less dedicated to your passion. The biggest advantage here is time; the most important question remains: Are you focused enough?

2 The strategist’s path:

This is a more secure path, since it requires you to work enough hours to sustain yourself, and at the same time, have enough 20 hours to work on your passion. And this could become real in a few different ways: For example, you could ask at your current boss to reduce your working hours down to 25 instead of 45. Here, you would still have a stable source of income, but you will also have that extra 20 hours to work on your passion. With this option, you might not even need to compromise any of your leisurely or social activities. On this path, you could also refer to working solely as a freelancer, taking up the number of projects you need for income, while at the same time, having enough time for working on your new career. Beware though, that you focus doesn’t get distracted between the work that brings you income and the passion you are trying to pursue. So, you need to evaluate whether you could shift your focus between these two simultaneously.

3 The grinder’s path:

I would have to say this is the most difficult one, and would probably take longer than the previous 2 paths. But it is also the most secure. Here, you don’t have to give up your job, nor reduce any working hours. You will just have to make enough time (20 hours per week) to work on your passion. But this path will require a lot of compromise: it might mean working long hours on weekends and not having time for family or friends. It could mean, not watching any TV or engaging in hobbies. This path means working 9 hours daily at your current job, then sparing 2 more hours daily for your new career, while still having to work 10 hours during the weekend!
Keep in mind that this might be sustainable for a few months, but what if you need 2 or more years to start making income from your passion? Will you be able to hold on that long without having a burnout? Also, will you be able to stick to your 20 hours weekly, when there might arise some unpredictable events, like having to move houses, attend a wedding, etc? How will you make up on those lost hours? I would suggest that you don’t compromise your sleep hours, since we need those rest hours for our body and brain to rejuvenate. My best advice here is to do as many hours as you can from the 20 hours needed. The important thing is that you DO! And that you don’t let laziness or distractions win you over. Good luck!

So now that you’ve seen these 3 different paths, which one will you take? Let me know in the comments below, or ask any questions that you might have about these paths. 
I wish you a happy career changing and a glorious pursuing of your passion!

Inspired by Joe Barnes’ book “Do the Work You Love”

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