Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ali Luke.
Have you ever dismissed a dream out of hand because you knew it was going to cost too much?
I’ve just finished a Masters degree in Creative Writing. My college offers a PhD program – which I didn’t even bother looking into.
Sure, I love being a student. I love being around other writers who are focused on their craft. But a PhD? First, being a Doctor of Creative Writing just sounds silly. And obviously, it’s going to cost a load of money.
Last night, something shifted. I realised that a PhD in Creative Writing wouldn’t be quite so ludicrous after all – I’m coaching writers now, and want to stay on top of my game. In some form or other, I’m always going to be learning.
So I figured I’d take a look, and see what astronomical fee I’d need to pay to take a PhD.
Turns out, less per year than my Masters cost.
It would be a big commitment, sure – but a feasible one.
Dollars and Dimes
I’m guessing that at some point, you’ve had a similar experience. You’ve looked into something which you expected to be totally out of reach – and you realised it was possible.
Travel is a popular one. I’ve always assumed that round-the-world travel was only for the rich. After reading Tim Ferriss and Chris Guillebeau, I know that actually, it’s possible to do that sort of travel on a budget – even spending less than I’d be spending on rent back home.
It’s not my dream (at least, not at the moment), but it’s an option.
What expensive dreams do you have? Do you really know if they’ll cost that much?
For instance, a lot of the folks I talk to think that starting up a business takes a huge chunk of cash. Seeing as you’re reading Productive Flourishing, you’ve probably got your head around that one. You don’t need a bank loan to start a small business. You can get going with just a few dollars for a website domain and hosting. (Not convinced? Read The Rebirth of Entrepreneurialism.)
Money can be earnt – or borrowed or given. If you start to run low on money, you can cut back your spending or increase your income. It might not be easy to do, but it’s a straightforward concept.
But whenever you go for a dream, you’ve got other, less tangible, costs.
We all have twenty four hours in a day. Sure, if you’re rich, you can pay people to take care of the more mundane aspects of your life – but you still can only experience twenty four hours in one day and seven days in one week.
I know it’s obvious. But we’re not always very good at remembering it.
How much is your time worth? How much time will your dream cost?
It might not take as much time as you think – contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to work crazy hours to succeed in running a small business.
But it might take more. I tend to have a rose-tinted view about how long a project will take. I have to tell myself that a PhD would be a very significant time investment and that, at the moment, it’s not one I’m willing to commit to.
You can’t get your time back. That’s a good reason to go for your dreams (rather than spend your time settling for second-best) – but make sure that they really are your dreams, and that they’re worth it, to you.
Time on its own doesn’t give you much. If you’re exhausted or stressed out, you won’t be able to use your time well.
However passionate you are about your dreams, they’ll require energy. This is pretty obvious with physical energy – however much you love running, you’re not going to attempt three marathons in a day.
When it comes to mental and creative energy, it’s harder to see your limits. If you’ve cleared a full day to work on your book, you might think you can write solidly for eight hours.
You might be able to sit there and physically type for eight hours, but producing good, thoughtful work takes a lot of energy. You’ll have peak times in the day when you feel in the zone – and times when all you want to do is nap.
How much energy will your dream take? You probably won’t know until you try it out.
Don’t run yourself into the ground. Learn and respect your limits.
Sure, you can usually replace energy – by relaxing or sleeping. But if you get to the point of real burnout, you’ll be struggling to get back onto the path towards your dreams.
What are your dreams?
What will they cost – in terms of your money, time and energy? Is it as much as you think?
My dream is to have a $10,000/month online business while I am working on my day job as well. What will it take to accomplish this?
1. 1 less hour of sleep per day (waking up earlier)
2. 1 less hour of leisure time after work
3. less friends
4. more eye strain
Is it worth it to me? We’ll see =)
Ali Luke says
Wow – impressive goal, Henway! You sound really dedicated to it, too 🙂 Best of luck — don’t overdo it, though (sleep is something I’m pretty wary of skimping on).
Archan Mehta says
Great post, as usual.
Truth be told, it’s going to take a while for your readers to adjust to your new last name.
Which brings us to the point–ah, transitions.
You transitioned from a basic degree at Cambridge to a Master’s degree at Goldsmith’s.
And, trust me, you will make yet another transition to a PhD.
Yes, it is going to happen, because if anybody deserves a PhD., well, you do.
Yes, you may decide to delay the inevitable, but it is going to happen.
I think the PhD degree is essential for the kind of work you have been doing, are doing, and will be doing in the future.
And a PhD degree is not just for academia, but it can be used in so many different ways and at so many levels.
Please go for it….we want to see you succeed.
(By the way, what’s Charlie doing…he will earn his PhD soon). Ah, maybe it is a good idea to mimic his behavior? No?
The PhD will bring you social respectability and enhance your value in a tough, competitive job market.
Go for it, of course, only when it is convenient for you. Cheers to your life.
Ali Luke says
Well, I may yet do a PhD — not sure that it’s *really* worth it for creative writing (and although I loved Cambridge, I’m not really an academic at heart.)
I guess the point I was making in the post is that it’s good to know it’s an option. Perhaps it isn’t my dream right now, but it may be a direction I take in the future.
Thanks for the encouragement, anyway! 🙂
Sometimes the cost of a dream is less tangible and more difficult such as a marriage, children, age, health…
I too was going to get my masters and doctorate. What’s holding me back? I chose to stay married. My spouse is unwilling to make the sacrifices of moving and finding a new job so that I can follow my dream. By the time that changes, I will be much older and less desirable to those looking at possible graduate candidates for their programs.
My sister put her dreams on hold because she found herself pregnant and chose to keep her child and give up her dream.
So we’re both stuck in jobs that will always be run-of-the-mill because we chose our loved ones over our dreams. And we make that choice every day of the year.
Ali Luke says
That’s very tough. Sometimes, one dream just doesn’t work with a different (and important) area of your life.
Is there no way you can get your masters and doctorate without moving? I know that here in the UK, some universities offer distance learning and online courses.
I admire your commitment to your spouse, and your sister’s to her child, though; family is hugely important to me.
Gabriele Maidecchi says
From my own experience, the resource people often underestimate is time. The money investment might not be high, energy might be enough, but usually time is never enough to do it all.
Why? Mostly ’cause people are not used to self-manage their own time, they don’t know the practices that work best for them, just ’cause they never had to, in such a way.
The first step to be a successful entrepreneur is learning how to manage your time efficiently, and how to take each problem step by step, prioritizing and assigning the right resources (time included) to them.
Ali Luke says
Good point. I’m *still* sometimes bad at estimating my time (I tend to forget that I can’t just keep on and on adding in new projects!)
Time management is definitely an important skill — particularly being able to work out what’s important and what just feels urgent.
Oh, I have several dreams!
Actually one or two came to fruition in rather strange ways soon after (for want of a better word) “obsessing” on them.
@ Gabriele Maidecchi- you are right on! Self management is the hardest- like I should be posting to my blogs NOW and reading blogs LATER 🙂
Ali Luke says
Interesting about them coming to fruition like that — perhaps your attention was so focused on them that it was hard for something *not* to happen? 🙂
Christina Crowe says
This is a really good post, Ali.
At the moment, I have many goals and dreams. Often, I find it hard trying to figure out which ones I should go for now and which I should push off until later. As a result, I’m doing tons of things at once, resulting in a lack of progress.
This post forces me to single out my goals and figure out if they’re really worth it. Out of the bunch, I’d say that I have 3 major goals that I want to accomplish.
1. Purchase my own home and start a family.
2. Buy a $6,000 Alienware laptop I’ve been eyeballing for a while – it looks gorgeous and it would allow me to play the games I enjoy smoothly without lag during breaks (I’m a hardcore gamer, despite being a woman).
3. Create passive income streams that will allow me to make at least $4,000 a month, even when I’m not working.
All three of my dreams would take a lot of time, effort, and money to accomplish – but I’m determined.
The only problem I have is with managing my time wisely. Mainly, balancing the information I take in with the work I get done. I suppose it all just takes practice, but the journey toward achieving my dreams has been both exciting and challenging. I have confidence that I’ll make it there eventually though. 🙂
Ali Luke says
Thanks Christina! What great, powerful dreams.
(And women can totally be hardcore gamers. I used to be much more into games as a teen/student than I am now, but I still drool over super-charged gaming computers ;-))
I sympathise with the doing-everything-at-once problem; I have to really force myself to focus on one or two big goals at a time. (Right now, I’m resisting the urge to do a lot of work on fiction — I finished my creative writing MA a couple of months ago, and now it’s time for biz!)