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Before You Ditch Your Job to Follow Your Dream 

1You need to eat. Seriously. Being able to buy groceries and pay your bills and take the occasional trip to the city is its own kind of bliss. Don't underestimate the toll financial insecurity can take on your happiness. Then again, if you're stuck in a dead-end, low-paying job, you might not have much to lose. (If your passion-following is sponsored by some true believer in your life, skip ahead.)

2. Examine your impulse. If this thing you want to do has kept a grip on you since you were a child being scolded for fantasizing out the window instead of filling in the bubbles on your test sheet, that's a good sign. If a profound personal experience triggered an epiphany, awakened a passion you didn't know you had, that's pretty sweet, too. If you had some drinks and then watched Magic Mike and suddenly think you need to be a male stripper, you might want to revisit that. Do nothing simply because it looks like amazing fun on TV.

3. Start small. If possible, find ways to explore this potential new path before launching down it. Consider yourself an artist? Paint on the weekends until you have enough for a show, then get a show. Want to be a writer? Look into freelancing or submitting short stories. Ready to trade in waitressing for nursing? Volunteer in the hospital for a few months. Dreaming of being a filmmaker? Take classes to hone your skills. Point is, make sure the dream you have reflects the reality of what you're getting yourself into.

4. Are you okay with failing? Because you need to be okay with failing. No matter how much you love something, no matter how hard you work, no matter what a good person you are, no guarantee exists. In fact, you almost certainly will fail — but if you love enough and work enough and are savvy enough, those failures will be opportunities to do better next time. Imagine the worst that can happen. Your art goes unsold. Your writing, unappreciated. Your restaurant sits empty. Your accounting skills fail to inspire applause. Your nonprofit receives no donations. Your blog never attracts more than four readers, one of whom is your mom and another of whom is your brother. The world already has a ton of graphic designers, you come to realize, and needs another folk singer like you need a hole in your head. What will you do when this realization hits?

5. Are you okay with success? Because sometimes that happens. And then what will you do with all the adoration and money and opportunities that come your way? Turn into an entitled jerkface? Break hearts and squander the fortune life has brought you? Or remember that luck always, always plays a role and therefore you should not only stay smart and humble, but also look for ways to help others thrive at their particular passions.

BONUS: It's okay to like working for someone else. It's okay to revel in security. You might have hobbies instead of hungers. But always be striving. Learning new things, improving on established knowledge, letting yourself aim high, letting go of what isn't working — all this makes life, and a person, more interesting.

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Jennifer Savage

Jennifer Savage

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