In his 1971 best selling song “Imagine,” English musician John Lennon said, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” While Lennon was dreaming of a peaceful world without division of religion and nationality, his lyric can also apply to those who are stuck in steady standstill jobs, afraid to take the risk of following their dreams instead. To those who have bigger dreams than being stuck in a cubicle from nine to five every day only to pay the bills, you are not the only one.
Statistics from a 2016 National Association of Colleges and Employers study show that around 60 percent of post-graduation first-generation and non-first-generation students planned to enter into a workforce after graduation. However, a majority of these college graduates hope to enter into a job that will allow them to either exercise their passions or at least still have extra time for them.
It is a possibility that the 17 percent of post-grad. students that planned to take time off or were unsure of their plans might have been afraid of that though. The potential of falling into a hole of putting work before all else and not knowing how to climb out is very real.
Take Emanuel Chacon, for example, a former assistant director for Cabrini University’s Office of Admissions with a passion for dancing. Chacon was introduced to dance in his teenage years and gained an increased interest and love for it upon entering college.
At the University of Delaware, his experience in Greek stepping and strolling lead him to become an integral member of the Lambda Sigma Upsilon Latino Fraternity’s performance teams.
From there, he continued to grow as a dancer and gain valuable insight of the industry by working with acclaimed choreographers and competing in a number of competitions throughout the northeast region of the US.
“I have always been passionate about assisting others and often render my time and talent to give back to my community,” Chacon said.
After being a resident assistant at University of Delaware and a program leader and intern for Teach For America, Chacon thought being an admissions counselor at Cabrini would be the next step of his life for some time.
However, he always had bigger dreams in the back of his mind. This goes to show by the fact that he balanced traveling and teaching the Afro-Brazilian martial art form “Capoeira” while working at Cabrini. While Chacon became a very successful and loved member of the admissions team, he knew that his calling was not sit behind a desk in a dress shirt and tie almost every day.
A change of tempo
In May of 2016, Chacon’s passion lead him to audition for “Step Afrika,” a non-profit organization and dance company that is dedicated to the African-American tradition of “stepping.” The company tours nationally and internationally presenting residencies and workshops, and using the fusion of South African gumboot dance and African American stepping as an educational tool.
The thought of being a part of one of the top-10 African-American owned dance companies in the United States was appealing enough to Chacon. Although, he moreso was simply seeking out a wonderful opportunity to potentially dedicate his life to his passion.
According to Harvard Business Review, many other people in the 21st century exercise their freedom of getting to decide what they want to do, and not hesitating to make change if they do not like what they are doing.
“The only way to grow is to push yourself past your limits,” Chacon said. “I was just determined to take my craft and passion into new territories with the intention of positively influencing others.”
Two months after Chacon’s audition for the dance company, he received a phone call and was offered a spot on the cast to be a full-time touring dancer and the first Latino-affiliated Greek member. In the beginning of September, Chacon then independently picked up his life in Wilmington, De and relocated to Washington, D.C, officially beginning the next chapter of his life as a full-time salaried professional dancer.
“Hard work and dedication are what led me to the opportunity,” Chacon said. “Many used to think I was dancing too much, but I now get to see new places and meet people I didn’t think I would’ve ever meet. I do what I love full time and can touch the lives of people across the world through my craft.”
Chacon now not only touches the lives of people across the world, but also inspires the friends and family that supported his decision as well.
“Emmanuel is always reaching new heights and setting the bar high,” Luis Jaime Rodriguez Reynoso, a friend of Chacon’s, said. “This new chapter of his life is only the beginning.”
Faith also plays a large role in Chacon’s life, as he believes that keeping his faith is one of the key things that pointed him in the right direction.
“God has a plan. I’ve always been told that as a kid and believed it, but now I FEEL it,” Chacon said. “So much has happened in a short time that I never expected. As challenging as it may feel at times, if you have a genuine heart, good intentions and trust in him, a little faith can go a long way.”
A point of no return
According to Forbes, about 2 million Americans leave their jobs each month. 43 percent of these people pack up to move onto other endeavors simply because of a lack of recognition, and a general majority are simply unhappy in their jobs altogether.
In comparison to Chacon, best selling author, writing instructor and international speaker Joshua Fields Millburn also walked away from a promising career in order to pursue his dreams. However, he left a six-figure salary, which supplied his huge suburban home, several luxury cars and more consumer-driven goods. His extended story can be found on his current website.
Since age 18, Millburn had pushed aside his passion of writing to work suit-and-tie jobs, spending nearly 80 hours a week making his way up the corporate ladder. This included holding multiple management titles, becoming a director of operations for 150 retail stores, and obtaining a C-level executive title before the age of 40.
While he seemed to have done it all, success does not always equal satisfaction.
“I was not completely happy because I’d lost sight of what was truly important,” Millburn said in an article on his current website, The Minimalists. “I was unhealthy, my relationships were in shambles, and I wasn’t passionate about life… all of which I attempted to cover up with more trinkets and trophies.”
As time went on, Millburn came to a realization his high paying profession not only put a blanket over his passion, but also prevented him from growing as an individual and contributing to anyone beyond himself. Therefore, he decided to quit his job and walked away from his old lifestyle on March 1st of 2011.
“I had mixed emotions about leaving my job,” Millburn said. “I care about many of the people there and enjoyed much of the job itself, but the job is not the point. I had to stop living the lie, and start living the life.”
After Millburn left his corporate job, he actually had very little savings. However, he paid off his massive amounts of debt and shifted his mindset to live a more meaningful life by working to earn enough money to live, not living to work.
On a high of change and rediscovering success, Millburn then teamed up with his best friend, Ryan Nicodemus, to create a website filled with wise words for people to read on living a life of true freedom.
This lead him to reconnect with happiness and begin making a full-time living as an author. With Nicodemus, he now continues to write to 4 million readers daily about living more meaningful lives with less through website, books, podcasts, documentaries and more. “The Minimalists” have been featured on ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, BBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME, and The Atlantic.
“I’ve found that together, we have an ability to make anything happen when we put our minds to it,” Nicodemus said about working alongside Millburn. “We bring out each other’s strengths and keep each other motivated.”
Since 2011, Millburn has been consistently focused on his health, relationships, contribution to to charity and others, and most importantly, his passion of writing.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not allergic to money, but the almighty dollar is no longer my primary motivator,” Millburn said. “I love writing, I love adding value to other people’s lives. The money is secondary.”
While leaving a comfortable job for a dream may be risky, individuals such as Chacon and Millburn go to show that the sky truly is the limit.
“If living a more meaningful life, one that is filled with happiness and passion and freedom, is crazy, then I am utterly insane,” Millburn said.
“A big part of my mentality is I believe in myself more than anyone else does,” Chacon said.
“At the end of the day though, I’m just a kid from Wilmington that wants to change the world and be great.”