When Passion and Commitment Aren't Enough
Most of us go through life in a pretty similar pattern. We finish some level of schooling then find our way into the beginning of what is typically called a "career." We pass the years acquiring experience and, usually, greater responsibility and greater pay.
There are times in our working lives where the days and weeks—even years—fly by. This usually happens when we are fulfilled, both professionally and personally. There are also periods where the pace is slower. This usually happens when life gets bumpy, either professionally or personally. We may withdraw in frustration or disillusionment, or reflect on big changes to get things back on track.
Around ten years ago, despite being in a fairly comfortable period in my life, I began this reflection. I started to wonder whether I might close my eyes and somehow wake up 20 years in the future in the same house and in the same job. Was this what I wanted? The answer was no, but at the time I really didn't understand what to do about it. But these reflections eventually translated into a series of changes that resulted in a permanent move overseas.
More recently I've been contemplating another potentially big change. While I've enjoyed my 20-year career in market research, my own personal passion around a new subject—cheese of all things—led me to wonder whether I could make another fairly major transition. Could I become a cheesemonger?
As a researcher, I’m hard-wired to seek information when I need to make a decision. I started collecting data on what it would mean educationally and financially to change professions. I sought counsel of people in the industry. I enrolled in professional training. I was stimulated by the challenges in ways I hadn't been for years. I can do this!
Yet despite my own passion and the endless encouragement I have received from others, I've reached the conclusion that now isn't the time to make this change.
This has been a huge disappointment to me in one respect. I have loved every second of my albeit brief introduction to the working cheese industry. It's filled with lovely people and has reminded me how much I enjoy learning new things and exchanging with people who share the same passion. I would have enjoyed a deeper relationship with this community.
But it is also a relief in many ways. There were huge unknowns in the plan and much depended on good fortune. The path to success, where I define success as enjoying a living standard that is somewhat comparable to our current situation, was surely going to be long and hard. I might work my ass off for years and yet still not get there. The transition by my own estimate would be at least two years. In the interim I would have had to find ways to earn income (which itself would be difficult and take time away from my new endeavor) or be forced to dig deep into savings. I would have needed to tap huge reserves of personal discipline, patience, and, above all, tolerance and understanding from my family.
So, after some soul-searching and frank discussions with friends and family, I've decided that, for now, I'll just be an amateur in both the English (non-professional) and French (huge fan) senses of the word. What that also means, too, is that I've got to put the blog on the back burner for a while. Expect to see fewer articles, and I need to suspend the newsletter as well as I shift my focus back to my current profession. While I haven't permanently ruled out being a cheese monger, I know that my best bet is to rededicate myself to my current industry and seek big opportunities that, after a few years, could help me mitigate the many risks.
Am I okay with this? Yes, I am. Although the romantic in me is a bit misty-eyed, I know it's the right thing to do. When you embark on a new adventure, you should have three things: passion, a plan, and discipline to execute the plan. But as any good strategic thinker will tell you, there's a point where you should consciously decide pull the trigger and fully commit to move forward. You make that decision by looking at your assets and liabilities and the risks. Your heart can play a role, but when your head is strongly telling you "no," you should listen.
I feel good about the decision for another reason, too. For I have also concluded that I've achieved my original intentions when I started the blog. I've become quite knowledgeable about cheese and it’s become a huge part of my life. Now, freed from the need to change this passion into a business, I can continue to explore France's cheeses and cheese mongers out of pure enjoyment.
I thank you all sincerely for your support. I’ll be back soon