You might be familiar with The Shawshank Redemption. Remember the storyline? Andy Dufresne, innocent of any crime, is saddled with a life sentence in Shawshank Prison. The experience nearly kills him and his hope for freedom.
I filtered the movie through my own experience. Stuck in my day job, I felt imprisoned from my potential. Although I loved the people I served and worked with, I felt captive from my creativity. Slowly over the years, I accepted my own life sentence. I thought it was easier to let my dreams die than to keep hoping for freedom.
But that’s not what Andy did. He escaped. And eventually I did, too.
Watching Andy’s escape, I saw an interesting three-stage pattern emerge. He went from prison to plan to payoff. Studies show 86 percent of us feel stuck in our day jobs. If we want to go from day job to dream job and turn our passion into a full-time gig, we can learn from this pattern.
Stage 1: Prison
Many of Andy’s friends didn’t want to escape their situation. Initially they hated Shawshank Prison, but they grew to accept it. Similarly, many people accept the harmful side effects of their day jobs.
Those side effects, according to Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love, include:
- Stress. Seventy percent of American workers experience stress-related illnesses.
- Burnout. Thirty-four percent think they will burn out on the job in the next two years.
- Heart attacks. There is a 33 percent increase in heart attacks on Monday mornings, according to the Los Angeles Times.
- Injury. There is a 25 percent increase in work-related injuries on Mondays, according to Entrepreneur magazine.
- Death. According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people die at 9 a.m. on Monday than at any other time.
- Suicide. Male suicides are highest on Sunday nights with men realizing their careers are not where they want them.
The lesson of this stage is obvious: Day jobs kill people, and most don’t care. It’s time to get serious about breaking free.
Stage 2: Plan
To break free from prison you need a plan. Andy didn’t just jump over the barbed wire fence. He escaped because he utilized his team, his tools, and his time:
- Team. Andy didn’t do it alone and neither will you. In my own escape, I relied on a physical team and a virtual one. I found support in people like my wife Kelly and my friend David. I also found wisdom from my colleagues and mentors, many within Platform University.
- Tools. Andy didn’t simply use his bare hands to break out. Instead, he relied upon a tool, his handy rock hammer. In Day Job to Dream Job, I share the Dream Jobber Plan, the tool I used to escape my day job. This is the same nine-step framework I teach my Dream Job Bootcamp students to help them escape theirs.
- Time. Andy used time and pressure. Each day he invested a little energy into his dream. Don’t discount a little energy invested over a long period of time.
With the right team, tools, and timeline, the Dream Jobber Plan works.
Stage 3: Payoff
Andy tells his friend, Red, about a little Mexican town right on the Pacific called Zihuatanejo. If he escapes, he says, he’ll buy a worthless old boat and fix it up like new and take guests out charter fishing. At the end of the movie—with Andy and Red embracing—we see his dream come true.
By breaking free from my day job I created my own Zihuatanejo. Though, thankfully, it doesn’t involve charter fishing—I know my limits. Regardless, my wife and kids will tell you we’ve designed a new life, igniting souls full-time.
The benefits can’t be beat:
- Freedom, to go as we please.
- Finances, to earn as we wish.
- Fulfillment, to live as we like.
“I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really,” Andy tells Red in a classic line from the movie. “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
If you’re one of the 86 percent stuck in your day job, you have that same choice—living or dying. Which will you choose?
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