How to change your life in 2017 by focusing on your passion project (aka join the circus)

man with saxophone against blue wall

A couple weeks ago, I got obsessed with this Casey Neistat video called DO WHAT YOU CAN’T (and which now has 3.7 million views…). You’ve probably seen it.

It said what I couldn’t figure how to say at the time about, as I put it, running off to join the circus.

It is possible to change your life forever by changing your perspective.

See, as I’m always trying to explain to people: I’m a modern woman, running three careers at once. My tech consulting career, my #ELB mentoring universe, and my music life. My professional world is effectively just a ginormous tripod. It’s weird to a lot of people, but I’m totally cool with it.

And sometimes–especially with the music stuff–I get messages from readers about joining the circus.

“Obsessed with these Snaps. Music video shoot?? SO COOL!!!!!! Ugh I hate my job. I have this amazing idea and you just reminded me that I just soooo need to go and do it, haha ahhhh I’m so jealous of your lifeeeeeee.”

You know the messages I mean. And if you’ve sent me one, do not feel silly–it’s actually really cool! The thing is, they’re really hard to answer. Because what you’re asking isn’t really straightforward. It’s kinda hidden in the nuance.

You’re asking me how to run off, join the circus and make change in your life.

For ease of explanation, let’s define….

Running off to join the circus (v): bringing your normal life to an immediate halt and focusing exclusively on your fantasy passion project from tomorrow onwards

I bring it up because I too have been considering running off to join the circus recently. I’ve considered it many, many times–and in many, many ways I’ve also kinda successfully done it.

I know that sounds impossible (to both consider and to do) but stick with me.

I’ve recorded dozens of songs in ‘real’ recording studios, and also produced four music videos (one of which is is going baby-viral as we speak). I’ve gone on tour, and I’ve even got my own fan page in the country of Colombia. I’ve moved to Europe, more than once.

I am, in many ways, totally inside the circus tent.

Here’s the thing though: Your perspective, as an audience member of the circus or as a potential future joiner of said circus, comes with some blind spots. It comes with some envy. It comes with some rose-colored glasses and some unrealistic expectations.

I know many people inside the circus and many people outside the circus, and I could literally talk about this topic forever. The circus is a complicated, sexy, messy thing and it’s a different thing for everyone.

So, if you’re considering joining the circus. I have three thoughts for you today on what this change will mean for you.

1. The circus is not for the faint of heart.

You know that “If it was easy, everyone would do it” phrase? That’s very real.

I know this because I know a lot of ‘circus at all cost’ people.

They are what you probably refer to as ‘working’ artists, or ‘working’ musicians, or ‘working’ actors. They are not famous. They are extremely talented. They would rather play at an extra wedding this weekend instead of getting any kind of day job.

They aren’t making a ton of money, but they are living full-time in the circus tent. Sometimes literally living in the circus tent.

They are not waiting for this to ‘pay off’ at some later point, though of course it might. This is just their life. This is their real life, and it is a lifestyle, and they generally enjoy it.

But it is not for everyone.

And even if your ‘thing’ is less artistic and more potentially profitable (say, starting a company), the joy will not be immediate. It will never be immediate.

And a lack of immediacy is not for the faint of heart.

2. Liking your day job makes it a whole lot easier and more sustainable to join the circus.

I am not a ‘circus at all cost’ person. I am the second type — the ‘I do X so I can do the circus’ person.

And my secret is that my X — my day job — is something I genuinely and completely adore doing. I don’t waste any energy throughout the day on disliking a boss, or wishing I was doing something else.

Do you know how much energy that gives me back?

I remember one day last year when I was working a pretty full-on, full-time contract.

I went in early so that I could take off early in the afternoon and head into the studio to work on some backing vocals. It was a full, complete, balanced, satisfying day. I was efficient and happy with day-job work, and also excited to head out for recording–which I could afford to pay for, because of my day job.

That is, in many ways, the whole dream.

I cannot stress enough how much more energy you’ll have for your ‘thing’ when you’re not panicking about escaping your day job.

3. Finally, you need to slow down and find your next step towards becoming an acrobat.

Shift your focus. Stop thinking about the escape, and start thinking realistically about what comes next on the path to being in the circus.

You want to be a singer? Track down your new band. You want to start a YouTube show? Set up the channel. You want to podcast? Buy the microphone. You want to be a stylist? Schedule a date to style your friend. You want to write a screenplay? Sit down and outline it for one hour tonight. You want to move to Europe? Set the date and work backwards.

Slow down the panic enough to find one next baby step. Or don’t.

Because there is no magic, my love, not even at the circus.


Banging your head against the wall with the job search? Breathe, baby, I got you. Subscribe to the #ENTRYLEVELBOSS gospel for weekly career advice that will get you hired in 2017 — and into a job you actually want, at that.

Alexa Shoen | Founder, #ENTRYLEVELBOSS


Written by Alexa Shoen

Headmistress at #ENTRYLEVELBOSS. Jazzy Musical Futurist of a Woman. UX Copywriter.

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