Having Your Dream Job is Not the Most Important Thing in Life

Despite what I’m trying to say on this blog, having your dream job is NOT a requirement to have a happy, successful life.

Many people have their dreams fulfilled by being a person who cares about others, being true to themselves, having good friends, finding the right relationship, raising their families, making a good living, protecting their families from hardship, making a difference in the world, and countless other things.

In addition, there are, of course, many other things that are more important than having your dream job. Relationships are more important, your family is more important. Having your dream job can be fulfilling, but to be truly successful, you have to balance it with the more important things in life.

Is it Too Late to Follow Your Dream?

I’m writing this blog primarily for young people who are trying to figure out their careers. But is it too late for older people to follow their dreams?

I can’t answer that question, but I found a web site that lists successful people who started late:

Here is a list of people over 50 who switched careers:

Here are some thoughts about going for your dream job when you’re older:

There’s risk involved, I probably don’t have to tell you this, you might lose income when you try to change careers. Only you can determine whether the risk is worth it.

It may take years, and you will have to spend a lot of your spare time trying to prepare for your goal.

It is possible to keep your regular job and prepare for your dream job in your spare time, but you really have to be committed to doing it.

If your dream job has been percolating in your mind for a long time, the creativity may burst out when you finally give it an outlet.

When you’re older, you may have more wisdom to make your dream job work, and more experience to guide you in what works and what doesn’t.

If you’re at a place where you want to go for your dream job, remember it’s possible but not guaranteed. I don’t advise just giving up everything for your dream job, remember it takes time.

How I Got My First Job With Disney

I was living in Berkeley when I first interviewed with Disney. I realized that I needed to show them my work, so I did some samples of Disney characters. I didn’t have any Disney samples before, because I had wanted to do movie posters.

I called Disneyland and asked the operator if I can get the name of an art director that I could send my samples to. I called the art director and told him what I do, and asked if I could send him some samples. He said yes, so I got his address and mailed the samples, I sent them by certified mail with his signature required, so I would be sure that he got them.

After about a week, I called again and asked if he liked my samples, and whether there would be any potential to get a job. He said yes to both, but told me he didn’t have anything to give me right then.

So I asked if I can keep calling back, he again said yes, so I called back in maybe two weeks. I kept calling back, I don’t remember how long it took, but finally he said that they had a job, that if I wanted to come down and work in their office for a month, I could. This was in 1992. I came down to Disneyland and worked on a Euro Disney Opening poster.

I also did some renderings of Toontown buildings for the opening of Mickey’s Toontown, they were used for the Burger King Kid’s Meals. After the month was up, they said that if I moved down to Southern California, they would probably have more work for me. So I packed up my belongings from my apartment in Berkeley, and moved to an apartment in Tustin, California. I think they gave me enough work to keep me going, although after a while, I realized that I need to get more clients. When you freelance, you always have to get new clients.

Going on Job Interviews

When you go on a job interview, the employer may like you, but they may not have an opening right now. Is it ok to follow up with the employer, or would it bug them when you call back? It’s my experience that if the employer likes you, but just doesn’t have an opening, it’s good to follow up with them, and you won’t bug them.

Ask if you can call them back in a week or so. If they say yes, then definitely call them back. If you call back, and they still don’t have an opening, then call them back again after a week or two. My experience is that you won’t bug them, just be nice and polite, and keep it short. Keep calling back. Sometimes, they are impressed when you are really persistent, they can see that you really want the job, so they may figure that you will be a good worker.

If you do bug them, they will probably politely tell you. And if the job opening becomes unavailable for whatever reason, they will tell you that too. Just be polite at all times, even after being turned down.

Most of the time, it’s up to you to follow up on getting the job. Have confidence in yourself and keep trying, you will eventually get there.

You Have to Be Able to Accept Rejection

If you want your dream job, or any kind of job for that matter, you have to be able to accept rejection. In order to get a job, you have to go on interviews with the employer. You are going to face rejection in those interviews, for sure. But if you let the rejection stop you, or paralyze you, you will never get your dream job.

You may get rejected many times before you get a job. But the more interviews you go on, the better your chances you have to get a job.

It’s even better if you try to learn why you didn’t get the job. Maybe the employer was looking for someone who had a different type of quality, maybe a skill, and maybe you can learn that skill. Maybe the employer couldn’t see the potential in you, so try to figure out a way to show your potential the next time.

Don’t let the person who rejected you define you as a person, he or she doesn’t know the potential inside of you. You may have to develop that potential, but you need to know that it’s there.

I read a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger, he said that he lets rejection roll off his back like water rolls off a duck’s back. Whatever you think of Arnold, you can learn from his advice. In other words, he doesn’t let rejection affect him or stop him, he just goes on to the next thing.

I found a web site that talks about successful people who faced rejection:

Here is another web site about successful people who failed at first:

Hear this advice – Don’t expect your dream job to come easy, be ready for a lot of rejection before you get it.

I Love My Job

I love my job as a Disney artist. For anyone who is choosing what career they should have, I would recommend choosing a job that you will love. The job you love may not always pay well, but think about this:

When you love your job, you don’t mind working hard.

When you love your job, you want to learn all you can about it.

When you love your job, you want to do the best you can.

When you love your job, you’ll make the extra effort to improve what you do.

When you love your job, your love will eventually show and that will make you more valuable to your company.

If you love your job, you may rise to the top of your field, because of all the above reasons.

I believe you can make money doing anything you love to do, BUT you have to go about it a certain way. It helps to be responsible with money, for example. And you may have to figure out HOW to make money at whatever you do, which may not be easy. You might spend years not making very much money before you become successful, or you may never make much money. But loving your job has unseen benefits, like more personal satisfaction, and maybe less stress.

I’ve always loved Disney. I think the reason I’m good at my job is that I love the Disney movies and I love Disneyland, I know the characters so well, that I want to make sure that they’re done right. When I look at a Disney character, I can tell if it’s correct or ‘off’. I will take the extra effort to make it right, even though I didn’t have to. That love and care for making the characters right is what makes me good at what I do.

I Didn’t Take My Career Seriously in the Beginning

When I was a kid, I drew lots of cartoon characters, but when I grew older, my passion for drawing all the time kind of decreased. I’m not sure why, maybe I thought I was good enough and didn’t have to practice as much anymore.

This kind of continued into college and art school. After Berkeley, I went to the Academy of Art in San Francisco. I wasn’t that great of a student, somehow I didn’t take it very seriously, maybe because I thought I was good enough, and maybe partly because I grew up comfortably, and didn’t realize how hard it is to make a living in the real world.

Walt Disney once said “I think it’s important to have a good hard failure when you’re young. I learned a lot out of that”. Actually, I personally never had a hard failure, I just had a lot of small failures that I think caused me to sort of drift slowly in the beginning. So I didn’t really ‘wake up’ til later.

When George Lucas was in high school, he was in a serious car accident. The accident was so serious, that he should have died, but he didn’t. That experience made him serious about what he wanted to do in life. So when he was still young (early 30s), he created Star Wars.

I actually think that my comfortable life growing up caused me to not take my career seriously. I was kind of lazy, and when I was young, I just wanted to have fun, so it took me longer to figure things out. I thought my work was good enough, but I found out when I entered the cold, cruel world that it wasn’t good enough. I had to open my eyes to that fact before I could improve my work.

My Failed Attempt to Get into Lucasfilm

At one point, I found out that artists at Industrial Light and Magic in San Rafael, California were conducting life drawing sessions, and they were open to anyone. Industrial Light and Magic is the special effects division of Lucasfilm, creators of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films.

I was excited, I went to the life drawing sessions and met Frank Ordaz, he was a matte painter who did fantastic backgrounds for Return of the Jedi, E.T. and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I got to see the matte paintings they were working on, at the time they were working on Young Sherlock Holmes, which came out in 1985. I also got to see the special effects studio, where they had some sort of rooftop model set up for filming.

My main motivation to do the drawing session was to show my work to Lucasfilm. After some weeks, I asked Frank Ordaz if I could show him my portfolio. I had done some movie poster paintings, like Star Wars, Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. Not actual jobs, but samples for my portfolio.

Frank said that maybe I could get work doing ‘comps’. Comps are rough preliminary sketches or marker drawings used in the planning stages of a movie. He didn’t say that my work was bad, but when he said that he could recommend me to do comps, basically what he was saying was that my work looked unfinished.

I was crushed, because to me, they WERE finished. I was very depressed, but I had to open my eyes to realize that I wasn’t good enough to do movie posters. I realized that I had to work harder to improve my work.

The Creators of Star Wars Were Regular People

While I’m on the subject of Star Wars – I watched a great documentary about the making of Star Wars, it’s on Vimeo.com, called Star Wars Begins.

If you are passionate about getting your dream job, whatever it is, I suggest you watch this video.
When you watch it, I recommend that you get past the ‘Wow, these people are so great and so talented’ thoughts and realize that these people who worked on Star Wars are just regular people.

I love the comment by James Earl Jones, voice of Darth Vader, he said “I’m simply special effects, they hired a guy born in Mississippi, raised in Michigan, who stutters. And I lucked out, to get a job that paid me $7000! It was great fun to be a part of that.”

Yes, they were talented, but most of them have this awe about what they’re doing, just like regular people. Yes, they were talented, but they were basically people put in a situation where they were just figuring out how to make things work.

I think that everyone has the basic ingenuity inside of them to be able to figure out how to make something work, it’s just that these people who worked on Star Wars were put into a situation where they were able to practice that ingenuity.

Watch the video with the thought that the creators of Star Wars were just regular people who were able to work on something great, and hopefully, this will inspire you to think that you can do something too.

How George Lucas Inspired Me

When I was in college in 1977, the original Star Wars movie came out. I was so entranced by it, I started buying the toy figures and vehicles, I bought an AT-AT Walker from Empire Strikes Back that sold for $44, that was expensive for a toy at the time. I bought the Darth Vader and Yoda masks. And yes, this was when I was in college.

I bought all the books about Star Wars, I read all the movie magazines, and found out that Star Wars creator George Lucas was from Modesto, California. Modesto is a small town in the San Joaquin Valley. It is near Lodi, another small town, where I grew up. When I found out that George Lucas was from Modesto, I began to think, “Well, if he’s from Modesto, (a small town like Lodi), and he made Star Wars, maybe I can do something too”.

I’ve also heard that George Lucas is very quiet. He was the director of ‘American Graffiti’, his first successful movie. American Graffiti was based on Lucas’ experiences as a teenager in the early 1960s in Modesto, with it’s cruising, drag racing, etc. I heard that during the filming, one of the stars, Richard Dreyfus, made a comment, “I didn’t even know the director (Lucas) could talk”. In filming Star Wars, actor Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) said “George’s direction was mainly, ‘Do it again, but just do it better this time”.

I used to think that only outgoing people or people who could talk could be successful. When I heard that George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, was a quiet person and was from a small town like Lodi, I thought that even though I was quiet and was from a small town, I could do something too. Of course my work isn’t as big as Star Wars, but the inspiration helped me to realize that I can get my dream job too.