Make Creativity Your Day Job!

Would You Rather Sell Your Dog Than Get a Job?

Dog or Job
Image courtesy of Dan Johnson Art

Imagine yourself in the following scenario:

You are an aspiring actor with very little money and no acting work. You have been turned down at audition after audition, and you can’t afford to pay your heating bill. You have resorted to selling your wife’s jewellery to make ends meet, and she is screaming at you every day to go and get a job.

What would you do?

A video popped up in my Facebook news feed recently and caught my attention. It’s an audio recording (with a slideshow of images) of Tony Robbins telling the story of how Sylvester Stallone got his break as an actor.

The part that really grabbed me was when Sly was in the exact scenario I described above, but he refused to get a job. He said that if he got a job, he knew he would settle back into the old rhythm, get comfortable, and lose the hunger, and his dream would gradually disappear.

So when he was at his lowest point, rather than go out to look for a job to bring in some cash, he went out and sold the thing he loved more than anything else in the world, his dog.

He chose to give up his beloved dog for $25 rather than get a job and risk losing his hunger for acting, which was his dream since he was a little boy.

Here’s the full video, it’s worth a watch (or listen) for a bit of inspiration.

The Two-Job Route

In his article How To Do What You Love, Paul Graham talks about the ‘two-job route’ to doing what you love, which he describes as ‘working at things you don’t like to get money to work on things you do.’

I’m interested to hear what you think about this. Do you have a ‘day-job’ which you aren’t passionate about, but which enables you to support yourself while you work on the things you are passionate about in your spare time?

Or are you an all or nothing person like Stallone? Does the idea of getting a job to make ends meet scare you? Are you worried that you will lose your hunger, and your dream will fade as you fall back into the regular work routine?

Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Working for Yourself Guide

15 Comments on Would You Rather Sell Your Dog Than Get a Job?

  1. Hey Dan!
    I used to have a day job, trying to make ends meet. It was soul crushing and it served its purpose of helping me to save up some money. But it’s true, what was supposed to last a couple of months went almost for 3 years.
    When i left and was literally without income I found myself working harder on my projects and soon I got gig after gig of freelance work. now I believe if I had started as a freelance back then I would be in a more comfortable position, but anyway the second best time to do it is now and I try my best to keep that way.
    Oh and no i would never sell my pets just for money. I would find another way to make quick cash, you can always wash cars in your neighborhood. 🙂

  2. Emma says:

    I am working at a job I don’t really enjoy at the moment. It pays the bills, allows me to develop certain skills that are important to me even though they aren’t necessarily my only or even my most important passion, and provides me with the chance to spend time with supportive and positive people. It also gives me some time during the week and at weekends to focus on the other things I am passionate about – craft, writing, and spending time with the people I love. It isn’t perfect but I don’t feel like I am selling out. I think life is a process and as long as you’re working towards the thing you love and keeping sight of your values, you’re doing ok.

  3. Terrisa says:

    Hello all! I had never heard the gritty details of Sly’s story before and I can say I’ll definitely be carrying it around with me. What a great story!

    I left what I plan to be my last job in November 2011. My reason for not wanting to get another one is not only because I don’t want to work for someone else or I think I’ll loose my focus. I could handle working for someone for a while and I don’t think I’d loose my focus. The real reason I don’t have another job is because I know I couldn’t keep up the engagement + creation process even half as well if I was devoting 30+ hours a week to a job.

    I do small projects here and there to make up the lack at this point. I’m not writing something that will get me offered $35,000. But if I can just earn enough for “rent+vodka” at this point, I’d consider it wild success.

    • Dan Johnson says:

      Hi Terrisa. I left my job around the same time, having saved up some money to last me a few months. Now that money pile is much smaller, and my income is still pretty sporadic, so I need to either find some freelance side projects, or start looking for a job.

      As you said, the time it would take up is the main problem. Ah well, I guess it’s all part of the journey!

  4. Annie Andre says:

    Very good question. Stallone sounds like he knew himself well.. But… I would never sell my dog to achieve my dreams. It would be like selling one of my 3 children.
    I don’t believe you have to give one thing up at the expense of the other. I believe you can have a day job to pay for the things you really love until you can do that thing full time.
    It can take longer to get to that point where you want to be but i believe it’s about balance. I could have gotten so much further in my life had i not got married and had kids. But i wanted a family. Everyone has to make choices and find balance between the many things they want, safety and comfort wihout getting com placement. It’s hard but that’s where drive and determination comes in. So i’m not so sure i like Stallones story.

    • Dan Johnson says:

      Hi Annie. I think you’re right, Stallone was a bit too single-minded for my liking. I would never want to compromise the happiness of the people I love so that I could follow my dream.

  5. Benny says:

    The Stallone story is great. I love the ending when he actually went back to look for his dog and paid the guy and gave him role in Rocky.

    I wouldn’t be able to sell my dog.

    I think there are a lot of people who have a job they don’t like, but stay with it to support themselves while working on their side projects. That’s how I am right now.

  6. Jon Laughlin says:

    I used to work at what I hated to be able to do what I loved but then the economy took a nose dive and I was out of work. A younger brother and I ended up moving in with our other self employed brother and his wife is blowing her stack off over us being there. I’ve been developing my reputation as an artist with the locals, made some money selling some of my art but it is slow going.

  7. Miranda says:

    I really liked Stallone’s story. Sometimes you have to make big sacrifices in life to get where you want to be…with that being said though I wouldn’t be able to sell my dog.

    I’m like Stallone though, it is too hard to have a job and try to work on a being creative/running a business at the same time. I started by business in 09, while I was a sophomore in college. It was REALLY hard to juggle the two. Sure you can do it for a while, but after so long it’s too much. I was stressed all the time and it just wasn’t worth it. I did finish school, but after that I said no more and just focus on my business.

  8. kathryn says:

    i’m not thrilled with having a day job but because of it i have learned a lot i would not have learned otherwise, which has helped me on the technical side of creating…such as learning to create my own website, promoting, etc. as well as gaining confidence in myself.

    I have two daughters to support, with one now in college, so it would have been very scary not to have a steady pay check. I am still hungry to eventually live my dreams of being a full time artist and work hard at night and on the weekends to get in as much art time as i possibly can.

    And i’m working on believing in myself enough to actually make it as a full time artist

  9. Kimberly says:

    I’m kind of late to the party here but…

    My plan for blending some Stallone with some Graham later this year is to have a part-time job that pays the main bills (rent, student loans, etc.), but does not pay enough for things that are flexible in cost, like food and fun. With my extra time I’ll work on my online therapy practice and accompanying blog. While I’ll have enough money to NOT be homeless, I won’t have enough to feel comfortable…and hopefully this will motivate me to keep my “hunger” alive and continue doing the hard work of actually making a profit from my passion.

    Or at least that’s my plan. We’ll see how it goes!

    PS. I’m brand new to your site. Found you over at today. Good stuff! 🙂

    • Dan Johnson says:

      Thanks for stopping by Kimberly! Sounds like a good plan, good luck with it! Hope to see you around here again 🙂

  10. Jun says:

    I hated my old job, it quickly ate away at my sanity. It’s strange because everyone else, including my father who had always been depressed and unmotivated, could stick at the same job.
    But one thing I did notice is that it made me even more grateful for the things that I love. Even the more base and simple things like sitting playing Minecraft for a day with my gaming buddy, or sitting in a friend’s house drinking cheap cider and talking for hours about politics, seemed to induce euphoria.

    Now I work in a whiskey factory with much better hours (no more regular 9-hour shifts), for a slightly lower wage by a few hundred. I prefer manual work. It’s exercise. And exercise releases endorphins.

    Anyway the point is, working always made me appreciate the things I love, but it also took chunks out of the small reserve of sanity I have.
    Oh, and if it interests you, I found your blog looking for some kind of starting point for art, since it’s something I’m considering (anything which helps me express ideas beyond language is good).

  11. Janet says:

    this is a very great point. i love the stallone story, since i’ve heard about it in the entrepreneurial blog circles..

    I felt so bad for going back to a dayjob. I am living in a ‘slum’ area of Manila, Philippines and for pretty much all of last year, I was having trouble making ends meet. My clients gave me enough for a meager lifestyle, but I want more.

    I think choosing the dayjob route is a ‘smart’ thing to do, although sometimes I feel if its also just resistance to doing what I WANT to do even more… if i didn’t have this much resistance, last year probably wouldn’t have been so bad (I admit, I didn’t work hard at it and treated it like a hobby. I was definitely functioning as if I was unemployed and not self-employed and not taking myself seriously).

    So I admit there is a lot of resistance.. But I also have hunger. I know that what I’m doing now is not what I’d like to do to sustain myself. While I am making above average income for the Philippines, it is still not up to my personal standards, and not enough for me realistically to move out of the slums. Everyone still lives with their families pretty much and don’t have to pay rent. It’s a lot harder for me with no family connections to this city and hence why I had to live in the urban poor. I will soon move out and things are getting better… Thanks for reminding me about the resistance.. A lot to think about.

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