How Does Your Fall Back Position Help You With Your Dream Career?

At first, a fall-back position may seem an excuse to chicken out of following your passion, working a second job as a betrayal of your dream, a diversion of your valuable time.

Take George Clooney, for example. There’s something attributed to him that’s always stuck with me:

His father kept trying to tell him that he needed to stay in college so that he would have something to fall back on. George’s reply was “If I have something to fall back on, then I will”

– From a George Clooney fan web site.

It’s the sort of thing that makes me thing that I ought to be diverting as much time as possible into pursuing my own vocation.

That every second spent on finding other ways of supporting myself is a betrayal of that dream.

But as I interview people for The Paid to Play Podcast, I’m discovering something different:

A lot of creatives are using their “fall-backs” to ensure that they can give their best when they approach their passion.

I met Matt Abercromby when he was working for The Cairns Post, as part of the marketing team.

“I dare you to question my commitment to my craft. I double dog dare you.”

Matt’s true vocation, though, is acting, and a few years ago, he quit his marketing job to travel to the States, where he attended the New York Film Academy for six months, then on to the UK to start his acting career in earnest.

After Matt’s recent return to Australia, I invited him on the Paid to Play Podcast as my nineteenth guest. When I asked him what was next, Matt talked about his plan to return to marketing on a part time basis while looking for acting work.

Matt supplemented his resources while at the Film Academy by tending bar in New York. While we might at first raise our eyebrows at the cliche of the bartender who’s “sure that I could be a movie star,” Matt explained that the job allowed him to approach auditions for roles with a positive frame of mind, knowing that if the audition didn’t work out he still had something to pay the bills with.

In the same vein, having part time marketing work in Sydney will give Matt that same flexibility and reassurance.

Matt isn’t the only Paid to Play guest using a “fall back” to aid him in the pursuit of a dream:

And my guest for the next episode of the Paid to Play Podcast, Catherine Caine of Cash and Joy, is contemplating taking on a part-time job to help take the pain out of those weeks when her primary income from her consulting work is thin.

The ideal of the self-assured, utterly dedicated pursuer of a dream life may seem a noble one.

Like many things, though, it’s easier to talk about it, aspire to it or even compare yourself unfavorably with it than to put into action.

It requires resources that we might not possess.

So don’t feel guilty that you’re cheating your dream by doing what you have to in order to pay the bills. Instead:

  • Look at the positives that your fall back gives you, whether a way to shore up your income, a chance to interact with people and learn new skills outside those on your vocation’s path or a simple break from the work of your vocation. Catherine Caine is looking forward to the opportunity that a retail assistant position will give her to get out of the home office and interact with people face to face.
  • Find the joy in your fall back: Your friendships with colleagues, the challenges of the work. Elizabeth Vaughan’s day job is often about helping people in times of crisis.
  • If the nine-to-five or a traditional “fall back” just doesn’t suit you, don’t be afraid to turn another creative pursuit into your fall back. If Terry Serio can pay the bills through creative versatility, why can’t you?
  • Keep it all in perspective. Remember that your fall back isn’t everything or forever; you never know what opportunities await just around the corner. Jesse Kuch was part-timing in the Classifieds department at The Cairns Post until the Editorial team gave him a break!

You can hear more about how my guests have managed their passion-careers alongside a main or “fall back” income in their episodes of The Paid to Play Podcast.

Be sure to come back on Sunday for consulting motivator Catherine “Cash and Joy” Caine’s take on the freelance life in Episode 20!

Are you curious?

Just what do you do in terms of a fall-back position while you pursue your dream work? How do you manage your time between the two and the other priorities in your life?

Or, for those of you who follow George Clooney’s philosophy, how has devoting yourself entirely to your passion worked for you?


George Clooney Fan Site

Who’s to Cry – Terry Serio’s Ministry of Truth

Cash and Joy