How Much Money did You Trade Your Dreams For?

Posted on October 11, 2016


In the movie, Up in the Air, Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, is informing a long time employee, Bob, that he is being let go of his position due to a large company downsizing.  Ryan is an outside consultant hired by the company because he specializes in the art of laying people off.   Bob is just one in a long line of people that Ryan must meet with over the course of two days.  As Ryan unveils the bad news to Bob, the following conversation takes place,

Ryan Bingham:  Most students work the frier at KFC. You busted tables at Il Picatorre to support yourself. Then you got out of college and started working here. How much did they pay you to give up on your dreams?

Bob: Twenty seven thousand a year.

Ryan Bingham: At what point were you going to stop and go back to what made you happy?

The movie doesn’t reveal Bob’s last name.  Bob represented more than a simple character.  Bob is an icon, a symbol of our society today, representing thousands, maybe millions of people.   At some point, many of us exchanged our dreams for a payout.  For some the payout may have been twenty-seven thousand a year like Bob.  Some may have settled for fifty-thousand while others were fortunate to negotiate six digits in the trade.  In the end, the payout doesn’t matter if you aren’t happy.  Happiness has no price tag.

At the time, we probably told ourselves it would only be temporary.  Maybe you wanted that shiny new car and you said, I will take this job I loathe just long enough to pay for the car.  Then I’ll go back to doing what I love.  Perhaps the dream of owning your own business was forestalled for the mirage of being a home owner, only to find that the upkeep and expense of a home extracted so much of your resources and time to maintain it.  Maybe we told convinced ourselves that security was more important than chasing our dream, only to find that a disruptive economy and constant technological change stifles and extinguishes whatever sense of security we convinced ourselves we had acquired.  The animal at the zoo is secure, that is along as the zoo keeper continues to come by and feed it every day.  It is only as secure as the financial viability of the zoo itself, for which it has no influence or control of.  Job security is just that, unless our boss decides he doesn’t like us, or the company’s profit margin is being squeezed by an industry disruptor, or the company’s board decides to move our division to Mexico.  We can tell ourselves we have security, until we’re called to meet some guy liked Ryan Bingham.

At one time I was working four jobs at one time.  I was working four jobs in the name of job security.  I was working four jobs to support two houses that had enslaved me.  I was working four jobs to pay for a shiny BMW for a family member and a list of other stuff.  I was a rat on a wheel, very productive, but not much sense of introspective happiness.

And then I had my Bob moment and was reminded about the trade I made years ago.  Since then I have been going through a process of decoupling and self-actualization.  Two weeks ago, I went to Ireland, a place I had always dreamed of visiting but never had the time or money.  I stayed at Airbnb’s across the country and traveled lite.  As I hiked along the Cliffs of Moher and inhaled its incredible beauty every time I turned my head, I realized that the fruition of one’s dreams is what life is all about.  That is what makes one truly happy.

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