The number one response for most people when asked why they don’t pursue their dreams is . . . "I just don’t have enough time." Well, the reason why we often struggle with that is because we often think that addition comes before subtraction—but that’s rarely true in real life. In real life, most of us are already too busy, so to add one more thing onto an already busy life, rarely works. In fact, just the opposite usually occurs—it makes us more miserable and tired. So, what’s the solution? Subtract first.
This past weekend I had to make one of those calls. As many of you know, when my transition unexpectedly occurred in June, I immediately thought, "What have I always wanted to do?" Well, one of those options was to be a professor. My father was a professor and I have always had fond memories of my childhood so it’s one of those dreams I’ve always had in the back of mind, "Someday, I’d like to do that."
Since the application deadline was in May and it was June I called the university and got an exemption, "If you can get your whole packet (including transcripts, essays, curriculum vitae, goals statements, etc.) in to us in a week, we’ll take a look at your application. So, I went into high gear and started down the academic route. I didn’t have any time to really evaluate whether this was the best option for me or not. It was either do this now or wait a year.
By mid-August, having had a little more time to think about my life, I came to the realization that my future lies in being a professional speaker, consultant and author—not a professor. However, I was already in the program, I had already completed my first residency, I had already spent the $950 on text books for the semester (thank you very much), I had already paid my tuition, I liked the people in my program and I knew that being in a doctoral program would help shape me and my thinking. So even though I no longer needed the Ph.D. for my future career, I kept trying to rationalize my "need" for it.
However, as the last few weeks rolled around, I came to the conclusion that I can’t (maybe some can, but I can’t) do both a Ph.D. program and start up a new business at the same time. What became very clear to me is that there are a lot of good communicators out there who want to be full-time professional speakers, who never make it because the speaking business is first and foremost a business—and they never master the business side of the speaking profession.
Which brought me back to a conversation I had with a church planter years ago. We were meeting at a local Chinese restaurant and he was asking me about what it was going to take for him to be successful at his church planting endeavor. He had been trying to launch his church for several years but could never get it past a handful of families. In addition, he was a medical doctor. So I said to him, "Listen, if you want to make a go of this, then you’re going to have to make a decision. Either you’re going to be a doctor or you’re going to be a pastor. But trying to do both won’t work. You can’t afford to have a divided heart if you want to succeed at this."
Starting a church or starting a business, it doesn’t matter. They both require massive commitments of energy, emotion, time, money, etc. if you’re going to succeed at them (which is usually true of any great dream, per my previous post). So, this past weekend, even though I hate quitting, I had to make the call to drop out of my Ph.D. program. Not because it was a bad thing (because it wasn’t, it was and is a good thing), but because it wasn’t the best thing. And sometimes, if you want to go up, you have to give up something. Or to put it another way, sometimes you have to subtract before you can add.
So how about you? What do you need to subtract from your life, before you can add to it? You have some dreams that you haven’t been pursuing. If you want to pursue them than chances are you’re going to have to give something up in order to obtain them. Why? Because sometimes you have to give up to go up!