Here’s a snippet of a fictional conversation between me and a wine writer. I use the term “fictional” because it’s not a word-for-word retelling, but (somewhat shockingly) it’s more-or-less a conversation I’ve had with several people in the wine biz in the past few months.
Me: Hey, good to see you again! How are things?
Wine Writer: Goodgoodgood. Aren’t you quitting your day job?
Me: Yeah, sort of; I’m leaving my IT career late Spring…
WW (cutting me off): How are you making money, exactly?
I’m actually getting sick of these “conversations” (is it really a conversation if the other person only asks you about things that concern them?) – in fact, I might pre-record answers to play back the next time I find myself in one of those; better yet, I’ll get one of those Mr. T talking key-chains and randomly hit the buttons in response to those questions. That would rock; I imagine it would go something like this:
Wine Writer: Aren’t you quitting your day job?
Me (holding up Mr. T key-chain): Please pose that question to my spokesperson [ presses button on key-chain ].
Mr. T key-chain: QUIT YOUR JIBBA-JABBA, FOOL!
If someone is going to pry into my life’s intimate details, I prefer that they at least ask about me or my family first and pretend to care about me on some personal level (lesson one about the new world of social media: you should actually try to be social). As most any 1WD reader can tell you, I don’t know exactly how I’m going to be making a living yet – that’s basically what this series of blog posts is chronicling, so everyone will know those details very shortly after I do – but the truth is that I already have the single most important thing needed for chasing dreams (like switching careers or traveling the world):
It’s called Time.
And to get time, I needed to have money. Already…
I guessed several years ago that this day (when I would leave my IT career) was coming. My middle name is not Nostradamus, but I grew up with very little money, learned quickly that money = time = freedom, and so when I landed lucrative IT career work I did something that turned out to be very, very lucky in hindsight: I stashed away money like a squirrel prepin’ for Old Man Winter.
Not exactly an amazing secret, right?
And it’s not difficult yo do, but like anything else worthwhile, it’s just difficult to do consistently over a long period of time.
If I had the time to give those asking about my income situation a proper answer, it would look something like the following (mini-rant); it probably sounds preachy, and it has little to do with wine, but it has everything to do with riding the alternating waves of prosperity and tough times in your life. And something tells me that it just might make a difference for a few people out there reading it, so it’s worth taking a chance and posting it.
The simple truth is that if you don’t have the time (and, therefore, the money) to chase your dreams, then it’s not yet time to chase your dreams.
It’s the worst-kept secret of Going Pro: spend less than you earn, smartly invest the surplus, and cash in when you hear the pitter-patter of rainy days on the roof of your life, or the distant but compelling clarion call of your dreams. How you handle your money and your career in any field are deeply personal choices, more akin to parenting decisions than to quick self-help action points, probably – but they make all the difference in being able to handle life’s random events and pursue your dreams.
Because of my long-haul personal choices, I’ll be able to support my family from rainy-day savings for about two years with minimal changes to our lifestyle (which isn’t extravagant, but is by no means miserly). That’s because the money never looked like things to me, it always looked like time, like freedom.
While it may be easy to point to my “other” career and say “well, of course you made some money, you were in IT, not wine writing!” you need to bear in mind that there are just as many (if not more) people out of work due to layoffs in IT than there are due to the same in journalism; the case could be made that workers in both fields should have seen the ‘dark clouds’ coming, and once you are over the poverty line the biggest differentiator for your future isn’t the total amount coming in, it’s the difference between what’s coming in and what’s going out.
You have to save money to Go Pro, and saving money takes time, patience, focus and a good relationship with money. Not understanding how you relate to money is like trying to learn about wines based only on numerical scores – it’s not a real relationship, it’s a shortcut that works sometimes but will never lead to true understanding.
Because of my personal choices, I have a decent net worth – I’m not planning on buying a yacht, and the liquid portion of my cache will certainly run out – and thanks to that I can try Going Pro without going crazy, and hopefully with a sober eye (well, as sober as frequent wine-imbibing allows, anyway!) towards doing what’s best for my family, and looking out for the most sustainable/best-fit opportunities for making money in the (vastly) changing wine media world.
It all comes down to having a healthy, sound relationship with money. If you think it’s odd to have a “relationship” with money, consider that the number one cited fight-starter in U.S. marriages is the topic of debt – I’d say not having a good money relationship is the single most effective way to ensure that the rest of your relationships hit the skids as well.
If your current relationship with money sucks donkey butt, then I strongly recommend that you read a book like Trent Hamm’s The Simple Dollar. It might just change your life for the better. It will certainly do you more good than looking to me for quick answers on how to rake in the wine media cash (because there aren’t any – and if there are, I sure as sh*t don’t have them yet)!