Is making money getting in the way?

Do you remember seeing this on the news?

Former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens was photographed bagging groceries at Trader Joe’s.

At first, the story was viral trash-talking, but the media quickly changed their tune as actors and commentators from all over the globe offered overwhelming support for Owens with empathetic posts and stories from their own creative careers.

Hard truth: The overwhelming majority of ambitious, creative people I work with start their careers or microbusinesses while working a second or “survival” job.

I prefer the term “freedom job,” cuz when you find the right one, that's what it provides: the freedom to fulfill your creative function on this planet (thank you, Universe). However, if your day job is inflexible, financially incompatible, or sucking all your energy, something’s got to change.

This doesn’t mean acting out the common daydream of rebelliously ripping off your nametag, and marching out the door in a fit of rage, while your co-workers look on with awe and longing! (Drama, although momentarily exhilarating, is never the answer.)

If you’re unhappy at your money gig, take a moment to get really clear about what is dragging you down. (#WalkThruATorii).

Chances are good that the issue is one of these biggies: it takes up all of your time, the money isn’t good, or it drains you of energy. Determine which sucky issue you’re dealing with and then go to your boss and ask if there’s any way that the issue can be addressed.

What?! Wait?! No way?!

Now lookee here! You must do a clear-headed, mature inventory of your “work-self” before making this ask. Are you good at your job? Are you on time? Do you uplift the energy, contribute to the efficiency, and create an atmosphere of problem-solving? Do you make your boss’s life easier? If you answered yes to all, it’s a done deal. Go make the ask.*

A Few Guidelines to Thriving:

  • Your freedom job probably won’t be in your chosen creative field – and that’s totally OK. You need to earn a living. Financial security breeds spacious, creative thinking and allows you to show up for classes, interviews, auditions, writing sessions, etc. feeling confident, stimulated, and inspired.

  • The Universe doesn't speak in money, it speaks in abundance. It may very well drop a sizable check in your lap but it may also nab you an out-of-town gig so you suddenly get to spend time with mom in Ohio.**

  • Start measuring success with a new quotient (that's not financial). You're probably already doing this! Remember that independent film you produced – just for "the experience?" If that very same unpaid student film got into the Tribeca Film Festival, I think you'd be pretty fulfilled. And you still wouldn't have made a dime.

  • Don't let your freedom job consume you. If you can get it together to clock-in on time and smelling good for your Saturday night bartending shift, then you can work on your web series or creative portfolio for three hours on your day off (Spiritual Creative Pro-Tip: get an accountability partner).

It is possible to take giant steps towards your creativity and your career while working a freedom job. It just has to be the right one. Remember, your experience coming up as an artist has trained you to be both personable and professional - making you a great catch for any employer. So, honor the very human desire to be able to easily pay your rent and take the occasional vacation. Find a freedom job – or celebrate the one you’ve got! – where you make some dough and can stay focused while pursuing your calling.

Keep working it,


Update: Geoffrey Owens was offered a 10-episode arc on Tyler Perry’s most successful series on the OWN Network and is shooting a guest spot on NCIS: New Orleans right now.

*If your boss is open to getting creative to make your work, well, work – fantastic! Celebrate, and then get specific about how you’ll be able to serve her better when the job serves your life. If she says, “No way, José,” also fantastic. You have the answer you need… now you gotta get serious and emotionally sober with your bad self and decide what you’re going to do. (Spiritual Creative Pro-Tip: Every time you ask for what you need – regardless of the outcome – you exercise the spiritual and attitudinal muscles needed to speak up for your worthiness. The next time you make a similar request, you’ll be an Olympian).

**A few years ago, I was asked to emcee a tech conference in San Francisco. I worked overtime on the format (creatives, you feel me?), I paid for my own lodging, and I booked my own flights. Whew! And on the last day of the gig, I took myself for a walk through the Palace of the Arts; in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge; and out for a job-well-done dinner. That’s triumphant stroll is what I cherish from that experience – not how much I was paid. #TheUniverseSpeaksInAbundance

I asked production on a commercial if I could fly out to Pittsburgh early and boom! – thank you, Universe – my mom and I got to spend a day together... and one of my best friends, a local, joined us for dinner! #Abundance

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