Karen Cheng on Discipline and Quitting

I profiled how Karen Cheng learned to dance in 365 days in an earlier post. She’s now published a super piece on trying and learning that it’s okay to quit:

Try everything. Be curious, ask questions. Let yourself be pulled in weird and interesting directions. Let your friends drag you to that thing you’re not so sure about. Go to a real bookstore. Sign up for an art class, a cycling class, an improv class. Bring a friend. When your friend bails, show up to class anyway.

I’ve tried a lot of things–and quit just about as many. Piano. GuitarSinging. Cello. My band. My job at Microsoft. Juggling. Card tricks. Unicycling. Programming. Tae Kwon Do. Judo. Swimming. Origami.

Dancing was just another thing I tried. It stuck because I loved it the most.

Think about your job or hobby. Are you doing it because you really, truly love it? Or because it’s what you’ve always known?

What if you can’t afford to quit?

Okay, so you can quit your hobby. But what if you can’t afford to quit your job?

I felt that way at my old job. Two years into working at Microsoft Excel, I realized I was in the wrong career. I didn’t want to project manage anymore–I wanted to be a designer. But I had no design skills, and I didn’t want to go back to school. Going $100,000 in debt was not feasible, and three years is too long to wait for your dream.

So I taught myself–every day I would do my day job in record time and rush home to learn design. I hacked together my piecemeal design education in six months. I did not feel ready but I started the job search anyway. I was a lot less experienced than others, so I had to get creative to set myself apart. After getting rejected a few times, I got the job as Exec’s designer.

This is really great advice. I recommend reading the entire post and checking all the links.


Also see: Cal Newport’s advice on not necessarily doing what you love.

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