When to give up on your dreams

It's been about 8 days now that I've had a scratchy throat, though the past 2 or 3 have been the worst.

I'm sick.
Once Upon A Time No More
Once Upon A Time No More by Mimi Yoon

But I didn't want to admit it to myself. I thought if I could just ignore the facts I could power through it and it would all be okay. I have a hard time admitting when something is wrong, and I think this is fairly common for a lot of people. Most people don't like to admit to being sick, they have the mentality of trying to ignore what's in front of them, just like I did. Hoping that if they ignore it, it will go away.

But is this healthy behavior? It happens in more aspects of our lives than just our health. Growing up adults will tell you that you can be anything when you grow up, but that's a lie. I could never have been a professional athlete, (well, there's still a chance I could be a professional bowler if I drop everything now an start practicing) I doubt I could have ever been an astronaut either. At some point you're probably better off getting hit with a dose of reality and following what makes sense as compared to what you dream about.

How many people have stayed in relationships for too long knowing that something wasn't right? We cling to the idea that things will get better, or that we don't want to face the facts that it's painful to move on but you need to.

I've stayed at jobs longer than I should have too. I wasn't happy, I was being bullied by my boss. It took a lot to push me past a breaking point to leave because of a number of reasons, one was because I was scared to find a new job, but the other was I had a hard time admitting something was wrong for a long time.

I dream of winning the lottery, but that's a dream I gave up a long long time ago because the reality is, it wasn't going to happen.

I also minored in psychology in college because I was interested in people and why they do what they do. I dreamed of having my own practice and really making a difference in peoples lives.  But I sat myself down and thought it through, it would have required at least a masters, if not a PHD, plus at least a few years of training/building a practice, then by the time I was in my early/mid thirties I could then perhaps have my own practice. I knew that the longer I'm doing something the more I get bored of it, so did I want to spend all those years getting to some place I might be tired of when I reached it? I choose not to, I choose to go into computers, be done with school, and be paid for my time. Now I'm in my early thirties and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for early financial independence already. If I went the other route, I would possibly just be starting my career where I wanted to be with debt. I'm glad I gave up that dream.

I also love animals. Working with animals was something I've wanted to do my whole life. But the reality of that dream was that, I probably would have a hard time being able to afford living in the bay area with that career path. I still haven't given up completely on that dream, but it's not my main goal in life. I think once I reach financial independence I may try to get into working with animals then, when income doesn't really matter as much. But I also think it could be a hard field to be in. If I worked at a shelter I could become really attached to them just to see them get adopted and go. Or if I worked at a vet's office I would see a lot of animals in pain or animals that might need to get put down, and I don't want to see that.

But this mindset of knowing when to give up on something is applicable to so much more than life choices. This applies to investing too, sometimes you invest in a company like Soda Stream because you think the idea of people making their own healthier soda at home is a good idea. Maybe you see your friends buying them, you see some commercials, but then the company's quarterly results come out and the stock gets hammered. Sometimes you have to just let an investment go. Knowing when to give up on an investment is also very important. Some people double down when a stock takes a beating, they average down in their investment by purchasing more stock at the new lower price, thinking that they can make up the difference.

I personally have never averaged down on an investment. I like to see strength in my investments not weakness, but I do see how it can be tempting. Though I have initiated a new position on bad results before, just never added to one.

I'm not saying you should always take the safe route and give up so easily on your dreams, but weigh how important your dreams are to you and the reality of making them happen. If you want it bad enough then keep at it, don't give up. But when it comes to investing, don't dream that it will turn around, listen to the market, have an exit strategy.

Knowing when to admit something is wrong is a hard lesson to learn, and learning it in one facet of your life may help you control it in others. So here I am, at home on one of the best weather weekends in San Francisco in a while, sick.


  1. Ah yes! I am notorious for the “I’m not sick” or even “you are not sick” routine. (I hope you feel better soon) I have also stayed at jobs too long where I was being treated extremely poorly. I can very much relate to these.

    When it comes to relationships, however, I don’t think they can be compared to jobs. Relationships come in all shapes and sizes and if you have been in one long enough, you will know that there will always come a point where something doesn’t seem “right”. People change and grow and things often get worse before they get better, or one person grows before the other is ready, etc. Sometimes even the “facts” change. Actually they often change. Perhaps I am more optimistic than I thought myself to be as this post came across as really pessimistic to me in many ways.

    As for the relationship piece, in my field we are considered to be ‘relationship experts” and I have seen people emerge from very dark places in their relationships and come out alive (if you will) on the other end. This kind of black and white or dichotomous thinking that you wrote out above is a cognitive distortion and one that puts an either “this or that” on something that is way more complicated-relationships. “Things getting better” can have a variety of meanings and sometimes we grow significantly in relationships because we didn’t give up just because the “facts” didn’t match what we expected or because something didn’t “feel right”. I could go much deeper into this and explain how often our own anxieties are a call for action, but not necessarily one that asks us to remove ourselves from a situation, but rather challenge ourselves to explore new ideas and have new perspectives-This is growth. This is very different than a job where the emotions involved are much more one sided. With that said, relationships are work so if you tend to get bored of something the more you do it, then it is quite possible that the feeling of “knowing something wasn’t right” is more about a way out and a desire for NRE (new relationship energy) than it is about the “facts”, or perhaps the relationships tests your idea of what something is supposed to be like, rather than finding joy in what is. My job is working with people who come from all kinds of alternative relationships because when something didn’t feel right, they explored beyond their insecurities and societal structuring and found that the world is full of possibilities and limitations often come from within.

    I will admit that this post got me kind of hot because it hit me in a very personal way. Not only because of the relationships comments, but because I did go the route of opening up my own practice. Coming from my background it was a tremendous struggle and a feat to get where I am today. I got here because I don’t give up on things so easily, even when it seemed too hard or “not right” at the time. I put myself in positions I never thought I would find myself in to go for my dream, and even though it causes me some difficulties today, I am still glad I did it.

    I admit I am in debt and will be for awhile, but I am making a difference in people’s lives and if I am to get hit by a van tomorrow, and they have to drag my body off the pavement, I will at least know that I accomplished something and made a difference. Even though it took me 14 years of college and another 3 for my license, I am glad I didn’t give up on my dream or the thing I love. Life is not about starting at the beginning and rushing to an end, it’s about the making of passionate music and dancing with the ups and downs along the way.

    1. I think perhaps you read this post in a certain frame of mind that wasn't intended. I also think you make some unfair assumptions about the motivations for this post. It seems to me that this post is about knowing when to let go. Of course you shouldn't let go of something just because it's difficult, relationships or otherwise. Your comment speculating on the authors motivations for ending relationships seem uncalled for since (I'm assuming) you don't actually know him in person. He even says in the article, "I'm not saying you should always take the safe route and give up so easily on your dreams, but weigh how important your dreams are to you and the reality of making them happen. If you want it bad enough then keep at it, don't give up." These don't sound like the words of a pessimist to me.

      Personally, I can relate to holding on to all sorts of things longer than I should have, relationships included. I'm sure my wife is glad that I didn't try to stick things out with those other ladies in hopes of one of us achieving 'growth' and suddenly making a toxic relationship less so. Sometimes it really is best to walk away. I just thought I would chime in since your comment seemed to zero in on just one aspect of this post, and I think your treatment of it was a little harsh sounding.

      A hearty congratulations to you for achieving your dreams! Seriously, well done. It sounds like you made the right decisions for yourself. And we can all agree with your last sentence. Life is about the journey, not the destination.

    2. Rags2Riches,

      Yes this post is very pessimistic in many ways, I admit that. But it's also realistic in many ways too. I was just being real with myself when I told myself that working with animals might be fulfilling in one aspect of my life, but would also not let me live the lifestyle that I wanted in many other ways.

      As for relationships comparing to jobs, in many ways they can't be compared at all. But in some ways I'm sure that they can, relationships take work, they can be rewarding. They can also not be the right fit for you so you might need to move on. These aren't exact comparisons, but they are relative to both jobs and relationships. I'm not saying relationships are black or white, in fact relationships are many shades of grey (dare I say 50 shades.... ugh, sorry, bad pun, but it just fit so well). The only reason I mentioned relationships is because I know that for me, I had some where I knew it wasn't right and I wasn't adult enough at the time to just say it and move on. I stuck around and in the end it just made things more painful and hard.

      As for me mentioning my path towards following psychology and giving up on becoming a therapist, that was a decision I made for myself too. I didn't mean for it to seem personal to you in any way since that is the path that you choose for yourself. It was simply explaining my justifications of why I didn't think I was dedicated enough to following something that I wasn't sure about. Something that would take many years to finally get where I "thought" I wanted to be.

      I would not write anything to intentionally upset friends (or anyone else for that matter). While I may call people out on how they handle debt or perhaps their unhealthy spending habits, I wouldn't question someone else's life choices such as career. I know that everyone is different and everyone gets different joys in life out of different things. If you are doing what makes you happy then you're probably better off than I am, since I'm doing something that simply affords me to live a lifestyle that I like. I try not to make judgments here. Even if you have what are usually viewed as unhealthy spending habits, if it brings you that much joy in life, then I still think that you should probably still do it. It's the spending that doesn't add value is what I think needs to be controlled.

      But your last sentence really encapsulates a lot for me. Life is really about the journey, the best experiences in life for me probably relate to travelling and therefore cost me a fair amount to do them and I wouldn't trade them for anything. If anything they slowed down my progression to financial independence. I don't view reaching financial independence as a race to the finish, I really think that once I reach that point a whole new world of adventures will begin. For a while I thought I would not work, but the more time I've had to think about it the more I realize I will need some sort of routine. I'll need to do some type of job that I get more satisfaction out of, like I mentioned earlier, perhaps working with animals (and hopefully part time). But at that point in time I won't have to worry about making ends meet, or being able to afford vacations if/where I want. I'll simply be able to live more in the moment than I can now.


  2. First of thank you for your response. I found it to be very diplomatic and not shaming, so thank you. You're right as I did read this in a certain frame of mind and I can see how it came off harsh. The author and I, however, do know each other quite well so we were able to have a discussion, clarify and apologize as my interpretation wasn't based purely on what was written here and his motivations were pure. "Assume" Ass-u-me, am I right?

    I do think, however, many people don't see their reality clearly so they do give up thinking their dreams are unrealistic since our reality is based on experience and the world around us. If I were to have stuck to my reality, for example, I would likely have been pregnant, an addict, in jail or possibly dead since the world around me was chaos, violence (gangs, domestic, etc), poverty, addiction and more. Working with so many kids in this world as well, I have seen far to many of them think something many take for granted as too much of a dream so they do weigh their importance against the reality of it ever happening, but they are guided by their reality which often limits the types and quantity of dreams they have in the first place. Being able to go to college is just one example of a dream that seems too out of reach for some of these kids. So my statements came from a place of personal experince and passion, but also (again) a wrongful assumption that has been clarified.

  3. Haha, I love that quote about assuming! But, as you can see, it doesn't keep me from continuing to do it, unfortunately :)

    I agree that our reality is based on experience, and I can certainly understand the angle of "don't encourage kids to give up before they even get started." I guess I just assumed (there it is again) that the target audience for this post wouldn't have the challenges you state above. Anyway, it's always nice to have civil discourse on interesting topics, so thanks for making me think :) Cheers!

    1. The Bearded Dragon,

      Oh I'm probably a pessimist, that thinks he is a realist, aspiring to be an optimist. I think the jury is out on all that still though! It's funny I'm an anonymous blogger for the most part, but a small handful of people in my real life do know that this blog exists. Of that small group of people, I'm guessing that maybe only 2 people actually read it, and of those 2 people, 1 actually comments. Thanks for standing up to defend my words. I really should be better at responding quicker to comments but I've been lazier and lazier these days, though I'm trying to get better.

      Are you sure that your wife didn't wish you suffered just a little longer in those old "toxic relationships"? I mean, that might make you appreciate her even more than you do now :)

      You can't know the good without knowing the bad right?


    2. Naturally, it was the one person that you know in person. That's how these things work right? It's always the statistically unlikely.

      You can't know the good without knowing the bad. Too true. Luckily, I was smart enough to hang on to the good in this case :) Sometimes I feel sorry for people who have never had to overcome any hardship. Their life, to them, can seem pretty bad when it's actually overflowing with abundance. Then again, trial-by-fire is only nice after you've come through the fire :)

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