You wanna be a writer. A filmmaker. An artist. A nerd.

But what’s your job? How are you paying the bills?

More than likely, it’s not with art or books or movies—not yet anyways.

Two weeks ago, I wrote an article about how it’s a good thing to get a McJob. You gotta pay the bills, and an artistic dream takes time to develop into something sustainable.

So we know that.

We know having a fast-food job or an office job doesn’t take away from you pursuing your dream.

But a lot of times it ain’t fun.

Believe me: I worked at a Little Caesars for a year and a half while I worked on a novel and amateur film projects with my brothers. And I would cry when I got the phone call from my manager asking me to come in on an unscheduled shift.

Yeah. 18-year-old guy. Official adult. Crying about work.

So now the question becomes: how do you survive a job you hate?

Because it can’t take up all your time. It can’t take up all your energy. Because if it did you’d have nothing left to pursue your dream with.

And wherever you work the company is gonna want you to love it. To work more. To be loyal to their brand. They can’t help it: everyone wants a loyal crew.

But YOU have a dream—a dream that’s bigger than fast food.

So I’m gonna give you three tips to survive a McJob while pursuing your dream.

Most of these I got from my dad, Dave Matthews (no, not the famous one, though he does play guitar). He has decades of work experience, none of which were spent on his dream of playing music. So he knows a LOT about working jobs you hate.

Tip #1: Rest

The job isn’t your dream! If you give all your time or brainpower to your job, you’ll have nothing left when you sit down to write that chapter or draw that picture.

So pace yourself. Figure out what amount of work will cover your expenses but not bleed you dry.

For example, I’m currently working at Wally’s Pizza in Cambridge Ohio. For a while I was working six days a week, with Sundays off. That’s not too bad. However, I was SO tired.

Sunday felt great, but then when Monday rolled around, I felt like I was trapped in this endless stretch of work. So I’ve found that FIVE days a week works great for me. Then I have something during the week to look forward to, or a two-day weekend.

So find your rhythm. Four days might work best, or maybe six. But take at LEAST one day off to rest.

If you believe in the Bible, it’s pretty clear that people are supposed to rest.

Exodus 20:9-10 says “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God…

“Sabbath” means “intermission” in Hebrew, NOT “going to church.”

Joshua Becker, author of Wall Street bestseller Things That Matter, defends the practice of taking a day off of work in this masterful article.

So rest!

Tip #2: Enjoy it

Now, that’s counterintuitive if you hate your job. BUT there’s something you can enjoy each moment.

My dad counseled me on this, so yesterday I tried it. I smelled the fresh pizza as I cut it. When I stretched out the dough, I thought a bit about how it felt. When my talkative coworkers are around, I’ll join some of their jokes.

There’s something each moment that you can look at, feel, smell, or think about that can give you a little joy while you’re working.

Tip #3: Turn your brain off

Okay, not literally. Here’s what I mean:

While I’m at work, I’m frustrated because I’m not working toward my dream. So to “redeem” the time, I ponder what I’ve learned at school, try to problem-solve life issues and break my brain figuring out how I should balance different thoughts and activities.

What does that end in? Anybody wanna guess?

EXHAUSTION.

Why? Why exhaustion? Because while I’m thinking about work and making pizzas, I’m also deeply engaging my brain in the vastly different world of my dream.

Do one at a time.

When you’re at McDonalds, or Starbucks, or wherever, resist the temptation to constantly problem-solve or think about your dream.

Turn that part of your mind off. While you’re at work, try to let your brain rest.

Artistic dreams taka a LOT of brainpower. Fast-food work shouldn’t.

So don’t let it. Just focus on the menial task before you, finish it, move on to the next until your shift is done.

Be a little mindless.

You can put some effort into being a good worker, but you don’t have to climb the ladder. You don’t have to stress out trying to be employee of the month. You’re there to make money to support your DREAM.

Dream comes first. McJob should support it, not distract from it.

Okay, let’s wrap this thing up.

You have a dream—an important dream. Right now, that dream might not make you a cent.

Therefore, you’ve gotta work a job to pay the bills. But remember that that job is ONLY there to support your REAL work. Don’t let it steal the time and mental energy that belongs to your dream.

Enjoy the little things, be a little mindless, and take a day OFF.

That’s how you survive a job you hate.


For those of you who like writing, it’s time to get excited. Along with R.J. Catlin and Vella Karman, I’ll be judging The Company’s Spring Writing Contest. The deadline is June 1st, and the theme is “Buried.” You’ve got a little while, but go check it out!

Next week I’ll be talking more about the contest and how it relates to pursuing your dreams.

Ready to kindle your fantastic destiny?

Nerds should be able to pursue their dreams. College, high gas prices, and the busyness of life threaten to throw our dreams on the backburner, but they don't have to. Let's start pursuing our dreams together--today. Subscribe below to get weekly articles to keep you chasing your fantastic destiny.

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