The career path of your dreams is not as sweet as you’ve been led to believe

August 26, 2022

These are the regrets you don’t have because you chose the safe career path you’re now on.

My body was shivering from utter excitement like a leaf trapped inside a fan and I couldn’t believe who I was riding in the car with.

Waves of heat rose off the five lanes wide California highway and palm trees zipped by as the wind dove into my blond ragtag mohawk and gave it a rinse.

The gold leather interior caressed my behind as I sat in the back seat of a very rare black 1978 Imperial LeBaron with an even more priced celebrity sitting in the driver’s seat.

If it wasn’t just for the car which was a sight on its own the person driving it was one of the most influential designers, and futurists of our time, Syd Mead. To give you some perspective, he was the godfather of design in the Hollywood and automotive industry. A true trailblazer who designed the legendary flying cars in the original Bladerunner movie and inspired a generation of designers and engineers.

I was living my dream, yet something was off.

As a kid you probably had some unrealistic dreams nobody believed in, like becoming an astronaut or some other nutty professor level stuff, right? Well, I entertained my own set of naive visions that weren’t supposed to be viable to a kid from Finland in any manner whatsoever. Like learning to draw anything from my imagination and become an artist working on 200-million-dollar Hollywood movies. 

Now, this silly idea didn’t really start to take realistic form until at the ripe age of 26 when I retired from my first, almost a decade long and very safe and obvious career path as a pro snowboarder.

For fifteen years the thought of becoming an artist and designer had been slowly broiling in my brain while snowboarding got the driver’s seat.

My mom nagged me to nausea about going to school and get a real career even though I was making head over heels more money than my parents combined.

So once retired, I applied to a packaging design school because I didn’t think I could ever get into a car design or industrial design school. And I was flat-out rejected.

To me that sounded like an invitation from the gods that I definitely needed to flip the bird at the traditional schooling system and jackhammer my way through the granite jungle and find a backdoor to my dreams.

So I did. I invested all my savings from my snowboard career to take online concept design classes from working artists and designers in the film business. Mind you this was back in 2009. 

Having a background as a pro athlete, I thought I had gotten good at the grind. Oh, how wrong I was. The kids at art school were hungry like wild beasts. I felt like they were more an athlete than I was. They worked often eighty to hundred-hour weeks and I followed suit and clocked the hours. Pulling all-nighters was a badge of honor. My carpal tunnels were screaming for mercy and my back was a mess.

One thing becomes very clear very quickly in the arts. You can’t fake the mileage your pencil travels on the paper (psst, this applies to everything in life). I spent way too much time and energy trying to find a cheat sheet to become better. I got news for you. There is no such thing. Success comes dressed up in overalls and it looks like work some smart person once said. Those who are better have racked up more miles on their speedometer. That’s it. Sometimes, especially at the beginning, your work is so bad you feel like vomiting on it would make it prettier. You got to learn to turn off your brain and elbow through the crap to get to the good stuff.

Many of the assignments I had, had to do with guns one way or another. I started to feel like designing killing machines for games and movies that inspire hundreds of millions of people wouldn’t help propel humanity to a meaningful future. My values were shifting. 

So with a heart filled with lead, I decided to step aside from my dream career. Something I still wonder if I made the wrong choice.

I had wasted the price of a downtown studio apartment and five years of my life chasing after a dream I once had as a kid.

Sitting in that car with my all-time hero riding the California heatwave felt bittersweet.

The sweet dreams you once had in your teens may not have been as sweet as you dreamt. Threat your own path, but be extra careful how you make your decisions at the intersections of life.

A black and white photo of the author Jussi's smiling face with shortcut hair and a short beardJussi Tarvainen

Former pro snowboarder. Author at night. Multi(failed)-entrepreneur. And mostly an awesome designer (said, my five-year-old son).

plenty more loot in the vault

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