Many times, when a young person expresses a desire to pursue a creative career, parents immediately try to steer them away. This article is, in part, for you parents who are experiencing anything from mild, quiet concern to downright refusal to pay for art school. This is also for the young person considering the career, so you can critically think out your dreams with or without your parents support.
Why is this an important topic?
I have witnessed variations on this situation from many angles over the years. I was once the kid who chose to study music and quickly understood the burden of paying student loans on not a lot of income. I’ve witnessed other young people who were bullied (essentially) out of studying music by their parents (out of love, of course) and who spent subsequent years flailing and directionless. And then there is the adult I once coached who was a doctor but who felt perpetually unfulfilled because she didn’t pursue her musical dreams when she was young.
Is it possible to be fulfilled and financially sound at the same time?
It always breaks my heart when I meet a young person whose parents are trying to divert them from a creative career. I also understand it. We want our children to thrive in the world, to be self-sufficient and happy.
There is no one right answer for every person.
But to get to the right answer for YOU, you have to ask the right questions. Here are a few (and there is a free downloadable version of the questions here):
For the parent.
You’re going to begin with the basic question, “What do I want for my son/daughter?” You’re going to come up with at least five answers and for every answer you give, you’re going to ask three follow up questions:
- Is my desired outcome guaranteed if he/she chooses a more “practical” major?
- Is this same outcome possible with an artistic career?
- How can I help this outcome be achieved no matter what field of study he or she chooses?
I’ll explain more.
Let’s say your first answer to the first question is, “I want my son to be financially secure.” Your follow-up questions would be:
- Is financial security guaranteed if he studies business (law, psychology) instead of art?
- Is financial security possible with an artistic career?
- How can I help my son achieve financial security no matter what major he chooses?
Let’s say your second answer to the first question is, “I want my daughter to be fulfilled.” These would be your follow-up questions:
- Is fulfillment guaranteed if she studies business (law, psychology) instead of art?
- Is fulfillment possible with an artistic career?
- How can I help my daughter achieve fulfillment no matter what major she chooses?
You get the gist of it.
I think you’ll find that all of the things you want for your children can be achieved no matter what they decide to do with their lives–as long as you are there supporting them and teaching them how to be successful.
Meaning, if you’re worried that your son will be a starving artist for the rest of his life, refusing to pay for college is the worst thing you can do. The best thing you can do is teach him to go for money as much as fulfillment, to expect financial security and then do what is necessary to have it. You could even hook him up with some kind of business coach, or other mentor. Success is incomplete without happiness, so we should all be striving for both.
But the reality is, some young folks don’t really want to do all that is necessary to be successful in their chosen art discipline. Which brings us to the next set of questions.
For the artist/musician/actor, etc…
- What exactly do you imagine yourself doing to earn a living? What are the challenges you may face? Are you up for those challenges?
- Are there related jobs that could help you support yourself while you pursue your art (teaching, for example)? Do they require specific schooling that you should include in your studies?
- What is it about music/art/acting that you love the most? What percentage of the time do you think you’d be doing those things? How do you feel about having to do the parts that you don’t like as much?
- What work are you willing to do to support yourself until you can reach your ultimate goal?
- What if it took you 10 years of working a side job and not making a lot of money before you could earn a living at your goal? Would you still want to do it?
Answering these questions will require time and research.
Your happiness is worth it, so don’t skimp on either. Many will walk away deciding to be avid hobbyists rather than career artists. Others will decide that any potential struggle is worth following dreams. No matter what, though, the decision will be made with eyes wide open.
If, after all this, you still need more help drop me a line. I know a really great music coach!