Find what you're passionate about (and only do it at night and on weekends).

Mim, performing in a stage production of Hair.




I have a confession to make:  I have spent the past 6 months looking for ‘the right way’ to tell my sister to give up on her dreams and do something else.

Yeah. I know. I hate me a little bit too.

My sister is 23-years-old and she doesn’t just love musical theatre; she lives it. Mim sings in the shower, she dances while she’s cooking dinner, she falls asleep at night mumbling her lines and dreams in expertly choreographed routines.

Last year she graduated from university and decided to take a year off to work as a receptionist and perform out-of-hours in amateur shows.

The plan? To save up the pennies (why do we say pennies? There are no pennies involved here. Only dollars. And LOTS of them) to be able to go to musical theatre school in January.

She wants to do this professionally. She wants to be famous. She wants to ‘make it’. She wants it to be her career.

The problem is. So does everyone else.

Success in the performing arts is about as hard to come by as a pair of ruby slippers. Finding your feet in the industry is a balancing act not unlike fiddling on the roof. And even those who make it realise that fame is generally a phantom like illusion that breeds more horror than any little shop could. Okay, okay I’ll stop with the musical references already….

My point is this: There is a reason they say that one in a million make it. It’s because there actually are that many people chasing this one dream… and there aren’t all that many dreams to go around. That’s why the queues run around the block for people scrambling to audition for Australia’s Got Talent, The Voice and X Factor. It’s the reason that performing arts schools are appearing on the corner of every block ala Starbucks in the early noughties.


My sister is a great performer and she works damn hard at it. But here’s the very unfunny punchline to a story that was never intended to be a joke: The overwhelming chances are, that she will never ever do what she wants for a living.

I came across this piece on The Onion recently. The Onion is a satirical site and if there were a sarcasm font, it would be a permanent part of their style guide (they’re the crew who announced Kim Jong-Un as 2012’s Sexiest Man Alive) – so read this with that in mind.

I have always been a big proponent of following your heart and doing exactly what you want to do. It sounds so simple, right? But there are people who spend years—decades, even—trying to find a true sense of purpose for themselves.

My advice? Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed.

It could be anything—music, writing, drawing, acting, teaching—it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that once you know what you want to do, you dive in a full 10 percent and spend the other 90 torturing yourself because you know damn well that it’s far too late to make a drastic career change, and that you’re stuck on this mind-numbing path for the rest of your life…

I can’t stress this enough: Do what you love… in between work commitments, and family commitments, and commitments that tend to pop up and take immediate precedence over doing the thing you love.

Want to make it in the performing arts? Get yourself ready for lots of really funny jokes, like this…

Oh that makes me so uncomfortable. So very, very uncomfortable. Because the people this writer is sending up? The unsupportive attitudes of friends and family who ‘think they know better? The views that he is making fun of? They’re mine.

I want my sister to have the job she dreams of. The job she hopes for.

But more than that? I want her to be safe and secure. She’s my little sister and I love her. I don’t want her to be struggling to pay rent, I don’t want her to miss out on backpacking around Europe and I don’t want her to skip her friend’s 25th birthday dinner because she doesn’t have the cash.

And even more than that – the thing I’m too scared to say to her every time we fight about the subject – is this: I’m worried that you’ll fail.


I know that failure is supposed to be good for you. That it teaches you lessons, to pick yourself up when you’re down and to fight the good fight rah rah rah. But failure also hurts. It really, really hurts.

And no matter how grown up and adult she is, no matter how much I believe in her – none of that changes the fact Mim will be devastated if it doesn’t come off. And I don’t want to see her go through that. I’d rather see her settle for a contented second best that go through the devastation of aiming high and not quite getting there.

The life of an artist, and particularly musicians and performers, is brutal. Even the very, very best spend most of their time being told that they’re not good enough and missing out on the gig. Next time you apply for a job you really want, think about how it feels and then imagine going through that week in, week out. That’s the life my sister wants to sign up for.

And if she doesn’t get the success she hopes for, my sister will not be alone.

There are 999,998 others who won’t make it either, remember?

But here’s the thing. Why do we somehow think it’s okay for the non-artistically gifted amongst us to advise against a career path we have no interest in pursuing? Nobody tells the kid who is failing science to give up on her dreams of being a doctor, or the grumpy, prone-to-blow-ups university student that he perhaps doesn’t have the temperament for teaching.


Some of us get lucky. Some of us want to do equally important and difficult and valuable things that also require lots of hard work but the number of available jobs in that profession makes it more probable that we’re going to manage to pull it off.

And most career paths are ones of gradual progression: not singular make or break moments. Sure there’s a good dose of chance thrown in to any job but most of us live in the comfort of being able to chase a goal while remaining relatively risk-adverse.

Artists don’t have that luxury.

But that doesn’t mean we get to tell them that they’re stuffed or scoff at their ambition.

THIS happy.

Performing makes my sister happy. Not just ‘oh yay Game of Thrones is back on TV tonight’ happy. I’m talking Maria Von Trapp, arms outstretched, before she’s realised she’s going to be late back to the abbey, spinning in circles on an Austrian hilltop happy.


So, I’m going to stop telling her to stop.

I’m going to try and  stop rolling my eyes, and making comments about how we can’t always get what we want and that she can keep doing it on weekends as an amateur and surely that should be good enough….

Because it’s not good enough. Of course it’s not.

And maybe my sister won’t be the one in a million – but she should be.

Have you ever been told to give up on a dream? Have you ever told someone else?