When do You Ditch Your Job to Follow Your Dreams?
How do you know when the time is right to follow your dreams and ditch your day job? Our last blog discussed how it’s possible to stay employed AND find joy and contentment in your after-hour activities, and pursue your passions full-time once you retire. But sometimes you need to leap into the unknown to follow your heart.
Jack Topalian is a perfect role model. I met him while I was taking acting classes with the renowned Kay Kostopoulos and Marty Pistone at Stanford University. I knew there was something different about Jack right away. He was very present in his scenes, seemed like a pro, and had the right look. Still, I figured he’d never quit his profession for acting. I was wrong.
Learn How to Follow Your Dreams From Jack
Just this past year, Jack’s co-starred on “Southland,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” and HBO’s “Luck.” He’s also had recurring guest star roles on Showtime’s “Weeds” and “Ray Donovan.”
When I interviewed Jack for this blog, he was extremely humble. He’d tried acting and modeling in his late teens and twenties, but grew tired of it. “By accident” he got back into it in his thirties because whenever he took his kids to auditions, casting directors asked him if he was an actor. “This happened dozens of times and I started thinking there might be something to it, but I didn’t want to jump right in. I took acting lessons first.”
For a time Jack owned a business and studied acting at night at Stanford and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. “I committed to it. I didn’t feel awkward about it because there were people like myself who had careers but wanted to do something bigger, or pursue something they always wanted to but never did.”
Next Jack took casting calls for locally-shot movies and got comfortable with acting. Then he nabbed an agent who booked auditions for him. “I’d fly down to LA and then back to San Francisco two hours later. It cost me a lot of time and money.” Jack continued this lifestyle for a long while to avoid uprooting his wife and kids to LA.
Things began to change for Jack during the economic downturn. His business wasn’t doing as well, and he got “an unforeseen opportunity” to perform in an Armenian soap opera five days a week, which aired internationally. At the same time, the tenant in Jack’s LA rental decided to move out. Jack’s kids had also just gotten out of school for the summer, so he suggested to his wife that they live down in LA for a couple of months and see how it goes. Even though they kept their house in the Bay Area, “it started to feel natural,” Jack says. He’s been in LA ever since.
It’s as if the pieces of Jack’s life rearranged themselves to create an opening, which he was ready to take. “I followed my heart. I know it sounds cliche but if you do what you love it gives you satisfaction beyond money, beyond anything, there’s a completeness about it. I had an epiphany, like I’m a different person, like I belong here, you know?”
True heroes are often people like Jack, you, and me who honor the small voice inside that urges us to do something different with our lives, regardless of the odds. Whenever you go through a crisis, feel stuck, or think something is missing from your life, you’re hearing the hero’s call to adventure. It beckons you away from the “ordinary world” you know to a “special world” where the rules are different. Once you set sail from the life you know the journey is risky because you can’t see the next shore. But it is precisely because you are navigating uncharted waters that you are able to uncover hidden talents to help you along the way, and reach your true potential.
Jack’s advice? “Do it trial and error. I never want to look back and say ‘I wish I had done this.'” If I have an opportunity to do something, I do it. I don’t have any regrets in life. I make tons of mistakes and I still make them to this day. I don’t know where this career’s going to take me, I’m just hopeful.”
So far Jack’s hero’s journey has paid off. He had a featured role in the Oscar-winning film “Argo” with Ben Affleck. Just last weekend, his first feature film “Betrayal,” which he wrote, directed and starred in, was released in LA to select theaters. All shows SOLD OUT. Join Jack’s fan page
Jack’s story could be yours. What’s the best way to venture into the unknown? First, take steady steps towards what has heart and meaning for you. And be patient. Often an opportunity will eventually appear. Keep your eye out for it and be willing to take a chance. Then seize the moment when it comes. If you miss it, others may come later, so don’t give up. Just heighten awareness about the importance of timing the next time around. And as Jack says, “follow your heart.”