washingtonpost.com
Dare to Dream
People Who Wed Jobs to Big Ambitions Find Fulfillment

By Amy Joyce
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 7, 2005

Every day on my way to work, I walk over a message stenciled on a sidewalk near downtown Washington. It reads Dream More Work Less.

That little statement is trampled by countless people going to and from work every day here. And I wonder what they think when they step over it.

Me, I think work and dreaming don't have to be two separate things. In fact, I think work should be about dreaming. Not daydreaming about those shoes you saw in the store window last week, but rather dreaming about how to turn a job into more than a 9-to-5 gig that results in a paycheck.

Think about it: That person who dreams he can fix the world by starting a new literacy program at the local elementary schools -- should he work less? I doubt it. And I doubt he would want to.

We all have dreams -- even those of us who think we're done dreaming and just want to work less. By letting ourselves dream a little, and not separate the dreaming from work, maybe we can better our own world, or the one touched by our company's work.

There are people in our midst who are doing more than just working for the weekend. And it is that sort of thinker who is going to make the most creative project, get the most out of her day, find a reason to get out of his bed every morning.

How easy has it become for us to plow through our day without thinking beyond the actual duties we need to accomplish? We need to buy diapers, pay rent, purchase that new air-conditioning system. So there is (for most people) no room to work less. But there is room in just about every job and career to dream more and dream big.

Evan Clark is an accountant. To "Dream More Work Less" just wouldn't occur to Clark, who calls himself a workaholic.

He finds a ton of fulfillment in his job as chief executive of the Department of Commerce Federal Credit Union. In fact, he said he is "definitely living my dreams. I just love this job."

But it wasn't always that way. Not that long ago, he was chief financial officer at another credit union. But it was just work, and he knew he wanted something more. He wanted to build something himself. "This is the first time I felt totally engaged," he said over coffee earlier this year. "But I had to give up a lot to get here."

What did he give up? A comfortable lifestyle (and girlfriend) in order to hike the Appalachian Trail. He was 45, took a leave from his job and hiked for five months. It was difficult, but when he returned, he told his boss that he wanted to be chief executive of a credit union.

Clark eventually landed his dream job. But only after he took the time to learn that "you have to be willing to go out and get what you want."

Today, he loves his office and his employees. He knows what is going on in their lives and vice versa. He does not let the office be a drab, boring place.

As for the actual day-to-day number crunching, talk about a dream: "When I was a kid, I played board games with my brother. I always tried to figure out the strategy," Clark said. "To me, this is a lot like a board game. All of us are playing and trying to win."

There is always something new, there is always something happening. He is never bored, and he would never let himself be bored at his job. "I love the game." It would have been easy for him to dream more, then, separately, work less. But instead, he dreamt up a new life for himself, he's working more, and he is much happier.

Sarah Massey also had a dream, and in order to fulfill it, she left one job and took on a new life. Now she spends her day dreaming and creating, and that is leading her to income and a life she wants.

Massey worked in communications at a grass-roots organization in New York City. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which she witnessed, made her want to get away from the area and try to heal, while following her passion for workers' rights.

She got a job with the AFL-CIO in Washington and worked for a few years, until a little over a month ago. The New York attacks affected her so much, she wanted to write about them. And writing, she realized, was always what she wanted to do with her life. So she quit her job so she could write a book about surviving the trauma and healing from witnessing the attacks. She has been out of "work" for a month now, writing, attending writing workshops and networking. "I knew it was time for me to try something different," she said. "I think I've definitely learned for me that my career was somebody else's idea of what I ought to do, that Sarah has to take these steps on the ladder.

"And now I see it as my choice in how I want to be fulfilled in how I live," she said. "So I have dreams."

So go dream a little. We'll all benefit.

Join Amy Joyce from 11 a.m. to noon Tuesday to discuss your life at work. You can e-mail her atlifeatwork@washpost.com.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company