On Passion and Following Your Dreams

I’m not really supposed to be here.

Not really, anyway.

I’m supposed to be in med school right now, probably in my second year, likely somewhere still on the west coast. I’m supposed to be on track to become an orthopedic surgeon. I’m supposed to be staying up late into the night, eyes straining as I study my textbooks, nursing the third cold sore this month that I’ve developed under my lip from all the stress of performing well academically. I’m supposed to be sure-footed of my ways, of where my career is headed, of what my next 20 years will look like.

Except I’m not.

Instead, I’m here in New York City residing by myself with a little ball of fur I like to refer to as “baby pie,” more formally known as “Ollie.” And rather than working a secure job with a steady income, I juggle upwards of eight or nine different revenue streams and fumble for words when asked what it is exactly that I “do” for a living.

My little furbaby 
My little furbaby

The truth is, I do many things. None of them conventional, really.

And the truth is, there really is no security in any of it. I run my own business, which means that the money that I make is entirely contingent upon how much I hustle and how well I perform. This requires my being active on social media, staying in touch with my clients, keeping up with the latest research in the fitness world. I write for numerous publications. I assist other fitness professionals in their endeavors. I train people at a gym.

There is no predictable structure to any given day. I don’t work a 9-to-5 desk job, I don’t get paid vacation days, I can’t call in sick and expect to be able to really, truly rest in bed. Every minute of every day, I feel pressure to continue to deliver, excel, and prove to the world what I’m made of. If I don’t feel like cranking out an article, there’s no one breathing down my neck to do something productive. I can’t really get fired, as I’m largely self-employed, so there’s no exterior incentive. It’s all on me.

Yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You see, about two years ago, I took a giant leap of faith. Long story short, I realized I wasn’t really in love with medicine, went against the advice of all my family and most of my friends, and jumped ship.

I knew that there was a chance that, by turning away from the premed path that I’d been so set on since I was 13, I could hit a dead end and fall into a black hole. I knew that that could be the case – potentially.

I dabbled in business for a short while before making a cursory glance at finance. I even spent the summer before my senior year working in the film industry and convinced myself for all of two months that perhaps I really had a shot at being a director (haaaa!). I took a peek into journalism (before quickly realizing that writing full-time was not something I wanted to be doing), but my heart never fluttered at any of those things. In fact, a small part of me died each time.

But I loved fitness.

I mean, I loved it. I looooved it. That’s all I did. If I wasn’t at the gym, I was stalking my favorite fitness blogs (during class, no less). Or I was scouring through fitness forums. Keeping up with the latest bikini competitions and analyzing the winners’ physiques. Arguing with my friends about the best way to reduce the size of one’s overgrown quads.

So I started my own website. Created a Twitter. Made a Facebook fan page. And began writing. Fast forward to June of 2012, and I packed up my belongings and flew out to Boston the day after receiving my bachelor’s degree. I’d secured an internship at Cressey Performance, and hell, I was going to take it.

 Cressey Performance 
Cressey Performance

Career suicide, I was told. You’re wasting your precious education to do what now?

I didn’t know what would come out of my summer on the east coast. Honestly, I didn’t even know the first thing about baseball, and I wasn’t sure if I’d particularly thrive in the roaming-coach male-dominant structure of CP (side note: turns out I wasn’t cut out for that kind of environment, but I took that as a valuable learning experience).

“So what do you want to do after this?” I remember Eric Cressey asking me.

I didn’t have the first clue.

To be completely honest, though, I wasn’t worried. Not in the slightest.

Because I knew that as long as I was following my passions, everything would work out. I may take a detour here and there, I may make a wrong turn and have to backtrack, but I knew that ultimately, I couldn’t go wrong by following my dreams.

Doing my own thing, forging ahead, NGAF 
Doing my own thing, forging ahead, NGAF

Right now, it’s 5:36p.m. on a Thursday afternoon as I’m typing this up. I’ve got my feet propped up on one the desks in the trainer’s lounge at Peak Performance, where I’ve been a trainer for six months. I spent my morning training a client, then came home to update my online clients’ programs, worked on a new article for one of my former boss’s upcoming e-book, took my dog out for sprints and snuck in a half-hour nap. In the afternoon, I popped in to see how my online group coaching clients were doing and then signed up for an FMS seminar later this year. I fleshed out my e-book a little more before leaving home to get in a quick arms and chest session.

At 6 o’clock, I’ll have my evening client come in for an hour of bench presses and deadlifts. After that I’ll shoot home via the M or F train and then transfer to the B train. If I’m lucky I’ll make it home by 7:30p.m., and I’ll smother my dog with kisses before taking him out across the street for a 40-minute walk in Central Park. I’ll check my e-mail one last time, then pack my bags for the next day and unwind for the rest of the night before hitting the sack.

This is what my life is like nowadays.

I write when I feel like it, I correspond with fitness colleagues daily as we bounce business ideas off of each other, I train clients both in-person and online, and I get to do everything that I want to do.

In other words, I’m living my dream.

If I was ever worried about supporting myself financially before, I’m doing well for myself now. In less than a year out of college, I’ve worked my way up from barely being able to cover my own rent to now bringing in over six figures a year through my own business. I travel just about every weekend – sometimes for business, other times for pleasure. Thus far I’ve written for Greatist, Bodybuilding.com, Cosmopolitan, Shape, and Muscle&Fitness Hers, with more to come. I have the freedom to work when I want, where I want, and I have a blast while doing it.

You’re wasting your precious education to do what now?

I’m not using up your time to brag about how great my life is. Though to be truthful, it is pretty fantastic. I feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world – even though luck has had very little to do with where I am now today.

What I’m trying to say is this: don’t be afraid to pursue your passion. If there’s something you can’t go a day without thinking about, there’s probably a reason for it. I’ve never understood the idea of working at a job that you don’t care about and living just for the weekends. There are not enough minutes in a day, not enough days in a year, not enough years in a lifetime to spend on tolerating mediocre moments and asking yourself if there’s something more.

The answer is yes. Yes, there’s more for you out there.

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You may not know how you’re going to get there or how you’re going to make it, but that doesn’t matter.

Just jump.

Then figure out the rest of the details along the way.

I promise you it will all be okay in the end.

Sohee Lee, NSCA-CSCS is a personal trainer, online coach and writer. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in human biology from Stanford University, she interned at Cressey Performance before her current position at Peak Performance as a performance coach. She specializes in women’s fat loss and the fitness mindset.