You’ll never make money doing that.

Whenever you chase a dream, people are quick to point out, “You’ll never make money doing that.”

Or whenever you choose a major in college that people don’t understand.

Or when you quit your job to do something new and unusual.

You’ll hear doubt which I am sure Avicii, a 23-year-old DJ, heard countless times.

You’re from Sweden. You’re practically a teenager. All people want from Sweden is copies of that dragon tattoo book and meatballs and IKEA.

Be more realistic with your dreams.

Be careful.

Be smart.

That’s fun to say to newcomers but I’m sure people have stopped saying it Avicii.

According to the August 29th issue of Rolling Stone magazine, he plays around 300 shows a year. For each show, he makes a reported $300,000. I’ll let you do the math.

Never mind, I’ll do it. Avicii is making around $75 million a year, which means he’s earning as much as LeBron James. But let’s say that report is 33% off, an egregious exaggeration for a journalist to make. That still means he’s making $50 million per year.

The point isn’t that you will make that same amount of money. You and I probably won’t. That’s OK.

The point is that you will always make more money than your critics think you will.

74 Comments
  • Shane
    Posted at 04:11h, 23 October Reply

    This happens to me all the time. I tell people that I am a Spanish Major at a school mostly full of engineers and they give me that exact response. I am following my passion to be a missionary, and later a leader in my church. Money isn’t exactly a goal for me and I doubt you mean to say it should be, but this does remind me not to be ashamed to tell people about my dream.

    • Jon Acuff
      Posted at 07:16h, 23 October Reply

      That’s awesome, and you’re right, I didn’t mean to say that should be a goal. That’s actually why I didn’t use the word goal in this post at all.

    • Erin
      Posted at 11:25h, 23 October Reply

      Shout out to another Spanish major!
      The value of a bi-lingual education, I feel, is immeasurable & the way you plan to use it, even more so! Comparing monetary value to spiritual value is like apples to oranges. So thankful that the outcome of this pursuit has so many different elements to its “reward”. Keep on keepin on!

    • Pete
      Posted at 13:59h, 24 October Reply

      As a person that taught Spanish and managed to earn a Masters in Spanish while traveling through Latin America, don’t give up on it. Even if you don’t use it on a daily basis, it will change how you see the world and give you opportunities that no one else will. I will always have my memories of dancing in Cuba until 4 in the morning, zip lining in the Costa Rican rain forest followed by a day on the beach, or going to Machu Picchu twice in a week while my friends were too afraid to go because they didn’t know the language, didn’t have the world view or were too worried about saving a few $$$. The world view will help you on any path you choose to follow.

  • Sherri Adelman
    Posted at 04:37h, 23 October Reply

    I’d rather chase a dream and not make all kinds of money than not chase a dream. My dream may never pay big bucks – but I’m doing something I love, I’m pursuing my dream and living my passion. THAT. IS. WHAT. MATTERS.

  • Nick
    Posted at 04:45h, 23 October Reply

    Wow! What an amazing story. $300,000 a show?! It took me three times to read that to realize it wasn’t $300,000 per year. It’s really amazing how many different ways there are to apply skills and make money.

    I’d love to pick this guy’s brain a bit. Then again… if he charges by the hour…

    • Jon Acuff
      Posted at 07:18h, 23 October Reply

      Yeah, I thought that number was crazy too!

      • Brian Darby
        Posted at 10:13h, 23 October Reply

        I make $500 bucks DJing a wedding in North Georgia. I’m going to assume it’s a cost of living thing 🙂

        • Branden
          Posted at 12:02h, 23 October Reply

          This comment made me laugh, thank you =)

  • LarryTheDeuce
    Posted at 05:12h, 23 October Reply

    Who’s to say what anyone will make money at? People get paid all the time for things that I am amazed at. In fact, it seems that people pay people money when they pursue a passion with such enthusiasm that they can’t be stopped.

    • Jim
      Posted at 08:26h, 23 October Reply

      Great point Larry! But I must ask..what does the guy do to get paid that much? Does he make calorie-free bacon and cookies magically appear?

  • patricklmitchell
    Posted at 05:51h, 23 October Reply

    I get paid to pastor and preach. How ridiculous is that! Keep pressing us, Jon.

    • Jon Acuff
      Posted at 07:19h, 23 October Reply

      That’s pretty awesome Patrick!

  • Annie Carter
    Posted at 05:53h, 23 October Reply

    I love stories like these. It keeps me focused on the long term vision.I may not be after money, but I am after readers.

    I’ve experienced that look of concern on people’s faces when I told them I’m writing a book. You know what they’re thinking… ‘Oh really, what qualifies you to be an author?’ ‘It’s so hard to get published’ ‘You’re wasting your time’. But one or two get it, and show enthusiasm.

    One year on, and a publisher has indeed signed me up.

  • David Mike
    Posted at 06:17h, 23 October Reply

    My wife just downloaded one of his songs, weird. I had not heard of him before. Unbelievable!

    • Jon Acuff
      Posted at 07:19h, 23 October Reply

      His last song went #1 in 63 countries. He’s killing it right now.

  • Zechariah
    Posted at 07:28h, 23 October Reply

    Great story. It is funny when I explain what I want to do people’s eyes glaze over. Unless they are in the same field. “I don’t get it how will you make money?” is a response I get often. Thanks for this it is inspiring in my journey:).

  • Wes Molebash
    Posted at 07:38h, 23 October Reply

    One time in my early 20s, I stopped by my landlord’s office to drop off my rent check. I have no idea how the topic came up, but she asked what career I was wanting to pursue and I told her that I wanted to be a cartoonist.

    Judging by the curl in her lip and the short, “Oh” that she muttered, I may as well have told her I was entering the NBA Draft.

    • Nate Eaton
      Posted at 10:53h, 23 October Reply

      Dude, I’m glad you didn’t listen to her. Your comics are one of my Monday morning highlights, both for humor and artistic inspiration. Keep it up.

      • Wes Molebash
        Posted at 12:58h, 23 October Reply

        Thanks, man. I’m glad you think so. 🙂

        • Noah Albrecht
          Posted at 00:13h, 25 October Reply

          Keep the dream alive Wes, I’m a cartoonist too!

  • Mark
    Posted at 07:59h, 23 October Reply

    Wow. He makes more cheddar than the state of Wisconsin. But Wisconsin also produces sausage, which if one desires can be slathered with queso made from cheddar.

  • Stan S, Alabama
    Posted at 08:14h, 23 October Reply

    “Do what you love and the money will follow” is what I have often heard. However, even if the money doesn’t follow and you are doing what you love you are way ahead of most. For example, my daughter has gone from working in a career guidance office in Jackson, TN to her dream job working at Walt Disney World. She is definitely not doing it for the money but she is living her dream. By the way, she was at your first Quitter Conference so she is a Quitter Alumnus. Thanks!

  • Jim
    Posted at 08:19h, 23 October Reply

    Yeah, well that’s BEFORE taxes. I mean he’s probably only coming home with around $30,000,000 a year. I don’t know how the rest of your roll but I coudn’t live on that! Who could?

    Okay, that’s a ton of money and awesome. I wonder if he uses the envelop system? Do they make envelopes that big? Anyway…

    I met a guy a few months ago who said when he was a kid he was checking out a guy’s Ferrari. The Ferrari guy said, “Kid, you’ll NEVER own a car like this!” Well, fast forward a few decades and outside was this kid, now a successful adult’s, Ferrari! He used those words as a challenge not to defeat him. And he won.

    The point isn’t about driving a $300 K car. I think it’s sybolic of going after whatever dream you have — whether it’s being a CEO or starting a missionary in Haiti. You’ll always here lots of “chatter” on how you shouldn’t do it usually by people who aren’t doing it!

    • Jamie @ Love Bakes Good Cakes
      Posted at 10:12h, 23 October Reply

      I especially love how you stated that last paragraph – you nailed it.

  • HeatherEV
    Posted at 08:37h, 23 October Reply

    I hear that all the time from people. Since ministry doesn’t pay extremely well, I hear, on a regular basis, questions about how I’m going to pay for everything in my life. Especially since I’m starting to actively pursue ministry as a dream, and am working on quitting my safe, well-paying insurance job. I know they are concerned, but they need to let me do what I love rather than be miserable doing what I don’t.

  • David Johnston
    Posted at 08:37h, 23 October Reply

    Needed to hear this today! Everyone likes to tell me you should take these kinds of photos or those kind because that’s where the real money is.

    SAYS WHO?!

  • Brandon Weldy
    Posted at 08:44h, 23 October Reply

    That often comes up when talking about ministry. I’m a youth minister at a church of around 150 people in the Bootheel of Missouri. Not exactly the money making capital of the world (is there a money making capital?). My in-laws have had a difficult time understanding why I do what I do. I had to move to get a job and they don’t know why I would move here.
    But I love it. I love this place. This place which right now has fields of white because the cotton is ready. This place which is so flat you can literally see the sun set, not behind trees or hills, but at eye level. I love this church filled with broken people who are some of the most wonderful, compassionate, and genuine people I have ever met. Does that mean we will never move? Nah, we may. Right now though, I’m living my dream.

  • Esther
    Posted at 08:55h, 23 October Reply

    All that matters is why you are doing it.
    I’m writing because God told me to. That’s all that matters.
    I’ll make money if that’s what God intended. If not, oh well.
    Proving myself to others is not the goal, being obedient to God is.

  • Tami
    Posted at 09:08h, 23 October Reply

    That kind of money is hard to wrap your head around. And I can’t help imagining his Swedish mamma making meatballs and saying, “Vin – sweetheart you have to get a real job. Nobody will pay you to play your little music.”

  • Bree McCuin
    Posted at 09:48h, 23 October Reply

    Jon, thanks. I went to college and decided to major in Political Theory and focus my writing on the Early Church Fathers and poverty. Trying to explain this to my family and friends has proven to be difficult. The question I’m constantly confronted with is “and what are you going to do with this?” Thanks for this reminder that the validation of others is not everything. If God calls us into something that seems crazy, its because His definition of success isn’t marked with dollar signs or prestige.

  • Clint
    Posted at 09:51h, 23 October Reply

    Me and my father-in-law always joke about the most ridiculous things we could try and get paid for. Our list includes sleeping and building campfires.

    We’re dreamers.

  • Katie Farnham
    Posted at 10:11h, 23 October Reply

    I’m studying to do Bible translation and I get that all the time from my relatives and others! It’s super frustrating! Obviously if I want to do mission work I’m not in it for the money anyways

  • JP
    Posted at 10:13h, 23 October Reply

    I love that you referenced Avicii. His story is pretty awesome when you read how he started. Love his music – are you a fan as well Jon? If you’re not – you should be!

  • Haley
    Posted at 10:16h, 23 October Reply

    I struggle with the opposite. My dream involves helping people unravel and organize their thoughts and emotional life by increasing their self-awareness and showing them the love of Jesus. I do this primarily through counseling. I started private practice work last year and take huge hits financially to help those with limited income. It’s my ministry and I love it! But I get the naysayers who grill me about making a living at it and quitting my “pay-the-bills” full-time job. The last few weeks I’ve struggled with comparison only to realize I’m comparing my dream to a life I don’t want. I have seriously considered trading in my dream for the paycheck. What a nightmare that would’ve been!

    • Yvette
      Posted at 08:42h, 24 October Reply

      Haley, keep up the good work. God’s got your back. Stay encouraged!

      (I have the same dream and I have confidence that He’s going to help me realize it.)

  • Lily Tjhang
    Posted at 10:17h, 23 October Reply

    JB?

  • Russell Hawkins
    Posted at 10:19h, 23 October Reply

    More like 90% off, but I think the point is still valid…

    http://www.forbes.com/pictures/eeel45jfeg/10-avicii-7-million/

  • Jason Sandefer
    Posted at 10:19h, 23 October Reply

    Awesome! Jon forced us along in our journey to ‘Start’ our small business career thanks to his books Quitter and Start. Thanks Jon! We are in the world of technology where it seems everyone and his brother knows how to fix technology. I didn’t really get much push back from friends and family but I did get internal push back. I would constantly tell myself that there’s so many other people doing technology that there’s no room for me. Or that there’s no way to make any money in technology anymore. These comments are totally not true. We’re pursuing our passion, making an impact and finding our niche markets. It’s been a blast and the lights are still on and the kids have dinner every night!

  • Teresa
    Posted at 10:21h, 23 October Reply

    A few years ago I found my dream to be a Child Life Specialist, and have had to face questions about money from every person that I’ve told about this passion. So far, I’ve moved to the other side of the country to get my degree, and now I’m about to move across the country again to complete an unpaid internship, and people always ask how I’m going to live. My response is that I will live awesomely.

  • Jennifer Kelley
    Posted at 10:23h, 23 October Reply

    This happens all the time when I tell people I am going to be selling real estate in California. They always feel the need to say, “Well, you knowww. Real estate is a commission based business”. I then assure them that I am aware of the nature of the business… And then I give them Jon Acuffs website and Dave Ramsey’s website. In other words, Stop being a dream squasher and go worry about your own finances….. Said in the lovingest way possible;)

  • Steve II
    Posted at 10:25h, 23 October Reply

    Thanks Jon! Needed that this morning.

  • Colleen @ MommieDaze
    Posted at 10:28h, 23 October Reply

    Learned this lesson the hard way. Ended up studying something in college that I didn’t want to, because everyone told me I couldn’t get a job if I chose the major I really wanted. As a result I hated all three jobs I had my first year after college. That was 1997 when you could still find three jobs to start and quit in a year.

  • Diane
    Posted at 10:28h, 23 October Reply

    9 years ago I was told by my FORMER accountant that I would never be successful in my chosen hobby turned business. I am now working it full time and retired from a 35 year career and steady paycheck. Walking in faith and its working! Quitter was one of my studies and helped my make the jump. .

  • Kathi Waddle
    Posted at 10:28h, 23 October Reply

    I just self published my first book. It is a teen-ish book entitled Adventure in Hawaii. I have had a lot of critics and people thinking it will be a big flop. I managed to pre-sell 11 copies so I could put in an order of 25 which was awesome because I did not have to front the money 🙂 Now to figure out how to market my book so I can sell a lot more and then get my second book out 🙂 I am working the day job and it is a bit hard right now to day job amd dream job

  • Aaron Dicer
    Posted at 10:35h, 23 October Reply

    Thanks Jon, needed this today!

    A year ago I was was just a film nut chattering to whoever would listen about the latest movie.

    Today… well I’m exactly the same… except somehow the local NBC affiliate is paying me to talk on TV about them.

    I get paid to see movies for free… dream chased… mind blown…

  • Laura
    Posted at 10:37h, 23 October Reply

    I like the story of a kid not listening to critics and following his dreams, anyway… but if he didn’t make ANY money, would that prove the other people right? Validating his decision by using dollar signs makes me more than a little bit uncomfortable. Also, I think sometimes people who urge caution aren’t necessarily “critics,” but are parents and people who love and care about you and want you to be able to provide for yourself. There is a place to consider advice lovingly presented, even if you ultimately don’t follow it because you know God is calling you to something different. And then, if you make it big, I hope you have the good grace not to rub it in anyone’s face. :

  • Chris
    Posted at 10:37h, 23 October Reply

    Thanks to some motivation from Jon and his fabulous books, I have given up a ” career” or as I call it, “just something that I was good at” and a nice salary to follow my dreams and go back to college to become a struggling Graphic Designer, and I couldn’t be any happier. The minute you are working for money and not happiness, you have lost sight of who you are.

    • Kristin
      Posted at 12:31h, 23 October Reply

      A friend of mine followed his dream in graphic design and has moved to Boston. He’s self-employed now and doing well living that dream. It takes hard work but it can be done.

  • Knren Zeigler
    Posted at 10:45h, 23 October Reply

    Thanks so much for the encouragement! I left a 6 figure job to follow my passion to write/speak. It took a couple years to figure my niche so I am just begining to build my tribe. There are many days I’d be thrilled to make $3k so stories of a light at the end of the tunnel are always encouraging. Thanks for this!

  • Janessa
    Posted at 10:49h, 23 October Reply

    I experienced something like this when I decided to do a one-year discipleship program after high school. There was some opposition from some members of my family because they didn’t understand why I would choose to do something that, and I quote, “doesn’t get you anywhere in life”. That one year helped me grow in my relationship with God tremendously, and that’s just as important (if not more important) than going to university or having a job.

    Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Glenn
    Posted at 10:50h, 23 October Reply

    Jon did you write SCL and then release the SCL book, or the opposite? I have a situation like that now and it’s confusing.
    Thanks Jon
    Glenn

    • JP
      Posted at 11:23h, 23 October Reply

      Glenn I believe Jon wrote the blog first.

      • Glenn
        Posted at 11:27h, 23 October Reply

        Thanks JP. Much obliged!

  • Rob Beaudreault
    Posted at 10:56h, 23 October Reply

    I’ll just settle for making a difference while I wait until the money rolls in. #WinWin

  • HolliB
    Posted at 11:01h, 23 October Reply

    “The point is that you will always make more money than your critics think you will”???

    If you don’t mind, I won’t pass that along to my friend who has spent 2 years trying to break in to Hollywood (not as an actor, just working on the set crew) and last year earned a total of $800.

    I would feel so much better if promises like this were grounded in reality or in Scripture. Please, Jon, please: Don’t promise people things that may not be true.

  • Kristin
    Posted at 12:29h, 23 October Reply

    I’ve had multiple people tell me I can’t teach in high education without a PhD. While I do need a PhD to get tenure, I have been teaching full-time for 4 years now. Everytime a contract expires, I get a phone call from another school. When one door closes another one opens.

    Never let anyone tell you you can’t follow your dream. You have enough voices in your head telling you that already.

    I would not recommend punching people in the face. That’s only for voices in your head 🙂

  • Steve
    Posted at 12:43h, 23 October Reply

    If we can ignore those “Top 10 Careers for 2014” lists, perhaps we and our kids would be more apt to chase after our dreams.

  • Aaron Hoffman
    Posted at 12:44h, 23 October Reply

    In the words of Heath Ledger’s Joker, “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”

  • Michele Mastronarde
    Posted at 12:55h, 23 October Reply

    I’m a dreamer. My dream at the age of 16 was to pursue ministry and work in the inner-city. I can say that the once dream is now a reality. My reality may not provide financially (not your point of this post, I know) in the way that would make life a little more comfortable it is just as appealing and fulfilling as it was once when just a dream. Now, I have dreams to make my once dream even better. Always dream and always pursue.

  • Alicia Keswani
    Posted at 13:34h, 23 October Reply

    What’s even more fun is when you offer to do something for free because you want to but then someone thinks your work is worth money. I just offered to make a fun video of a product that my company sells – thinking it would be a fun idea and I wanted some experience with visual storytelling. After hearing my pitch, my manager told me that he is planning on compensating me for the work. Doesn’t matter how much he gives me, the best reward about it is that I actually get to do it!

  • Sherri Adelman
    Posted at 16:04h, 23 October Reply

    I finally had a chance to listen to some of Avicii’s music – it is definitely a good thing he isn’t listening to any critics because, personally I didn’t care for his music. All goes to show you that “your thing” might not be everyone else’s thing because this kid is making serious bank! “My thing” might not be everyone’s thing – but it’s MY dream and MY passion and I will follow it with all of MY heart. 🙂

  • Brian Sherman
    Posted at 16:40h, 23 October Reply

    Hi Jon,
    My wife and I are beginning to live the dream. Thank you for your books “Quitter” and “Start”. I have gained the courage to step out with God’s leading. If you ever come to the Phoenix area, let me know.
    God Bless!

  • Rob McClure
    Posted at 17:45h, 23 October Reply

    It has been my experience as a businessman of 37 years that a person chasing money rarely catches it. Money can be a by-product of following one’s passion and being rewarded for doing it well. But there are other rewards, too, and some not of this Earth.

  • Jeff
    Posted at 20:41h, 23 October Reply

    Just don’t forget James 4:13-15, Proverbs 20:24 etc.

    I think what you’re saying is different than “you can do whatever you want to do if you put your mind to it” or work hard enough. That’s a big American lie for most people. I hope what you’re saying is to pursue something we’re confident that we’re good at. Another lie is that everybody needs a university education to be successful, and I like hearing about people who have made a career other ways. We just need to always acknowledge God first.
    Jeff

  • Tim DuMont
    Posted at 22:14h, 23 October Reply

    I’m really struggling with this right now. About a year ago I went into full time ministry working at retreat center in northern New Jersey. I have to raise my own support. I can find people who support my dream and I know there are people with money, but I can’t seem to find people with both of those qualities.

    Thoughts?

  • LadyTam
    Posted at 00:30h, 24 October Reply

    Ironically, my worst critic is myself. :/ Everyone I’m close to who’s read any of my fiction seems to think I could really make it as a published author, but that nagging voice in the darkest depths of my mind keeps telling me that no one will buy my books. x__x;;;

    So what do you do when it’s YOURSELF that you need to ignore harsh critiques from??

  • Maria Cowell
    Posted at 00:58h, 24 October Reply

    Just read a story couple weeks back in our local paper about a guy who loved birds. What a wuss, they all said! He especially loved birds of prey. He became a falconer. Now he gets paid $700 a day by farmers who need organic ways to diminish song birds who eat their crops (berries, etc). They call Mr. Falconer who brings his trained raptors to scare the birds away. He has to turn work away. He could work everyday if he wanted. I’ll do the math $700×365=$255,500 annual income. That’s not chicken feed.

  • Jeanicia
    Posted at 06:16h, 24 October Reply

    What is worse to me is that they have no suggestions as to what else you can do and when it doesnt immediately pan out they just try to discourage you more. At that point they are full of ridiculous suggestions and comments lije, maybe you aren’t meant to do this.

  • Rob Shepherd
    Posted at 06:56h, 24 October Reply

    I was a youth major in college. Not only did I hear I’ll never make money I also heard “What’d you learn to do? Order pizza for a bunch of teens?” I’ve had great jobs that provide for my family since college. Loved this post! Most excellent!

  • Karin
    Posted at 07:44h, 24 October Reply

    You just mentioned Sweden. AND that it is possible to make it here. You can’t imagine how happy I am!

    Thank you!
    A dreamer in Sweden

  • Dan from Gerogia
    Posted at 09:48h, 24 October Reply

    Late to the discussion here. I am most likely making more money that many of the so-called “most likely to succeed” people from my high school. And I chose a “sane” and “sensible” career. However, I recently expressed my desire to follow my second dream of being a visual artist, and one person said I will not make any money doing that. I am not planning on quitting my “sensible” career, but I am also not letting this person’s lack of knowledge of making money in art detract me.

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