The Importance of ‘Paying One’s Dues' Is Fiercely Underrated

Gillian Sisley

It’s time to stop wasting time looking for the loopholes in life.

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

I'm noticing an alarming trend among friends and former classmates that has me both deflated and confused.

There seems to be a real lack of willingness to pay one’s dues and stick it out for the long haul.

That said, I don’t just see this only within millennials — I notice this across many generations.

And it seems to be getting worse.

Always looking for handouts, never looking to put in the work.

A former schoolmate of mine from high school recently messaged me, asking to hop on a call to chat about what it’s like to work in marketing (I’ve been in the field for 4 years now).

On the call, this schoolmate admitted that they hadn’t been formally educated in anything marketing-related, but were hoping to land an entry-level marketing role at a company in the next few months.

They asked if their lack of education in marketing would be an issue.

I explained that, like any field, landing an entry-level job is very competitive and tough right now — and she would be competing against others who have marketing degrees, which would put her at a disadvantage.

“So… does that mean I have to go back to school?”

There was a distasteful tone to her voice when she asked this.

Not necessarily”, I replied. “It would certainly help, but you can get experience in other ways. I suggest finding out if there are any volunteer marketing opportunities around, ideally where you would have a supervisor with experience in marketing, where you could get some mentorship and direct practice in the field. You can then put that practical experience on your resume and have a solid reference to speak to your skillset.”

She asked if I knew it any specific volunteer positions around — we live on opposite sides of the country.

I replied with a “no”, and suggested she look online, and if that failed, start reaching out to local non-profits to offer a volunteer agreement of some sort.

And then, there was the absolute kicker, which frankly, I was waiting for before we even hopped on the call:

“Okay… well, couldn’t you just hire me to work for you, instead?”

Many people are searching for the shortcut.

Too many people out there are so busy trying to find their one-way ticket to success, only to be shocked when nothing drops from the sky to present them with what they want.

And in all that time when they could have slowly been working their way towards success, they were instead standing in one spot facing with sky with their hands out expecting a miracle to rain upon them.

Here’s a secret for you: there is no shortcut, or loophole.

There is no such thing as “overnight success” — what appears to be “overnight” doesn’t take into account the years of building skills and failing and falling and getting back up again.

The climb to success and reaching our goals is not a glamourous one — very rarely does simply showing up and putting in the work look “sexy”, but that’s what it takes.

And if you’re not willing to put the work in, well — enjoy staring at the sky and waiting, I suppose.

Preparedness empowers success to be realized.

I have several friends who admit to being poor planners.

When I ask, “Where do you see yourself in a few years?”, they cringe and laugh nervously, admitting that they don’t plan much further ahead than a few months.

Then walks in me, with my husband, who long before we were even engaged mapped out a 12 year plan together.

Yup. You heard that right. At 24, mapping out where I see my life year by year all the way up to age 36.

When people hear this, the most common reaction is, “That’s nuts. Who plans that far ahead?”

I simply smile to myself — because while they might think I’m deranged, I know better than anyone that even a little bit of foresight can lead to powerful results.

Because planning ahead shows that you have goals and you’re willing to commit to them.

And that willingness completely and utterly changes the game.

I didn’t get to where I am hoping success would just fall into my lap.

I started my social media and copywriting business, which I run today as my full-time job when I was 22 years old.

After 5 years of post-secondary education, I didn’t see a job out there in the market that was a good fit for me, so I decided to build that job myself instead.

My entire first year of business, I was still living with my parents, building my mini-creative-empire from their living room couch. It took 8 months of 60+ hour workweeks making barely enough to cover my overhead and networking my a** off before I saw anything close to what could be considered an income.

And from that hard work and dedication, I created the successful business I run today.

I’m a little one-woman show, operating out of a home office with only a handful of clients. I’m not looking to grow any further, or take on employees or anything like that — I like my independence and flexibility.

I built what I built exactly the way I wanted it to be. It’s mine — and it took more than 5+ years to unknowingly collect the skills necessary to start and run my own company.

It shouldn’t be surprising that former classmates of mine see that I work for myself, and thus have created a glamorized idea of what it must be like to “be your own boss”.

Create your own hours.

Run your own hustle.

Etc. Etc.

Instagram has created a very false representation of what entrepreneurship actually looks like.

I’ve heard the following backhanded compliment more than once before: “Well, if you can do it, I certainly can, too!”

Whenever I hear that, I know immediately that this person has grossly underestimated the amount of work it takes to be self-employed.

There’s nothing easy about choosing this life. I don’t care what anyone on a private jet on Instagram tells you.

While I don’t appear on the outside to be a workaholic, that doesn’t mean I twirl my thumbs all day and get paid for it.

In reality, I work my f*cking a** off to get to where I want to be.

I’m the chick who’s still up at 2 am — not scrolling through Facebook — but writing articles like this one and working on client projects and busting my a** to reach my next goal.

I may love sleep but (most days) I love working my way towards my next massive milestone far more.

To get what you want, you’ve got to be hungry for it.

You’ve got to be willing to take the time to cook up your own success.

And you need to be prepared to restart that dish many times over before you get it right.

You’re going to get burned, you’re going to set your food on fire, and you’re going to accidentally add salt rather than sugar.

You’re going to hustle and fall and hit another dead end and wander around aimlessly sometimes wondering if you’re ever going to find the exit to this crazy maze.

But each time, rather than giving up and calling it quits, you have to pick yourself back up and keep heading forward.

Be flexible.

Put in the work.

Don’t be afraid of a few bruises.

Unapologetically go for what you want, and adapt as you must to get to your end goal.

It’s incredibly easy to get too tired or fed up and call it quits.

And you’re entirely within your rights to do so.

But just know, the people before you who have achieved the success you admire and covet? They got to where they are because didn’t call it quits.

They got back up, brushed themselves off, and continued forwards.

And they probably failed and landed flat on their faces a hundred times more after that, too.

Final word.

I started writing on this very platform 7 months ago.

Growth has been slow, but steady.

It’s the patience game of entrepreneurship I know all too well.

Recently, a friend asked me what my plan was for the future, and if I was going to stick with it.

I told that friend that I had discussed it with my husband, and granted this platform is still around (which odds are very good it will be), I’ll spend the next four years steadily growing my following and earnings to the point where I can make my full-time income from creative writing. That way, I can step away from having clients and both write and raise my kids from home.

That friend balked at me, stuttering,

“Fo-four years!? You can’t plan that far in the future! You need to stay more in the present and stop planning so far ahead!”

I get that advice a lot.

But I never listen to it.

The fact of the matter is that a lot of the really big goals in life and the awesome things we want to achieve take far more work than we expect them to imagine. And we need to account for that possibility when we jump in.

I’ll even admit, when I started writing on this platform, I thought to myself, “Hey! I built a full-time income from my business after only 8 months — I can totally recreate that result!

But alas, we’re at 7 months in and I haven’t reached the earnings I was hoping to. It’s taking more work and a longer commitment than I’d initially expected.

And that’s entirely okay.

Because sticking through that pain, and paying your dues in the belief it will one day pay off, is the way to realize your goals.

Every little bit of forward motion counts.

And that very commitment seems to be something people are less and less willing to do these days.

But I suppose that’s the good news for you — you don’t have to be one of those people.

You have the power and ability to create your own future, and your own success, whatever that definition may look like.

You just have to be willing to show up every day, put in the work, and make sh*t happen for yourself.

Because if you don’t do it, no one will.

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Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. I write about trending news, viral Reddit content, and anything else that tickles my fancy.


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