How much debt will you risk to build the life you envision?

Today is March 21 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how much debt will you risk to build the life you envision?” For Bradley Cooper it was a $70,000 loan he took out to attend graduate school. For Best-selling author Cheryl Strayed it was $85,000.


After studying at Villanova then transferring to Georgetown where he graduated with a BA in English, Cooper took out a $70,000 loan to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in acting from the Actors Studio Drama School at The New School in New York City in 2001. It would take another 8 years for him to reach breakthrough status.


In the anthology Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living by Manjula Martin, Strayed told the story on her dire financial past. Strayed took almost 10 years to pay off all of her debt. She received a $100,000 advance for her first book Torch in 2003 but those payments were spread out over four years and it “wasn’t enough to live off of. She supplemented her income by teaching college writing courses and freelancing.


In 2009 she sold her next book Wild and received a $400,000 advance. At that time, she was $85,000 in credit card debt. With the Wild advance she paid off her credit card debt and her college loans but after taxes and agent fees her finances were still strapped. It wasn’t until 2013, almost 10 years after her first book was published, that she started to earn royalties for Wild’s global success.


American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury noted "Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down." Entrepreneurs, actors, and writers are just three of the many types of people that risk going into debt in order to build the life they envision. Sometimes that risk pays off and sometimes it doesn’t.


For Cooper and Strayed it took over 8 years for each of them to reach breakthrough success where they could pay off all of their debt. Are you able to jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down; hoping they will open in time? How much debt will you risk to build the life you envision?