How often are you dreaming compared to acting?

Today is August 31 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often are you dreaming compared to acting?” People who navigate the chaos know the difference between careless risks and calculated risks. To achieve any level of personal growth or professional development individuals have to take some level of calculated risk.


To differentiate between a careless risk and a calculated one it is best to remember the Zen proverb “Never test the depth of the water with both feet.” Someone who takes a careless risk jumps in the water with both feet while a person who takes calculated risks steps in with one foot first to better understand how deep the water is.

In an April 16, 2015 Harvard Business Review researcher Anne Kreamer published data based on interviews she conducted and found that most people have a great deal of “anxiety about future jobs.” With interviews and research conducted on a wide range of employees from janitors to CEOs, Kreamer found out that 50% of respondents were thinking of changing not just their jobs, but their careers.” Wow! Think about that for a moment. Half of all Americans long to do something dramatically different with their working lives.

Kreamer went on to observe “But it’s hard to jettison a career decades in the making in the pursuit of something new. There is an enormous gap between dreaming about doing something different, particularly if one has spent years building skills and rising through the ranks and doing anything about it. It is terrifying to think about just letting go of one’s hard-earned law degree and years invested on the law-firm partner track to write for television, as an acquaintance of mine has done. Most people dream but fail to act.”

As mentioned in other Navigate the Chaos posts, dreaming is essential to one’s personal and professional development. So too, however, is having a bias towards action. Carla Hall was one such person who had one job, stayed true to her dream, quit, and launched an entirely new career path.

Hall was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. Hall graduated from Hillsboro High School. She graduated from Howard University's Business School with a degree in accounting in 1986. She then worked at Price Waterhouse in Tampa, Florida, and became a Certified Public Accountant. Hall hated her job and left after two years.

Hall then spent several years working as a model on the runways of Paris, Milan, and London. During this time, she decided to pursue a culinary career. Upon returning to the United States, Hall moved to Washington, D.C. When Hall brought some leftover sandwiches to her friend's office, and the friend's coworkers all wanted her to come again, she decided to start a lunch delivery service called the Lunch Bunch. After four years, she enrolled in L'Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Maryland, graduating with a Culinary Career Training certificate.

From here, she went on to serve an externship at the Henley Park Hotel, where she was then promoted to sous chef. By 1999, Hall was the executive chef at the Garden Cafe in the State Plaza Hotel, a sister hotel. She then served as executive chef of the Washington Club, a private social club. In 2001, Hall started her own catering company, Alchemy Caterers, based in Wheaton, Maryland. Hall remains in charge of the company, which she renamed Alchemy by Carla Hall. Hall has written the cookbook Cooking with Love: Comfort Food that Hugs You.

Imagine if Hall lacked the ability to change careers. Consider for a moment how her life would have turned out if she continued working at a job she disliked. Kreamer’s research helped her understand that “Not taking action has costs that can be as consequential as taking risks; it’s simply less natural to calculate and pay attention to the ‘what-ifs’ of inaction. In today’s marketplace, where jobs and job categories are being destroyed and invented at an accelerating rate, I’d argue that the riskiest move one can make is to assume that your industry or job is secure. There is simply so such thing as a secure job anymore.”

Are you under the illusion the job that you hate is secure? Are you going to look back at the decades you spent at a job that made you miserable and ask yourself ‘what-if?’ Will you ignore your own pleas to create a better life for yourself? If so, why? Why are you torturing yourself? Why not bet on your ability to change careers, get a new job, and translate your vision into reality?