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How do I follow a rainbow when there's no pot of gold in sight?

Q. "My vision of career freedom doesn't pay enough to live on, but I really want to do it."

A. "No money" can mean that you want to enter a place where most people earn very little (e.g., working with children or animals).

Alternatively, you might be evaluating a high-risk career, where most people fail, many make a living after a period of struggle, and a few get rich (e.g., acting, writing, art, coaching).

The easy answers are (a) donate generously, (b) vacation in the place you love, and (c) volunteer your time on weekends. Once you get past those:

(1) Test-drive the dream. Spend some time as a non-profit volunteer to see if you like the ambience: Many corporate types run screaming after the first week. Want to write? Spend a vacation at the word processor, trying the live-alone-with-your-words life.

(2) Know your career bottom line. Some people find they can tailor their talents to a money-making field (set up a training company, moonlight as a volunteer give art lessons). Others want all-or-nothing.

(3) Know your financial bottom line. Can you cut expenses in half or will one brake job send you looking for a full-time job?

(4) If your dream comes with high risk, build a safety net first.

(5) Going too fast may actually take you off the fast track as you get stopped by the Life Patrol. Don't listen to anyone who says, "You can always go back to where you were before." Wrong! You'll be different. Your field will have been transformed.

"Close your eyes and jump" and you may land on your feet -- but usually it's a good idea to build a staircase first.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site or call 505-534-4294.

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The obstacles you overcome