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'There is no right time to break away'

Q. How did you zero in on these names since start-ups are a huge emerging force in India? What were the boxes that you were looking to tick off in the process?
A. I looked for people who quit well-established careers driven by a love for a particular thing, subject, cause or idea, people who had endless faith in a seemingly impractical dream. I looked for people for whom the new career was almost a calling. The reason why I wrote You Can Make Your Dreams Work is because I found that many people end up in careers they aren’t the least bit interested in — they chose a course and a job because everyone else in their class was doing it, their families insisted, or they didn’t know what else to pick. And then they feel trapped and unhappy.

Shalini Umachandran
Shalini Umachandran

Following a dream is a tempting whim that most of us don’t act on because circumstances don’t allow us to, because we don’t have the courage, or because we’re unsure of what we want to do. The 15 people in this book faced the same doubts but decided to stop analysing and start doing. Each discovered that whatever the challenge, they were happier doing what they love.

You Can Make Your Dreams Work, Shalini Umachandran, Penguin,  Rs 199. Available at bookstores.
You Can Make Your Dreams Work, Shalini Umachandran, Penguin,  Rs 199. Available at bookstores.

To find these 15 stories, I contacted friends, friends of friends, and read a lot. I was amazed to discover the number of career switchers and ended up with a list of nearly 100 people who had taken a second shot at their professional lives. The final 15 stories were chosen after numerous meetings over two years. I plumbed for career switches that were uncommon. The switch is harder when there is no example to follow. Their stories, struggles and achievements are relatable as they’re not particularly rich, famous or privileged. They’re like you and me.

Q. What were some of the most eye-opening lessons along the way?
A. Just because something is your dream or passion, it’s not going to be perfect from Day 1. That’s what almost every person in the book said. So, use your head to follow your heart. There will be bad days, days of self-doubt as switching careers and re-establishing yourself takes a lot of patience and hard work. That’s partly where the title came from — the fact that you have to give shape to a dream and make it come true. Another thread that runs through these stories is that they believed that money is not the only form of capital, and also not the only measure of success.

Q. What are some tips that you can share with mid-day readers who wish to embark on their own start-ups?
A. There is no ‘right time’ to break away and do your own thing. You’re not likely to save enough, learn enough or be ready. Instead, just go for it. Once you decide to take the plunge, things will fall into place as it has for these 15 people who chose to do what they love and make that their career.

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