“My Family Disapproves of My Pursuits…” (Advice to a Friend)
Photo courtesy of Lisa Williams.

“My Family Disapproves of My Pursuits…” (Advice to a Friend)

Written by Emilie

Topics: Entrepreneurship, Goals

A few hours ago, I got an email from a close friend about his family’s disapproval of his entrepreneurial pursuits.

I decided to answer his email on the blog, because family disapproval (or at least misunderstanding) is an exceedingly common issue for entrepreneurs, multipotentialites, and really anyone intent on living their life differently.

I also wanted to post this publicly because I have a feeling that you guys might have some words of wisdom and stories of your own to share…

Here’s the email my friend sent me:

I just had a rude awakening today. I had planned to use the next few months to grow my Renaissance Business, and make small headway. I was going to take things slow, and try to make sure everything was as good as possible before launching my coaching services.

Unfortunately, my family had other plans.

Today I discovered they’ve been discussing the fact that they don’t think my business is a real, sustainable thing. None of them believe it’ll make money, or that it’s even worth pursuing.

They want me to get a job, and do it on the side, so that I have options in case it fails. I refused, and they’ve told me that I have their support until July. As such, I have till July to prove to them that I have a viable business on my hands.

I know it sounds weird, like I shouldn’t care so much about their approval, but I’m not gonna lie, if my family isn’t backing me, I’m not going to feel good about doing it.

Additionally, I won’t be able to pay for my cost of living once July hits, if I don’t have a steady income. I had them to rely on before, but apparently not any longer.


But it also means that I have 4 months to work up to $1,500 a month, which is the minimum I need to survive on. Which means my business just went into overdrive.

I have $6,000 saved up, but that’s going to go fast once August hits, so I basically have till July to make it.

Is it a dream killer? Or just a really big push off a cliff to teach me to fly?

My Response

First of all friend, this SUCKS. I’m so sorry that you had to endure this little intervention your family put you through. It’s a horrible feeling to know that your family has been discussing your future behind your back, and hearing straight from their mouths that they don’t believe in your talent or vision?! Ouch.

However, know that you are not alone. At WDS last year, Pam Slim began her talk by asking the 500 of us whether anyone has ever experienced family disapproval. Every single person in that room started laughing.

If you read interviews with entrepreneurs and listen to podcasts like Mixergy and the Lifestyle Business Podcast (which I highly recommend doing on a daily basis), you’ll begin to understand that disapproval and a lack of support from those around us is so common, that it’s almost a right of passage for entrepreneurs.

And dude, of course you care what your family thinks! You want them to be proud of you. We all do. It’s incredibly annoying sometimes, just how much their approval matters to us. I hope every parent reading this right now knows just how much of an impact their approval (or disapproval) has on their children. Know that your opinion matters– a lot. Don’t abuse that power.

However (and this is hard for me to write), the truth is that your family wants the best for you. They want you to be happy and they want you to succeed. Their disapproval is coming from a place of love and concern. Unfortunately the way they’re expressing this love is not at all helpful to you!

The real problem is that your family doesn’t know any better. They are not familiar with this new business model. Like most people, they are still living in the old world of business, where starting a biz involves a ton of risk and upfront investment, a physical shop, and so on. They don’t understand that millions of people are making their livings through legitimate online businesses. They haven’t read books like The 4 Hour Workweek, The Millionaire Messenger, and The Art of Non-Conformity.

While I would hope that once seeing your success and happiness, your family will come around, the sad truth is that some people never get their parents’ approval.

I can’t remember who this quote is by… Some entrepreneur who had just had a million dollar launch. Upon sharing his achievement with his mom, she reacted by saying something like, “That’s great… When are you going to get a real job?

You need to be doing this for you.

Without sharing too many identifying details, you have a fantastic business on your hands, my friend. It is a beautiful smoosh of two of your broad interests, each which exists within a very profitable market.

You’ve done exactly what I talk about here: you’ve used your multipotentiality to “become more specialized than a specialist.” Your business exists in the intersection between two very profitable markets. On top of everything, you have a beautiful, inspiring message. There is incredible potential here.

But my belief in your vision isn’t enough. You need to believe in yourself. And even more than that, you need a community of other people who are also pursuing their passions and who support you and will provide guidance and accountability. Barbara Sher says that isolation is the dream killer. She’s right.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what we’ve got here on Puttylike: a community of people who are following their heart, and believe that it is possible to build a life around your passions. And once The Puttytribe opens up (April 17 — Holy wow, it’s getting close!) it will be even even easier for you to get direct feedback and support from other multipotentialites.

For now, try to avoid talking with your family about your work. Surround yourself with positive people and inspiration in whatever ways you can, even if it’s only online. Listen to podcasts with people who are doing what you want to do, watch YouTube videos like this on a regular basis. Do what you need to do to stay inspired.

Next, use the hunger. As my man Tony Robbins says, you need inspiration and/or desperation to motivate change. Comfort or mild discomfort is what keeps people still. Put your head down and hustle hustle hustle.

Finally, I want you to understand just how lucky you are. You are a single guy in your twenties. No mortgage, no kids. Your financial cushion is more than sufficient. Never again will be the risk of jumping be as low as it is now. Even if you do fail, your worst case scenario is not bad at all.

Sit down and write out exactly what you would do if you failed. What would happen if you couldn’t support yourself come July, 2012? Would you get a job and continue building your business on the side, then quit your job once you hit your income goals? Would this be the end of the world?

Regardless of what your family says, there’s absolutely no reason that you need to give up on your dreams in July, 2012. This is your life, not theirs.

And to be honest, friend, I know you, and I don’t think you could give up on your dreams, even if you wanted to. You would end up returning to them eventually. You’re an artist and a dreamer and a multipotentialite. You have no choice but to do this.

But most of all, you have a responsibility to do this. You have a responsibility to all of the people that you’re going to help and inspire.

Don’t let them down.



Siiiigh… After spending a couple hours writing this thing up, I got a followup email from my friend:

Continuation of story. At lunch, my brother and mother hammered me about a real job. Dad sat silently throughout, and didn’t say a word. He even walked out halfway through the conversation, to go take a nap.

Two hours ago, he took me out to dinner for an important reason: he told me not to quit.

How’s that for a shocker?

He said that the family means well, and they care about me, but that my life was my own.

He’d dreamed of writing his whole life, and gave up that dream for steady work and raising a family. Although he didn’t understand what I was doing, he made sure I understood he believed in me, and said “if this is your dream, then follow it to the end. Even if you fail, so what? Fail two, three, four times! You’ll get it right on the fifth. As long as you believe, and you work hard, and you care, you will succeed. But don’t you dare give up.”

Then he gave me a conspiratorial smile. “Don’t tell mom I said this, or I’ll be in trouble.”


Your dad said it so much better than I did!

Your Turn

Got any stories about dream-pursuit in the face of family disapproval that you’d like to share?


  1. Shanna Mann says:

    I’d just like to heartily thump the back of the letter writer and say that I would love to lend support to anyone challenging the conventional wisdom that a job = security. When with that myth freaking die?

    • Emilie says:

      LOL, The first time I read your comment I was just scanning through fast, and I thought you’d written something about wanting to hump the letter writer. Now I see what you actually wrote, and apparently I’m just really immature. :P

      But I agree wholeheartedly about the job security myth. You’d think the recession would change people’s beliefs about that. But for some reason, everyone’s still clinging to a majorly outdated idea of what employment represents.

  2. Olga says:

    Well said! Both Emilie, and your friend’s dad!

    I also agree with Shanna – a job =/ security any more. Sad fact, but true.

  3. marisa says:

    ooh. your post is totally awesome – but yeah, i got chills and tears in my eyes reading about dinner with dad. :)

  4. Adam Barratt says:


    I think the writer of the letter is in PRIME position…and that’s without me knowing him or his business. He’s young, got a bit of cash saved up…he just needs to take consistent action. Like you say Emilie, what’s the worst that can happen? When the time comes in July, IF he hasn’t quite made it, he can get a job and build again from there on the side. Not ideal, but a slight change in approach and may take a little longer.

    This has also given him the goal and the urgency to get himself as prepared as possible before that time…he has a set amount of time to absolutely hammer his project as a priority between now and then and make some great strides.

    To be fair the family probably don’t know what they are objecting to, only reacting to a little uncertainty. Unfortunately we won’t always get support from family and friends due to it being a ‘different’ approach and not something they are familiar with. Usually from a good place perhaps but can be very damaging and stop dreams in their tracks.

    He just needs to surround himself with a good support network as you say…that is something I am trying to work on myself…I’m pretty sure that the writer of the letter will be just fine, perhaps just needing a little reassurance that he’s doing the right thing. I think he knows deep down and I’m sure he’ll crack on with his objectives…

    By the way, his dad sounds like a cool dude in the end. Turns out he knows the score and perhaps didn’t have the confidence to step out and do what he wanted to do back when he was younger (or during the earlier conversation!) but nowadays it’s becoming more common, acceptable and encouraged with blogs like this one among others!

    As an aside – If you are able to work on your business without a regular job (even for a few months) then I would do it. Not only do you have so much more time but far more energy to be creative and get into a flow state more often. I would love to be in that position but I have to build slowly over the coming months.

    Btw Emilie, love that Tony Robbins/Rocky video…one of my favourites!



    • Emilie says:

      Awesome comment, Adam! Really wise words. I’ll make sure my friend reads it. And you’re absolutely right about how great it is when you don’t have to do the side hustle thing. I love the hustle/start up mentality, and you can really get into it when you don’t have a day job.

  5. Joy says:

    I *love* the dinner with dad part…but may I also suggest it was possible because after given an ‘ultimatum’ the letter writer decided deep within to go for it anyway, so was willing to be open to approval (sometimes the disapproval around us is our own internal doubt).
    I understand the power of community/tribe…my offline friends have no idea what happens online, nor really what my job consists of, so it is ultra-important to be surrounded by people who dream and live that dream, and do so through online work. Wonderful insights in your advice, Emilie, and an inspirational story–thank you :)

    • Emilie says:

      Thank you Joy. That’s a really interesting perspective, one that I hadn’t thought of. You’re right, we tend to get approval only at times when we’re open to it, and give it to ourselves. I think my friend will be fine. :)

  6. Hannah says:

    A great story, particularly the bit where Dad comes through with the goods in the end. I think this topic is really interesting though. Because it doesn’t just come down to whether your family supports you in a new business venture. Or whether your family is happy to support you emotionally/financially/otherwise when you’re taking a risk. It’s also the kind of reaction and issues we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis.

    So for example, what time do your friends want to meet up to hang out? If you’re on an early morning kick (like i am), then meeting late in the evenings doesn’t work. So do you tell them, ‘Sorry I have to go to bed at 10’ (into which they read that you are prioritising yourself) or do you ditch your commitments to yourself in order not to entirely alienate yourself? Is it legitimate to say to a partner/*friend ‘Can’t see you on Sunday, i’ll be scanning the internet for stuff – inspiring and otherwise’?

    I think the lesson we learn from this post and this person’s reality is about how, we who do what we do, deal with others who don’t and who don’t understand us.

    And to this i would add one more piece of advice to the words from others. Stick with it. Be patient. And keep explaining. Lots of people’s families/parents/communities don’t understand what they’re doing or what their dreams are. This is for a *whole* heap of reasons and in a whole heap of realms of life. But by just giving up on people every understanding, we risk isolating ourselves from those who care most about us and who we care most about. And it won’t be just this once, it will be for the rest of our lives.

    So yeah, try, and try again. Don’t ever be put off my people’s reactions and don’t listen to them if you don’t think their comments are worth listening to. But please please please, keep trying to be understood. Ourwise we’re no different from the people we accuse of not trying to understand us.

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Hannah,

      This could be its own blog post! You’re absolutely right. It’s so difficult explaining our life/schedule to friends. I’m constantly having to explain to people that no, I cannot go out at night or hang out in the morning, because morning is when I’m most productive. One thing that helps, is becoming friends with more entrepreneurs. :) Something I’m working on.

  7. Holli says:

    Love this post, and the follow up email at the end nails it!

    There’s some quote that I’m totally going to botch, but here goes:
    “I’d rather love who I am then be loved for who I am not.”

    While that is more in-depth with self worth on the whole, I think it can apply here to the struggle to meet the “normal expectation” that most folks have with how we live our lives and what kind of work we do.

    “Keep on moving forward” is another mantra I love. No matter what, do what matters to you:)

  8. Tony Fuentes says:

    Wow, your’e friend’s dad is awesome. Interesting how he said he once had dreams but had to give them up for pretty much a normal job to pay the bills. Recently, I’ve noticed that more and more young people are avoiding that very path, and are instead taking the bull by the horns and living their dreams.

    The future should be an exciting place!

    Thanks for sharing this awesome story. Makes me thankful for my parents. They are immigrants who were simply happy I had a roof over my head, food to eat and clothes on my back. As long as I was happy, they were happy.

    They could care less what I do for a living so long as I’m not killing people, I have a smile on my face and I’m taking care of my family.

    • Emilie says:

      You just made me think of something Tony. My friend’s dad isn’t dead! He could still write his book. In fact, my friend should encourage his dad to write his book! Why not?! It’s never too late.

      Actually, ironically my dad just finished writing his first novel. I’m proud of him (though maybe I should read it first– Heh just kidding. :)

      • Layla says:

        WOW, that’s so great about your Dad, Emilie! :)

        I inspired my mum to do something that she really wanted to do in the past too – by offering some support/help & inspiration, & going for my dreams too!! :)

        And actually, even if it doesn’t go so great, the family (who was previously unsupportive) might then start expecting greatness from you, yikes?? (I tried RL jobs & it didn’t go so well lol!! They still suggest that, have kinda realized I’ve been doing other interesting and important things though too!! So they keep asking about that other stuff too, lol??)

  9. Dave Lukas says:

    Wow! What a story! Thank you so much for sharing. As a Dad, I got emotional upon reading what your friend’s Dad said to him. It’s refreshing to hear that he does have an advocate in his corner.

    I’ve struggled with this too and I agree that it might be part of the path to deal with this kind of resistance. What I found surprising (and what I’m still working on) was the people you’re closest to aren’t the ones who support you. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but I also feel it’s an important one.

    Stay the path and you’ll succeed!

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Dave!

      Yeah, that is a tough lesson. But it also means that you’ve got to then go out and find new people to become close with. And those new people often end up being so interesting and inspiring, that you can’t imagine your life without them. There’s the upside. :)

      • Dave Lukas says:

        Totally agree with you on this Emille! I’ve been in the midst of meeting new people online that have connected with my site and friendships have begun to form. It’s a fun and rewarding situation to witness develop. There is certainly an upside!

        Quite the discussion you have going on here. This is amazing!

  10. Ian says:

    Cool Dad huh! Your friend will be alright in the long run. The days of ‘supressing’ your innermost desires are a relic from another generation, even if it turns into a side hustle to escape the routine 9 to 5. Talent will out these days…..if he wants it bad enough and of course if he is ‘good’ enough!

    Just needs to keep away from the ignorant/jealous/disbelievers and keep reading the many, many inspirational and incredibly bright people that live in the blogosphere (that means you too Emilie!).

    Great post Emilie and certainly gives me a twang about my own parents (and parents in-law!) who simply cannot understand why I don’t want to work myself to death on a building site!
    At least you guys understand and that’s good enough for me.
    Stay well

    • Emilie says:

      Aw thank you Ian. I wouldn’t have forgiven myself had I not done everything I could to let my friend know just how badly he needs to pursue this. (I figured a bunch of strangers cheering him on publicly would help too. :)

  11. Dan says:

    Cheers Emilie! I’ve been through this with my family as well… think we might have done an episode on it at some point, but they really thought I was nuts and throwing my life away. Maybe I was nuts! :)

    • Emilie says:

      You might be nuts, but at least you’re having fun! :P For real though, that’s a huge part of the reason your podcast is so inspiring. You guys are killing it in business, and having a blast. I always look forward to my Thursday mornings.

  12. Mary says:

    Oh I’m so glad to hear his dad is on his side! I have dealt with a weird type of family support… they support my dream, but they definitely expect me to do it on safe terms. I am doing that, but only because I have a great day job that allows me to pay the bills and not worry about having the money to pursue my dream. I don’t believe in job security, because I know I could lose it at anytime. When I was heading to college I decided to major in graphic design and advertising. My grandmother paid for my education and though she didn’t tell me what major to choose, I could tell she didn’t quite approve. She would always tell me how competitive the industry is…. while I’m thinking, I love competition! How else would I have any motivation to be the best!? Now I am very careful when I talk about the details of my business, it’s definitely not your typical design company! You just have to stand up for your decisions and prove them wrong!

  13. Janet says:

    Totally agree with your advice. And what a lucky person to have a dad like that. :)

  14. Patty Tanji says:

    Holy Cow! This could not have come at a better time. Yesterday, I spent an hour with some very influential women in my city. They wanted to know what gave me the ‘authority’ to pitch my idea to them…because, you know, I didn’t have a ‘real’ job! They are not my family….but they are my colleagues…and they don’t get it. As for others, who are my age…some don’t even know what a ‘blog’ is….let alone try to explain what I’m trying to accomplish. As a matter of fact, the waters get so muddy…even I forget some times why I’m doing this. Thanks for the post, videos, and motivation. I need them all.

    • Emilie says:

      Ugh that sucks, Patty! I’m sorry you had to deal with that garbage.
      Well, those days are ending faaast. Credentials are quickly becoming irrelevant. Thriving online presence = authority in my books.

  15. Di says:

    Lots of thoughts to address here.

    First of all, Patty, your comment about people your age not knowing what a blog is – I can relate. I blog to promote my graphic design business, but since my general market is 50+ (which happens to be my age), quite often it’s a worthless cause. So now I just blog for myself, whatever I like writing about.

    Secondly, kudos to the great dad above. What a wonderful statement of support, confidence building, and a life-long remembrance for his son.

    Lastly, kudos also to the guy for pursuing his dreams, but also for looking at things realistically and analytically (budgeting, putting some pressure on himself to work harder, etc). I say this because of one statement he made: “I won’t be able to pay for my cost of living once July hits, if I don’t have a steady income. I had them to rely on before, but apparently not any longer.”

    I’m a mom who offers emotional support like the dad above did. However, I also don’t have endless resources. When we pursue our dreams, we must remember it’s *our* dream. Therefore, we have to do it ourselves, i.e. pay for it ourselves. We can’t expect someone else to provide our way of life while we pursue our lofty ideals. Believe me, when you do it all on your own, you work that much harder and it’s more likely to succeed.

  16. Cherilyn says:

    Wow. What an amazing story!

    I think one of the trickiest things to learn as an adult is the role of family in our lives. Walking that line between yearning for support and needing to blaze our own trail is difficult. So many big emotions . . .

    Thanks for sharing this story in such a sensitive way that connects all of us.

  17. Debi says:

    Wish my parents would have come through and encouraged me to go after my dreams — they always suggested the “safe and secure” route. Now that my kids are adults, I’m finding my way to do some “not so safe” things. I’m also encouraging my kids to figure out what they love and go for it. Hopefully, the world my granddaughter grows up in will help promote “the dream” and encourage independent thinking (let’s hope that’s not wishful thinking). Thanks, Emilie … and thanks to your friend for allowing you to share.

  18. Natalie says:

    I can totally relate to this – although it was my husband I was getting a hard time off. 10 years later I am earning the kind of income I dreamed of way back when and am so glad I kept focused and moving forward.

    When you have someone telling you day after day that you’re going to fail, that it’s not a viable business, that you should get a ‘proper job’ etc it’s soul destroying and heartbreaking. But I knew it would work, I knew I had something valid and worthy to offer and so for 10 years I kept going. It had to be my choice so I could take responsibility and hold myself accountable. 10 years is a long time but I got here and every day I am thankful that I believed in myself and didn’t listen to all the negativity. It was hard as hell a lot of the time though :(

    I understand that family members react in this way because they believe they are protecting you, that they are looking out for you and helping you but these are often as a result of their own insecurities and issues that they are projecting on to you – I know my husband does feel some resentment that my work allows me to earn a near-full time wage but work part time hours whilst he is committed to a 40 hour week but that is his issue, not mine. This is exactly what the last 10 years have been about and all the hard work I put in to get here.

    Ultimately we have to figure things out for ourselves and personally I would rather ‘fail’ having given it every chance I could than never try and always wonder.

    Fantastic post Emilie, big thanks from a puttylike newbie :)

    • Dave Lukas says:

      Natalie, I have to say that I LOVED your reply. It was funny reading it cause you and I use so much of the same language. Nice to know there are others out there. It sounds like you’ve experienced quite the journey this past decade, but it’s refreshing to hear that you stuck with it and now you’re able to see the benefits of that.

      Gold star for you! Thanks for sharing Natalie!!!!

      • Natalie says:

        Thanks Dave, yes quite a journey! I must also admit that as the years of negativity went on it made me dig my heels in more and more and it really fueled my desire to carry on – totally the opposite to the intention that I presume was to wear down and give up LOL :)

  19. Alden says:

    My family isn’t exactly against what I do, but living in Singapore, most people are all about college degrees, salaries, jobs and careers.

    I quit my own job to pursue my dream to be a self-established writer. I am always reluctant to tell people I blog because it gets such a hassle to explain to them that I treat my blog as a business and it’s not some online diary. I wouldn’t call this active discouragement, but for sure, no one here is showering accolades on me, I mean, who’s going to care about passion, following a dream, not giving up when people would mostly hear how high one’s salary is or what car I drive?

    Anyway great reply Emilie. I fully agree that people who discourage you just mostly don’t know any better. They aren’t trying to crap on you, but they are just ignorant of certain things.

    To go a little deeper, a friend once told me this, “People are afraid of others’ success. But when you do succeed, they would be all too ready to flock to you for superficial reasons”.

    Think about that, and revel in it when you making it big.

  20. Siggi says:

    Hello Emilie,
    The positive energy in your Puttylike community ramblings (both the blogs and comments) has a wise and humble vibration. I have returned to your site many times in the past weeks just to read a bit more information and consider the concept of building an online business based on multiple individual strengths. You are giving a voice to the creative minds who are so often maligned and discouraged. Family members may not understand and money may be scarce–and it is a struggle for a creative person to hold onto their own vision. I’m 58 and am now trying to remember the dreams that were buried deep down inside because of submission to the pressure to conform in my younger years. I am divorced and financially struggling, but also willing to reconsider alternatives and begin again from scratch today. It is far better to live and make choices based on what is true within the heart.

  21. Layla says:

    6.000$ could go for 6 years in some countries (?) (just sayin’…?)
    Maybe he can minimize costs, lots of people do these days…

    Also, it’s great to see what is available ‘out there’ – homeless shelters, support, Hospitality Club, couchsurfing etc (even if you never intend to use it!! I just think everyone these days needs to learn how to live without money… There’s a video online about a lady doing it too.. :))

    You can do fun cool & meaningful things for free too!! :)

    Then you can live great with or without money!!

  22. Allison says:


    I’d like a follow-upp! Now that July is over, how is your friend’s business doing? I love to hear success stories, especially quick ones! My last day at my job is tomorrow, and I’ve got about €10k plus a bit of unemployment to get started.

    Makes me think I’m really lucky that my husband and my parents have all been supportive of me leaving this emotionally abusive job (where they CLEARLY have never met a multipotentialite before!) to start my business.

  23. jasmine says:

    hi, i am in grade 12 and just about to graduate with no idea about my career. i originally had so many plans and my parents hated every single one of them and now i have no plans and they keep telling me to become a doctor and i do not want to but thats what they want. and its horrible because i dont have the skills to be a doctor! but anyway i will be applying for admission to the faculty of medicine soon and i am not looking forward to it. i hate it when parents do that just becuase they couldnt follow their dream when they were a kid they cant just push it onto their kids, and i wish they understood that their dreams are not necessarily their kids dreams.

  24. Doug Walker says:

    So, I went back and found the beginning of Puttylike to read it all in order. I’ve got a bookmark file of my favorites along the way. Definitely, definitely, definitely for this one.

    I still fight with my internalized Multipotentialite-phobia. Not knowing your friend, his family, or the situation, I thought, “well, he can’t expect them to pay for his life forever.”

    But it was nearly verbatim my situation when I graduated from college. I had a degree in mechanical engineering and an idea for a dot.com in the Web 0.0 days. I was informed in no uncertain terms that I was leaving the house and getting a job. I gave the web site idea a good college try a couple of times, even trying to rope in some partners, but I never got any traction.

    So thanks for the post. The whole thing. The letter, your response, and dinner with dad. I’m still overwhelmed by dad’s response. And sad that I might not have been as supportive in the same situation.

    Puttylike is a great thing you’ve done, Emilie. A very great thing.

    Thanks – Doug

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