What would you choose? big money or big dreams?

Tom Iland

Maybe you are also looking for answers, hoping to find meaningful work or feel happier.  I found that it has been helpful to ask and answer certain questions to make decisions and put my life on the path that’s right for me.

By Tom Iland

Anyone who has seen the movie Flashdance or heard the song ‘What a Feeling’ knows the phrase, “Take your passion and make it happen.”  I recently learned why this statement is at the heart of a happy life, and I am ready to embrace its meaning.  My life has taken an unexpected turn and I am excited to tell the world about it. I am leaving accounting to share lessons learned and stories about my life with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I have always been good with numbers and thought my work life would involve math.  Because people and businesses will always need someone to count their money, I worked hard to become a certified public accountant (CPA). I received my accounting degree and passed the difficult CPA Exam. I thought it was a dream come true to work for companies like Walt Disney and Princess Cruises.

Along the way, I discovered some important truths.  While companies always need someone to count their money, it turned out  maybe that wasn’t the right job for me.  My work was not as satisfying as I had hoped it would be, and I wasn’t making the difference I wished I could.  I began to ask myself some difficult but important questions about the direction I was going and what I really wanted out of my life.

Maybe you are also looking for answers, hoping to find meaningful work or feel happier.  I found that it has been helpful to ask and answer certain questions to make decisions and put my life on the path that’s right for me.  Here are the questions I asked myself and my honest answers.  I hope this line of thinking will inspire you to have this kind of conversation with yourself and others!

1. Do I like what I do?

I had to get up each day and go to my job, where I would be spending roughly half of my day. The realization that I was not enjoying myself or the work that I was doing was a clear-cut sign that I was in the wrong field.

2. Can I see myself doing this for another five or ten years?

If I liked my work, I then had to consider how long I wanted to stay in the job and if there was any possibility for advancement (becoming a supervisor, getting regular raises, etc.).  Even if there wasn’t an advancement opportunity, if I liked what I was doing enough to keep cranking away, that would be enough for me to stay.

3. What comes naturally to me?

While I was quite good with numbers and arithmetic, learning accounting was like learning a whole new language…the language of business. This aspect of the job was harder than I thought, and not natural for me.  As a result, I performed poorly in some areas.  In contrast, I lived with and experienced autism for so many years that it’s very natural to think, write and talk about it. I feel energized to tell my story in hopes of helping others understand autism spectrum disorder, and even help other self-advocates work towards their dreams.

4. What makes my heart sing?

There is a saying, “Do what you love and love what you do.” A related thought is, “Love the life you live and live the life you love.”  Sitting at a desk crunching numbers was not making me excited about life and it was time for a change.  By making myself known to the world rather than confining myself to an office, I hope to make a positive change in my own life and the lives of others.


I am excited to begin this phase of my life! I’m ready to share insights and “insider tips” about my life with Autism Spectrum Disorder in my professional presentations and trainings. I hope to connect with people across the country and contribute to our community.

It is never too late to make a change for the better in your career or any other aspect of your life for that matter.  If you find yourself unhappy or unfulfilled, you have every right to make a change.  Some might say that I’m taking a big risk to walk away from a good salary and benefits.  I value the opportunity to do new things and reach my true potential.  I hope that the messages I share with the world will matter more.  We only live once so make the most of every day by doing what you love. So how about you, would you follow big money or big dreams?

I would love to hear from you! Learn more about my professional presentations and trainings at www.ThomasIland.com.

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Tom Iland’s achievements include graduating from Cal State University Northridge, becoming a Certified Public Accountant, and working in corporate America. Tom is now pursuing a professional career as a speaker and trainer sharing insights and practical advice with the Autism community. Tom was featured in the Art of Autism’s Autism Unveiled Project earlier this year.

This post was originally posted on Tom Iland’s website.


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