When Your Dream Isn’t “Sitting at a Desk in the Basement of a Bank”

A guest post by my friend David Nilsen who writes beautiful sentences and sells books (two of the highest compliments in my arsenal):

List of careers I have ever considered pursuing, beginning with early childhood through the age of 20: race car driver, veterinarian, professional basketball player (I believed I could fly, I believed I could touch the sky), rock star, computer engineer, English teacher, writer. Amount of money I have made as a result of doing (or not doing) any of the above things: zero dollars. What I do now at the age of 29: sit at a desk in the basement of a bank resetting people’s passwords, explaining how to turn printers off and on, and ordering debit cards. Lasting joy I take from this: I’ll let you guess.

Contrary to what we’re told in elementary school, attaining our adult goals is not the simple dial-a-dream experience it’s made out to be. The universe, as it turns out, owes us nothing.

I never finished my college degree. I got married instead because love was the only thing I was sure of at the time. I kept meaning to go back, but things got in the way. Now it is unlikely I will ever do so, but I still have goals, and I am reaching for them. It just turns out there is less spontaneous smiling and high-fiving involved than the brochures promised.

I love books. I am a geek about them (and most things), if you must know. Our house is arranged around books. And a few years ago, I started selling them. It started out very small and quickly grew into a legitimate business taking up a huge amount of my time outside of work. My goal is to make it my sole source of income by the end of next year.

Achieving this is daunting. If you haven’t noticed, the book industry isn’t doing real well. Borders just closed and e-readers are gaining in popularity every day. But in the used book market where I focus, you can succeed if you find the right niche, establish a good online presence and provide what your community is looking for. Right now I am working towards setting up a brick and mortar shop in our downtown business district while continuing to sell online.

I want to do something I love and believe in. I love books, and I believe their proliferation is a necessary part of a free society. I want the children and young people in my community to know the love of discovering new books and authors, I want those who love knowledge and wonder in my community to have it at their finger tips, pages tanned and corners worn. And I am working hard to make it happen. High-five.

Please head over to David’s blog where you can get his Twitter info and also find out how to buy used books from him.

13 Replies to “When Your Dream Isn’t “Sitting at a Desk in the Basement of a Bank””

  1. We should compare notes sometime. I’m an independent online book seller as well – good luck with the expansion to brick-and-mortar. It’s obviously dependent on the city, but I’ve seen physical stores do very well within the collectibles niche and graphic novels space.

  2. I want to live in a world where spontaneous high fives are de riguer. I like your view of books, and your way of calling your dream out, defining it, and making it a goal, rather than some wispy ethereal “hope to someday” kind of thing. You go!

    1. Spontaneous high fives should definitely be the norm. Thanks for the encouragement, Jen. Speaking this dream outloud over the last 6-9 months has definitely helped me work intentionally toward it rather than just vaguely dreaming about it.

  3. “sit at a desk in the basement of a bank resetting people’s passwords, explaining how to turn printers off and on, and ordering debit cards” ~~Here I thought you thoroughly enjoyed sitting there eagerly waiting for my “ACK!!! What did I do to my computer and how do I fix it?” emails!
    Great to see how you have been working toward your dream. I look forward to the day when on a return trip to small town Ohio, I can walk down Broadway and say “I know the owner of that shop!” There will be coffee pot ready, right?

  4. That is a wonderful goal, David! I hope you achieve it. I love books just as much as you do- if not more. Oh yes, it’s a Battle of Who’s the Bigger Book Nerds.

  5. Sitting in a mid sized town in Virginia at a Mexican restaurant taking in as much tequilla as guacamole because of how the day job played out today. I am pining for small towns and the smell of old books. And I am thinking about how to get closer to having an uneducated painting passion paying the light bill. High five. Pass the bottle.

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