Kafka's 2 key lessons in turning a side gig into a full-time occupation

Updated: Jul 14

Promise it won't get really dark, really fast... or better said, Kafkaesque


Have you ever listened to your grandparents’ stories and think they’re from a different era? I did. Whenever my grandmother told me stories about her being an adolescent in the ‘40s, all I could think of is… time travel! There’s no way I could hear first hand memories in the ‘2000s from somebody that was born in 1926, unless a time machine was involved somehow. Imagine being born in 1883 like Franz Kafka.


Imagine his world back when countries had different borders, climate change wasn’t an issue, Beyonce hadn’t been born, and Facebook was just a weird combination of words. Pretty unimaginable, right?


"What does Beyonce have to do with Kafka", you might wonder.


Not much at a first glance but those of us that have begun our solopreneurship journey by working on our projects outside our full-time jobs, we have a lot in common with him. And we can learn at least 2 key lessons from Kafka.


Leave the job, focus on your craft

Much like many people today that consider changing their line of work and starting a venture of their own, Kafka started out as an insurance clerk and writing was his side gig - sound familiar?


He was born into a prosperous middle-class family but was far from being rich as an adult. He also had a complicated childhood, wasn’t the most cheerful person, and suffered from several health problems.


None of this distracted him from his true passion: writing.


However, given that his books made his very name a synonym for nightmarish and psychologically disturbing (Kafkaesque), we can only assume that his troubles did in fact leave a strong mark on the type of literature he wrote. Which is exactly what made him one of the major figures of 20th Century literature.


Once he gained the necessary confidence in his skills as a writer, he left his job and pursued his passion full-time.


Unfortunately, just like many classics, he died before gaining recognition for his work - which he never would have gotten if his friend and literary executor, Max Brod, hadn’t ignored his instructions to destroy his work after he passed.


The lesson here is: Be like Kafka. Not the dark, negative, and disturbing Kafka - unless that’s your style. The focused, motivated, passionate professional he turned himself into.

Kafka worked on his skill from every angle


Kafka not only dedicated time to writing whenever he could, he also read constantly from a young age. By the time he got to university, Kafka was exploring texts in Greek, French, Yiddish, Czech, and of course his native German. He studied other texts, styles, and it all had an impact on his style.


While reading in 5 languages is generally a bit out of a normal person's possibilities, the idea of working on your skill from different angles is a very good lesson.


The lesson here is: building a new career doesn't just mean doing the work - it's a major part though - it's also training, researching, analysing what others do.

He might not be the typical role model we should look up to, but he's a reference in the literary world (aka his field), which is what we all secretly dream of.


But that’s just me… thinking out loud.