JANG JIN-JOO is the world’s first “dream designer.” In addition to being a dream designer, she is currently a professor at the Korea College of Media Arts, a freelancer announcer, a student at the Sogang Graduate School of Mass Communication, the author of two books, and she lectures on how to find and plan one’s dreams. All these achievements were made possible thanks to her passion and her restless efforts to achieve a new dream and overcome failure.
The Annals (A): You have quite a number of jobs, it’s very impressive.
Jang Jin-joo (J): It requires commitment, but having more than one job is not so extraordinary. In fact, these days, the idea of lifelong employment is fading away and one can have two or more jobs. In the past, a person was expected to specialize in one single task, but the world requires employees to be capable of multiple tasks now. Take a lawyer as an example, to be a good lawyer, one has to understand what is happening in society, sympathize with the client’s problem, make an objective analysis, and be a great writer and speaker at the same time.
A: Is dream designer one such profession?
J: Yes, the “dream designer” profession is one that I created. My dream is to help others to find their dreams and the best ways to pursue them, and for this I had to engage in various activities including writing books, delivering lectures and mentoring those who seek my help. Dream designer is a job that embraces all these activities.
A: What were your college years like?
J: I studied all the time. I spent so much time in the library that my friends started calling me “the librarian.” As my parents could not afford my college tuition I studied rigorously in order to earn a scholarship. But I enjoyed studying my major, dramatics, which I had been interested in since I was young. During my college years I learned the joy of exploring the world of knowledge and decided that someday I wanted to be the one who delivered knowledge.
A: I heard that you were enthusiastic about many other things besides studying.
J: Yes, I wanted to experience things I could not learn from books, so I participated in a few extracurricular activities. I worked as a radio journalist and I also worked as an actor in a troupe. Once I find meaning in something, I commit myself to it. I think this trait of mine helped me win the Rookie of the Year Award at the 22nd Korean Theater Festival. But I quit acting in my mid-20s, after realizing that I was more interested in working in the media.
A: So you changed your career?
J: Not really. I did not perceive the two professions – actor and announcer – as two totally different jobs. The acting experience was helpful in my work as an announcer, and the experience I had as an announcer taught me lessons which are applicable to what I am doing now. No such experience is meaningless, and I believe every experience I go through makes me the person I will be in the future.
A: You were a successful announcer and hosted a number of shows, but suddenly changed your career to be dream designer. What happened?
J: It is a long story. To put it simply, I realized that I realized that the time available to work as a female announcer is very short and limited. For freelancer female announcers, it was kind of hard to predict future schedule and income. So I was doubtful if I could continue working after turning 30. Also, I thought I had reached my professional limit because I had failed to become a news anchor – which I wanted badly to do. This failure was hard to admit.
A: So how did you come up with your new career as a dream designer?
J: It was never an easy decision. For three months after I left broadcasting, my life was in chaos. I isolated myself from the world and hardly ate or slept. I had come to the sudden realization that my dream had been shattered and I had nothing left in me, not even a dream. Every day I contemplated what I should do with the rest of my life, who I was and what kind of life I wanted to live. After a long time, I finally found myself a new dream. Although I failed to achieve the dream of becoming a top news anchor, I realized that I can help others to be their best by using my experience and knowledge. For this new dream, I had to engage myself in many different tasks. I recalled that during my childhood I liked writing, so I decided to write a story about my experiences and the ways to plan and achieve one’s dreams. Also, rather than getting stressed out concerning the cameras around me, I came up with a new idea: I thought if I want to be an instructor, why not look directly into the eyes of those I’m teaching, instead of through the camera lens?
A: Did you feel your energy renew itself once you set a new goal?
J: I live for my dream after all. It was so amazing. Just a day before, I had been so frustrated and full of self-hatred, but the moment I found my new dream the world became a place full of blessings. It was like falling in love. Every day I woke up saying, “Thank you for giving me another day.” There were so many exciting things to do and I couldn’t wait for tomorrow. I felt alive.
Of course things were not always easy. My dream to publish my story someday and to become a famous instructor came up against the reality of having my story rejected and job applications turned down hundreds of times by publishers and employers. Since I did not have any prior experience as a writer or instructor, it was reasonable for them to doubt my abilities. But I did not give up. When you have a dream to pursue, the number of times you get rejected does not matter.
A: Not giving up your dream sounds easy, but I have found this difficult in reality. Especially when the future is uncertain, it is much harder to pursue one’s dreams. People just adjust to reality and give up dream chasing.
J: I disagree. A couple of times during my career transition period I received job opportunities in various businesses. But I refused these offers. At that time, having no money, friends or family near her, I felt that I had nothing to lose. So I thought, “Why not die doing something that I really want to do? I have nothing to lose anymore.” What happened to me next went beyond my expectations. I achieved everything I wanted. I achieved my dream. *pil-saeng-jeuk-sa pil-sa-jeuk-seng* (必生則死 必死則生), which means “those who seek death shall live and those who seek life shall die,” is the expression that best represents my experience.
A: What is the next dream that you would risk your life for?
J: I want to help those who want to study but cannot receive sufficient education due to unfortunate circumstances. I want to commit myself in building hospitals or schools in developing countries in order to set the foundations for proper education. I believe that education can stop the vicious cycle of poverty and start a benevolent cycle.
A: Do you have a message for the readers?
J: I hope people find their own dreams. When we are young, we dream of impossible things like becoming the president, conquering space or even becoming a dinosaur. Although dreams change as we grow up, they contain clues to what we value in our lives. The important thing is to look inside one’s dreams, find these values and to live one’s life accordingly. If your dream is to become a lawyer, you should look into what you really want to get from a career in law. It can be that you value social justice, or you want to make a lot of money, or you just want others’ acknowledgment. Find what it is that you value and pursue it. What I think is tragic is that we lose ourselves when we try to become what society wants us to be, instead of what we want to be. Remember that everybody is different and has his or her own dreams and values. Everyone has their own answer. Try to find your own answer, not the answer that others tell you.