John Kapetaneas wanted to become a journalist, helping to write and produce news. He’s finally living that dream, but getting to this point wasn’t easy.

Breaking into the media is sometimes difficult without a masters degree. So, after college, Kapetaneas enrolled in graduate studies in journalism at New York University (NYU). In order to cover the cost of his education, he accumulated some $90,000 in student loans. Over that time he also racked more than $10,000 in credit card debt and other financial obligations.

There was a point where he felt trapped—like he was never going to be able to pay off this huge amount of money. He couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally, there came a day when Kapetaneas looked at his student loan numbers and decided to attack a healthy chunk of it; it was just $25,000 at that point, but he knew that he had to have a target to aim for.


The only thing is, the most Kapetaneas had ever earned in a year up to that point was a measly $28,000. The NYU grad took a common sense approach to tackling his debt: He reduced his expenses and increased his income.

Doing so meant making some substantial sacrifices. For two years, Kapetaneas didn’t go out with friends, he didn’t take any tips for leisure, and he moved back home to stay with his parents in Connecticut, meaning his commute to work was more than two hours each day.

There was a lot of work, too. At that time, Kapetaneas was working as a freelance journalist and he essentially took every job he could get his hands on. Sometimes this meant working round the clock. In an interview with Farnoosh Torabi on the “So Money” podcast, he told the host that there was a point where he worked “138 consecutive overnight shifts without taking a day off.”

He said there was a long period of time where he essentially didn’t sleep on Saturday nights.

You better be ready to work, and only work

He told Torabi, “[I was] putting myself in a place where I could work constantly”

It paid off though, within a year, he earned more than $100,000 pumping as much of that money into his debt as he could.

His secret to working these long hours and doing away with fun and leisure? “Embracing the suck” and “Enduring the discomfort.”

Kapetaneas also said that he shifted his mindset “from one of hopelessness to one of purpose.”

If you’re trying to find this purpose, this sense of discipline, Kapetaneas has some advice:

“If you kind of frame this as, you know, hero’s journey … the end goal is this debt paid off, this is zero something day, and every step along the way is your various challenges, your call to action, you’re facing various challenges.”

“Every little extra bit that you put down on your loan, every time you see that number drop from your principle, it will be a small win. Over time, you’ll begin to feel so much better about this, you don’t really even think about all the sacrifices that you have to make.”

There was a time that Kapetaneas couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, but after just two years of discipline, sacrifice, and “enduring the discomfort,” he was able to pay off his $110,000 in debt, and land his dream job—one that even gives him time off.

If you’ve got a financial hurdle to overcome, set a target, find out what expenses you can eliminate, work as much as you can, and know that there is a light at the end of that tunnel. Embrace the discomfort of the journey to get to that light—it’s worth it.