Today, an eclectic mix of bloggers are reflecting on or publicly admitting our dreams. It’s the web at it’s best: authentic, positive and communal encouragement. Kudos to @LindseyTalerico and @richendag for putting out the challenge.
When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be an artist. I drew pictures and everyone told me how good they were, so obviously, I wanted to be an artist. A painter, perhaps.
I imagine most kids have a go-to answer of what they want to be when they grow up, and usually pretty exciting things too: police officers, astronauts, famous singers and rock stars. College students have bold dreams too. They want to flip the system, invent something, do good and never sell out. No one dreams of becoming a cynical middle manager that commutes too far and just works for the check.
It was a sad day in third grade when I realized I wasn’t the best sketch artist in my class. Paul was. This kid was incredible. He could draw cartoons or portraits or anything he wanted… really fast. Compared to him, my drawings were rubbish. So in third grade I decided I didn’t want to be an artist anymore… a short-lived dream.
Now, many years later, I can say with content that I’m quite happy in my career path. I don’t especially regret moving away from sketching. But when it comes to my dreams, I can still default to that same reaction: “I can’t dream that big, someone does that better than me” … I find it all too easy to let my dreams be intimidated by other people’s opinions and talent.
Seth Godin writes:
By their nature, dreams are evanescent. They flicker long before they shine brightly. And when they’re flickering, it’s not particularly difficult for a parent or a teacher or a gang of peers to snuff them out.
For me, it’s been the fear of failure and self-doubt that threaten my boldest dreams. I don’t often admit that, but in the spirit of chasing dreams, it’s good to say it, then move on.
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At university I studied Mass Media Communications and International Development. They don’t really match, those two. I wavered between dreams of working at an ad agency and the peace corp. Thankfully, an internship at World Vision introduced me to non-profit marketing. The Chicago office ran like a start-up — relaxed, innovative, risky and endlessly encouraging. When my dream became a different role in field video comms at HQ in Seattle, the Chicago team, especially Michael and Lauren, pushed me hard towards risk and pursuing the next step. Every few days, Michael found a way of asking me what I was doing to follow my dreams, and then encouraged me to walk forward. Without that encouragement, I probably would’ve never pursued my goals.
That’s the thing about dreams: We have to move past the fear of failure, self-doubt and small thinking and declare them out loud. Private dreams are on their own. Shared dreams can be supported.
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My wife Richenda is an inspiration when it comes to chasing dreams. She knows an ounce of action is worth a ton of words, acknowledges risk and calmly proceeds forward. I poke fun at her for publishing things online with spelling errors—she makes fun of me for posting… nothing.
Our honeymoon was an awesomely peaceful time of reflection and dreaming about possibilities and the future. The day after we returned to work, we met for dinner, and Shen confessed that she was ready for a new adventure. She was ready to move on from her current role and start something new. A small part of me feared failure for her. But thankfully, our wedding vows reminded me of the support I promised her as her a husband, a beautiful line (we copied and pasted) in our vows:
“I promise to lend you strength for your dreams”
It’s my favourite lines in our vows, and one of the great privileges for me as a husband to walk beside Richenda and her dreams.
In less than three months, she’s successfully launched her new enterprise ntegrity. It was a short time for such a big dream and I’m beyond proud of her. Not for her success, which I know will come in time, but for her boldness to move forward, and the kindness in which she works with and encourages other people. Dreams beget dreams.
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No so long ago, my dreams were to move to Australia, marry my best friend, and find a job that I love. The big ones. Now that I’ve done those, I’m in honeymoon-dream-phase and everything else is icing on the cake.
So for now, I’ll pursue some more creative gigs on the side. A short film, perhaps. I’ll make it in my style and ignore the YouTube views and comments.
I’ll take more pictures and post them, and never concern myself with comparing my skills (or lack of) to others.
Someday, we’ll move somewhere different, maybe Kenya or Thailand, and I’ll work with an NGO to tell stories as they happen in the field. Instead of flying from the fundraising office, I’ll live somewhere for a while, and spend some time on each story, the time and experience the each story deserves. I believe local offices will soon take the lead in resource and story collection, and I’d like to be a part of that.
Someday soon, I’ll run another marathon.
And in a few years we’ll have kids, and personal career goals will dissolve a bit.
It’s ok for dreams to change, or shrink or disappear when they’re over. The point of dreams isn’t just to accomplish them, but to push us on a journey that we wouldn’t have traversed without the dream cheering us on. Dreams makes life a better story, prevent regrets, and bring a lot more fun.
In the wise words of my friend Michael Chitwood: What’s your dream? And what are you doing to make it happen?