Dreams are a funny thing. They give us something to hope for. Something to long for. But at the same time, most of our dreams are out of reach. I wanted to be an astronaut. I dreamed of walking on another planet, of exploring the universe, of boldly going where no one had gone before.
But that never happened. Why? Because my dream gave me a place to hide. It was so big, so overwhelming, that I had no way to get from Point A to Point B. My dreams aren’t about success, they are about avoiding risk. And I bet your dreams are too.
We’re told to dream of something big. To be a rock star, to be an actor, to be a writer. There’s nothing wrong with those things. Some people have those dreams and make it.
But most of us have those dreams as a way to hide from reality. We use them to generate excuses. Well, I didn’t become a rock star because I was never on American Idol. I didn’t become a writer because a publisher rejected my book. Or in my case, I didn’t become an astronaut because math took too much work. (Well, that and I hated it.*)
So we sit back, hiding in our dreams. We wait for someone to tell us that we’re good enough to be great. We look to American Idol to be told we can be a rock star. We wait until Cake Boss to find out if our bakery is worthy. We turn to Oprah to be told if we’re a spiritual guru.
But that’s not what we need to be doing. We can’t wait for permission to start chasing our dreams. And we can’t hide in our dreams. We have to take steps to make our dreams become a reality. And we have to do that today.
John Romero is a legend in the video games industry. He was one of the first to become “famous” making video games. His advice to people wanting to break into the video game industry is simply, don’t wait for permission – get to work now. This is good advice. He goes on to say, “I talk to a lot of people who want to become indie and want to make games and I guess the biggest thing I find when I talk to these people is that they are usually waiting for permission to make games for some reason. Like ‘I need to get into school to learn how to do this, and then when I get out I will get a job’ instead of ‘hey, you’ve got a computer and get some books – all the information is right there.”
In a recent column, John Maxwell makes a similar point – that true leadership, true greatness starts by doing something today. Not in the “I’m going to the moon today” type activities, but by sitting down today and studying math. Or writing a chapter. Or going back to school to get that degree. Or practicing music so you can get on American Idol.
You still need to be a dreamer. But every successful dreamer kept himself (or herself) grounded in reality. Or as I like to call it “work.” Don’t let your dreams be a place to hide.