Here’s to the ones who dream…

Here’s to the ones who dream…

In so many articles on so many pages in so many places… you’re told to find your passion. To discover that one thing that really makes you tick. The raison d’être that will get you up in the morning. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it doesn’t matter what experience you might have, it’s never too late to begin following your dream. From Emma Stone’s moving Audition monologue about dreamers in La La Land to just about every bit of pop psychology, self-help, life coaching mantra ever created about goals and dreams tells us the same thing… no dream is too big and there’s no time like the present.

First off, let me be clear that I loved La La Land. The movie was this beautiful journey of two dreamers and the bumps they face along the way to achieve their dream. Secondly, I also want to clarify that I’m not starting my freshly minted blog with an article painting dreaming or dreamers in a negative light. I, like most of you, teared up a good bit during that Audition monologue. What was interesting to me while I was watching the movie and tearing up… I was trying to figure out what was moving me so much in that moment. Part of it was just the story itself was moving as well as the delivery. Mia was realizing at that moment that this story was the likely genesis of her dream. Maybe you teared up for the same reasons I did or maybe you didn’t. I was moved because I caught a glimpse of a life lived with no regrets because, well, you just jumped into the Seine. You took that leap, and accepted the consequences so that you would never look back and say, “What if…”

While most of us do not see jumping into the Seine as some fulfillment of a life long dream, it’s a metaphor used in the movie to talk about daring to dream and then jumping in with both feet. There’s a part of all of us that wants to be able to look back at our lives and say without reservations that we took the risk, we’ve given it our all, taken the bull by the horns, and when it was our turn… we jumped. But, most of us do what everyone else does… we stare at the Seine, admire its beauty and wonder what it might be like to jump in. Maybe we’re afraid of what people might think, that we’ll get arrested, or that we might drown. Maybe the decisions we’ve made and the life we’ve led to this point has created a momentum of personality and reputation that we feel we cannot escape. We must live up to the image we’ve created, so we stick with the plan. Or, maybe, we’ve become jaded and it just seems like a foolish idea. Perhaps it’s a combination of these things, I don’t know, but I digress.

The reality is that taking risks is, well, risky. If we pursue our dream with abandon and we fail, what are we left with? This is why we love the idea of following our dream, but so many of us just don’t. As glamorous as it may seem to go ahead and take the leap, life has taught us to be cautious. Why? Deep down, the cautious realize a simple truth: the distance between the dreamer and the reckless fool is not a leap… it’s one step. None of us wants to be the reckless fool.

This moment is somewhat epitomized in one of my favorite movies, Joe Versus the Volcano. Near the end of the movie, just before they’re about to jump into the volcano, Patricia (Meg Ryan) looks over at Joe (Tom Hanks) and says, “Joe, nobody knows anything. We’ll take this leap and we’ll see. We’ll jump and we’ll see. That’s life!” They, of course, survive. Yet another movie metaphor daring us to take that leap into risk and trust… God, the fates, the universe, karma? Something. If we believe it strongly enough and give it our all, we’ll be rewarded. Yet, we all know people who gave it their all only to fail. We don’t like those stories, but we know they exist.

Safety. Responsibility. Going back to La La Land, the other reason I teared up in that monologue is because she was right. We do need the dreamers. We do need a little madness. In that moment, I realized that I had left behind that little bit of madness and let it give way to safety and responsibility. Safety and responsibility are good things. When we get married, have children, and then decide to engage in risky endeavors – we aren’t just risking ourselves anymore. This is why responsibility should force us to evaluate the risks we take. The danger is letting responsibility and safety become a cage.

So, what separates the dreamer from the reckless fool? The cynic would say that it’s the results that determine which side of that coin you fell on. You succeed, you were the dreamer. You fail, you were the reckless fool. I would say that the real thing that separates the dreamer from the reckless fool is this: understand your limits but refuse to accept them as finite. I don’t mean you ignore your limits and just act as if you don’t have any. While movies and stories of dreamers are inspiring and we need them, unlike Joe and Patricia in their metaphoric plunge, jumping into a volcano will not cause your dreams to come true. It will kill you. It’s a stupid idea. It’s one thing to push beyond your limits (something we all need to do) and another thing to ignore you have any limits to begin with.

So, the dreamer? The one who sees the limits? Whether they’re self-created, circumstantial, or imposed – we need to see that they’re there and begin to analyze why they exist. Because one thing is certainly true… it doesn’t matter what your limit is… it’s never as close as you’ve come to believe. Dream big, dream often, take risks, and push yourself. Don’t let your limits be a cage, but a flexible boundary. Push them. Constantly. Never think something is utterly unattainable (unless you’re planning to jump into a volcano wearing nothing but a dress shirt and slacks).

Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about my journey to this specific point and what I’m planning to do next. It might surprise you because it has to do with proving how stupid it is for me to try and find my passion.