By Sophie Rieckmann
What is your dream/goal/aspiration? What do you want to do? What do you want from life?
Big questions, right? You may have been asked this in a multitude of ways, even from as young as 4 years-old. You may have even been the one asking the question ( I know I have). Dreams underpin everyone’s actions and thoughts- if you’re not working towards it, you’re dreaming about it. Dreams are also very hard to get rid of (trust me, I’ve tried).
Let’s say I have two friends (more in real life): A and B. Friend A has a dream to become a singer, as that is what brings about that burning feeling inside whenever he thinks about it, and he has always been surrounded by music. It has been his passion since he came out of the womb singing Ave Maria etc. Friend B wants to win the Tour De France. She is by no means a prodigy of the sport, but cycling is what has captured her heart. She reads about cycling, watches cycling, cycles (obviously), and is the most knowledgeable person I know about cycling. It is clear that both have an incredible passion, and that they want to reach their goals.
Now, fast-forward to when they are 30. Friend A- who was always singing and going to music lessons, was always up with the new hits but who also knew every disco tune from parents’ parties- has had many years in between the conception of his dream and the age of 30 to make a lot of progress. However, upon meeting him, he tells me “yeah, that was just a dream. Now I work for a bank. I sing in the shower and in the car on the way to work”.
Friend B. She was so invested in her cycling dream way back when we were at school, training every weekend without fail. Yet, when we meet, she tells me “I’m not an athlete, really. It was a passion, sure, but nothing I could ever be good enough at”. Why has she given up? All she ever did was talk about cycling, she would say “it’s my life”. What happened? Where is her Yellow Jersey?
Friends A and B are classic examples of the hoards of people who give up on their dreams because they are afraid. Of what? FAILURE. The F-word is one of those that sends a chill down peoples’ spines. It’s the word you want to avoid in as many pursuits as possible, and if you do encounter it, you’re useless. We are constantly bombarded with comments such as “it won’t pay the bills… ooh, that’s tough! You know, only 2% make it”, I could go on. Society is very good at telling us that “dreams are just for children… one day you’ll grow up”.
Yes, you may fail, not everyone can be good at everything, not everyone can be 1st. But what if you don’t fail. Failing doesn’t mean that you never made it to the top. Failing means you bowed out or gave up before you reached your full potential ( and we’ve all done this more than once already). Yes, it’s unpleasant, but you lose so much more if you don’t at least try. If you’re at least trying, you’re already lapping the people who are sitting at home wishing they were also trying. Failure is temporary, regret is permanent.
Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, lost 5 fights in his career. Does that mean he failed? No, he got back up and kept on going. He lost 5 times, but did not ever fail as he worked his way to reaching his full potential. J.K Rowling was rejected multiple times before finally having her book published, as she was told that it wouldn’t appeal to children or teenagers. Did she fail on those occasions? No. She never failed, because she kept on pressing to have her book published, until she found a publisher who would do it. What did she have to lose? Nothing. You may think that I’ve simply plucked two famous, successful people to make my point and that, therefore, it does not apply to you. But I would argue that you are wrong (but don’t worry, you haven’t failed). These people started off at the bottom, even Rowling said “rock-bottom became the solid foundation on which I re-built my life”. Ali was not born wearing boxing gloves, just as Rowling was not born with a pen in her hand (although both are nice thoughts!) They simply never gave up on their dreams.
Steve Mazan, an American comedian, has cracked this principal of life. He remembers, every day, that life is finite. He know that chasing a dream is hard. He calls dream a “verb”, as it must be done and lived. But he LIVES. He makes use of his time by chasing a dream and says that “if you’re not chasing your dream, your dead”. Wise words, don’t you think?
So, whether it’s that A*, a university place, a career/job, the ability to count to 10 in Chinese, or build the Death Star out of lego, you can do it. The trick is to fail many times in small ways, but to never give up. However big or small your dreams are, they are worth the time and effort.Dream big, work hard. Go hard or go home. Determination can bring you a long way from where you started. And if you don’t quite achieve that goal, chances are that all you have done in order to get there is in actual fact preparation for something bigger and better.
So, what is it that you want to do? What are you going to do about your dream?
I have faith in you. You should too. Please, never give up on your Dreams.
Mazan’s TED talk here: