Escapism or Ambition?
There is a fine line between dreaming about your future, and just dreaming about your future.
The one points to ambition, the other escapism. My guess is that most of us tend to err towards escapism. Audacious dreams scare us. Translating big ideas into actions is hard.
What I mean by this is that there are millions of people unsatisfied with the status quo, but the only thing they are doing to try and fix this, is dreaming. We all know such people, and
most of us are guilty of this ourselves. Always complaining, always talking about a mythical “one day”. The honest truth is unless you start working toward that one day on a dedicated, deep level, you are probably just pissing your hopes and dreams into a wishing well. Sorry to break it to you, but unless you start hustling today, you are indefinitely postponing “one day”.
Dreaming for the sake of dreaming is pure escapism. It’s also easy – which is why we humans, creatures preferring comfort, gravitate towards it. It’s watching brainless television shows because you don’t want to commit to doing something taxing. It’s sitting through reruns from Friends, because you’ve been having issues at work, and you’d much rather just avoid talking or thinking about it, thank you very much. It’s not starting your business, because the timing isn’t quite right and you’re still ironing out a few bugs in your app. But this avoidance, or escapism, is a form of life deference.
You know, if it’ll take you 5 years to reach you ultimate goal, not starting today means it’ll take you one day longer. The poison in not starting today though, is not the one day that you lose. It’s the spreading laziness that accompanies it, leading to more inaction, and eventually you find yourself 6 months down the line, still at level zero (zero sales, zero views, zero recognition, whatever your success metrics). Don’t get stuck at level zero.
Starting today is not easy. But it is worthwhile.
Now, I’m a dreamer myself. And I need to be reminded (often) that the act of dreaming big shouldn’t remove your attention from the present. The present is where you can make shit happen. If you spend 10 minutes every morning visualizing your dreams, meditating (more on this in later articles) on what you want to achieve and then drawing up your list of three actionable steps for the day, this simple exercise will take you towards your goal at an astonishing speed. It crystallizes the purpose behind your day. It reminds you WHY you are doing this.
“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with their song still in them” – Henry David Thoreau
The unfortunate result of people dreaming big but acting little, is that it creates an ever-present sense of “not-enoughness”. There is an expectation gap between the lives they dream of, and the lives they actually experience. A sort of cognitive dissonance. A worldwide phenomenon of “quarter-life crises” shows that young people all over feel that they have been over-promised, but life is under-delivering. What if the truth isn’t that life is under-delivering, but that we were over-expecting? Spending all your time in dreamland makes you expect life around you to conform to these dreamy standards. New generations tend to think (and I’ve been guilty of this myself) that the world owes them something, and that it’s only a matter of time before they make it big. I believe this delusion is propagated in college. Days spent idly sitting, talking big about future plans, hopes and dreams. No one performing the ever necessary reality check. Listen young ones – the unfortunate and harsh reality is that not everyone makes it in life. And you cannot guarantee your own success. The only thing you can do, is to hustle as hard and as often as you can. You can either let life dominate you, or you can dominate life. You choose.
Take up arms
However, if you decide to take up arms, you have to dedicate to dominate. It’s not going to fall into your lap. Utter mastery or success is not something that comes from spending a few hours a month, bashing something together, and hoping that your “thing” sells like hotcakes.
I always say that I’ll keep throwing everything I have against the wall, until something sticks. This may take a few months, a few years, or my entire life. But I am resolved in my decision, and hustle I shall.
It has been said the people overestimate the amount of work they can do in a year, but underestimate the work they can do over say 5 years. I believe this is true. Constant dedication towards a goal, deep work, hustling, WILL pay off over time.
Getting from point A to point B – without a GPS
Society has lost all sense of direction or navigation through the introduction of GPS technology. Don’t get me wrong, GPS is awesome tech. But I’m old school in that I still look at a map of where I’m going, trying to understand the route beforehand. Only then do I use the GPS to just free up some space in my brain. But because I know where I’m going, I can “check up” on my GPS, because I’ll know when its taking me in the wrong direction.
The difficulty in taking our escapist dreams and turning them into actionable plans, is that we have to go from point A to point B, without a GPS to guide us. There is no one, unless you rely on mentors who’ve done it before, that can tell you how to go from dreaming your dream, to actually reaching it. The point however is not to find the absolutely perfect task to start of the process, its merely to do *anything* to start the process.
Do something dammit
Do something dammit. Really, it kind of boils down to being that simple.
Maybe you dream of owning your own restaurant. So you should start one. Err, or at least start cooking you know? See if you like it. Buy some cookbooks, teach yourself the basics. You don’t need to save up for chef school or any kind of formal education. Learn by doing. Just do. Start crap, but get better. Practice. Develop your passion (later posts will expand on the passion fallacy). Buy a large bag of onions, and chop all of them in one go. Reading about knife skills won’t teach you anything. People learn by doing.
Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to be a sculptor. Get some clay, and try to make it into a nice round ball. Nothing revolutionary, just play with it. Make a square. Deconstruct any sculpture you would like to make, and try to duplicate it. A body is after all just a few cylinders attached to a rectangle. You can figure out all the smaller details as you go along.
Or you want to (or think you want to?) become a investment banker. Here’s an idea. Take a few bucks to the books store, and pick up three books about investment banking. Any three will do really. Read them. Monitor yourself throughout the process – if you cannot put the books down, you’re probably on the right track. If you cannot stomach the idea of reading another hundred similar books, you should probably reconsider your “dream”. In fact, this is a good measure for any supposed passion or dream – read 100 books on the subject. If it drags you down, reconsider. If it energizes and motivates you – you have my permission to proceed. Interestingly enough, reading 100 books on a subject pretty much makes you expert enough to be able to consult on it, even if you feel incompetent. But more on this in later posts.
Really, just go. Do it. Start crap, get better. Learn by doing, by failing, by being shit, by falling on your face and looking stupid. Burn your fingers, get swollen, teary eyes from chopping a hundred onions, get clay encrusted fingernails, get lost in investment banking for dummies – the lesson is not to aim for perfect, the lesson is to aim for doing (anything).
So whenever you find yourself wondering how on earth are you going to go from your current point/location, to where you are dreaming of being, don’t over-analyse. This just gets you to a point of analysis paralysis. In the effort to achieve perfect, you achieve nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Start doing. Start light and cheap, pivot on your way if necessary. Do the next best thing.
Whatever it is you’re dreaming of, your ONE big thing that you always tell everyone about, what are the three things you can get started on TODAY that will take you closer?