I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams—those deep desires we keep locked away from public view most of the time, but yet are so important to us. We don’t really want to take them out and look at them, because if we did, we might have to do something about them. We might have to take action.
And action gets you into trouble. It can turn your life upside down, pursuing a dream can. Relationships, careers, and health can all suffer, when a dream is taken to extremes. Yet I have a dream. I can’t get rid of it. It doesn’t go away, and when I ignore it, it festers and creates havoc anyway.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield talks about this ability for unfulfilled creative desire to lay waste to all you hold dear, if you do not serve it. If you allow Resistance—that malevolent force which works against you—to tamp down your creative fervor, you’re sunk. You become a shell of the person you once were.
I have found that in my weakest moments, on my worst days, during the darkest periods, I’m often there because I would not put my butt in the chair and do my work. I have lost touch with that guiding force that challenges me to become something better, and I have succumbed to Resistance.
When I was a teenager, a dream started rising in me: I wanted to be a professional musician. So I composed songs on the piano, I wrote lyrics, I sang. I took my electric guitar with me to college, even though I wasn’t allowed to plug it in. I got voice lessons. Eventually, I asked my parents what they thought about me attending Berklee College of Music. They straight up said no.
And I accepted defeat. I was in my early 20s. I had no idea what I was doing, or what was possible. I felt trapped and unable to see a way forward except to finish my Information Systems Management degree at a university I had learned to hate. My parents paid my tuition, and this was the only school they were going to pay.
After I got out of that horrible Fundamentalist Christian college setting, I felt free for the first time in a long time. I started pursuing music with more passion. I made friends with a Nashville singer/songwriter, and eventually produced a six-track EP with him.
I was so proud of it, when we finally got it done. We had created something beautiful, the product of many hours of hard work. But to this day, probably less than 30 people have ever heard those songs. I made something, but then, while it was still a babe and could barely stand on its own two feet, I kicked it out into the street with no support. I abandoned it.
I had no idea what it really takes to follow a dream. To build it, to make it a reality.
I still wonder every day if I have what it takes. Most of us do. We doubt that we have the courage, the mental fortitude, the guts—to keep putting in the work, day after day, year after year.
But once you’ve experienced a few shattered dreams, you (hopefully) start to wise up. You realize that hard work is what does the trick. There is no short path. There is only the one true path—do the work.
I have a new dream now. I want to write. I want to be a published author. I want to say something meaningful and valuable, something helpful and true. I want to say it beautifully and with art. And I want it to resonate and connect with you.
Yet I will get nowhere without serving the art, without sacrificing (even if it’s just Netflix) for the dream. I have to help the dream become real. It can’t happen on its own. A dream without action is just a nice idea.
From the broken remains of one dream, a new one may emerge. That’s when we all have to ask ourselves: am I going to allow this dream to die too, or will I actually serve the vision I have inside me? Will I tell myself it doesn’t matter, to just forget about it—or will I do what is necessary to create a bold new future, even when that seems scary and risky?
I know which one I’m choosing. If you’re ready to do the work, buckle in. It’s going to be a wild ride, but I’ll be right there with you, every step of the way.