As a multimillion mile flyer and a member of the American Airlines Concierge Key™ program, I was exceptionally intrigued by the movie Up in the Air, starring George Clooney. Inspired to watch the film because of my frequent travel, I walked away with a subtle, and yet unusual, reminder about how many people give up on their adolescent dreams. As the character Ryan Bingham, Clooney had a scene that inspired me to write this article. Bingham worked for a company that specialized in firing people (great job, huh?). There’s no other way to put it. They would come into a company that was downsizing and inform the “marked” employees that their services were no longer needed.
In this one scene, Bingham was trying to console a man slightly over middle age who was in the process of being fired. The man had worked at the company for many years. He had built himself up in the corporate hierarchy and now, as he was being terminated, he was inconsolable. What would he do now at this stage in life? What would his wife and his friends and his grown children think of him?
Bingham abruptly asked the man: “How much did they pay you to give up on your dreams?” As Harry Carey would say, “Holy Cow!”
The man angrily snapped at him. “What are you talking about?”
Bingham, holding the man’s resume, noted that after graduating college the man had bussed tables at an exclusive restaurant while he was attempting to pay his way through a French culinary school. The man hadn’t taken a job at a fast food restaurant or pizza joint but at a fancy dining establishment. The man had once fancied himself as a passionate foodie, and Bingham’s question caused the man to pause and think.
Bingham wanted the man he was firing not to think of himself as a failure but as a person who was given a second chance to start over and to reclaim his dream of becoming a chef. The scene brought to mind an assertion from my book, Making a Difference: “A dream will provide you with a reason to go, a path to follow and a target to hit.”
Don’t Create A Detour
How many of us have drifted from the path that our heart once laid out for us? How many of us struggle day to day, week to week, bouncing back and forth from work to our computers to “obligations” that hold little meaning for us? In what way are you living someone else’s expectations? If that might describe you just a little (or a lot), you are hardly alone.
In 2014, Entrepreneur magazine featured an article on why we don’t follow our dreams. Not surprisingly, the number one reason was “Fear.” Very close behind was “Bad Advice.”
Did you take a detour from your dreams because you took to heart advice such as “You’ll never succeed” or “I don’t think that’s such a good idea” or “There’s no money in that”? Did you sell yourself short? Who convinced you to abandon your dreams?
Debbi Fields, the founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies, started her company by baking cookies in her kitchen. Paul Winchell was a famous ventriloquist who saw his “fame” leave him, but he was very mechanically inclined, and he felt a need to help people and ultimately patented the very first artificial heart. Vera Moore, a former soap opera actress, was the founder of Vera Moore Cosmetics. She grew up poor, but her parents instilled a spirit within her that dared her to dream, and she has built up an incredible business because she believed in herself.
In the top-rated television show Shark Tank, budding entrepreneurs get the chance to bring their dreams to fruition. They present their ideas to the sharks in the tank – five titans of industry who made their dreams a reality and turned their ideas into lucrative empires. Just like Debbi Fields, most of the promising industrialists who appear on Shark Tank launched their dreams in a small room in their home.
Critics Build Nothing
While I have no time machine at my disposal, I’ve little doubt that well-meaning critics were all too willing to say to Debbi that her cookies were “just OK, but not great”; and to berate Vera Moore for leaving her minor role on a soap opera to market soaps; and to laugh at a former ventriloquist for daring to save lives by developing a device to help surgeons operate on cardiac patients. Fortunately, all three people I mention above, and tens of thousands of others, had the choice to either listen to their dreams or their critics. What if I had listened to my eleventh grade English teacher? You wouldn’t be reading this blog, and I would never have written the books Enjoy The Ride, Detour, Making a Difference and Hide Your Goat. I believe her exact words were, “I’m not sure what you will ultimately end up doing, but one thing is evident by this paper I just graded—you’ll never be an author.”
My wish for you on this beautiful day is that you revisit your dreams and don’t let them remain dreams. No matter how small the steps or how long the path, just starting will lead to greater happiness. More than that, it will give you a resolve. There is remarkable joy in knowing yourself and knowing your purpose in this world.