As a kid, I never had ambitious dreams. I did what was offered to me by life, which turned out to be a lot, but I never really had ambitious dreams. I wish I’d been more ambitious.
People tell me I was and am ambitious, but I know I wasn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I challenged myself and did a lot of hard things as a kid that enabled me to do harder things as a young man and as an adult until I got used to doing hard things as if they weren’t hard, but still I never had ambitious dreams.
I want you to dream better than I ever did.
1. Whatever you dream, dream bigger. That’s it. Just dream bigger dreams. It costs the same to dream small, medium, large, and extra large dreams, right?
Dream extra, extra large — XXL — dreams.
Write your dreams down and then SuperSize them. Trust me on this one.
[You may never reach your dreams. You may catch your heel as you try to hurdle them, but if they are higher, more transcendental dreams, there will be a lot more daylight beneath you. Hell, this is just structural.]
2. Dream better dreams. There is large that speaks to quantity, but there is “better” that speaks to quality. Dream better dreams.
3. Tailor your dreams exactly to you. Make them custom dreams. Don’t be like every other person who has come down that road, make it YOUR road. Make your dreams uniquely yours.
OK, I wanted to go to a military school [the family business, mind you], be a badass Airborne Ranger combat engineer. Go to foreign lands. Do interesting stuff. I did that. It was a lot of fun.
4. Understand that to reach your dreams, you are going to have to collaborate with others, maybe even build a team to uniquely assist you in achieving your dreams. Learn how to collaborate, but in a way that advances your dreams. [OK, I always wanted to build tall buildings. I launched and built a company — in collaboration with someone else — and went out and did it. An example of collaboration.]
Here’s a building I built — as part of a team, mind you — that fed my ego, my self-esteem nourishment, and left me with a feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes, I go downtown and talk to it. It talks back and says, “You did OK, kid. Now, get out of here. Scram!” [Teaching point — the only “normal” people in the world are the ones you don’t know very well.]
Really important — to get to your dreams, you are going to have to learn how to do stuff along the way. You will have to learn leadership, entrepreneurial thinking, team building, starting a company, finance. All this requires collaboration. Get a mentor. Get a coach.
5. Your progress will be staged. You will start on the journey to your dreams slowly, one foot in front of the other — I had to get through Virginia Military Institute before I could tackle the Army.
Be prepared to make gradual step-by-step progress toward your dreams. Take your time, but keep moving. When you do hard things as a young person, the rest of life doesn’t seem so hard.
Pro tip: write your dreams down, study them once a week. You can’t accomplish something you can’t remember. Be unafraid to revise them up to twice a year.
6. You will have to develop certain talents, so learn how to develop a talent. I learned to fly an airplane when I was 50. It was as easy as pie, but I had the perfect instructors — hard, tough, serious guys many of whom were ex-military. Their teaching style matched my learning style.
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Be ready to learn every minute of your life.
Here is a Bonanza, a fast single engine plane in which I got my private, my instrument rating. It is a steady plane in all kinds of weather. I have more than 2,000 hours in it. Never failed me and we have carefully balanced the ratio between takeoffs and landings.
Each step of the way, I became a better and better pilot. I learned, again, how to learn and it opened my eyes to other things.
7. Practice achieving small things, then move up to bigger things. I wanted to learn how to tie the Monkey’s Fist (sometimes, it’s called the Monkey’s Paw). It is the hardest knot to tie and you tie it to be added to the end of a casting line, so you can throw a line a long distance when docking.
8. Know that sometimes life throws you a curve ball and that curve ball hits you in the head. It is not personal. Dust yourself off and move on.
9. Never quit. Never, ever, ever quit.
10. In life, we are all storytellers. Tell your story. Wrap it around your dreams, but tell it in your own voice.
All a dream is is the outline for your story. Critics tell writers, “Write what you know.” I tell you, “Write what you can imagine based on what you know.” That’s a dream.
Write your own story.
Now, get the Hell out of here and go figure out your dreams. Oh, one last thing — when working on your dreams, come to work early, stay late, work hard, get off social media, work through lunch a couple of days per week, read an hour a day about something that will advance your dreams. This is how you become lucky and you have to be lucky to achieve any dream worth achieving.
But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Be well.