The Courage to Give Up on Dreams

A friend of mine was sharing a story today, of how a friend of his confided in him: “How do you do it?? How do you go out there and create something of your own? I know I have it in me. But I don’t know what’s holding me back. Maybe I’m scared I won’t have enough clients. Maybe I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it. You’re out there doing these amazing things and I’m here… a salaried employee.”

And so my super-successful-investing-millionaire-at-19 friend was “seriously ready to unleash” one of his motivational pep talks, when he realized that this man’s fear wasn’t unfounded, it was very real. “He was a dad with two young pre-school kids. Taking risks and starting something new with the possibility of not having income to feed his kids was something very REAL!”

And he compared it to how he had little to no obligations or people to answer to other than himself when he started out, and so, grasping every benefit of having youth on his side, he made full use of his time and resources, making those calculated risks while he still could afford to lose. He didn’t want to look back one day, with mortgage payments and a baby in tow only to realize that it was too difficult to live his dreams.

And so his message was to all the 20 somethings out there: “If you’re reading this. Whatever it is that you want to do. Don’t wait already. You might just look back one day. And think. Man I WISH I did it when I was younger. I don’t know about you but I’m never ever gonna let that happen to me.”

I wanted to write this post because I like the way he approached this. He was right in not telling his friend to just give up everything and chase his dreams anyway.

I used to have that feeling too every time somebody said what I was doing was inspiring and that they wanted to do it too, “If only…”, and I was always ready to say “THEN GO DO IT!!!” Completely oblivious to the fact that for many people, it’s simply NOT an option. I used to think, “There’s no such thing as not an option, you just have to have the guts to do it! Take the first step!” Again, not true. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be in certain positions to take first steps.

We’re not talking fear of trying or fear of failing holding you back here, we’re talking some very, very real situations in which wanting to do what you really want to do, is just not possible. It could be a family situation, a disability or an injury, seriously debilitating finances… there are so many factors that may prevent someone from being in full control of their own lives. Would you say to someone you see on the street, homeless and who hasn’t had a meal in months — “You’ve always wanted to travel the world? Well, why don’t you then?! GO DO IT ALREADY!”

Nope. And we as people who have stories to share, have to realize this with newfound humility, and never forget that just because we were blessed to be able to do certain things, doesn’t mean that everyone else can, or is in the same position to. And we really shouldn’t abuse that power by making people feel even worse for not being able to pursue their dreams as much as they wish they could. Not everyone is willing to be homeless and jobless with a baby in a cardboard box. And I am not saying this metaphorically. ;)

The message that we need to keep sharing is: “Do what makes you happy.” We keep saying “Chase your success!” but we forget to tag that huge asterisk — Success SHOULD mean different things to you and me. No one is to say that his friend, with whatever job he’s doing, even as a salaried employee, with his own lovely family, isn’t more successful than my acknowledgeably and arguably successful friend. People really just need to learn to redefine success more accurate on their own terms, instead of society’s.

There are days I have -$0.25 in my bank, and yet I have never ever once thought of myself NOT as a success, because money doesn’t define me. You draw happiness from doing the things that GENUINELY make you happy. And to find out what they are, you just need to learn how to be honest with yourself, in all things big and small. Don’t let someone else define you. Don’t let the rules of other people govern you. Seize control of what you can control — who you are and what makes you happy.

It’s probably taken old age to teach me this, but sometimes it takes courage to give up your dreams too. And make new dreams. Real dreams. YOUR dreams.

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