Anything You Want to Be
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | October 2016
Dreams start the magic of fulfillment; but we need much more than a dream to succeed
Dream killers! They’re out there. Some of these beasts want us to fail, under the guise of logic, they give endless reasons to not follow dreams. We intuitively know that great achievements require working through the resistance. Our drifting from the well-trodden paths of normalcy, draws attention, and invites discouraging remarks. Perhaps creative and courageous ventures are threatening. “People don’t do that!” they chide. But not all criticism, even discouraging comments, are without merit. Discounting all criticism is hazardous; some discouragement is grounded in wisdom. To accomplish any action, we must first imagine it; but not everything imagined can be accomplished. Some thinking is magical—even foolish. Many sacrifice wisdoms, following impossible dreams, and eventually crash in to painful disappointment.
We unconsciously avoid facts that dampen dreams. Readjusting dreams to fit reality is tiresome; we lose the emotional spark of hope that provides an escape from the ordinariness of today. We spend our precious money and time dreaming but ignore timeless wisdom, inviting the pain of costly consequences.
Many bright young men and women choose careers envisioning the glamour of the most successful in that field—the spectacular few that veered from the crowd. We love stories from the journals of the fabulous few. These success stories create friendly fodder for dreams. We delight in the hero who ignores conventional wisdom, surpasses expectations, and achieves greatness. While glamorizing the few, we haplessly ignore the majority. The untold stories of those who veered from time honored wisdom and failed.
Some careers sparkle. We see the wealth, fame and fulfillment in sparkling careers and say, “I want that.” We are dreamers, naturally attracted to the fabulous while ignoring the mundane. We can obtain some of these dreams. But having a dream does not equate fulfillment. Success requires an understanding of the demanding path and often a lot of luck. The youthful dreamer—and mature dreamer—often underestimates the challenges. The aspiring youngster, struggling to finish his fashion degree, will discover the degree doesn’t naturally convert to a high paying career. A deeper investigation reveals the difficult competition, with most settling for less glamorous (and underpaid) employment. Market conditions, individual abilities, family connections and capital all influence the height of achievement. Ivanka Trump may run a successful clothing line at high-end fashion stores while a more capable person, educated in fashion, lacks other resources necessary to transverse significant obstacles, and eventually settles for low-level management at Old Navy.
Should we chase dreams? Absolutely, at least some of them. Each person, each situation, and each dream are different; complexity reigns. Realistic views of personal abilities and resources helps assess the necessary steps to propel us from where we are to where we desire to be. After a thorough investigation, we may return to time honored principles of success (work, budget, save, and invest)—not because we are a quitter but because we are wise.
"Success requires an understanding of the demanding path and often a lot of luck. The youthful dreamer—and mature dreamer—often underestimates the challenges."
This complexity applies to all—not just young impressionable minds. We are hypnotized by the sweet serenaded: You can be anything you want to be. This is not always the case. Certainly, many—If not most—can achieve more but have settled for less. But this doesn’t imply there are no limitations. We will never become rich selling a ten-dollar gadget that requires nine-dollars of materials and two hours of labor to make—no matter how delightful the dream. The business plan is a bust; the numbers don’t add up. Advice from a business consultant might unveil the obvious problem with our venture. We can ignore the consultant, labeling them a dream destroyer; but continuing in ignorance will be costly. The discouraging advice may be full of wisdom.
Sometimes dreams are shortcuts, a hope that distracts from the difficult task of succeeding. The long path to success often discourages, draining precious energy and wearing on confidence. As we stagger through the ordinary, the sweet beckoning shortcut is enticing. “You can be rich.” Marketers capitalize on unrealistic dreams. They tease us, creating a necessity and providing the path—where neither the necessity nor the path exists. We fear missing these limited opportunities, so we take the costly detour before a healthy and skeptical examination. The promised shortcut momentarily provides relief from the dusty paths, but fairy tale dreams typically fail. Left with the ruins, we must gather the shattered pieces of lost time and resources, hopefully a little wiser and more scrutinizing. Some spend a lifetime chasing big dreams that never materialize, living on the exhilaration of the next big thing but never reaching the promise land.
I watched an uncle chase dreams, each new venture promising to be the big one. He stumbled upon moderate success occasionally, only to invest the meager returns in another faulty dream. My father took a different path. He obtained a degree in engineering; he thriftily saved money, wisely invested, and retired. Glamorous, maybe not. Successful, arguably so. I followed his path. Rich by some standards, poor by others.
Some opportunities are worth great sacrifices. A watchful eye may unveil potential investments. But haphazardly jumping at every attractive side show, leads nowhere. We will never perfectly know which opportunities to chase and which to politely turn down; we must wisely discriminate, seeking wisdom from those with experience. But while waiting for our chance of a life time, we would do well to bank on the time-honored elements of success: education, prudence, and determined hard work.