Anyone with a brain between their ears recognizes that most childhood dreams don’t come true. Most of us don’t become rockstars, famous actors, or inspired painters. Most people who found startups fail. Even those who don’t fail don’t end up running unicorns. Most of us, in short, are ordinary people.
And, most people allow that to stop them. They say to themselves “The chances of me achieving my dreams are slim. There’s no point in trying.”
But what does it matter? Even if the chances of all your hard work paying off are dangerously low, what does it matter? The point of a dream is that it is so big and beautiful that it is worth pursuing in the face of overwhelming odds. If your dream isn’t worth pursuing even in the face of likely failure, it really isn’t much of a dream.
If you feel like your dreams aren’t worth the risk, go back to the drawing board and find something that is.
Most people don’t become the rockstars or billionaire entrepreneurs they dream of becoming — but that doesn’t mean they end up in a ditch at the side of the road.
If you aim to be a billionaire entrepreneur, the chances of your becoming a billionaire entrepreneur are low, but your chances of becoming a reasonably wealthy entrepreneur with a thriving business are much higher. Often, people who fail to achieve the very pinnacle of their dreams still end up achieving wonderful and worthwhile things.
Like Norman Vincent Peale said: Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
Many people realize in the course of following their dreams that their dream isn’t really their dream after all. They follow their dream of becoming a doctor through five years of med school, only to realize halfway through the sixth that what they really want is to be a drug rehabilitation counselor. They follow their dream of becoming a billionaire entrepreneur, only to realize what they really want is to run a charitable lifestyle business. From far away, we think we want something, only to get closer and realize it isn’t really what we want after all.
The reason we get mistaken about what we really want is that when we are far from what we want, not all the options are visible to us. We only know about the most well known and glamorous options — so that’s what we think we want. But as we get closer and closer to our goal, we realize all the different options that are available to us. At that moment, we realize that maybe what we really want is something else altogether.
If you never start down the path of following your dreams, you never get a chance to realize that.
Even if your attempt to follow your dreams is a complete and utter failure; if you don’t land on the moon, or even amongst the stars; it still has it’s own reward. Any honest attempt to pursue a dream results in valuable life lessons, lessons that would have been impossible to learn any other way.
These lessons are not just consolation prizes. They are a necessary part of the journey. Most people who have successfully achieved their dreams have utter failures in their past. The lessons they learned from those failures became invaluable in helping them achieve their present success. Without those failures, they would have never done what they did.
Failures are rarely ever just failures. They are a necessary part of the journey.
There’s a kind of hard work you can only experience when you’re working on something you care about; where the work is not only something you are doing, but it’s something you are becoming. The boundary of who you are no longer ends at your skin — everything you make is a part of you.
This sort of creation makes you wise. It forces you to reckon with what you can and can’t control about the world. You can control your creation, but you can’t control how people receive it. You simultaneously become more confident in who you are and more at peace with the world around you, more okay with the fact that you’re just one small person in one big world. That wisdom alone makes the work worth it.
This is at the bottom of this list because it’s the most overlooked, but it’s also the most important. Laying it all on the line to pursue a dream is satisfying. Giving something everything you have is rewarding in a deep, fundamental way. You no longer have to wonder if you are going to die with your potential unfulfilled; you are going to go to your grave having given life everything you have to give. At the end of the night, and at the end of your life, you will be able to rest easy. You will feel fulfilled.
All this to say: you can control your effort, but you can’t control the outcome. If you put work into something, whether it’s a startup or a relationship, there is always a chance it will come to nothing. That’s okay. Do it anyway. It’s worth it.