The Dreamer’s Manual

This is the third installment in a continuing series about artists. Read previous article

Gremlins & Bridges


The best balance one can achieve is to live within their means but dream well beyond them. The trick is to make sure you don’t get the two mixed up, because that’s when you get into trouble.

I’m a fan of dreaming big, dreaming beyond reason. The path to success eventually has to be broken down into concrete, realistic steps towards goals. However, when one begins to visualize their dream goals, they should dream without limits. Reality restrains us, but it is curiosity, optimism, play, intelligence and inspiration that have sparked the great discoveries of the world. They were all merely ideas at one time, thought up by people brave enough to dream big.

I learned a bit about balance when I was waiting tables at a theme restaurant many years ago. One day, after a long shift waiting tables in a scratchy Rudolph Valentino costume, I told a fellow waiter that I was unhappy and wanted to quit my job. I felt like I was wasting my life working at restaurants and that the daily grind was interfering with my ability to pursue my dream of becoming a professional musician. My fellow waiter told me that working my day job was not stopping me from becoming a rock star at night. In fact, it was helping me to achieve this goal because it enabled me to pay my rent each month. He was right. I needed to keep my day job because it helped me to survive while I pursued my dream.

Imagine placing your personal responsibilities in the left tray of a scale and your desires in the right tray. Accepting your responsibilities – for example, coming to terms with and even finding a measure of contentment in your day job – will help you realize what you must do in order to achieve what you desire. If you create this balance, you will no longer be able to blame your day job for holding you back. You will have to push yourself to get out there and start working on your dreams at night and on weekends. Accepting your responsibilities will help you work on your dreams and allow you to create a more balanced life.

Managing Your Gremlins

Your greatest asset and liability along the road to dream fulfillment is you. One way to minimize the liability part of the equation is to discover the things you do that interfere with your ability to reach your goals. Specifically, I’m referring to the tendency to wander, worry, be unfocused and undisciplined. These traits are like unwelcome gremlins that sneak in and take over when you’re not paying attention.

Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Images courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In order to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves, we need to learn to handle these little monsters that occasionally take over the controls. If our dreams are not tied to actions, there are no tangible results and no goals are realized.

We all need inspiration, but how well we manage our personal gremlins depends on whether they have been properly disciplined.

This is truly a page out of my life because I have a great weakness for ice cream, and so does a young woman who worked with me many years ago. Every time we worked together, our productivity dropped and our caloric intake rose. Regardless of our daily goals, we always seemed to find an excuse to leave early and take a trip to the ice cream parlor. Eventually, I had to schedule appointments immediately after our shift – so I would not have an excuse to leave early. Sometimes the only way to maintain self-control is to provide yourself with no other option than to do what needs to be done.

There will be times when a gremlin will win. It will be in control. When you find yourself in this situation, see if there’s anything you can do to lessen the gremlin’s grip. With practice, you can learn to resist them and move closer to your goals.

Self-discipline is important because the degree of dream realization you enjoy is often directly related to how tight a lid you keep on your personal gremlins.

The Thin Air Bridge

In the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” there’s a scene where Harrison Ford is standing on the edge of a large precipice. He has just emerged from a cave to see another cave entrance across the abyss. In order to save his dying father, he must cross the chasm and bring back the Holy Grail from the other side. He has been told that if he has faith, he will cross safely. Though there is no visible bridge and Jones is sure he will plunge to his death, he closes his eyes and steps onto what he thinks is thin air, only to find a camouflaged rock bridge that allows him to cross.

Stepping into the abyss was an act of faith, but it was also an act of desperation. Jones was being pushed by the thought that his father would die, in the same way we are pushed by our passions and fears.

Not all precipices have invisible rock bridges waiting to help the faithful cross. Generally, it is wise to avoid putting yourself in danger’s path, but it’s also unwise to never take risks.

Big dreams require equally large sacrifices. One of the greatest dream–killers is inaction. Many of us refuse to step across the precipice for the following reasons: fear of failure or success; a lack of focus, discipline, confidence, or faith; laziness, denial, negative thoughts; or pressure from parents and peers.

There’s a reason why Nike’s “Just do it” campaign was so successful: for many of us, our motto has been “Just didn’t do it.” If, as the Nike ads imply, buying a pair of shoes will empower us in other areas of our lives, who wouldn’t plop down $100 for a pair?

A few years ago, when I started running my company full–time, people asked me how I was holding up under the pressure of starting a small business. I told them I felt like I was walking on thin air.

I believed that my company would succeed. I knew that I could construct the “rock bridge” under my feet with the help of supportive friends, family, and clients and that self–confidence, hard work, and lots of luck would eventually carry me to the other side.

With each new goal, I construct that thin air bridge, a few feet at a time. I know I will reach the other side at some point, but the process is an act of faith. I can see that my goal is in front of me; my passion is behind me; my fear is below and I have nowhere to go but across or down.

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