There is this misconception out there that if you want to pursue your dreams, you have to know exactly what you’re doing. Just look around at all those other, more successful people out there. They move through life with a crisp smile and no body fat, and you ask them, “how’s it going”, they always say the same thing, “GREAT!” It’s actually kind of nauseating.
But the truth is that none of us ever fully know what we’re doing. We make projections, lists, and plans, but things seldom go as we wish. Life is unfortunately unplannable; it is a fluid, random conglomeration of stuff, people, conditions, attitudes, needs, ideas, and circumstances that careens down the road like an overloaded age grouper on his Trek, ready to mow down anything in its path. So you have to be ready to leap out of its way at any time and pull your dream to safety along with you.
That’s when you wind up by the side of the road, licking your wounds and cursing your decision to have a dream in the first place. Then you remember how little you know and there is stuff that YOU DON’T KNOW YOU DON’T KNOW!! And then you think about how much all those other people seem to know. Finally, you remember how insecure this whole situation feels. And then, well hell, why not just quit? After all, if you want to realize your dreams, you have to know what you are doing. Right?
Absolutely, categorically, unequivocally wrong.
The very nature of creating something is that you almost NEVER know what you’re doing. Sure, you know most of the steps involved. That’s the easy part. But the real meat of the creative process, the inspiration that will set your dream on a path of its own, is far more complex and elusive than that.
The popular belief is that inspiration “strikes” us like a lightning bolt from the sky. Actually, it’s the other way around. In reality, we strike inspiration much the way miners strike gold. By ceaselessly working, reworking and reworking the old territory, sooner or later we’ll run into a little nugget of something wonderful, something better. The more we dig, the more we’ll find until – if we are patient and very persistent – we hit the mother load. In reality, creating dreams is no different from swinging a pick. For every day of incredible divine intervention, there are probably ten spent sifting through dirt.
This is the bad, boring news about going after what you want: just like any job, there are many times when the work is unexceptional, difficult, and downright demanding. Yet these are also the days when you hunker down and keep on going because there simply isn’t any other way to get where you’re going. And herein lies the difference between the average dreamer and the person who goes after their dreams. The successful person is willing to put up with the hard work because inside of it he/she finds a joy like nothing else on earth. But the average dreamer does not know this joy yet. The average dreamer finds his/her joy in tangible rewards (results) and gets stopped when he/she realizes all that hard work may ultimately “be for nothing.”
When you set out to undertake the work of your dreams, it is critical that you must understand something: the reason so many people abandon there dreams is because they EXPECTED it to be perpetually fun and EASY. “But this is my dream!” they think lustily. “It has to be fun.” Then the minute the dream gets challenging, which it inevitably does, they quit, as if it suddenly turned into the wrong dream, or more likely, as if there were something wrong with them – some weird defect all those other, more successful people going to happy hour never, ever suffer from. In fact, there isn’t a thing in the world wrong with any of these people; it’s just that they don’t understand that pursuing your dream takes effort and discipline. And just because it takes effort and discipline is no reason to abandon it.
Each day spent digging puts you that much closer to the gold. And over time, if you keep at it, a curious thing happens: you begin to love sifting through the dirt. Some of your happiest moments can come during the 20th mile of a long training run, when you are reinventing your character through a major BONK!! Happiness can come in the smallest forms, like being ok with someone passing you on your easy day, because you know tomorrow you will be running harder than anyone or just simply heading out the door when you don’t want to while everyone else is hung over. You head out and your stride becomes as smooth as silk and you begin the feel the rightness of what you set out to do. Finally, you can understand all those curious twists and turns you took and see the larger, greater picture that they form. And this is when all your doubts about your goal begins to blow away like so much dust in the winds.
This is also the point when you come close to sensing the divine in your dream. It does not arrive heralded by trumpet-blowing fan fare, or even in a seamless blast of nonstop inspiration. Rather, the divine steals over you in the small, humdrum hours of your undertaking – during the checking, evaluating, and refining. The divine creeps in during yet another unexceptional night in your dream world, exactly when you least expect it.
As you climb inside the fantastic nautilus of your dream, you begin to understand why Zen masters spend entire lifetimes perfecting the tea ceremony. It is the sheer poetry of creating something from nothing and working on it until it is truly and absolutely right that ultimately keeps you coming back.
This is the magic that can only be born of hard work, of digging dirt, and this, ultimately, is realizing your dream!
Demand the Impossible - E