Dreamers beware: for every dream there are 10 naysayers just waiting to dash it. It almost happened to Beverly Goodman Park. Park was close to 60 when her marriage ended. At an age when most people are contemplating retirement, Park decided to pursue a long-held dream of becoming an attorney. A lot of people told her she was too old. Undaunted, Park went to law school while working full-time, passed the bar exam, and at 61, landed a job at a law firm. Of her critics she says, “I thought this age stuff was baloney.”
Walter Anderson, author of The Greatest Risk of All, says by the time we are in our 20s, we will have heard 25,000 “can’ts.” Don’t expect a lot of support for your “foolish dreams.” Instead, be prepared to reach deep within to turn “can’t” into “can.” Here are two motivation-boosting tips to get you started:
Become the Future “You”
Dreams, by their very nature, are about the future. With so many present-day demands your dream can start to feel distant. The more far-off the goal, the less likely it is you will act on it.
How can you make sure your dream doesn’t fall prey to the out-of-sight, out-of-mind syndrome? By bringing it into the present. To do this you must become the future “you.” Here’s how: The next time someone asks what you do for a living, try answering, not in terms of the present, but as if you were actively engaged in pursing your dream right this minute. In other words, squelch your pat “I’m an accountant/in sales/a social worker/a homemaker” response and instead try saying something like: “I’m an aspiring mystery writer,” or “I’m looking into returning to school to become an oceanographer,” or “I’m in the process of changing careers to pursue my love of gourmet cooking.”
It doesn’t matter if you haven’t written a single page of your future bestseller, sent away for one college catalog, or lifted a finger to pursue your passion for cooking. What does matter is that the dream that once felt elusive will suddenly begin to feel real. And when that happens, you will be amazed at how much sooner you’ll get the change ball rolling. Before you know it, you will actually BE the future you!
Someone who knows a lot about the power of “acting as if” is Steven Spielberg. Hoping to fulfill his filmmaking dreams, Spielberg explains that he snuck onto the lot of Universal Studios and became a “squatter” in an empty office. He even bought plastic letters to mount his name in the building directory. Security guards and exec’s alike thought the guy belonged there. His high jinx paid off. Spielberg’s first directorial break came when the studio bigwigs finally saw his first film and liked what they saw.
This and other success stories can be found in Mischief Marketing: How the Rich, Famous, & Successful Really Got Their Careers and Businesses Going. Author Ray Simon reveals how famous people as diverse as Mother Teresa, Duke Ellington, Andy Kaufman, rap artist Big Pun, and Benjamin Franklin really got started in life and how you can use their mischievous techniques to do the same.
As encouraging as success stories can be, learning about another’s failure can be just as inspiring. Did you know that Bob Dylan was booed off the stage at his high school talent show? Or that Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper job for “lacking ideas?” Or that Thomas Edison failed to perfect the light bulb until his ten-thousandth try? How many “can’ts” do you think these dreamers had to endure?
And when faced with a dream-buster, these “failure stories” can make great comebacks, too. Would Parks’ critics have been so quick to discourage had she pointed out that Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 80 years-old and that, of her over 1,500 paintings, 25 percent were produced when she was past 100?
“Persistence,” said Robert Half, “is what makes the impossible possible, the possible likely, and the likely definite.” As anyone who has ever chased a dream will tell you, disappointment, self-doubt, and failure go with the territory. The trick is to recognize these setbacks for what they really are – bumps in the road, not the end of the road.
Publisher Katherine Graham said it well: “To love what you do and feel that it matters – how could anything be more fun?” This is your life we’re talking about here. So what are you waiting for? Catch a dream, have some fun and start turning can’t into can!