Protecting One's Dreams


I clearly remember one evening sitting in a restaurant across from an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in years. Our friendship had been a great one, but in the intervening years we had drifted apart and what had once been only small differences in personality and thought had grown into gulfs.


But, that didn’t bother me, because it was great to be rekindling the friendship after so many years. Differences are part of any friendship. However, something was wrong. The light that had once shown in his eyes was gone, replaced by a dullness. This wasn’t the friend I remembered. I never found out what specific events had caused this fire to be extinguished, but as we talked it slowly dawned on me what had happened.

He had lost his dreams.

Somewhere along the line, his dreams had become victims (or martyrs) to life… to his life to be specific. Somewhere along the way they had died, and taken his fire and light with them. Melancholy rested upon my mind for the rest of the evening.

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Langston Hughes

I wanted to know what had happened, but I just couldn’t bring myself to ask such a personal question after all those years. Perhaps I should have.

I can no longer ask my friend that question, but there is another I now occasionally ask myself. It’s a bit of self-reflection, which means I haven’t always liked the answer I’ve had to give.

“Have I let or am I letting my dreams die?’

The honest answering of that question has taught me some important lessons. The most important is dreams die very easily if not protected. Either the direct attacks of a cynical world or an unintentional apathy created by life’s demands will quickly lay one’s dreams bare.

And, with them goes the light.

There are many suggestions out there for avoiding this trap, and many of the proposed techniques are invaluable.

But what if one has already fallen into the trap? What if the world weariness has slain the once beautiful dreams?

This year at the World Domination Summit, one of the keynote speakers, Darren Rowse, answered that question. Even better, he answered it through telling his own experience. Here is his keynote in its entirety. It is a bit long, but it’s well worth the investment in time.

Darren talked about having, losing and then regaining his dreams. More importantly, he talks about how he now keeps them safe. He talks of himself and others whose broken or forgotten dreams meant they no longer invested time in dreaming. He gives permission to once again dream.

Treat Dreams Like Goals

One thing I learned about dreams while listening to Darren is the importance of treating dreams like goals. I think we are all familiar with setting and following up on goals. Many, many books and lectures have been given on the subject. I know… I’ve read and heard many of them.

I think the part I’d missed was the importance of a dream becoming a goal. While it’s still just an ephemeral dream, a daydream, I really don’t have to do anything about it, really. However, if it’s a goal, I’m honor-bound to track, review and work on it.

In other words, a dream should be a goal, not a daydream.

Choose one small thing that will take you closer to your dreams… and do it to the best of your ability.
Darren Rowse

Near the end of his keynote, he insisted we all share one of our dreams with a seat neighbor… preferably someone we didn’t already know. The concert hall became electric, as literally thousands of dreams found a voice, some for the very first time. There was some much released energy that he actually had a bit of a hard time regaining control of the hall.

[Side note: The one I shared has to do with a collaborative children’s book project I want to do. But, to my chagrin, I haven’t done much more with it yet, as some other dreams discovered later in the conference have temporarily trumped it.]

Dreams need to be shared to live, so he then challenged us to share our dream several more times during the summit.


Darren also spoke about how dreams come to be. Their inception comes from what he calls a spark. It’s that bright, little illumination one gets when the idea, the dream, first springs into existence. Importantly, it is small.

Many of us probably spend so much time looking for the next big thing, that we may be missing the sparks.

The reality is your next big thing might be the small thing in front of you.
Darren Rowse

He gave a couple of suggestions for finding and holding the sparks:

  • Ask yourself, “What is giving you energy?’
  • Ask yourself, “What is giving others energy around you?’
  • Become hyper-aware of problems (yours and others’).
  • Become obsessed with being useful (i.e., solving problems).
  • Create space to observe.

So, it’s much more than just doing what you are passionate about. If you only do what you are passionate about, you will never discover new passions. Explore.

Final Thoughts

Really, there were so many things all tied up in Darren’s keynote address. I wish I could convey it all in a simple blog post, but I can’t. So, if you skipped the video and just read down to here, that’s fine (I certainly appreciate you reading my ramblings), but I think you’re missing out.

Find a little time to (re-)watch the video.

Find a little time to be more mindful.

Find a little time to dream.

Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo courtesy of Dave DeHetre under CC-BY-2.0. Cropped. No model endorsement implied. Also, a special thank you to Clare Bowditch and her song Amazing Life. It’s been added to my playlist.

Aug 12, 2013 06:15

Great post, Trev. I’ve always loved the Langston Hughes poem, including the second half. You might like a play that I wrote, where a character alludes to that poem in the middle of an existential struggle (look up “Stacked” on Amazon).

I’ll try to watch the Rowse talk in the next day or two.

Trev Harmon
Aug 12, 2013 11:43

Thanks, Daniel. I think I may actually have a copy of that play.

I’ll have to move it up on my reading list.