The Nuances of Following Your Dreams

Originally published 12/24/2016. Lead Image Credit: Pexels. Minor grammatical edits included.

Details You Never Considered for the Cliche Phrase “Follow Your Dreams”

An optimist will say to follow your dreams, a pessimist will say your dreams are unlikely to come true. A logical person will realize that life is not a binary system where dreams are either achieved or not, and will write a blog about why you’re thinking about the old Disney-champoined phrase all wrong.

It doesn’t make sense to ask people if they think they will achieve her dreams, for four different reasons.

Firstly, Yoda was wrong when he said “Do or do not, there is no try.” That might work if you specified your dream in great detail (ex. I want to earn a million dollars), but the kinds of dreams portrayed in Disney movies are a bit more general than that. For example, the dream to become a famous singer. At what point do you say you’ve accomplished that goal? When you pack a stadium? When you made the front page of the papers? When you get featured on Oprah? You can do any one of those things and still not be a household name. And if your specification for fame is “household name,” then you have no way of measuring if you’ve achieved that. And even then, is your goal to be known by everyone or remembered by everyone? How long must your fame last? Do you want to be in the history books, because even then I bet most Americans don’t recall who Thomas Dewey is. In reality, there is a gradient of success, not simply “succeed” or “fail.”

Ok, so that point was a little too heavy on the semantics and technicalities. What you want to know is: can you get what you want. You don’t have to have a clear definition of what you want to be able to get it. This isn’t one of your 3 carefully-worded wishes for a genie. This is one of the more important points: it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. In other words, it doesn’t matter what profession you end up being, but rather what you learn by pursuing your passion. For instance, you may want to be both rich and major in gender studies, but most college students will tell you that there aren’t many jobs in that major. However, if your passion is “I love gender studies,” that doesn’t mean that your job has to be 100% gender studies. You cannot convince me that vast knowledge of gender would not be useful for a lawyer, psychologist, therapist, life coach, talkshow host, writer, or even salesperson. This is what happened with Diana Gabaldon: she majored in biology and became a famous writer, including all sorts of biology-related content in her books, which have now been made into a TV show. There are certain traits that you desire in your dream-job, and there are actual several jobs that will satisfy your passion. As another example, I want to be a famous writer. But I’ll be perfectly fine if that never happens, because the parts of writing that I love are storytelling and brainstorming. There are plenty of jobs that fit that description. Meanwhile, in the process of chasing my dream as a writer, I’ve honed my storytelling and brainstorming abilities, as well as many other useful skills such as tech and grammar.

And now for point #3: you can combine your dream with other things. For instance, I know a man who wanted to be a rock star. Well, obviously that did not happen. There are very few famous musicians, and even fewer remaining rock stars. He chased his dream and found himself unsuccessful, instead finding a living at a tech company. Well, guess what: with his musical know-how combined with his position of technological expertise, he founded a very successful recording studio. he still gets to do what he loves and is expanding his business and brandname. His future, even all these years later, is very bright.

I saved this point for last because it talks about the future: what’s big now may not be big in the future. Fifty years ago, my parents were led to believe that there would be endless jobs in space programs, simply because people were excited about finally going to the moon. The same fifty years ago, there were maybe a few hundred jobs in computer science, and I need not explain to you how useful that is now. Meanwhile, accounting, which has been a stable job ever since the income tax was established, will likely be replaced by computers in the near future. Or maybe I’ll turn out to be wrong. The point is, the future is uncertain. It is very well possible that your passion will become something great. And there you’ll be, right at the head of it.

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