The sky's the limit.
Go big or go home.
Aim for the stars.
The world is your oyster. (Still not sure what this one means, but I know what it's going for.)
These and variations on these sentiments were my guiding light.
You see, I used to be a dreamer. And for the better part of a decade, when I wasn't in a euphoric bliss imagining what I could be, I spent the majority of my time back in reality berating myself for not being anything at all. In my mind, I had achieved nothing.
1. There was no shiny Oscar for best screenplay resting on my mantle.
2. I had not appeared on David Letterman, with the world watching him blush in my presence, laughing despite himself at all of my jokes (though I HAD practiced my talking points over and over again -- centered mostly around my Oscar win).
3. Woody Allen had not yet written a script inspired by me and my charming neurosis. (I won't star, but rather make a cameo -- I don't generally feel comfortable in front of the camera... unless David Letterman is present.)
Le sigh. What a failure.
If you dream it, you can achieve it.
To a certain extent, this is true. If you don't have a vision of where you want to go, you will never get there -- well, actually there's nowhere to get to. I am certainly not advocating this route. But the flip side to these bright shiny dreams, is that more often than not, they can be blinding. If you're blinded, you can't have vision of where you want to go. And you've ended up right where you were in the first scenario above. Nowhere.
When I finally took stock of where I was a couple of years ago, compared to where I though I "should" be, something very magical happened. I realized that I had stumbled onto some pretty amazing things, that I had otherwise paid no attention to -- in my search for the stars. For example, I had been given this little, pretty unknown, blog called PickTheBrain to run. Sure, I wasn't holding a casting session to discover the lead heroine staring opposite Brad Pitt, in my latest film. But I was getting emails from around the world on a daily basis from people inquiring about or giving praise to this little self-improvement blog.
It felt wonderful. I was putting in very little effort -- and what effort it was, was very enjoyable. And the results were, well very impressive for that very little bit of effort. I decided to test this out. So I put in a little more effort. Very quickly, the results multiplied -- almost instantly. More traffic, more feedback.
A light-bulb moment.
The second I started focusing on the here and now, what was really achievable, and stopped projecting myself into some vision of what I thought I should be. I actually started to produce. To accomplish. To succeed. Not on my terms, but on a universally held belief of what success is.
The lessons I've learned from this experience have been the most valuable of my life. Here is a checklist for those that aspire to be great, but are blinded by the light of the dreams that hold you captive.
Find out who you really are: Most dreams come to us at an early age -- we see something that influences us, make our own version for ourselves and then we stick with it until death do us part (I'm sure it's a fact that dreams last much longer than the average marriage and probably are responsible for more than a few marriages that end) The trouble with these early on dreams, is that WE CHANGE. Circumstances change. The world changes. Without checking in with yourself, on regular basis, you maybe blinding following something you don't even want anymore. If you're feeling lost (or even if you're not) stop and ask yourself: What makes me happy. Really happy.
Don't make general plans: This is perhaps the easiest way one gets lost. Simply saying to yourself, "I want to be president of the United States" or "I want to be the next Steve Jobs" are generalities that have no game plan attached. These goals are vague and therefore unattainable. In order to really achieve things, you must ask yourself everyday, "what can I do TODAY to become better at XYZ tomorrow -- literally."
Hold Yourself Accountable: To often, the best intended plan are never executed upon. You can have the best way to succeed all mapped out in your head. This is practically useless. Write them down, map them out in a weekly plan and check in with your literal blueprint once a week. Make sure all of those thing you 'could do to today' are in fact done.
Award Incremental Positives: In other words, don't just wait until your Oscar nomination to pat yourself on the back. This is the surest way to feel dejected. Along with creating a weekly plan, work in clear benchmarks for success -- when you hit them, jump up and down, scream real loud. Positive reinforcement on real successes, no matter how small, spurn further successes. Positives attract.
Read: Number one, knowledge is power. If you're serious about something, know it inside and out. Period, the end. Number two, hearing other's success stories will inspire you to action but also reinforce, Rome wasn't built in a day. Success is never about one big move, it is about a thousand little moves of a pawn, a thousand little small victories, until you can take down the queen and king. And if you never take down the queen and king, you won't probably won't even notice, you'll be having such a rewarding time along the way.
Don't wait for something to happen to you: There is nothing more deadly that this. So many times, I've seen people tragically wait around for something to "happen to me." They think simply having a strong dream is entitlement for it to become true.
"I'm a creative person, you don't understand my process" or "I'm wired differently than you, I'm doing things in my own way."
Living in Los Angeles, I hear things like this all the time.
My response? I call bullshit.
If you're not doing, you're doing nothing. You create the world you live in and if you're waiting passively for something to happen to you, you're wasting your time.
You may feel that this is easier said than done. You may think that this route seems full of compromise and that you'll reach the end and feel regret that you didn't win that Oscar. I can only ask you to look at my experience. I wanted so badly to be an Oscar-winning writer, I skulked around depressed and disappointed for years. It was only when I "gave up" this blinding dream and began concentrating on the here and now and what was truly making me happy, that you are reading this today. I am writing for an audience of hundreds of thousands of people a month.
You tell me. Did it work?
Follow Erin Falconer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PickTheBrain