How many of you remember your first school crush? I remember mine. I waited for the tiniest glimpse of him in the hall on our way to lunch, and at the end of the day, I hurried out front just in case he didn't ride the bus and I might have a chance to see him on the steps talking with his friends. I wasn't even supposed to leave out that door to get to my house, but the hope of seeing him - it was worth it. I scribbled his name on the inside of the back cover of my notebooks (never on the outside where someone might see). I spent hours on those name-designs, each more elaborate than the next. And then it happened, right there on the steps where I'd waited every day for weeks: he actually said hello. In that moment, I froze. Somehow, it hadn't occurred to me that he might actually notice me at some point, much less speak.
I've been thinking a lot about those name designs, because I've realized that we do the same thing as adults. We spend so much time arranging our dreams, talking about them, writing about them, reading books to get prepared, and taking classes to get ready to act on our dream. Sometimes our activities make us believe we're moving in the right direction when, in reality, we're just moving enough to not be disappointed in ourselves.
What is Your Dream?
What's the dream you roll around in your mind? What holds you back? The fear of discovering we're not capable and of being crushed by failure ... that fear is so powerful. It drives us to inaction or partaking in small, meaningless activities that protect us against the big risk.
Recently, I and my cofounder created a nonprofit fund which helps disadvantaged women launch and build businesses. In just fourteen days, we received over fifty applications - all from women with dreams - some still just an idea and others ready to grow to a new level. We studied each application with our board of directors, all women entrepreneurs themselves, and after a very difficult decision, we narrowed it down to eleven finalists - all chosen because they have viable ideas for businesses and leadership skills. In addition, each applicant is facing disadvantages that make it difficult to achieve success without additional assistance or training.
We met with our finalists last night, preparing them for the upcoming ninety-second pitch each will deliver on stage during our upcoming benefit gala. We had a raw, honest talk about the scary process of making a dream a reality. Some finalists expressed concern about whether they were biting off more than they could chew, while others share their fears over gaps in experience, education or connections. We talked a lot about the paralyzing effect that was the fruit of fear. And in the end, we left with the understanding that each of us, as we pursue our individual dreams and work to bringing our vision to reality - we feel alone in our fear and our journey, but it is a shared experience, one that all of us must go through to get to the other side.
I am so inspired by these women who are facing their biggest fears head-on, and doing so despite sometimes overwhelming circumstances and challenges, because the compelling desire to realize their dream, take control of their future and help better the circumstances of others is finally more powerful than the fear of failing. It is a privilege to share a small part of their journey and witness their support of each other. Succeed or fail, this collective choice to be all-in and move forward is their first decision that changes everything and makes everything possible.
Who Else But You?
If you're holding back on your own dream, consider this:
If you give up now or never get started, who will bring your vision into the world?
It's yours, and if you give up when things get difficult or before you even start, well, then maybe it isn't really a dream or a big vision at all but just a nice idea. If you don't believe it is just a nice idea, then don't let yourself build on platitudes. Platitudes are the sands of purpose and wash away your fortitude when problems arise.
Build on conviction and passion driven by a vision bigger than yourself, because when you do, you'll have the fuel needed to carry you through the difficulties that can and must come.
Face Your Fears
The world is never, ever changed by platitudes. It is also never changed by the person who is willing to settle for less than all-in. And here's what I'm learning on my own journey. When we start with the purpose to give it everything we've got, even if we don't end up where we hoped we might, we find ourselves in a very different, usually better place than the one where we started. A diet of might-have-been is bitter and much harder to swallow than the disappointment of having tried and not met the mark. There is honor in pursuing big ideas, and when they do work? Well, then we really can change the world.
You'll never know if your vision will change the world unless you begin your journey. It's worth it. You're worth it. Go all in. Don't look back. And wherever you land - you'll be a better person for having the courage to take the journey, because self-respect is a direct result of making the hard choices, facing the difficult fears and going far beyond any comfort zone - no matter the outcome.