We are all born with an equal capacity for dreaming, which ensures that when we are children we all grow up wanting to be something we will probably never become. With time our interactions with our parents, our environment and our own confrontations with reality redefine, or rather fine-tune our dreams. Our imagination loses flexibility, as we become what our world wants us to become.
While this process forces some individuals to adapt their dreams to follow the conventions imposed by society, others find themselves deprived entirely of the ability to dream. Slowly life circumstances begin to define people's identities in their own eyes and in the eyes of those around them, creating a new definition for them of what is possible. As a result some people continue dreaming, only they dream in a different direction, while others stop entirely. In the process they lose freedom and choice over their own lives.
I was privileged, white, and performed well in school so my early artistic pursuits were adapted to more sensible options that would allow me to have influence while gaining a comfortable life. In any case I was told that if I worked hard enough anything would be within my reach. In the process some dreams became appropriate for me while others not. My education at Harvard merely reinforced that notion of possible options. As a college student, my first confrontations with the realities of a homeless shelter led me to challenge all that. I realized that all of it, all of what I wanted to make of myself, had less to do with who I was on the inside and what I was born with, than the interpretation that I and the world around me gave to the socially acceptable choices I had made my entire life.
On the other hand I realized there were people who through the same process were judged entirely differently. While we felt we had the right to reach for everything and other individuals, because of their past, had the right to ask for nothing more than their present situation. In the same way, yet for different reasons, people no longer looked at them in terms of who they were or what they had to offer; they literally became what had happened to them in life and embodied no more than where they had ended up. The truth is that we as a society have grown blind to human potential. In doing so, however, we ignore that all humans need purpose and evolution and by telling some to go ahead and others to stop dreaming we deprive individuals of the ultimate freedom in life, which is choice over your future. Today I continue to challenge a world that confuses talent with possibilities through a program that helps women whose ambitions had apparently been curtailed by life circumstances realize their dreams.
Today I ask myself how we can democratize entrepreneurship in order to make women leaders of their vision. I think the first thing we have to learn, transmit and more importantly believe is that it is never too late to recreate yourself around your dreams. Becoming an entrepreneur by definition requires you to see something that did not exist there before. You will have to do something you never did. But regardless of what that vision is, you can only start where you are today (wherever that is!). Yet today we give people skills without ever preparing them for that mental awareness of possibility, or even worse without believing it is possible ourselves. Before we create programs we need to change culture, we need to teach people that a realm of possibilities exists beyond their present situation and regardless of their situation. Then we should provide them with the tools they need to seize opportunities to get where they wish to go. But perhaps even before that we have to grant others, and first and foremost ourselves, the right to believe that we can be something other than our past.