The Legend of “WHEN I GROW UP”.
As a young kid, I was a voracious consumer of information, especially anything related to sports and mythology. I fell in love with the stories of athletes, who at the time were like gods to me, and with fantasy tales, including mythology. So, when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my immediate reaction was to be the future shortstop of the New York Yankees.
I calculated how long Derek Jeter would probably play for and assumed I would be ready just in time to replace my superhero. Of course, I realized this was a very ambitious goal, one that had a minuscule chance of happening, and one that was virtually unrealistic. Perhaps this is why I also loved mythology, another wildly unrealistic idea. I kept this dream alive until I was in middle school, and I sadly realized it wasn’t meant to be. I worked hard to become a better baseball player by practicing almost every day outside my house. Looking back, I regret not chasing my dream of becoming the future shortstop of the New York Yankees harder than I did. This regret has stayed with me to this day, but it has also helped me avoid a similar mistake.
Encountering challenges that are unique to my individual dreams are so much more enjoyable and desirable than having to deal with the bullshit of someone else’s dream.
After completing my undergraduate degree, I knew I wanted to become an entrepreneur and bring value to this world. As my first step toward these goals, I decided to work as an IT strategy consultant for Fortune 500 companies and the government. Though the role wasn’t a perfect match with my entrepreneurial personality, it opened doors to many more opportunities, and it gave me the freedom to earn a living while living within proximity to friends and family. After some time, I became comfortable living this lifestyle, which is essentially a by-product of someone else’s dream. My childhood dreams quickly became silenced, drowned out by the cash and promises of one day being a partner at a prestigious firm.
After a while, I remembered the regret I felt for ditching a chance to become a professional baseball player, and I knew I needed a stethoscope desperately to listen to the quiet signs of life from my other dream, to live a life full of adventure. Thankfully, my friends and mentors reminded me to follow this dream before it becomes replaced by a less fun, more practical one.
Living adventurously to me is not being like the Dos Equis guy, “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” instead it is forging my own magical world, in which I am the architect, conductor, and actor simultaneously. Encountering challenges that are unique to my individual dreams are so much more enjoyable and desirable than having to deal with the bullshit of someone else’s dream.
So, by choosing to live in pursuit of our dreams, we will see the “stars” that have been left for us to see, which otherwise would be lost if not for a determined observer to find them.
While my story is still in the infantile stages, I can offer additional messages from more accomplished figures to better illustrate this idea:
In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, a young prince encounters a crashed pilot and tells the pilot of his adventures living on another planet. Throughout the book, he scolds the behaviors of adults for removing the playful imagination of life and replacing it with meaningless numbers and whims. The prince leads his life as an imaginative soul, looking for the beauty of his life and the things in it. A particular message he told the pilot stood out to me,
“All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people. For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others, they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems… But all these stars are silent. You-You alone will have stars as no one else has them.”
My interpretation is that while we all have dreams, they are uniquely envisioned by us and for us. So, by choosing to live in pursuit of our dreams, we will see the “stars” that have been left for us to see, which otherwise would be lost if not for a determined observer to find them.
Going on an adventure to find the meaning of his dream is the story of a young shepherd in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Confused about his dreams, the shepherd meets a fortuneteller, who tells him to visit the Pyramids, where his treasure awaits. After this revelation, he grows increasingly frightened and confused because wandering to the Pyramids means that he will leave behind his family, land, and flock of sheep. Before committing to a decision, he meets an old, wise man who encourages him to follow his dreams, as he will learn valuable lessons along the way and find his true destiny. So, while on his journey, the young shepherd has a conversation with his heart during a troubling moment, and his heart told him,
“We, people’s hearts, seldom say much about those treasures, because people no longer want to go in search of them. We speak of them only to children. Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them — the path to their destinies, and to happiness. Most people see the world as a threatening place, and, because they do, the world turns out, indeed, to be a threatening place.”
This passage is a reminder that while the heart can communicate the existence and direction of its ultimate reward, we still have to make the decision to search for it. By passing up the search for our “treasures”, we expose ourselves to a life filled with regret and unhappiness. I hope we all may stay clear of this path.
Two extraordinary individuals, Steve Jobs and Randy Pausch, each of whom passed away because of cancer, mentioned the importance of following one’s heart to reach their dream. In Jobs’ Stanford Commencement speech, he stated,
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
In Pausch’s famous, final lecture entitled “Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, he emphasized, “It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.” Each message reiterates a key narrative when chasing a dream; the journey along the way. While deciding to chase and achieve your dream is surely step number one, the value of the decision comes further down the road through finding your unique destiny.
For those who are afraid to go on the adventure to find their personal treasure, I’m hopeful that my story and art can make the transition a bit more welcoming!