Have you ever had a dream, only to be killed by a dream killer? Maybe it was someone that you looked up to, only to find out that they thought your dream was silly or stupid.
When a dream is in it’s infancy, they are very fragile. Sara Blakely of the product Spanx, made sure not to share her idea for a solid year. She knew that she had a great idea, but she also knew that well-meaning friends and family would shoot her idea down in the interest of “protecting” her from failure. Sara is now a billionaire thanks to her product Spanx. (Hey that rhymed! Thanks to Spanx, she laughs, going to her banks!) Eventually dreams need to be shared with others, especially if you need to bring others into your project for it to succeed, but take time to let your dream congeal and solidify before opening it up to others.
It was 1971. I was 15 years old. I had an uncle that I looked up to. He worked on Capital Hill and felt that he was in the know. I shared with him my dream of becoming an aerospace engineer and going to work with NASA. Hearing my dream, he told me, “The moon mission is over. NASA will be on the way out. This is a bad decision. Go with something else.” Right then and there, I gave up on my dream. I had been interested in rocketry and the space program for as long as I could remember. I would even stay home from school just to watch the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. With one sentence, I gave up on my dreams. He was wrong. NASA continued to develop programs. Do you remember the Space Shuttle? It went on way past 1971.
Ever heard of FedEx?
In 1965, Yale University undergraduate Frederick W. Smith wrote a term paper on changing the logistics of expedited freight. He suggested creating a company that could deliver time sensitive items overnight. His term paper received a C from his professor. Smith’s professor was a dream killer. Fortunately for us that have benefited from FedEx over the years, Smith didn’t swallow the cynical pill that his professor handed him. He purchased controlling interest in a company called Arkansas Aviation Sales. He renamed it Federal Express and the rest is history
Are YOU a dream killer?
If life has handed you multiple disappointments over the years, it is easy to project this onto others. Maybe your job focuses on risk mitigation. We all want to minimize our risks, yet not at the expense of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Make sure when listening to someone’s idea or dream that you let them tell you all about it without giving them instant feedback on what they should not do. If you see them running head long into an important legal nightmare, simply tell them, “This sounds like a great idea, (even if you don’t think so) just be sure to look into X while you are developing your project.” What you do not want to tell them is, “I’ve heard about projects like this before. Let me tell you the problems that they ran into.” Your desire to “protect” them may just kill their FedEx idea as they continue to work in a job that they hate, watching their dream realized by someone else that had a thicker skin.
Keep your dream close to your chest
As Sara Blakely did, don’t share your dream with others until it is well seated within your being. Internally, work on your dream behind the scenes. You need to do the work that will give you the momentum to fight through the dream killers when you do go “public” with your dream. Even though friends and family want to “protect” you from failure or worse, a wrong word spoken in haste can kill the most promising dream.
It is better to have dreamed and failed than to keep the dream only in your mind and to never act on it. As adults, we have been told to face reality and not to dream. Dreaming is for children. Dreaming comes from the right hemisphere of our brain. As children, we spent more time utilizing the right side of our brain than the logical left hemisphere. Many of us have lost the ability or even desire to dream, having had them shut down by others. Dare to dream. Wake up that sleeping part of your brain and watch as dreams turn into reality, but watch for the dream killers. They creep about waiting to find yet another victim to add to the ranks of pragmatists.