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Entries in dreams (3)



I recently started listening to Quitter, an audio book by Jon Acuff. I'm not far along with it yet, maybe around chapter 2 or 3. But I've already heard some things that have me thinking (always a good sign). I'm kind of impressed by the fact that his path to becoming a writer is pretty close to the path I took. I can learn a lot from the guy, I think.

At the moment I'm reading about "rediscovering your dream." Acuff draws a nice distinction between "finding" your dream and "rediscovering" it. Chances are you probably already knowsomewhere in your brain, among the pop culture references and all that useless "job" stuff you have to remember—exactly what you love to do. Writing, interior design, business accounting (really?), landscaping, public speaking, teaching ... You get the idea. It's probably something you did, at least in small part, when you were a kid. It's likely the kind of thing that was "beaten out of you" by the "real world" and "helpful advisors" and other stuff I have to put in "air quotes" because they're such "stupid reasons" to give up on something you love.

Look, I get it. Sometimes the dream is just that. It's something impractical. Something that won't pay the bills. So you can't justify dropping everything and pursuing it full time. You have to make a living, that's a given.

God really blessed me. My dream happened to click conveniently with a career path. Unfortunately I spent most of my career being too stubborn to realize that was the case. I fought to be everything but the thing I'd dreamt of being. I spent some of that time avoiding writing as a career path because I didn't want to "soil the dream." Big news flash, Kev—dreams packed in a box might be clean, but they also get kind of musty.

Later I spent a lot of time being irritated that, despite the fact that I could make a living as a writer, I wasn't writing what I WANTED to write. I was being "forced into a mold" as a writer. I started writing copy for ad agencies and clients so I could keep food on the table, and I didn't feel like it was a creative venue. It felt crushing at times. I hated it at times. If this was "writing for a living," I didn't want it!

Then I wrote a few things on the side. A book, at first. Then another. And some articles. Some blog posts (oh the blog posts). Here I was able to stretch my legs a bit as a writer by spending some of my time outside of the office doing more of what I was doing inside the office. Different focus, sure. Different results. Different all around. And yet ...

Funny thing, suddenly my outside writing was getting better. I was becoming better at noticing flaws, fixing errors, spotting flubs. I've never been a very good copy editor. Not patient enough. But I have gotten better at it over the years, and largely thanks to the copywriting jobs I've held. Trust me, lose a copywriting job because of your editing skills and you suddenly start to pay more attention to typos and grammar goofs.

So my inside writing was starting to change and improve my outside writing. But wait ... there's more!

I was spending more of my outside time writing the stuff I love. Fiction, mostly, but I discovered I kind of enjoyed writing non-fiction, too. I liked writing blog posts that were useful and helpful. I liked contributing something to the world through my writing, and because I was focused more on that I also started focusing more on doing that work to the best of my ability. What good would it be to write something helpful if it's full of typos and goofs? 

Granted ... I'm STILL plagued by typos and goofs. But I've dedicated myself to learning from each one, and fighting hard to avoid those mistakes in the future. I have gotten better. Much better.

And then I started noticing another something weird. My inside writing was starting to improve. The "fun" outside writing I was doing, that work I was pouring my passion and heart into, was suddenly becoming a means of honing and improving my inside writing. 

My headlines became funnier and more effective. My body copy became more concise and influential. My ability to organize my thoughts became razor-honed. Heck, my ability to turn out copy fast, with ever-increasing deadlines, was a direct result of the fact that I was doing more outside writing, trying to cram as much into the short gaps between work and passing out from exhaustion as I could. Thanks to my outside writing, my inside writing was becoming more polished and professional. And people were starting to notice.

It helps to know that writing is that thing I love to do, and will likely always love doing. It helps to know that my dream is still there, still intact, still serving me.

You probably have a dream, too. It's likely to be something you loved doing as a kid, but put aside by the time you finished college or started your career. Maybe you loved to dance. Maybe you loved painting. Maybe you loved counting seeds in a sunflower. Doesn't matter what you loved, it only matters that you loved it.

And here's where dreams meet reality: You may not be able to make a living from following your dream. That's true. It's very rare that people become highly paid painters or sunflower seed counters. However, that doesn't mean your dream can't fuel you to success.

Excellence breeds excellence. Accomplishment breeds accomplishment. Doing something that energizes you on the outside can give you greater strength and fuel for becoming outstanding at what you do on the inside.




I was reading Following Your Bliss, Right off the Cliff on the New York Times website. Long and the short of it, "Following your dreams is risky and sometimes you fail." 

Duh. But yeah, it's true and it's something to think about during the planning process for your business (or your side business, or your community program, or wherever your dreams fit in the scheme of things). Sometimes the dream isn't enough.

There's some science in this article, about the part of the brain that controls worry and the pain that comes from it. And to overcome that physiological reactionso that we can take action and attempt to make our dreams come true, despite the risk of pain and failurewe feel hope.

I love this line from the article:

As paradoxical as it sounds, [Michael Derring] said, “If you stop worrying about the outcomes, you will achieve a better outcome.”

Stop worrying about the outcomes? Yikes! Most of the time, it seems like "worrying about the outcomes" is all we do! But there's a sweet sort of logic here.

The article is more or less saying, "Don't let your emotions become invested in the business." Don't put your self-worth on the line for a shoe store or an auto shop or a novel. If you fail, you'll believe you are the failure. But that's not how failure works. A person isn't a failure. Only actions can be failures. A person is a decision-making, action-taking, hope-and-faith-having machine. We make decisions, we take action, we have hope and faith that it will work out. And if it doesn't ...

If you approach a business or any other endeavor with the attitude that, should it fail, it isn't the end of the world, you can pick up and recover, you're chances of success actually increase. You're willing to take more risks, for starters, and risk is the price of momentum. You may take actions you wouldn't have taken before, in a more cautious mindset, and those actions lead to results, and those results may end up bringing you increased benefits. Or they may blow up and fade out. It happens.

From a financial standpoint, this is why you want to be smart about the way you invest in a business. Make the decision early on to stay away from debt. Take on investors, but don't take on loans. Investors know that they're taking a risk, and that it may not make a return. Lenders don't care either way if you succeed or fail, they expect repayment with interest and they'll try to destroy you if you don't follow through. Investors empower, lenders enslave. 

Trust me on this one ... I'm enslaved to a lot of lenders at the moment.

From a spiritual standpoint, this is why you want to ensure that your business is built to glorify God. God likes it when we do things that are empowering, that build something that brings good into the world. Staying focused on God's Ultimate Rule—Love your neighbor as you love yourself—means you're doing everything right. You won't have to worry about mistakes coming back to bite you in the ... assets. The business may fail, due to a lack of demand or bad timing or myriad other reasons, but it won't take you with it. 

So what happens after failure? Learning. This is the point where you pray and ask for wisdom. "Show me, Lord, where it went wrong. Show me how I can pick up and start again. Show me how to change my plan and build something that glorifies you." God never denies the request for wisdom. He just requires you to commit some brain power and effort to it.

This article ... I'm on the fence about it. I get a real "don't pursue your dreams because they're risky" vibe from it. But there are points made that are more encouraging. Hope—that's a good message. So read it as a cautionary tale. Have hope, but also have a plan. Have a goal, but don't worry about the outcome. Invest, but don't enslave yourself to the dream. You belong to a greater power than dreams.


he said/she said #6

"I never figured you'd become a writer," she said.


"I figured you'd repair air conditioners."

[pause] "I'm flattered."