“Dream big!”  We’ve all heard that age-old adage that encourages us to follow our dreams.  But have you ever stopped and thought of what life would be like if every single person who had a dream was able to achieve it?

It’s not possible.  As whimsical at it sounds, the world cannot support the overwhelming amount of aspiring rappers, actors, or entrepreneurs who are patiently waiting for their big break. Because if everyone who desperately desired those dreams actually did make it to the top, there’d be no one left to see the movies, buy the albums, or patronize the businesses.

There just isn’t room at the top for everyone, yet everyone pushes through that slim bottleneck, hoping they are one of the fortunate few who make it out on the other side.  While it sounds ideal to encourage everyone to fulfill his or her dreams, it’s necessary for the majority of folks to fall short.  Ironically, the success of your dreams is dependent on the failures of everyone else’s.

But what if you’re one of the many who doesn’t make it?  Many of us choose not to even entertain that possibility.  Instead we adopt that old philosophy “failure is not an option” and shove all our precious hens into that proverbial basket.  But considering the greatness that will come with succeeding, is that really a safe bet?  People have lost their life savings, family, friends, and their general well-being all because they put everything they had into the project they knew would make it.

But what if something gets in the way?  Injury, death, or other incidents of misfortune?  And it’s not just the unexpected that could be an impediment.  What about age?  Some dreams are time sensitive, like being a model or professional athlete, and turning 35 is more than just an obstacle.  Or what if there’s a child or a family or something else that demands a more reliable income than the dream chase can provide?  Eventually, something will come along that requires more realistic aspirations.  So do you risk the chance of flailing in the midst of your mistakes?  Or do you explore other options in case Plan A doesn’t pan out?

You’ve heard the stories of the Tyler Perrys, who went from being homeless to multimillionaires because they risked it all on the dream .  But for every Tyler Perry there are thousands of other people who are still sleeping in their cars, dreamers whose stories you will never hear.

Some dreams are akin to winning the lottery.  The odds of becoming the next Beyoncé may be just as abysmal as scoring all of the six numbers on a nine-figure MegaMillions jackpot.  But while those chances are super slim, you don’t have one at all if you don’t bother buying a ticket.

So even though the odds are against you, you still have to work hard to give yourself a reasonable chance at success.  Because what if you make it?  Then you’ll have everything you ever wanted. And even if you don’t succeed, you get the advantage of living without regret.  That sure beats the hell out of meandering through the rest of your life, wondering what it would have been like if only you had tried.

But can there be a gray area between being enamored at success and devastated at failure?  Is there a place along that continuum where you can find happiness, even if you don’t get all the way to the top?  Can you accomplish your dream as a hobby outside of your day job?  Can you coach or mentor students who have a similar dream?  Can you find fulfillment in the experience of just trying, even if things don’t work out as planned?

But do you ever give up?  And if so, when do you give up?  For me, being dead would be an opportune time to call it quits.  And even then I’ll probably still be somewhere in the abyss, trying to finagle a way to make it happen, because I’m prepared in the event my wildest dreams never come true.  After all, they’re called dreams for a reason.

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  • NewLook

    I understand what she is saying, but all I could think of while reading this article is when my dad always asked me “Why are foreign kids so determined and American kids are so content with doing nothing.” Usually when you go to prestigious schools most of top students are international students. Maybe because we are all “happy” where we are now. Sorry that’s what I got.

  • TickTock

    There’s a few things wrong with this article.

    1.) It assumes that the definition of achieving a dream, in say, singing, would be to become Beyonce, No. Beyonce’s dream was not to be a singer. Beyonce’s dream was to be a global superstar. There is a difference. I know tons of people who dreamed of working in the music industry. They are not Beyonce, but their dream was easily fulfilled by helping put on Broadway musicals, releasing independent albums, working at Pixar as composers, etc. (respectively).

    2.) If we are to assume everyone aspires to be the Michael Jackson (or Beyonce) in their field, there is an obvious reason that isn’t the case, and your article highlights it. People give up. You are right, there is not room at the top for everyone. But don’t worry, everyone won’t make it there. Only the most dedicated, the most driven, and dare-I-say-it, money hungry people will. You don’t become Michael Jackson overnight, nor do you become a CEO overnight, or a Formula One Driver (versus a teenage drag racer). The people on that level did not simply dream a dream. They put every fiber of their being into that dream. It was not luck.

    3.) That a person is chasing the right dream. There are many people who want to become rappers, because it’s trendy. It seems like easy, fun money. They don’t realize that that is either not their god-given talent, or if it is, it takes a lot more than talent to get to the top.

    Half of it is just showing up, and people like you (and I do mean this respectfully, I just have a lot of feelings on this) don’t even do that. Show up, and show out as the old folks say. People who even entertain the possibility of giving up can’t even do the first part, because they already counted themselves out, in their heart.

  • Seriously?

    I like the term “never give up on what you love” versus “follows your dreams”
    I find so many of my peers aspiring very much lesiure careers compare to those that require skill and study fields, their inspiration coming from their favorite celebrity(ies) and/ or politicians that tells them to NEVER give up because it CAN happen. Anyone discouraging is a HATER and ANGRY at their own lack luster of a life, right am I right? Yes well, everyone can’t be “famous” or even dare I say…”the best” of the field but the passion doesn’t mean its not their or you should stop because you’re not “numba 1”
    Never give up on what you love, build your community with your talents -mold the younger generations to embrace and hone their crafts. If you do what you love happiness will always follow you rather than waiting for that moment in life where your dreams and ultimate happiness is rest upon if you’re on top.

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