I remembered when I was young; I was captivated by the adventures of Indiana Jones, the wise-cracking and heroic archaeologist character portrayed by the equally charismatic Harrison Ford. To date, I’m not exactly sure how many times I’ve watched the Indiana Jones movies, I probably lost count! I honestly had no clue what a real archaeologist did but everything in the movie made it look like it was the most exciting and adrenaline-pumped job in the world. As a result, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I started saying I wanted to become an archaeologist! After realizing that my interest in archaeology was strictly limited to the Indiana Jones movie franchise, it was safe to say that this ambition died a natural death.
However, I’m not talking about frivolous dreams that we stop chasing for in our lives. I’m referring to real goals or dreams that sparked a fire which made you lose track of time because you were completely engrossed in it. Goals that you actually believed in and thought they were possible when you were younger before you became completely jaded with life. Why exactly did we stop chasing them? I spoke to several people and here is just a sample of what they said.
“I can’t chase my dream, I don’t have the time! I’m too old and I have too many commitments.”
(It’s not entirely a black or white situation. You don’t need to quit your job in order to pursue your dream. You can still set aside time to decide if this is a dream worth pursuing be it on a full or part-time basis. There is still a chance that it can happen, it’s just a matter of whether you want it badly enough.)
“I’m too afraid of failure; I don’t want to waste my time.”
(Here is a short transcript from Jim Carrey’s inspiring commencement speech for the Maharishi University of Management.
My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t’ believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.
I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
Basically, there is no guarantee that what you consider as “safe” is foolproof, anything can happen in life.)
“I don’t know how to do it. I feel so overwhelmed that I don’t even know where to start.”
(We live in an era where information is readily accessible which becomes a double-edged sword. Sometimes because there is too much information, we feel paralyzed. The question is, do you know how to eat an elephant? You do it chunk by chunk and not by swallowing it whole. If you are willing to take the first step and stay focused on your roadmap, you will eventually get to your destination.)
“I don’t have enough resources such as money, time or the right connections.”
(Tony Robbins, a motivational speaker once asked his audience, “What caused you to fail in the past? The answers are usually due to lack of time, the right people, money or whatever. What is common here is that we’re saying we don’t have the resources to succeed. Money is a resource, technology is a resource, experience is a resource. However when you look at the most powerful people in history, resources was never a problem. They didn’t have the resources but they got them. How do people get resources when they don’t have them? The answer is they were resourceful. The ultimate resource is resourcefulness. That’s what makes someone so successful. The great news is that every human being has it in them. It’s just a matter of whether you access it or not.” This is also one of the reasons why the same people who go to a learning seminar, only some will succeed and the others will fail. The thing that sets them apart is their resourcefulness.)
“I don’t even know what my dream is.”
(This is perhaps one of the most common answers. If you don’t even know what you want, how are you supposed to get it? The first step is to find out what exactly you want in life. Here are lyrics from the jazz song Happy Talk which are lyrically simple yet insightful… )
You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?
These answers resonated with me because I used to say those same words myself. I would like to share an excerpt from a Tedx talk that had a profound impact on me. It was a talk by stand-up comedian Steve Mazan. At age 35 he was diagnosed with cancer which immediately led him to chase his dream. His dream was to perform comedy on The Late Show with David Letterman. Dying to do Letterman is now an award-winning documentary which has one simple message, if you’re not dying to do something, you’re already dead.
Steve Mazan was asked “Why do people stop chasing their dreams? Everyone wants to achieve them, so why do they leave them behind?” It was a tough question which he did not have an immediate answer and he didn’t want to give a cliché answer or a simple motivational line so he decided to think about it.
When the answer came to him, he said it was hard to swallow, let alone to spit it out and say aloud. He says, “We’re all taught that life is tough. Life is hard. But it’s not, it’s pretty easy to skate by and go through life.” He adds that most of us wake up with roofs above our heads and a fridge full of food. We don’t have to face starvation or homelessness because we are fortunate enough to have friends and family who will help us out.
He adds, “So in actual fact, life is easy. It’s so easy to skate through life. It’s too easy to grow up, put your passions aside and take a job that you don’t necessarily love doing. There is nothing wrong with that but there is nothing inspiring about it. The awful truth is that life is easy. But living, truly living and chasing a dream is hard. So what is it that puts the fire in your heart? So what is it that you are dying to do?”
He goes on to mention that you must constantly remind yourself that you are dying every day and if you’re not chasing your dreams, you’re already dead inside. Steve Mazan’s dream was to appear on the Letterman show and it took him 5 years before he achieved it. However, in those 5 years, he had an amazing time because he woke up everyday with a purpose to chase after his dream.
So don’t stop trying to chase your dream or achieve your life purpose because you’re too afraid to fully live. I would like to end with a speech excerpt from Randy Pausch who is known for his talk titled, “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” on September 18, 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch had learnt that he had pancreatic cancer and could not be cured. These were his messages that he wanted to share from what he had learnt.
I think the only advice I can give you on how to live your life well is first off remember, it’s a cliché but I love clichés, it is not the things we do in live that we regret on our deathbed. It is the things we do not. I assure you I’ve done a lot of really stupid things and none of them bother me. All of the mistakes and all of the dopey things and all of the times I was embarrassed, they don’t matter. What matters is that I can look back and say pretty much anytime I got a chance to do something cool I tried to grab for it. That’s where my solace comes from.
The second thing that I would add to that and I didn’t coordinate on the subject of this word, but I think it’s the right word that comes up, is passion. You will need to find your passion. Many of you have already done it. Many of you will later. Many of you may take until your 30’s or 40’s but don’t give up on finding it because then all you’re doing is waiting on the Reaper. Find your passion and follow it. If there is anything I have learned in my life is that you will not find that passion in things and you will not find that passion in money because the more things and the more money you have the more you will just look around and use that as the metric and there will always be someone with more.
Your passion must come from the things that fill you from the inside. Honors and awards are nice things but only to the extent that they regard the real respect from your peers. To be thought well of by other people that you think even more highly of is a tremendous honor that I’ve been granted.
Find your passion, and in my experience, no matter what you do at work or what you do in official settings that passion will be grounded in people. It will be grounded in the relationships you have with people and what they think of you when your time comes. If you can gain the respect of those around you and the passion and the true love, and I’ve said this before, I waited until 39 to get married because I had to wait that long to find someone whose happiness was more important than mine. If nothing else I hope that all of you can find that kind of passion and that kind of love in your life. Thank you.
In essence, each day that we wake up is a gift to live another day. Nobody can predict when our time on earth will be up. As such, we need to ensure that we do not live a life that is filled with fear and regret, but one that is filled with hope and faith that we dared to chase our dreams.