Pursuing your dream is terrifying. It is also hard. Fucking hard. Sorry to be crude, but this article is a kick up the backside, a reality slap oops upside ya head, a rude awakening to shake you out of inaction.
Life isn’t meant to be easy, it’s meant to be meaningful.
Stop moaning about difficulty if the difficulty stands between you and your dreams. Trying to work towards a vision of what you believe life could be is the toughest fight you’re ever going to fight. This needs to be understood, else the enormity of the struggle will stop you in your tracks and resistance will rob you of your dreams.
It’s a lonely road too, no one will care if you don’t make it. No one will care if you give up. It’s a one-person fight, it’s only ever you versus you.
If you decide to follow your passion, your calling, your dream, it's going to be hard. It’s hard in the way you’ll feel alone, stupid, and a fraud. It’s hard in the way you have to make yourself vulnerable over and over and be open to repeated rejection.
Worse, people will attack and mock your ambition, actively wanting you to fail, because if you’re successful, things will change and they’ll have to change, their excuses will crumble.
It is the hardest fight you’ll ever have to fight, and it won’t stop, because every level brings with it new challenges.
The Comfort of Thinking Small
Some good news. If you are in the trenches, if you decide to fight this fight, congratulations, you’ve already done a huge amount of mental lifting.
Most won’t even admit they have a dream, because then they’ll have to admit they’re not where they want to be.
It’s easier to claim their dream is what they’re doing already, perhaps just with a bigger house or a mortgage paid off, because it’s a soothing narrative to believe the hard work is already done.
I’ve heard this so many times. I worked with a 25-year-old girl who told me her lifelong dream was to be an HR manager, a job she coincidentally already had. My former boss told me his big dream was to be Head of Department in the local office we worked in.
Thinking small is thinking safe.
People deny or ignore dreams because it’s comforting lie rather than an inconvenient call to action.
For the plucky individuals who do acknowledge their dreams, another hurdle awaits: Specifying the details of that dream.
It’s easy to say “I want more”, it’s much harder to define what “more” means.
The moment we define a dream is a moment we also define the parameters of failure.
It is only after overcoming this second hurdle that we can descend into the trenches and begin the fight for who we want to become.
The Folly of Ignoring the Call to Adventure
In a fit of defiance in 2014, I quit my corporate job with nowhere to go. I vowed never to return to office life. I knew I could be more and new horizons awaited.
Within a month I was back behind a desk.
People who didn’t care about my dreams (everyone) and mounting financial pressures spooked me enough to return to default programming.
Fear got the better of me. I only had myself to blame. I refused the call.
Six years later, the universe handed me a second chance when my job evaporated under the heat of the new coronavirus sun. I turned down the call to adventure once, but this time I took it and embraced a new life as a freelance creative.
Do not underestimate my risk. I have a wife and four children to support.
All I have as justification for my madness is the visceral and enduring dream of escaping the corporate doldrums for a creative life of connection.
It's been hard. Very hard.
So Why Risk Failure?
Failure means you showed up. Failure means you tried. Failure means you learned. Wisdom is failure over and over.
In his book Before & Laughter, comedian Jimmy Carr said;
"Resilience looks like repeated failure, right up to when you succeed. Then it looks pre-ordained." – Jimmy Carr
Why risk failure? Because it's the only way to succeed. Carr noted that he's written far more jokes that weren't funny than were. He makes the point he's failed at comedy way more times than you or I.
So embrace the fear of failure as it's also where growth and progress live.
The truth is fear is a sign of life. If you don’t have some level of fear, you’re not living, you're hiding.
That is why we must follow the call to adventure because it is the only way we can find peace.
If I went back to the corporate world, people would say “I heard you got a new job, congratulations!” No one would care I abandoned my dreams, that I let fear dictate my life. Only I would. This is why you must stay true to your calling, your passion, whatever it is you need – not just want – to do.
There Is No Escaping Yourself
Les Brown once said:
“It’s not only possible to have your dream, it’s necessary.” – Les Brown
It’s necessary for our mental health. We must have a direction. Drifting aimlessly will only nurture depression and anxiety. You're not bored of your current life, you just don't have an escape plan you're working towards.
Take solace everyone has to answer the call to adventure if they want peace and happiness.
Those who pretend they don’t have a dream will eventually have to confront the fact that they do.
Rich Mulholland put it best in his TED talk when he said:
“Regret is a real problem we’re all going to have to atone for because every time you say ‘No, I won’t, you’re right’ and you don’t do something, you’re writing out a cheque to regret, and that cheque you’ll one day have to pay.” – Rich Mulholland
We’re all walking down a road where we’re going to have to meet ourselves sooner or later. So, the biggest risk, the real risk, is doing nothing.
The call to adventure isn’t there to trick you, it’s there to guide you to who you know you can be. It’s there to remind you who you are before the world told you who you should be.
Start to move towards the call. It won’t stop calling you, it’s not like there’s another game in town. Your passion is waiting.
Move, and don’t fixate on the result, concentrate only on the process. Your calling isn’t always about what you are doing, but it has everything to do with who you are becoming.
There’s nothing harder in this world than pursuing your dreams, but confronting fear and meeting your potential head-on is the only emancipation from neurosis.
The call to adventure is your key to freedom. It’s time to stop being your own jailer and follow it.