My old high school buddy Dan D. was a talented artist. Before he even graduated, he already had his first commission: to create a mural in a client’s home. He earned as much from this one project as he did in a month at his part-time, after-school clerical job.
Dan was excited! He decided he would become a full-time artist. His plan was to build up a nice income by creating original works of art. And you know what? His future looked rosy.
Now, let’s fast-forward 15 years. What does Dan do now? He delivers and installs flooring. He earns enough to always be just a little behind on the bills … and remain a “renter” rather than a homeowner.
What happened to Dan’s lost dream? He procrastinated so long that he ended up never pursuing it. Still, to this day, you often hear him talking about doing it … some day.
Why did Dan procrastinate? I think it’s because he turned himself into a victim of his own failure to clearly define what he really wanted to do.
In Message #544, Michael Masterson said, “There’s nothing wrong with putting off unimportant tasks, but you will go to your grave with regrets unless you learn to take care of your important goals.”
In other words, if you are going to have a real shot at achieving your dream, you must cast it in concrete.
In order to achieve a dream, you must be able to concisely state it – in one sentence. If you don’t have a focused and measurable target, you’re likely to flounder. So if, for example, you want to be a VIP corporate executive, your goal can’t be “I want to be a bigwig in a large corporation.” It needs to be something specific, like “By the time I am 45 years old, I want to be the CEO of a publicly owned company in the consumer-lending industry that has no less than $100 million in annual revenues.”
So, Step One: Take out a piece of paper – right now – and identify and quantify your primary goal in life.
There are a couple of reasons why this is important. For one thing, I believe that what happened to Dan (and countless others) is that because they weren’t specific about their dream, it didn’t seem real.
For most people, their big dream seems more like a fantasy than something that could really happen. And it’s perfectly normal to feel this way. Big dreams aren’t easy to accomplish. When you dare to “dream big,” you’re likely to have doubts concerning your chances for success … and so will the people who love you and care about you.
My own family and friends did their best to patronize me when I first spoke of my dream to get a movie script that I wrote produced. It’s understandable. The odds were stacked against me. Over 100,000 scripts are registered with the Writer’s Guild of America each year. Yet, each year, a couple of thousand films (at most) are made. To make matters worse, I had no formal education in film, no connections, and I lived 3,000 miles away from where 99% of the film business exists. But I beat those odds … and you can too.
It all begins with identifying and quantifying your goal.
There’s another critical reason for being very specific about your dream. Without having a highly specific goal, it’s virtually impossible to identify the exact actions that you’ll need to take to achieve it.
Let’s use me as an example. What if I had simply said that my goal was “to make a living as a writer”? Well … that would’ve been much too vague for me to be able to make any plans to realistically achieve that goal. What should I do? Should I write a book? A play? A movie? Clearly – without giving myself more direction – I wouldn’t be sure. And so, I’d probably procrastinate.
Okay. So let’s say that I was a little more precise – that I made it my goal “to sell screenplays and make over $100,000 a year.” Sounds good, right? But while this dream goal is much more focused, it’s not focused nearly enough. Let me explain why …
There are basically two markets for screenplays: television and film. And these markets are entirely different.
In the television world, a writer has a job that requires him to report to the studio each day as part of a staff. The only way to pursue this kind of career is to reside in Los Angeles. Since I live in South Florida, I would have virtually no chance of becoming a television screenwriter … unless I decided to move.
But … to sell a screenplay for a feature film, you can technically live anywhere. You could live on the moon. Nobody cares … as long as the script is great. They buy it from you … and that’s the end of it. I didn’t want to move. And that’s why I made it my dream goal to write a screenplay for a feature film.
As you can see, if I hadn’t given myself a goal that was this specific, I probably wouldn’t have achieved it.
Whatever your dream is, you’re probably struggling with similar details that need to be addressed before you can come up with a plan of action that will work. Unfortunately, my friend Dan never got over this hurdle. He just talked about becoming an artist. Imagine what would have happened had he come up with a specific, measurable goal like “In my first year, I want to be commissioned to paint at least 12 murals and earn no less than $10,000.”
Wow! Today, Dan might be a well-known artist who is earning a huge income in his chosen field.
What more can I say?
I strongly urge you to make the most of your life. Remember that some of the saddest words in the English language are “What might have been.”
“I dream for a living.”– Steven Spielberg