Bullshit We Tell Ourselves to Excuse Our Dreams

Upon finally reading Malcolm Gladwell’s David & Goliath with a great friend of mine and while reviewing the book together, I revealed to my friend a personal realization that despite all my personal and professional success, I was –to be frank– full of shit. If you know me you’re probably gasping right now wondering why someone so accomplished would say such a thing about herself. My friend did the same thing (gasp that is). It took a while to calm the situation down and explain that my statement was not intended to be self-effacing. This realization of my own BS was far bigger than one of Impostor Syndrome, or waning self-esteem. It was a wake up call to the inner yet to be fulfilled desire for purpose.

As confident and self assured I appeared, it was all because I was measuring myself against other’s measuring sticks. Trust me, it’s impossible to fulfill your purpose when you’re measuring yourself against another person’s image of success. Your success is not my success, and mine is not yours. To further that statement I also came to realize that it’s impossible for me to fulfill my purpose when I’m measuring anything at all. I’ll spend more time measuring than I will being present, being inspired and executing the awesome within. Measurement is not to be ignored altogether, it has its value for sure, but if it’s getting in the way of forming and realizing a vision then it’s bullshit, it’s a trap and it must be set aside for more important work.

In exploring the ideas for what constitutes awesome, I had to set aside much of the programming I’ve learned in various frameworks for entrepreneurship, personal growth and business and reemerge with an ideal so new that it was inherently risky, utterly terrifying and presumed broken by anyone other than myself. That ideal was simple; passion, gut intuition and faith. In arriving at this ideal, in arriving at the edge of my millennial rainbow, which would ultimately lead to my pot of gold, leprechaun, unicorn and genie in a bottle, I had to overcome all the bullshit I previously told myself which sounded something like this…

1. I’m too…

Fat, skinny, tall, short…

When we spy a twinkle of a shooting star, an idea, a hope, something which we decide is awesome which we must do we can all expect a litany of “I’m too” to come crashing down upon us from within. I’m too fat, skinny, sick, fill in the blanks, they will never stop coming. “I’m too” claims that there are some other priorities that must come before you can catch your shooting star.

“I’m too” claims that there are some other priorities that must come before you can catch your shooting star.

Achieving these somehow remarkable and definitive milestones will mark your success and worthiness for the true prize of being your true brilliant self. What we need to realize is that nothing is more important than being who we are, and that spark, that hope, that idea and that purpose within you is within your grasp no matter how fat, sick, or skinny you are. I recently read a story about a young woman who was studying architecture when suddenly her freakin’ arms and hands stopped working and she could no longer complete her course work. What did she do? She started doing her work with her nose. HER NOSE. Seriously, any day is a good day to stop prioritizing other bullshit in front of your dreams.

2. I’m not…

This is another face of the demon “I’m too”.

While “I’m too’s” goal is to get you to focus on another goal and re-prioritize your dream, “I’m not’s” goal is to get you to give up on your dream all together. “I’m not” makes you feel so unworthy that you lose faith in your ability to achieve your dream. It sounds like I’m not good enough, I’m not prepared, I’m not certified, I’m not ready or some other blue moon ideal that may never happen. It sucks the spirit right out of you and leaves you feeling dejected and settling for abusive spouses, low paying wages and unfulfilling employment.

“I’m not” makes you feel so unworthy that you lose faith in your ability to achieve your dream.

Remember Harriet Tubman? Yes, that Harriet, the conductor on the underground railroad. Ever wonder what would have happened to America if Harriet had told herself “I’m not free”? This phenomenal woman is known for her quote “I freed a thousand slaves, I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” Many of the folks she lead were previously afraid to go with her, they feared what was on the other side of “freedom”. Those who never took the trek thought things like I’m not “going to make it”, or I’m not “fast enough to get away”. But we all know she never lost a passenger on her railroad and she never let an “I’m not” get in her way.

3. Something came up…

As soon as I was on the right path…

This happens when you’ve gotten past deprioritizing your dreams, and you believe you are worthy and that your dream is attainable and just as you are on your way… somebody gets gravely ill, or somebody dies, or your department reorgs, or your kid hits puberty and starts acting like they think they are grown, or your significant other breaks your heart and there goes your dream… Lying in wait, gasping for breath as you abandon it just as it was about to get good. Shit happens.

There goes your dream… Lying in wait, gasping for breath as you abandon it just as it was about to get good. Shit happens.

Believe me, I know. But I also know that shit ALWAYS happens and it always will. Few people have someone in their lives who will treasure your dreams more than you do yourself. Remember, you were not put on earth to realize the purpose of others, that is their job. You are here to deliver your unique mission in life. It’s okay if you are derailed temporarily, but if your life is so chaotic that being on track is the exception to the rule of being side tracked by “something came up”, you need to get some “get right”. Get right is when you can distinguish the urgent from the important. Your dream is important. It’s up to you to guard your time against unimportant matters that are urgent.

4. I don’t have support…

Support is poison. Reliance on support is a death wish.

It is a fatal mistake to rely upon support

This sounds brutal but life is hard and chasing dreams is harder. Achieving your dream is a combination of miraculous heavenly intervention and dogged preparation and dedication. Support, especially the form that reveals itself as a cheer-leading squad is a distant third. Remember David in the story of David & Goliath. Nobody believed he could do it. Not even his own family. If David had relied on his family to spur his confidence he would have been sorely disappointed. This is how we must be. It’s not to say that we will never experience support, because we will, and when we get it– it will help, and at times make the difference. However it is a fatal mistake to rely upon support. You must center yourself, find your chi, and have faith that you can do this against all odds.

5. I can’t do this alone…

I learned a valuable lesson from my sister…

When she moved out on her own, when she went to college and paid for it all on her own, when she graduated, when she found work without any inside referrals, when she authored her first book, when she quit her job and went back to school to pursue a masters degree. She did all this in a kind of jarring solitude, almost in isolation and I didn’t understand why she never asked for help. Seven years later I discovered that it is the amateur who despises isolation and that her focus was on the pieces which she could do alone. Her demonstration of the characteristics of the professional who pursues her work in quiet, being the greatest critic of self, besting herself until she decides it’s time to share her work with others.

The professional doesn’t need an audience or validation.

With this approach it is she who decides when she is done. And in truth, the professional doesn’t need an audience or validation because the completion of work, the completion of their piece is the prize. This is not to downplay collaboration, rather this part, that which is done alone focuses on the initial journey to the MVP, the minimum viable product. The MVP is the definition and execution of smallest releasable product which you can do, even if attempted alone. Ultimately, this is the work which will inspire and attract others who will present opportunities for future collaboration.

6. I can’t measure this…

How many times has someone asked you how you measure success?

Let’s be clear, if you are truly attempting your dream then measurement is not for you.

If you can measure it, it’s probably not your dream, it’s someone else’s.

If you are working toward your dream you won’t pay attention to success markers. You won’t pause to celebrate, your very work is a celebration. Every day you don’t give up on your dream is a celebration. Measurement is for others. Measures and metrics are wonderful indicators of progress and success for spectators, not for those who are driving the vision. They help align and hold others accountable to the vision, but they are not for you. Measurement justifies you are on the course you expect. When you are starting out, when you are just beginning to chisel the dream from the mold you won’t fully know what the dream is, let alone where it will go or how to measure it to verify it is going there. You are going to fly by the seat of your pants for a while, and if it feels good you’ll know, and if it feels scary you’ll know even more. If you can measure it, it’s probably not your dream, it’s someone else’s.

7. People don’t like or people won’t accept…

Approval is easy, it’s just rarely satisfying.

Dreams are not easy to accept, just as difficult as it was for you to accept your dream, it will be 100 times harder for others to accept it.

…people need to suspend their disbelief a bit to see where you are going.

The reason is because the best dreams are often before their time. You must never forget that people thought Steve Jobs was crazy. There is a key reason why first followers is such a key concept in entrepreneurship. Few successful entrepreneurs set out with an idea they know people will love because if you know people will love it there are probably a hundred other people attempting the same thing, meaning your market is saturated and dude, you’re not really innovating. If your dream is just outside the realm of believable and people need to suspend their disbelief a bit to see where you are going then most people are not going to like what you are doing. That is until the time has come and people start to get it, which usually takes a long time, if it ever happens at all. And if it never happens at all, that doesn’t mean your dream hasn’t come true, it just means your dream may yet be only for you.

Greg McKeown quoted some smart person in his book Essentialism when he said “it is hard if you work easy at it, it is easy if you work hard at it.” I re-read that quote ten times before saying it aloud to myself in response to the need to commit that phrase to memory. The lessons shared above require constant re-commitment. I consider them the seven sins of the meek, and while our David in the Bible was a humble sheep herder, he was also courageous, and smart- he knew his strengths. He knew his gift and he could also spot his opponents strengths and weakness. Because he spent a lot of time alone, in solitude honing his gift by fending off wolves and protecting his sheep in the darkness he was prepared. When his moment arose, David stood up to live the brave dream, not for fame, but because that’s what he was born to do. Let nothing stand before you accepting your gift and realizing your dream, least of all your own mind.

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Originally published at huggingyuri.com on December 29, 2014.