I love seeing my friends achieve their dreams. Dana Tanamachi’s ability to make words scream on a chalk board. Eric Ryan Anderson’s knack for capturing emotion on film. Eric Marshall’s penchant for understanding our generation and putting it to music. Or Natalie Matutschovsky’s vision for incredible and bold portraiture.

It’s stirred many a conversation between my wife and I. Why is it that some extremely talented people explode into the spotlight, while others fight for their next job? The answer is clearly deeper than raw talent.

Through the course of these conversations three main ingredients have stood out to me. While they may seem obvious, it’s surprising how many people I meet that aren’t doing one of them.I’ve come to believe that all three are key, and hopefully I can convince you of the same.

Planning and doing without dreaming

Dreaming gives you the “why” to your “what” and “how.” We all encounter ups and downs, miss deadlines, and experience setbacks. Dreaming is the vision that keeps it all alive, and breathes life into otherwise dead plans.

Share these dreams with your friends, so that when you feel low, they are able to pick you up. Steve Jobs recognized the inherent nature of setbacks, and knew how to overcome them.

There needs to be somewho who is sort of the keeper and reiterator of the vision, because there’s just a ton of work to do. And a lot of times when you have to walk a thousand miles and you take the first step it looks like a long way. And it really helps if there’s someone there saying “Well we’re one step closer, the goal definitely exists, it’s not just a mirage out there”. The vision needs to be reiterated…I do that a lot. – Steve Jobs

Dreaming and doing without planning

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Historically this has been my wife’s Achilles heel (no finger-pointing, mine is below!). The excitement and enchantment of a new idea strikes, and you begin working towards a goal with superhuman resolve. However, these bursts of energy inevitably lead to burnout and lopsidedness.

Your plan is what keeps you sane.It’s your pace-setter.It gives you direction when you don’t feel inspired. It communicates how far you’ve come, and what to do next.

In his awesome book Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky gives a simple formula:

Impact = Creativity x Organization

You’ll be surprised at what a peace a good plan can give you. It’s a wonderful elixir for the “dizziness of freedom”.


Dreaming and planning without doing

The response to this statement is usually a resounding “duh”. That said, it’s an easier cavern to fall into than you may think.

Typically, a moment of inspiration will strike. I’ll work myself into an “idea-tizzy” and than grab a piece of paper and start making a plan. Fifty or a hundred steps in I get overwhelmed and move on to the next shiny object.

As long as you’re addicted to the thrill of novelty, you won’t see your project through difficult times. Expertise takes work. Great things require great effort. Things only look natural after you’ve taken the time to make them natural.

In this vein, there are two bits of inspiration I always return to: Ira Glass on Storytelling (watch it!), and a great quote by Macklemore:

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint…the greats were great cause they paint a lot. – Macklemore

Finally, write things down

This makes all the difference. Have a plan, write it down, and review it. Brian Tracy says it better than I can:

Think on paper. When you write down a goal, you crystallize it and give it tangible form. You create something that you can touch and see…a goal or objective that is not in writing is merely a wish or a fantasy. It has no energy behind it. Unwritten goals lead to confusion, vagueness, misdirection, and numerous mistakes. – Brian Tracy

Please tweet at @brandonjcarl when you’ve made it all happen :)