How to Go For Your Dreams (even when you have no clue what you’re doing)

Activist and filmmaker, Dayna Reggero, on how to leap without a net, using art to make change, and how to always follow your heart

photo by climate listening project

When Dayna was eleven years old her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a few months to live. Imagine, being just eleven and confronted with a truth that most of us escape until much later — the truth that life is fleeting, uncertain, and completely out of our control.

This diagnosis changed Dayna’s life.

Not because her mother died, she didn’t. Her mother is alive and healthy today — over twenty years later. But because it taught Dayna about impermanence and the consequences of planning for a day that may never arrive. Dayna said:

My mother’s cancer diagnosis made me want to take action about the things that I care about today and not wait until tomorrow because you never do know what is going to happen.

I recently interviewed Dayna for The Creativity Habit podcast. She’s a filmmaker and an activist. I’d gone to see the screening of her most recent documentary, “The Story We Want,” and was so moved by the work she is doing in the world, I knew I needed to share it with you.

the story we want trailer

As a filmmaker Dayna shares the stories of men and women whose lives have been torn asunder by the devastating effects of environmental degradation. Families and communities whose men, women, and children are suffering from heart attacks, stroke, chronic fatigue and countless other illnesses. People who live in towns where the water is unsafe to drink and the air too toxic to breath.

Dayna goes into places where the pollution is so thick it makes her nauseous and gives her headaches and nosebleeds. She goes into places where she has been physically threatened by the men who work in the factories responsible for the damages done to the communities.

photo by dayna reggero

And yet, she films. Story after story. Because stories are what wake us up and move us to action. As Dayna says:

Share your story because you don’t want someone else to share your story for you or not to share your story at all. We need to share our stories, our history, and the reality of what is happening today so that we can make things better.

Dayna began filming at 27 years-old with absolutely no clue what she was doing. She hadn’t studied film or interned in a filmmaker’s studio. She didn’t understand about good lighting or own any fancy filming equipment. She simply leapt, armed with a go-pro and a mediocre mic.

You can’t wait until you know exactly how to do something, until you feel like you have enough experience, you’re enough of an expert. If you’re compelled to make, you make. Figuring it out along the way is part of the natural process of creativity and art. That and remembering Dayna’s wise words:

I never try to let perfection be the enemy of good and getting the work out there.
photo by climate listening project

Dayna puts the work out there because she knows that “the things that we do in our daily lives, whether we intend it to or not, everything we do has a footprint and an impact.” She puts the work out there because we are living in very challenging times with very urgent needs. But as Dayna’s says:

I’m not doing this for recognition. I’m not doing this for money. I’m doing it so that I can meet as many people as possible and hopefully give a little bit of hope.

And Dayna has received recognition for her work. One of her more recent films, The Woodthrush Connection, was chosen as the official selection of the Belize International Film Festival and The Story We Want has been shown to audiences worldwide from China’s largest news outlet to UK’s most watched commercial network to festivals and gatherings throughout the United States.

Dayna let her heart and soul lead the way — not knowledge and experience. She found courage in the doing and gained expertise in the making. I told Dayna that I see her as a real life Wonder Woman — fighting for justice, motivated by love. I see her as a powerful example of how we can use our art and our creativity to innovate, disrupt, and elevate. And that is why I share her story with you.

You can listen to my conversation with Dayna here.