Monday, February 22, 2010

"Follow Your Dreams"? Really? Are You Sure?

Kevin CarrollOf course we've been watching the Olympics this week--watching and enjoying the competition. It brings to mind, however, something I've been thinking about for some time, something that was touched on at the Blissdom conference which now rises to the surface as a post.

Kevin Carroll was the opening keynote speaker and held his audience captive with the story of his nomadic childhood, kept from education and stability by a mother who was constantly on the run. Despite these disadvantages, he eventually rose through the military, professional sports and a life overseas to be a spokesman for Nike and is now an inspirational speaker who travels the world talking about importance of play and loving what you do.

As you listen to him you can't help but feel his enthusiasm. He's someone who is genuine and warm, full of life and eager to share his enthusiasm with others. But . . . and there's always a but isn't there? I have been thinking about how consistently we're fed this message, how beautifully and perfectly it's packaged and presented but yet how hollow it can be.

Mr. Carroll is what you'd call a success story and I'm thrilled for him but no matter how many times I hear the words "Find what you love then do it" or "Follow your dreams" I have to remember that it's a sound bite just like any other slogan from an inspirational speaker. This is going to sound harsh and cruel but at what point did we as a society decide that life was all about loving every minute? About feeling joy and contentment about your job? Where did we decide that the greatest goal we should have is to have a career that fulfills our every need?

The truth is--and again, pardon my bleakness here--life is not about fun. Sure it can be lots of fun, don't get me wrong, and I enjoy my life but the majority of it is work, hard work. Work that makes you sweat and grunt and I don't recall seeing any kind of a contract that said that we'll achieve success if only we'll find our passion then follow it.

Let's Be Realistic
As Mr. Carroll happily spoke about the necessity to find what you love and then do it I couldn't help but think of all the people he left behind in the projects. He stood before us as a success story but surely there were others who had dreams just as great as his and didn't get the same breaks? I just can't believe he was the only worthy survivor.

While I would love to have everyone in a job that makes them jump out of bed each morning in eager anticipation the fact of the matter is that most of us will never have that kind of an experience. We will work because we need to to survive, we will work because we have people who depend on us, we work because we need to have something to do. Most people will never have jobs that bring them fame or fortune or thrills but then is that really so wrong? Should I apologize for pulling back the curtain and talking about such a depressing issue when it's true?

Having a job you love is a great thing but, quite frankly, it's not the norm. Look at the multitudes of humanity and tell me that all those farmers, serfs, monks, factory works, salesmen, store clerks, laborers or middle management executives had the luxury of following their dreams or doing exactly what they loved. We do ourselves a huge disservice to expect that the only job worth having is one that is fun. If what we do is honest and sustains us is it any less important or valuable than a job that brings fame and fortune?

Merit v. Luck
You may think I'm cynical but what has got me thinking is the misconception that if only you want something badly enough you can get it. Every evening newscasters interview the winning team which says, "We just wanted it more and so we did it."

What?? I doubt that if you went to the other team's locker room and asked them if they'd "wanted it" too they'd say, "Well, not really. We only kind of wanted it and that was why we lost."

The Olympics are full of stories about children who once drew pictures of themselves winning medals and are now standing on the podium with their medals around their necks. Surely the pictures prove that they had bigger dreams than the rest of us, right? Not that they had parents who were willing to do pretty much anything to allow their children to play a particular sports full time from the age of five and that there were hundreds of other parents who did the same thing but aren't hanging out in Vancouver this week. They must have wanted it more. Definitely.

We're a society that has become accustomed to thinking that whatever we want we deserve--whether it's houses, vacations, prestige or a career. The truth is, having a job is a privilege and if you happen to be so lucky as to enjoy what you do then you're twice blessed. It's doubtful that you wanted it more or followed your dream when the next guy didn't, it's most likely that you were in the right place at the right time, having worked hard to prepare yourself to take advantage of the opportunity when it came. You deserve some credit for being wise and prepared and for working at it--maybe even sacrificing more than another guy--but you also have to tip your hat to luck.

Unrealistic Expectations
Why is this important to understand? Well, first it's important because if we go around thinking we need to follow our dreams all the time we end up unhappy and dissatisfied with our lives. I've seen mothers deal with this issue in raising their children. Going into motherhood thinking that it's there to fulfill your dreams and that you'll spend your time staring in rapture at your sleeping child's cherubic face just sends you running for Valium the first time the baby won't stop crying from colic and the toddler gets sick in the night and leaves you cleaning the hall carpet. You wonder what's wrong and why you're not infinitely happy when it would take the patience of Job not to break down in tears.

Life actually is wonderful and amazing, but you don't have to have any amazing dreams to discover this. Just realizing that life is work--and that the work can be satisfying as well as trying--can be the difference between being content and happy and chaffing at your lot in life.

The book Good to Great examines why some companies succeed and others fail and it talks about prisoners of war. Those who were realistic in their expectations for getting home--that it might never happen--were more likely to get through the experience. Those who were unrealistically optimistic about their chances for rescue only ended up succumbing to disappointment while those who recognized that they may never be rescued but they had to do whatever it took to get through anyway became stronger from the experience and survived.

The moral of the story? Optimism and hope can be good things and I encourage cultivating them but when they're channeled into unrealistic expectations they cross the line into vain ambitions and can betray you.

Selfishness
The other problem with focusing too much on following your dreams is the cost. If your life is focused on making it big you're likely to notice causalities along the way as you sacrifice responsibilities on the altar of self-indulgence.

I sit here with the Olympics droning in the background while one of China's coaches speaks of his devotion to his work. He loves it, it's been his life for more than two decades. So much so that he's been gone from his family for twenty years, missed the birth and growth of his son and has given everything to his job. And this is good? Perhaps one might be persuaded that it's acceptable given his success but still . . . success at all costs? I wonder how his wife feels about the last twenty years. Thank goodness for television or his son might not even know what his father looks like.

We admire those who have been successful and prominent in their fields and while the dedication and work that it takes to be at the top is admirable I don't know that I've ever seen anyone in a hugely successful position that isn't unbalanced. To have the kind of focus that breeds success usually requires the elimination of all other distractions be it marriage, family, spirituality, physical fitness, education, whatever doesn't fit in with the focus of study. It's as if they've spent so much time exercising only one muscle in their body into perfection that all the others have grown weak and atrophied.

So Prioritize
Going after something with all your heart, following your dreams, whatever you want to call it isn't wrong per se--all it means is that you darn well better be sure of what your real dream is before you go after it. Is your dream to be the best in your profession? To have a job that gets you your fifteen minutes of fame? Travel the world experiencing everything it has to offer? Or are the relationships you build more important than your empires?

We find ourselves in the age of mid-life crises because we don't feel fulfilled. Because everyone around us is telling us that by forty-five we really should have achieved quite a bit of greatness and prestige, that our dreams should have been gratified. Sometimes we even look around at our relationships and wonder why they aren't as thrilling as the movies have been telling us they should be and we become dissatisfied with those as well. The only way to avoid this trap is by gauging your success on what really matters: are you a good person? Are you a good son/daughter/wife/husband/sibling? Have you made a difference for good in the world around you? Have you worked hard? Or have you spent life trying to find ways play and have fun?

So thank you Mr. Carroll for a delightful and fun half hour. I thought your speech was entertaining and fun and I admired your excitement and achievements but please don't think I'm awful if I simply say, "Yes, of course it all sounds wonderful to 'follow your dreams,' but . . . ."

Instead I'm going to close with a fabulous quote from journalist Jenkin Lloyd Jones that, while not as emotionally charged or pleasant to contemplate, is a much wiser way to live your life:

Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed. The fact is that most putts don't drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just ordinary people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. . . .

Life is like an old-time rail journey--delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.
Follow your dreams if you must, just make sure those dreams are on the right track.

Sponsored by Annette Lyon, whose new novel Band of Sisters is now in print.

55 comments:

Pilgrim Days said...

I was watching a medal ceremony and thought, "wow! what a lot of time and effort for a 'moment.' I hope it end up being worth it for them."

Anonymous said...

You have expressed so well and so clearly something that I have been thinking about for a couple of years. I 2003 I was laid off from my company of 20 years, and was given outplacement counseling. Well they drond on and on about this test to find our aptitudes and that checklist to find what we loved, and finally I got fed up. OUT LOUD, which probably made them uncomfortable, I asked if they thought my father toiled because he was doing something he loved? No, he worked to feed his family, for the most part. As main breadwinner, do I have the right to upset everything to 'follow my dream'? And what if I can't figure out what my dream is - what does that make me then?

I struggle with this a lot (tears in the shower this morning, in fact, before work) - wondering if I am making ANY kind of difference... then remembering the difference I am making in the lives of my family. Remembering the millions of 'ordinary' people who make the world go on every single day, and that it's ok to be one of them.

THANK YOU for being brave to speak these words aloud. I may have to print your blog off and send it to some people.

The Dunns said...

Absolutely! This has been on my mind for a while, especially as it relates to marriage. I think so many marriages fail because people go into them thinking and expecting that their union will make them happy. And happiness DOES come. But then, when the hard, unhappy times come, they loose their vision and it's so hard to continue something without a vision or purpose. Marriage is hard, parenting is hard, friendships are hard, work is hard. But that is not necessarily bad.

Have you read the book "Sacred Marriage" by Gary Thomas? It addresses this theme. The subtitle is, "What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?" It is EXCELLENT. I have a new perspective on my marriage and what it means to my life. Wonderful!

Thanks for addressing this tough topic.

Chilihead said...

Michelle, this is an excellent article. My friend and I discuss this very topic all the time because it comes up so often in our daily lives. Life takes effort and balance--you can't always be happy (just as you can't always be angry). And it's not your right to have things handed to you--you have to earn them. And I'd lay money that when you earn those things they'll be more precious to you than if you were just handed them. As you say, though, at what cost? There must always be balance.

Great article.

Raejean said...

This is a great post. My children and I have been discussing similar issues watching the Olympics, is all that time away from family and friends worth a gold medal?

You hit on three areas in which I strive for harmony - the definition of success, balance and loving what you do.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings!

jacjewelry said...

This post is one of my favorites. Thank you, Michelle! In my opinion, success is often a result of luck - being at the right place at the right time.

Flea said...

Well put. Scripture is littered with this theme.

I asked the question on FaceCrack the other day: Instead of asking Why me?, why aren't we asking Why not me?

Speaking for myself, I know I don't "deserve" any more than I get.

Heather said...

While I didn't hear the opening keynote, I did hear about it from others in the lobby afterwards. Many shared these same thoughts and I truly hope that someone won't stop doing what they are doing simply because they don't love it.

Great post. Awesome quote

Heather said...

it is interesting that people always equate success with winning a medal or making a million or some other huge achievement. Success in my life is getting everybody through the day reasonably happy and unscathed. it's enough for me.

Kathy G said...

Life is about balance. We're not SUPPOSED to be happy or fulfilled all the time. I recently read this quote by Sue Atchley Ebaugh, The process of living, for each of us, is pretty similar. For every gain there is a setback. For every success, a failure. For every moment of joy, a time of sadness. For every hope realized, one is dashed. I think that pretty much sums it up.

Heather said...

Thank you for getting the last quote right - so many people attribute it to someone else, which, while I love that person, is not who said it! I love it that you quoted the right person.

Shannon said...

Well said! I have discussed similar sentiments with my husband and children. Having worked with children in the criminal justice field before becoming a SAHM, I would say that unrealistic expectations steal a perfectly wonderful life from many kids who aren't taught better. Some kids look down on everyday occupations- even thought they are more attainable and likely to provide long-term security. They all want to be actresses, sports stars or singers.

[Stacia] said...

It's interesting to me that not all people, but many, seem to be on one side or the other. They either think they're entitled to living their dreams or they give up everything for their 'dreams.' But I wonder how many of them accomplish whatever it may be and then realize it just wasn't worth all the sacrifice.
Nate and I have been discussing dreams and goals and jobs a lot recently. But the key factor in the conversation is always one thing-hard work. You may not actually care, but I thought it pertinent to your post, that the conclusion we have reached is this: We would never want to discredit the blessings and opportunities we have been given, but we have also worked very hard to get where we are and where we are going. There is no substitute for hard work.

P.S. We're reading Good to Great also-good read! If you haven't read it, you ought to check out 'The Mormon Way of Doing Business.' It talks a lot about the balance of work and other aspects in life.

thediaperdiaries said...

Really like this post. It gave me a ton to think about. I can't get over how many parents and children I know who are devoting insane amounts of time to a hobby, sport, etc at very young ages in order to be "great." I often remark to my husband that I hope my kids are average because I don't want their childhood to be spent pursuing just one thing. Oddly enough those around me living "average" lives seem to be the most content and satisfied. Not that we shouldn't strive for the best, but I just don't think life is about that.

And you are right that this mentality will KILL those of us who "just a mom". I wouldn't trade my family for the world, but my day to day life is extremely mundane. I would have given up long ago were I looking to acheive parental greatness. And those are often times the parents pushing their kids and living through their acheivements.

Thanks for the food for thought. Love the last quote!!

Antique Mommy said...

Well now, THAT was inspirational. Well said sister.

Kayris said...

Some of us have dreams that aim quite a bit lower than getting an Olympic medal. My dream was always to get married to a great guy and have a family. And I've done that. It's not perfect or easy, but am I happy? Absolutely. Nowhere does it say "Follow your dreams at the expense of others."

For years, I watched my husband come home from a job that was eating him up inside. Yes, he was providing for our family, but at what expense? He was promoted to a different position, one he enjoys, and his stress level, our marriage, and our family life have all improved. And I only work PT, but I love my job. Love it. Left a job I hated for this one, taking a huge paycut in the process, but I look forward to going to work and enjoy myself when I'm there and come home happy. So I think it's sad that so many people stay in jobs that they hate just because it pays the bills. There has to be a way to balance finding something that you enjoy without neglecting your responsibilities.

If no one followed their dreams, if everyone were content to be "normal", what would happen to excellence? Would people ever accomplish extraordinary things?

Watching the Olympics, I've been impressed and moved to tears by many of the athletes. The Chinese figure skating pair, for example. Lindsey Vonn's emotional reaction to her gold medal had me grinning from ear to ear because it's what she has worked for all these years. And from the interviews with the athletes, most of them seem very well adjusted. However, I don't know that I would encourage either of my children to pursue an Olympic dream, because of the stresses they put on their bodies. Horrible injuries, hours of workouts, I don't know....

Tracy M said...

A fantastic essay, Michelle. And I love the quote you closed with. I'm printing it out for my 'fridge. Thanks.

jen@balancing Beauty and Bedlam said...

These are some excellent points. As much as I instill positive work ethic and "dreaming big," we also tell my children, "Life isn't always fair...now what are you doing to do to make a change." Coaches who tell the kids on their team about Michael Jordon and share that anyone can do it if you just work hard enough, isn't setting children up for success because, "no, not anyone can make it to the NBA, NFL etc." Kids live in an age of entitlement and the hard work ethic is virtually gone....
lots to chew on in your post, Michelle.

Stacey @ Tree, Root, and Twig said...

Very interesting post, and I appreciate it as an alternate view to the many "cumbaya" tweets I read from this same message at Blissdom. (and I don't mean that to be insulting, it's just that SO MANY of the tweets I read were like one harmonious thought repeated over and over...I kept wondering if there were ANY who felt more critical of the talk). I had someone once tell me that "following your dreams" is a very Western idea, that many other societies don't question what needs to be done based on personal fulfillment. It's definitely something to ponder, reflect on, and put into personal perspective

Amy said...

I love it when I'm thinking about something and that topic pops up in my reader the same week. (It happens a lot.)

I saw Lindsay Vonn win her race and say, in tears (of joy): "I've given up everything for this." I stopped folding laundry and looked up, wondering what she gave up exactly? I hoped it wasn't having children.

I think there are life stages where we have this luxury to follow a dream - when we are too young to realize we need to DO IT NOW, when it isn't so selfish because we don't have a husband or kids or a mortgage. It comes around again in later life, with kids grown and careers retired, when we are too old to do some of the things that were on the list, or our health has given out, limiting the options. But there is still a chance to do some one thing you always wanted to do.

The years in between are hard. (I'm in them!)

I will say this - we spend far too much time at work to be miserable there. While we can't just pick the jobs we want, the ones that make us leap from bed each day, we can work to find something that is acceptable, if not fulfilling. I wouldn't want anyone to accept a truly unhappy situation as if they have no power to change it. (I know people like this.)

I think this is about that dreaded, overused, cliched word: balance.

This was a great post!

(You may like reading Brother Lawrence's very small book called The Practice of the Presence of God. He is addressing the issue that some people are lucky enough to have a job that involves daily spiritual habits while others have to squeeze them in and work around their mundane tasks. He was a monk who worked in the kitchens doing things like peeling potatoes. This volume contains his writing about how you can be in God's presence all the time, regardless of your "day job."

It seems to me this touches on the same issue - having to do one thing when you'd rather be doing another. Whether it is that you want to be in touch with God or you wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic REALLY BAD - what CAN you do is the question. It's available free here: http://www.practicegodspresence.com/brotherlawrence/index.html

Sorry for writing a novel.

Becca said...

Wow, such a wonderful take on our expectations from life. It made me think of my parents and grandparents and how hard they've had to work to support their families. I am blessed with a wonderful at home business and my husband is self-employed.

I think the thing that changes your attitude whether or not you've reached the zenith is how content you are with exactly where you are. Can we be happy doing what we're doing whether or not our circumstances never change?

Contentment lets you enjoy your life, your friends and your family whether you are abased or you abound. Hmmm, sounds like I'm quoting a very wise person, doesn't it? :)

Jenny86753oh9 said...

Well written article! I think balance is definitely the key. I agree that not everyone is going to hit "that" plateau even though they are the one's that get the most attention. And if that kind of attention is what your rubber ball is about, then...good luck with that. I think we have to be realistic about what makes us happy. I strive to find joy because it's too easy to find pain. But I also believe your joy shouldn't cause your loved ones pain. Balance, baby...there needs to be balance.

Teresa Hirst said...

One of your best commentaries. I am right there with you in this realization that those who succeed at what appears to be society's definition of success received that at a cost. I just finished reading The Cost of Winning: Coming in First Across the Wrong Finish Line by Dean Hughes in which he addresses this very topic. If we continue to think of life as a race in which we only focus on how we can capture our dreams, we spend our life competing against others rather than learning to cooperate with them, becoming self-absorbed in the process. Great life lessons.

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

When my husband has had a bad day (or week or month) at work, I try to empathize and say "I'm sorry." But he always says, "That's why they call it work. It's not supposed to be fun." I think that's really true. Work is just that--work. Fun is something special and out of the ordinary. If life were fun all the time we probably wouldn't appreciate it when it is.

Lora Lynn @ Vitafamiliae said...

I had similar thoughts during that keynote. He was dynamic and interesting, no doubt. But I found it hard to believe that a life lived motivated entirely by "following a dream" wouldn't get hollow and empty if said dream was achieved.

Noticed the piece they did on Apolo Ohno talked about how all the fame and fortune after the last Olympics wasn't enough for him, so he went back to skating. Now he's achieved more than any other winter Olympian and I wonder what he will do. Working out ten hours a day is pointless without another race to win. He's achieved all he can. Now what?

Andrew said...

Michelle: I'm following my dream - to grow old and happy with you. I love you. You are a brilliant and talented writer.

Your Husband -
Andrew

Carrien said...

I wrote something in this same vein last month. here

The truth is I didn't understand how to really have joy until I realized that the things I thought I needed to be happy were not only unrealistic but down right foolish at times. Looking around at what I do have and being thankful for that made all the difference.

Domestic Chicky said...

I don't disagree with what you said - too much of the "you can do it if you REALLY want it" pablum can wear thin when the opportunities don't magically appear.
But(c'mon, you knew it was coming), I did come away with a different message from Kevin's keynote. Having come from similar (although not nearly as dreadful) absentee/neglectful parents, I saw it as more of a "despite my upbringing, I refuse to let this determine what my life will be" story...it's all too easy to blame others for our unfortunate circumstances (see the front page of any tabloid), but it does take a certain belief in "anything is possible" to decide that you will do well when it's all too easy to blame others.

Boston Mamas said...

Such a thoughtful and balanced post. And having come from a family where my parents gave up a lot of dreams to work like crazy to support a family of seven, it's clear that life paths just aren't simple. Thanks for sharing. -Christine

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I heard a funny quote recently that sums it up: "If work were so great, the rich people would have it all and we wouldn't have any." HA!

I agree with so much that you've said here. The expectation that with hard work, luck, and some skill, we can all achieve all of our dreams is a fallacy. Some of us will, and some of us will not. Even with hard work, luck, and some skill. To say that you won because you wanted it more is akin to standing in front of the building that was decimated by an earthquake, crushing 50 people to death. "I was spared because God was watching out for me." Um, what about the 50 people that are dead? What are their families saying right now?

I think that there is a lot more contentment and downright joy to be found in this world if we can come to terms with the fact that our jobs might not be fun. If all jobs were fun, who would go get coal out of the earth? Not a fun looking job, to me. I feel like a fairly fulfilled person, but my job is something I do to make money and pay the bills. It's often not even interesting. Do I wish I had a more interesting job? Sometimes. But mostly I am thankful that the job I have gives me the flexibility to work from home and be here with my family.

I also agree that people who reach extreme levels of success in life do so at the expense of a more well-rounded life. Every choice we make in life has consequences, we just have to make the choices that are best for us.

Scribbit said...

such great comments!

And Domestic Chicky, Kayris and others who bring up valid points, thanks for adding to things.

I suppose I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately, some things that aren't necessarily appropriate to include in the post but that have made me stop and think. I'm terribly ambitious by nature and it's been a bit of a struggle to find that balance I'm talking about and not feel as if you've failed at what everyone is telling you is important.

Plus I'm hitting 40 this year--can you tell? :) Obviously the "mid life crisis" comment was directed at myself!

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

PREEEEEEEEEEEEACH!!!!

Michelle this post and my "I don't want my children to be happy" post are soul sisters.

Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

You know what else this mentality contributes to? The 50% divorce rate. "But I'm not happy anymore..." Who said your spouse existed to make you happy?!?

Inkling said...

Thanks for this deep post. I especially appreciated your summary in the paragraph about Good to Great. The other day, when I heard that the surgeon I need to see won't see me for seven months here in Canada, something inside me snapped and I found myself insisting that we just go to the States to find healing even if it means great financial and relational hardship. And if we don't, I convinced myself that I'd just fall apart and die from the disappointment and ridiculous waiting. I knew this was a dangerous position to be in, but didn't know how to think about it in any other way. The paragraph you wrote about that book helped me adjust my perspective a bit. Thank you for that. I may not get "rescued" in this unfair health journey, but I can decide to keep on putting one foot in front of the other until something happens. And in the meantime, I can try to treasure the little moments in life that aren't so hard. Hope this makes sense. Thank you again.

Kayris said...

Missy said: "But I'm not happy anymore..." Who said your spouse existed to make you happy?!?"

I agree. We talked about this at my kids school too. About not telling our kids, "it makes me unhappy when you..." It's not our children's job to make us happy and it's unfair to put that burden on their shoulders. The only person who can make you happy is YOU. So I would say that people who are ambitious need to look closely at their goals and figure out what they expect to gain from it and how.

Chrissy Johnson said...

I think it's possibly quite easy for those of us (the fairly comfortable financially, white, and American) to preach complacency. We have quite a lot to be content about already. I'm going to pump my fist in the air in agreement with Kayris - if those of us humans who have been given a gift or a message to share with the world don't go for it and share it, then what a sad, vanilla existence we have. If my husband would have decided to stay a tree trimmer and not go to film school some of his brilliant personal art (not really for fame - but for personal fulfillment and to share) might not have been realized. If I would have stayed behind a desk my soul wouldn't be currently soaring as I work on children's literature and stay home with my son Xander until he starts Kindergarten. Yes, we do have casualties - does that mean we stay in a negative environment? Do we stay just because our parents stayed? And some of us don't want children, some of us don't need that in our lives. In the dark night of the soul true joy is usually found - it's definitely a balance. I appreciate your articulate and thoughtful post - gave me lots to ponder.

Such The Spot said...

So well put.

I'm going to have my 15 y/o sit down in front of my laptop and read this from start to finish. In fact, I think it would make great reading material for the entire freshman class at her high school. They fill those kids up with so much fluff that they all walk around with their heads in the clouds, knowing with 100% certainty that each of them will end up rich and famous and doing exactly what they want to do. It makes me worry what might happen to some of them when that dream job doesn't appear right out of college. What exactly will *that* realization lead to?

Dreams are good. Solid, attainable goals though? Much better.

Mommy Cracked said...

Bravo!! I've been coming to the realization recently that much of what you've written here is absolutely true. I really enjoyed your take on his speech. I've been reading other Blissdom posts about him and yours is raw and honest and just damn good.

Jen Rouse said...

AMEN.

I have nothing more to add. You said it all.

Anonymous said...

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said... "Fun is something special and out of the ordinary."

Seriously?!?!
I feel sorry for all of you. This thread is sooooo defeatist it's depressing.

Hannah said...

I think what many of the so called success experts and speakers like you heard are really trying to put out there is that we all have choices. We are not limited by our circumstances. It is the same line of thinking that ended feudalism and fueled the idea of democracy and freedom. The trouble is, in order to sell themselves as speakers these days, they have to mix in fame and money to tell the story of choice. It sells. So I think it becomes confusing. Even when we listen to find a way to change our circumstance for the better it is easy to get swept away into thinking that fame and fortune are our dreams. So many people live in horrible circumstances and have no idea that they have a choice. Sure it isn't as simple as saying you want it, it takes daily dedication, vision, mentors and so much more. I believe the vision of others lifts us all. Then the trick is to be content with our own vision, our own dreams. I don't know how the Olympians lives will be changed by their medals, but I know that their stories of struggle and triumph lift me up and help me to do what I do. Even the stories of defeat help me put it all in perspective. I think they do a service to the world that they will never conprehend. They remind us that we choose everyday what to strive for.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance said...

I think it's worth finding something you love and investing your time in it - even if that's 30 seconds a day. We can't all become Olympians but everyone can acknowledge and honor their individual talents and loves in this life, whether in their career or in another way. If all we do is work and struggle then at some point the very bleak question is "why?"

Scribbit said...

I appreciate your comments but I think some people may not be understanding what I'm saying.

I'm not saying that fun is bad, not saying that you shouldn't have joy in life or do things that you like. I am saying that his lecture on "finding your passion" and "following your dreams" was pretty empty. That's all he said, there wasn't anything more to it. I think it's a dangerous thing to be constantly preaching at people and I'm tired of my children hearing that if they want it bad enough they too can be an NBA star. or the next AMerican Idol.

Do I want them to not play basketball because it's fun? Heavens no. Do I want them focusing on basketball because they think they can make a career of it? Heavens no. No on both counts.

So don't misunderstand me, I'm grateful that there are people who go out and discover new things or create masterpieces. I'm just saying that 99.9999% of us will never do that so don't focus all your energy on things that are impractical. You'll miss what's important. Should you never try? No, but you better be realistic when you do because odds are against you.

Sharon said...

Great post ... and yes, it's about the "ride" ...

www.ashortguidetoahappymarriage.com

Aimee said...

You are SO right! Thank you!

Domestic Goddess said...

Thank you so much for your brilliant writing/thinking - that very thing I have been thinking of and it's been troubling me for so long - you have 'nailed it'. Thanks for sharing it with us all. It has edified me and blessed me!

Staci said...

Wow...definitely something to think about! As a teacher, and especially in the affluent area that I teach in, I definitely see the sense of entitlement my kids have. Like they deserve everything they get.

This is what kills me. They do a good deed like picking up a piece of trash or helping a kid pick up his dropped books and if I acknowledge it with a thank you they immediately want to know what they "get".

Are you kidding me?

You want something for doing what's expected of us humans?

I digress...

How sweet was your husband's comment! I teared up a little :)

Thanks for giving me something to think about!

Amelia said...

wow -what a powerful indictment for not following your dreams!

Does being 'successful' mean being famous and having lots of cash? Or can it also mean wishing to downsize and live in tune with the land and nature? And obtaining this, is it not successful?

Is making it 'big' what dreams are about? What if the dream is about being at home with your kids and finding work that fits in with this? This dream would then be taking you toward your family not away.

I only say this, because I have been depressed in the past because of things in my life, and life really is there to be lived with as much up time as there is down time. My observations tell me that many people 'accept' things they can change, because they think they can't change it, and this depresses. Dreams, like desire, are part of human nature, what you desire is surely the measure of who you are as a person.

I have also worked in a nursing home and witnessed people at the end of their lives having 'suffered' by not living a life that fulfilled them, but one that made them feel ill and now they are incapacitated, yet I live next door to people of the same age who have a much brighter outlook in life and have to some degree done what they loved doing/their dreams. We are all products of our thoughts and therefore our desires and therefore our dreams - surely?

If you work in something that makes you feel depressed and suffering then one would benefit by either starting to dream or by changing their thoughts about it. That's what I had to do.

My difficulties in motherhood are tough but the dreams and doing what I love, make life a whole lot easier and it is possible, but no dream will ever come true if it isn't realistic and you don't believe it is possible to come true!!!

What a thought provoking post. Thank you very much.

Amelia.x

Carrie said...

I love when you write a post like this that really makes me think - yeah, that's true. Following your dreams is only a great idea if your dreams line up with God's will for your life!

Joy said...

Thanks for the enlightening post. I just came across your blog while doing some research and will be sure to bookmark it. While I'm more in the "do what you love" crowd, I see valid points to your argument.

angela michelle said...

I agree with much of what you've said. It kind of burns when an athlete says that their victory proves that dreams come true. Because of course the loser had dreams too. The former president of the Mormon church (who died a couple years ago) used to use that railroad quote frequently.

Nicole said...

So well put. Fame and fortune and "living your dream" is so over-rated. I'd much rather have happy, well adjusted, hard working, others-centered children than rich, famous and unfulfilled ones. Not that that's the message I got from Kevin Carroll, but I can totally see your point. A life filled with hard work and normalcy is a whole lot better than a life of short lived fame and the all-or-nothing pursuit of a dream...in my book!

planetnomad said...

I totally agree with you! I also feel I'm constantly fighting the message in EVERY KID'S MOVIE these days that if you "look inside yourself" and "follow your heart" you'll know what to do.

Organizing Mommy said...

ONly GOD has a perfect life and loves every minute. The rest of us need to find contentment in the toil. Good sound words today.

VanderbiltWife said...

So true... I think life is to make us holy so we can understand a little of the afterlife. And becoming holy is certainly not always pleasant!

Marriages requiring mutual toleration--I think that's the best way I've ever heard that phrased!