Written by Paul Angone My dream for the last seven years has been to encourage, humor, challenge, and inspire twenty-somethings struggling with “what now?”
And every time I chase this dream, a memory haunts me, asking me if it’s worth it.
It was a Sunday and I was behind in my writing. The few weeks prior had been slow going, like dredging through chest-high mud while holding my laptop above me, still trying to pound the keys. Deadlines were fast on my heels waiting to devour me come Monday if I didn’t pick up the pace.
I try my best to write in the early or after hours that no one else wants so that I can spend time with my wife and two girls, but with deadlines laughing in my face like the Joker holding a detonator, I didn’t see any other way around me taking a prime-time slot.
As I gathered books and papers, shoving them in my laptop bag, my two year old just stood and watched me. Then she looked at me and said something that instantly became my Dream-Fire – something that propels me to work harder, while also having the power to devour the whole thing. Just two words out of her mouth changed my dream forever.
Just two words. “Bye Daddy ”coupled with the look she gave me that seemed to ask, “Is what you’re leaving for more important than me.”
Dagger. Straight. In. The. Heart.
As I sat down to write that day, a question plagued me like ants crawling on a chocolate bar, “Is my dream really worth it?”
Was my dream worth that look on my daughters face? Was my dream worth all the hours I’ve spent away?
Was it worth writing at lunch while my friends sit and laugh together, or was it worth all the hours of sleep that have gone unclaimed?
Was my dream worth the measly amount of money we were making on it (that being $0) as I slowly built a website and an audience?
Cost of a Dream
You see there’s always the ugly side of chasing a dream. Because a dream will cost you. Relationships, status, sanity, safety — name the cost and it’s been paid before.
Status quo can’t coexist with a dream. Like putting a lion in your living room and asking it to play nice. The old way of doing things, one way or another, goes up in smoke to the fire of a dream.
But how do we ever know if our dreams are truly worth it? Sitting in the coffee shop that day here’s three questions I felt I needed to answer.
1. Does this dream fit with, and add to, who I am?
Does my dream align with my top values of authenticity, integrity, right relationships, etc? I’ve learned when I’m working outside these values, anxiety will tackle me like a security guard laying out a shoplifter. Does my dream mesh with these values and make them brighter, or does it take away? At that moment I felt like it was negatively impacting my relationships, so I knew that’s why I was experiencing turmoil.
Does my dream fit within my strengths or am I trying to pursue someone else’s dream?
2. Is my dream just for me?
Was I pursuing this crazy dream for fame, fortune, or that spotlight in my alumni magazine that tells all my classmates that I am in fact doing much better than them? Well, maybe in the beginning it was built on illusions of bestsellers and “yep, look at me”. But after years of un-success, where writing had felt more like dragging that heavy plow through rocky, crusted ground than actually enjoying any of the fruit, this dream to speak to twenty-somethings moved way beyond ME a long time ago.
I think author Fredrick Buechner summed it up best that our dreams need to exist:
“Where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.”
3. Does my dream steal from my Non-Negotiables? If so, how much is too much?
When I looked at my dream under the bright light of “is this really worth it?” my answer was still yes. I believe so strongly in offering hope and encouragement to twenty-somethings that it’s been something I cannot NOT do.
And yet, I still heard that voice saying, “Bye Daddy.”
So even though my dream is worth it, I vowed on that day never to let my dream become worth more than what is worth the most. My family. My faith. My friends. These are my non-negotiables.
That means I need to chase my dream at 4:30 am before I leave for my 8-5. It means working harder, being more productive in less time, and limiting my “how the heck did I end up on Facebook” moments.
It means having no favorite TV shows that I have to drop everything to watch.
Not letting my dream be worth more than what is worth the most means I have to personally sacrifice much, so that my family sacrifices as little as possible.
Yes my dream is worth it. But even so, I have to run my dream, or experience the ugly aftermath if I let my dream run me.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments:
What's your dream? What tips do you have for chasing your dream without sacrificing your non-negotiables?
Paul Angone is the creator of All Groan Up, a community for emerging adults searching for self, faith, and a freaking job. Snag a free copy of his ebook 21 Secrets for your 20’s and follow him at @PaulAngone.