I want to open my blog with a topic that I’ve thought about a lot…following your dreams. Much is written about “this current generation” (TCG), without a definition about what TCG means, although I’m pretty sure I straddle the two most talked about age windows when its uttered on news programs and online articles. I think that in between Millennials who are all over social media (constantly having rainbow parties and butt-chugging supposedly) and generation X, who is now uncomfortably old, is Generation Y (aka 80s babies). But its pretty nebulous and an entire blog post could be written about what TCG means and what the true cutoff point is. But not this one…
Instead, I want to look at the notion of dreams as they mean to TCG. We are the “entitlement generation”, where we were told that each of us is special since childhood, everyone gets a trophy and the score doesn’t matter if you’re having fun. And every Oscar season we’re reminded that you should never give up on your dreams, because you too can look like Jared Leto and pretend to be other people for millions of dollars, if you just, you know, don’t give up. Man. In reality, if 1 in 1000 of us is going to achieve their dreams and actually is special, where does that leave the other 999 who want to be rich, famous, world-renowned, or powerful?
There’s people out there like Larry Smith, whose TED Talk got me all upset the other day. People like him, Oprah and others are continuing to poison the minds of Millennials by encouraging them to follow their passion. Baby Boomers are not enthused with our “pie-in-the-sky” thinking, bravado in the workplace, and desire for constant praise. We need to listen to them, and quit being so damn…entitled. Don’t let people like Larry Smith be your Pied Piper to a world of misery and despair. Stifle your passions. Here are the top 7 reasons to quit your dreams. Now. Because it’s never too late to stop trying 😉
7. YOUR DREAM IS STUPID
For the sake of this post, I’m going to assume your dream is something lofty, with fame involved. Because if you want to be a veterinarian or a lawyer and you just don’t have the confidence to go after that…that’s just sad. Plus, This Current Generation is monolithic and victim of one uniform coddling experience–so you don’t exist anyway.
No, I’m assuming your dream is actually a dream and not just a career goal. Something that is associated with admirers and interviews and magazine covers…and listen to yourself. All of that is dumb.
Why do you even want all of that attention and money? What’s wrong with you that you can’t feel good about yourself without such superficiality? I’d say something is lacking inside. But outside of the motivations being dumb, you also need to look at your envisioned pathway to success.
For instance, a few years ago I met a charisma-devoid, aspiring actress who was living in Seattle. Dumb. 80% of acting work occurs in LA, and 90% of those people are unemployed. And of those employed, only a small fraction are actually names such that they have any control over whether they’ll be working next year. If your dream was to eventually be kayaking or mountain climbing in a feminine product commercial…awesome. You’re on your way. But it wasn’t really, was it? No.
Now you may be saying…”hey…that’s not my dream. I want to start a business.” I was just talking about the actress, because as dumb as she sounds, your business idea sounds just as dumb to other people.
SUGGESTION INSTEAD: Tone it down. Aspire to be a veterinarian or a lawyer. Or sh*t–make your dream what you’re already doing. My dream is now to be a blogger. Winning.
6. YOUR DREAM IS INCREDIBLY SELFISH
Your dream is about yourself, and really, it comes from a place of privilege.
Do you know what this family’s dream is?
To make it out of Cleveland one day.
And here you are, not satisfied with all the gifts and opportunity you’ve been given. You want more for some reason. This family would split itself up if it meant the opportunity to give half of the kids the chance to live in your house and eat like you do.
Have you ever talked to Depression Era people about dreams? I once asked my grandpa if he ever had dreams and he said Yes…he often dreamed about the people he had killed in the war coming back for him. But after a year or so the nightmares went away…and he never missed a day of work, which in those days meant being called the N-Word a whole lot. No, he didn’t really understand the “dreams” terminology. And I never did get to “passions” but here’s my guess at his top 5 passions…
5. Shoes (you know, having them)
3. Not getting killed by white folk
2. Not getting killed by black folk
1. Getting the f**k out of Mississippi
And your grandparents, black or not, might have had similar passions. At the very least it was NOT
get rich and famous
Now, one might argue that there’s a contingency within TCG whose dream is to “save the world”. They’re the worst
: The TFAers, PeaceCorps volunteers, the nonprofit PollyAnnas: perhaps the most self involved of the lot. If you fall into this bucket, answer this next series of questions honestly. Isn’t your dedication to helping people about the feeling you get imagining others seeing you as such a good person? Isn’t it? I mean come on, isn’t it? Okay then, maybe it isn’t… but how’s all that progress on world salvation? Alright then.
SUGGESTION INSTEAD: Commit further to your religion, or pick one at least. You can play that angle as selfless or selfishly as you want. And when you die, you reach your eternal goal…success is inevitable.
5. QUITTING FEELS AWESOME
You ever tell someone you were going to go to their thing “like for sure”, but then the night of the event arrives and you wish you hadn’t said that? Then you realize, you can just make an excuse and cancel…suddenly you have given yourself back hours of free time, sleep and usually money.
Heroin by most accounts feels pretty awesome. So imagine that feeling multiplied by all the nights you don’t have to spend trying to achieve your dreams.
When I think of the hardest workers in their respective fields some quick names that come to mind are Kanye West, Kobe Bryant and Ralph Nader. They are successful and often reap the rewards of all of their hard work, including accolades and wealth. But let me ask you this. Would you say they seem like they are generally having a good time in life?
Here is a picture of Nader smiling on his birthday.
SUGGESTION INSTEAD: Rather than continue on, why not just stop. Of course then you’ll absolutely never achieve your dream, but the elation of achievement is easily simulated by beer and sports teams. Bandwagon fandom is awesome, just ask this guy
4. THEY’RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT YOU (AKA you’re gonna look crazy)
There’s a reason the above link is super creepy. It’s because deep down most of us wonder from time to time “Am I a crazy person?” (If you never have, then you probably ARE the crazy person the rest of us fear becoming…congrats.) While you may honestly believe that there are signals in your life suggesting that you have the talent to possibly be the next Mariah Carey…so does this lady…
…and all the other American Idol rejects we laugh at at the beginning of each season. There’s no real way to be certain that you’re not one of these people, that’s the way delusion works. Because let’s be real, fame alone is not your dream, because there’s plenty of terrible things you could do to get famous. You would rather have it such that not everyone is laughing at you all the time…
…unless of course your dream is stand-up comedy. I dare you to join that winners circle. Because that is the one attempt at glory where the laughter stops.
SUGGESTION INSTEAD: Do you know what’s not insane? Settling down and getting married, if you haven’t done that, then do so quickly. Someone else vouching for your sanity should stop the laughter, but if the marriage struggles…have a baby, repeat as needed until bliss occurs. BONUS SUGGESTION: Making your babies attempt your dreams is a great way to continue your passions without people laughing at you directly.
3. TRYING SUCKS
If you have time to read a blog post this long, then you obviously have been putting off the action plan towards glory to some degree. And if you’re honest with yourself, it’s because your action plan is going to be painful. It likely involves doing things that don’t feel good and sacrifice. Gross.
I’ll pause here while you Google the definition of sacrifice. Colloquially the meaning has morphed, but that sucks huh? And sacrifice is probably going to be a part of achieving your dreams unfortunately. And here’s the kicker, even someone good at life can sacrifice for their goals and gain nothing. That’s some sucker sh*t right there.
Think back to high school. Who was the coolest kid?…I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that it probably wasn’t the guy who was trying really hard to be cool. Obviously High School is no indicator for, well anything…and that cool kid is fat and a loser now–I get it. But the point is not high school, but the principle. He was cool, but trying the least to attain “coolness”. Show me data that proves that your dreams wouldn’t work the same way.
Take Snoop Dogg for example…
snoop says keep procrastinatin’ homie.
I mean why is Snoop who he is? Because he has never given a f**k. Seriously the guy gives no f**ks. I was actually incorrect to call him Dog above, he’s actually changed his name to Snoop Lion. Snoop Lion, That’s how few f**ks he gives. I mean, if Snoop owned a f**k factory, and his kid had a field trip next week that cost exactly “one f**k”…his kid would stay home that day.
And that’s why Snoop is cooler and more successful than you.
SUGGESTION INSTEAD: Netflix. Netflix makes its own shows now…and they’re not bad.
2. YOU’RE GOING TO FAIL
This is the big one. The thing you’re dreaming about…most people fail at that. I’ve heard some versions of…”there’s no such thing as failure, just setbacks.” Ask the Jim Kelly era Buffalo bills about their four consecutive superbowl losses if that’s 100% true. So, yeah, there are concrete examples of failure.
I’ve also heard that “there are quitters and achievers, and you’re either one or the other.” But there’s also guys that were working really hard to achieve a goal and get hit by a bus, so there’s a hole in that logic too. And admittedly, I’m distorting the sentiment to these phrases. Because resiliency and determination are absolutely necessary to get things done. Hard sales quotas, impossible project deadlines, putting together IKEA furniture–all of these take a certain amount of pushing through adversity. Personal mantras posted on your mirror can help you conquer difficult tasks in your career and personal life…everyday people are inspired to do that.
But for your dream–you’re just torturing yourself–you’re going to fail at that.
And here’s why…if you were going to live your dreams, you’d already be doing it–or at least pretty close. Because Sophia Coppola gets to direct movies and Nicholas Coppola gets to act in them…sorry, Nicholas Cage
I mean. Jenna Bush Hager
gets to be a newscaster. Oh you want to be the next Elaine Benes on the next hit sitcom?…well Julia Louis Dryfus
was born a billionaire which doesn’t mean she isn’t talented, but isn’t completely unrelated either. I probably play more Drake songs on rotation than any other artist right now, but he was on TV before his balls dropped. Even the rap game is subject to nepotism these days.
These are examples from off the top of the head, and not really the exception of the rule. But lets look in reverse and look at the two most successful people in modern history…Michael Jordan and Bill Gates. Well, Gates was born a millionaire and serendipitously knew more about computers than pretty much all of the rest of the world by the time he was 20. You’re not Bill Gates, homie. Michael Jordan on the other did not come from any sort of noteworthy wealth. Now, Part of Michael Jordan’s legend is the work ethic that made him great. Yes, but he was also born a freakishly gifted multiple sport athlete. By puberty, it was pretty clear he had the talent to play at the next level, and he had plenty of encouragement and evidence of greatness helping to motivate him. Oh, and legend also has it that he was cut from his basketball team in high school. Despite MJ harboring lasting resentment, it never happened
You see, just like the notion that Einstein failed math (also untrue
) these triumphing over adversity stories are usually reverse-engineered bullshit created by the dream-achiever to resolve guilt from basking in success that was either pre-ordained socioeconomically or dumb luck (genetic or otherwise).
True rags to riches stories DO exist–Mike Tyson and Michael Jackson jump to mind immediately–so there’s that. But both were famous by adulthood. If you’ve even been acting on your passion (which you shouldn’t be…see #3) then the rejection and lack of success you’re facing is far more likely the fact that you’re not good enough. In short–chances are that you’re not special-at least not in any way that society has any elevated value for. You are most certainly unique, but if you have doubt that your family can introduce you directly to the person that can give you your dream job, well…
It’s kind of like this billion dollar bracket that Buffett is taunting you with. You COULD pick a perfect bracket. It’s not impossible, and there was a moment when you sat down and looked at the NCAA tournament and had you made one choice or another, you could have made decisions that would have changed your life. How is that working out?
Even with the kindest math (assuming the picker utilizes a complex probability theory), every adult in america could fill out a bracket…And there is still about a 1 in 1000 chance that ANYBODY AT ALL wins that shit in an individual year. What the bracket has going for it that chasing your dreams doesn’t is that it takes very little front end investment to fail at. And while The NCAA tournament takes 1-3 days to let you know the result, chasing your dreams takes years, despite the same futility.
I mean, let’s look at the most famous Dream in history:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
OK lets check in on how that dream is doing circa 2014…
Ooh…not too good. And if you think that I’m being unfair Google “ratchet fights” and try to make it to the end of the list of videos that pop up.
Now, obviously MLK achieved glory and became a once in an era symbol of love and tolerance. Even with the whole getting domed by a bullet thing, many would offer that sacrifice for the posthumous glory its carried. Maybe you would. However, MLK was a doctor by 26 and led the Montgomery Bus boycott at 28… you’re not on pace. Bringing me full circle.
SUGGESTION INSTEAD: Go for goals in which there is no doubt you’ll eventually succeed, and when you do–post those on facebook, twitter, etc. The feedback your “friends” give will be pleasant, however reciprocating that positivity has a danger of making you less happy
so keep that in mind. ADVANCED SUGGESTION: Perhaps bragging about yourself feels tawdry, then you must mask the brag with a humble brag
. Does saying you feel beautiful and confident in your body sound garish? Then complain about all the gross guys that were hitting on you. Does just posting a pic of your new house make you feel like a show-off? Throw up a hash tag about how many boxes you’re going to have to unpack. Cuz that’s annoying.
#1 YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY ACHIEVE YOUR DREAM
I consider myself the epitome of an optimist. You and I are never ever achieving our dreams–that’s settled–but look at the bright side:
Have you ever thought about how terrible it might be to actually achieve your dreams? What do you do next? Especially if that hunger is still there, or all the problems you thought would go away actually linger–or get worse. A motivating factor for all successful people is the HOPE that achieving their goals will alleviate ills of the human condition. Unbridled success can be the most hopeless thing to happen to a person.
Not only that, but you’d have to manage the stress and pressure of staying on top of your profession, knowing there’s nowhere to go but down, and everyone wants to see that happen. Good lord. That sounds terrible.
Stay with me a moment. I’m going to pause to try an exercise. Off the top of my head see if I can list 26 success stories, one for ever letter of the alphabet…
A- Allen, Woody, B- Bieber, Justin, C- Cleopatra, D- D’Angelo, E- Eazy E, F- Farley, Chris, G – Garland, Judy, H- Houston, Whitney, I- Iverson, Allen, J-Jackson, Michael, K- Kobain, Kurt, L- Leaf, Ryan, M-Monroe, Marilyn, N -Notorious BIG, O- OJ Simpson, P – Prinze, Freddie, Q- Quinn, Glenn, R – Renfro, Brad, S – Scott, Tony, T- Taylor, Laurence, U- Umaga, V- Van Damme, Jean-Claude, W- Woolf Virginia, X- X, Dark Man, Y- Young Buck, Z – Zeta-Jones, Catherine
Now, for some of the high-point-scrabble-letters I stretched a bit. But the names above are laden with examples of success not curing problems. In most cases it was a contributor to their misery. Like I said, I always look on the bright side of life, and at least I’m not these people. Achieving your dreams is a total ass-ache.
SUGGESTION INSTEAD: Um..I dunno…
Perhaps you could take your childhood messages of optimism and having a unique (special) perspective, and use that to contribute to the world in a new context. You could refuse to feel sorry for yourself and enjoy the process of TRYING to contribute something meaningful to society, even if its not grandiose. Simultaneously you could strive for attaining inner-peace and continually attempt to strive toward living a pattern of lasting happiness.
Wait no, that’s sh*ts probably almost as hard as chasing your dreams. Also it involves self-examination and a complex viewpoint on how you marry aspirations with enjoyment. Our Monolithic generation is incapable. So–yeah, screw that.
I do know we need to correct this message that we’re pumping out to the world, especially to our youngest and most vulnerable. For my generation its too late, we’re no good and we failed. Instead, we need to tell our kids: Your dreams are stupid and selfish, and chasing them will just be embarrassing. It’s best if you don’t try. If you’ve already begun trying, you should stop before it’s too late, because you might succeed… and be miserable forever.
It’s mission essential to get these kids back to the mind state of the baby boomers
who aptly criticize us. They may have leveraged our future for their comfort, remain slightly racist, compose our current congress, and slam us while they had it easier than any generation in the history of the world–BUT they didn’t dream big. Thank God. Gosh it sucks to be part of the worst generation.