Holy Quarter Century Batman, I graduated college 25 years ago this week. Funny, I don’t feel old enough to be able to say that, but it’s true.
The last week of class I had one of the most important life lessons I’ve ever had; here’s how it went:
BIG DREAMS Part 1
Final assignments, presentations and exams had all been done, attendance was low, one of my favourite teachers, came into class.
“The course is finished, but there’s one more thing I want to teach you before you head out. Everyone take out a piece of paper.”
“Write down where you want to be in five years.” She paused “but don’t get stupid on me, be realistic with your dreams.”
She gathered up the various sheet of paper, ripped them into pieces and threw them in the garbage (she was even more dramatic than I am). Then she looked at us like the great mother hen that she was and said:
“Realistic dreams aren’t dreams. Where do you really want to be?” Another dramatic pause “What’s the dream you don’t tell anyone because you know they’ll laugh? Write that down.”
“Hold onto this dream. Don’t let anyone ever take it from you. NOW…what are you going to do to get there?”
I don’t remember what I wrote on the first sheet of paper, something very sensible I’m sure. On the second piece of paper I wrote “Directing at the Stratford Shakespearian Festival”.
I have to admit, five years after I graduated, I was not directing at the Festival – it took six. Six years after I graduated I was an apprentice director at the Stratford Shakespearian Festival.
BIG DREAMS Part 2
While I was at the festival, I realized I would be unemployed in 4 months and until then, I would only see my wife every other weekend – if I was lucky. I decided I didn’t want to be a freelance director any more (looking back, I realize the decision was fear based, but this was how I justified it at the time).
What I didn’t do was get clear on what I did want.
Five years later I was answering phones at an insurance company…a great job for many, a VERY bad fit for me.
One day my supervisor told me I should choose my five year anniversary gift, it was coming up. I was stunned; this job was only temporary until I figured out my next step. Suddenly it was five years later – five MISERABLE years later.
BIG DREAMS Part 3
I excused myself, pulled out a sheet of paper and I was not leaving until I figured out where I wanted to be in five years.
Eventually I wrote down two things:
I want to be a produced playwright – preferably in NYC.
I want to be working in Animation (years ago I had run some acting classes at Walt Disney Animation and LOVED it).
I started writing a play that night and within a week had sent out resumes, cover letters and follow-up phone calls to every school and studio in the Toronto Area.
Within a year I was teaching Acting in the Animation departments of two of the best schools in the world (I still am) and recently one of my plays was presented in NYC (took a bit longer than I thought). Last summer an animation festival billed me as Canada’s leading expert in the field of Acting for Animation.
BIG DREAMS Final thoughts:
I am still grateful to that teacher who inspired me over 25 years ago, I do have one BIG adjustment to her lesson, I believe small dreams are still dreams; they are valid and can be beautiful. Don’t let anyone rip them up either. She was pretty dramatic though and it made a statement I still remember.
Some people believe you get everything you’re clear about, EVERYTHING. I’m not one of those people, which may explain why I didn’t win the lottery last night – AGAIN – but I do know getting clear gets you a LOT closer. Our dreams can, will and should change, write yours down and dream big and then start moving toward it…effort counts.
Where do YOU want to be in 5 years?
WRITE IT DOWN – it makes it clear.
What are you going to do to get there?