The following article, by Larry Jacobson, originally appeared in Forbes on August 29, 2011.
How many people do you know who have actually made their dream come true—their dream based on passion and desire, not practicality or career advancement. It could be a dream of anything from travel to weight loss, from a new career to a new relationship. It starts with, “I’ve always wanted to . . .” and often ends with, “It’s just not practical,” or “Maybe someday.” At what point do we say, “Someday is here!”?
Reaching a new goal often means letting go of something, but would you give up a secure business career for your passion? What if you had spent the last 20 years building a highly visible company with a stellar reputation, loyal clients, and a steady flow of business, and you were surrounded by friends and family who admired your achievements and your perfect career? Could you walk away from all that to pursue a dream?
I did—or rather, I sailed away. I traded it all for the opportunity to make my lifelong dream of sailing around the world come true. And though some called me crazy at the time, I’m happy with my choice of seeing the world during six years of adventure on the high seas. Though I now drive a Honda rather than an Audi, fly coach rather than first-class, and live in an apartment rather than a house, I feel as though I’m the richest man in the world, because I’ve lived my dream.
Perhaps you’re a high-tech executive who’s a master pastry chef at home, and you’ve always wanted to open a bakery. Would you be willing to bake late into the night, spend your mornings serving fresh croissants, and pour your earnings back into the business? Or perhaps you’re a sales manager who takes writing classes at night because you’ve always wanted to write a great novel while living in a country village in Italy. There goes your chance to be V.P. of sales, as you spend your evenings developing characters rather than staying late at the office. In the end, you get to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice. Andre Gide said, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Fear of what a change might bring is one of the main reasons many people never let go, and so miss the opportunity to become something different and transform their lives. It’s a double-edged sword, facing the anxiety of walking away from the old while embracing moving into fear of the new. Even if your dream is just to get back into shape, the fear of failing may prevent you from trying. Take to heart the words of Gen. George Patton: “There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.” Let your passion guide you. Don’t let the weight of the past or fear of the unknown get in the way of your vision. And realize that it’s not only fear and apprehension that prevent us from doing great things. Often, the good in our lives is what gets in the way. Many of us have a home, partner, family, career, and income—and who would watch the cat if I traveled to Europe for a year? Why risk the comforts and joys of our lives for a chance at a dream? Because, as Dale Carnegie said, “Take a chance! All life is a chance. The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.”
You have to be the one who makes your dreams come true, and nothing happens without action. Make your decisions, make your plan, and then take the first step. If you make no choice, you’re only fooling yourself. No decision is a decision.
I’ll admit that my own decision-making process was a scary mixture of excitement and cold feet. I reached the choice to leave my secure life when there was no more information to help me decide one way or the other. The fanfare and cheering crowds never materialized as in my dream. There was no line to cross that made it official. It was simply time to go. But I remembered that, as Emerson correctly said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
Was I brave, blind, or foolish? No, I was driven by passion. Yes, I was choosing an extreme change of course in my life, but I was drawn to it with a pull I couldn’t resist. And though I had been sailing nearly all my life, I wasn’t prepared for the magnitude of the challenges and fear that would come with sailing around the world. Still, passion trumped fear. It can for you too.
I untied my dock lines and followed my heart. What I hope you glean from my experience is that it’s possible to follow your passion and make your dream come true. Don’t wait for someday. Address your fears, make your plan, and take the first step. Untie your lines—whatever they may be—and go!
Larry Jacobson, a California native, is a motivational speaker, executive coach, and sales trainer. His circumnavigation is documented in his book The Boy Behind the Gate: How His Dream of Sailing Around the World Became a Six-Year Odyssey of Adventure, Fear, Discovery, and Love. For a free download of the first chapter, go to http://larryjacobsonauthor.com and sign up for his mailing list. Larry welcomes new friends, colleagues, and feedback at: firstname.lastname@example.org.