What are your dreams?

That line was used in the movie Pretty Women during the closing scene.  

In a reflective mood, I was asked this question by one of my direct reports last week.  I had noticed that he was in deep thought all week.  Since he came back from vacation, he has throughout the day had what I call the “stare at the wall moments”.  I felt something was bothering him and when this came out, I knew he wanted to talk.

I work in an entirely different culture here in Saudi Arabia, our western ways of thinking is totally different from theirs and on the other hand it is eerily similar.  

We all want it

Everybody wants success, I do not care where you come from or your background, We all want it.  Whatever it is, we want it.  The problem is that the vast majority of people never attain what they consider to be their holy grail.

This conversation would never have taken place if I would have initiated it.  Lots of time we have to wait patiently for the right moment.  When the moment presents itself, move gingerly and address it.  No one wants to be preached to but approaching it from the angle of listening is more powerful that being the answer man.

I really do not have any more dreams at this point I responded, but I can probably see something over the next few years basically when I leave Saudi Arabia.  What will be my next act??  But as it stands now, I have reached every dream from childhood to adulthood.

He looked on in amazement!  His jaw dropped, his eyes got larger.  His response was that of all his years he has never had someone give him that answer.  He wanted me to explain more but I said no, you tell me your dreams and where you are with them and then I will answer.  He opened the door and this was the time for me to listen.

He dropped in head and took a few seconds to give me a response.  I could see that he was tussling with something but was trying to gather his thoughts.

Now tell me yours

Basically he has always had dreams but he as soon as he hits a roadblock, he stops and does not deal with it anymore till maybe a few months later if at all.  He has repeated this process so many times that he said he has lost count.  He talked about how frustrating his life has become because it seems like he can’t accomplish what he set out to do.  This conversation went on for a while as he talked and I could almost feel the sense of resignation overcome him.

When he finished, he appeared that to be relieved.  It was like he was letting steam out of the kettle.  Done, I have got it out.

So as I was listening during his dissertation, I was thinking about how to approach it when it came my turn.

I started out by the difference between the both of us as it relates to our success or lack thereof.  Based on his approach and the way that he waked his journey, the only difference was that like of lot of people when they get hit, they give up.

Deal with it while it is hot

Mike Tyson, the great philosopher and boxer once said that everybody has a plan till they get hit.  That raw statement encapsulated our differences.  He gave up on his drive in desperation, fell into a funk and did not address again until he was recharged.  The time to address it is when you get knocked down.  Restructure while it is hot.  

I remember reading a psychology report on people that survived a plane crash, their answer was to get BACK on a plane as soon as possible.  Another story I read was of a child that was terrified of lightning.  His solution was to cover up go outside in his tree house and stay there during a thunderstorm.  Once the thunderstorm had dissipated, there was not that intense fear anymore.

Everybody wants it but don’t want to pay for it

When I first finished college, I was a big believer of reading successful people biographies.  All the people I admired, I read their thoughts on what got them there.  The recurring theme was they did not give up on their dream.  The most intense time was when they were knocked off stride.  That was the determinant factor.  

Giving up was and is never in the cards if your destination is defined.  If success was easy everybody would be there.  But it is not and never will be.  There is a price you will pay and that price has nothing to do with a dollar value.  Time, effort, depression, loneliness are all hallmarks successful people.

The thought process will determine the trajectory:  we are what we think and will become.  If we think negatively, that will be the destination.  If we keep our eyes on our prize, that is where we will end up.  Just because we have to make a detour so be it, never lose site your destination.

Do you have a story to tell?

You will never hear from anyone that has reached certain heights tell their story without going through the hurt and disappointment they met along the journey.  In the context of success, the road is paved in segments.  Certain sections will be all dirt and you will encounter the off road section as well.  Surviving this obstacle course is what make it so sweet once you arrive.

Fuel to drive success

This I have always felt is to test whether you are willing to pay the price.  I have gone on job interviews throughout my career that I were not chosen.  When I received that email saying that “While we thought you were a great candidate………………….. or whatever else they said, I would dutifully print out and put it in my fuel folder.  Those rejections were going to be the fuel that I would show them.

One case in particular, I was not chosen for a position that I thought was perfect for me.  Made it to the final round but was not chosen.  Years later I was the keynote speaker at an HR function and while being introduced I looked to my left about mid-way in the audience was the SVP who did not chose me.  Right away that fuel element kicked in.  When I got to the microphone, I rocked it and when I finished, I got a standing ovation that went on and on.

I looked over his way and as Julia Roberts said again in the same movie Pretty Woman: Big Mistake, Huge!

The keys are yours

There will always be roadblocks and detours but your reaction to each will determine your success.  Nothing else in your life is more important than the recoil after getting hit.  

So next time you are reflective about your life, remember you must have a story to tell otherwise it will not be interesting. You and only you are in the driver’s seat of life.  So drive that sucker.

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