I would say I’m currently somewhere in the middle of the process of going after my dreams.
I am certainly not at the beginning–that was some years ago, perhaps well before I had built up the courage to recognize just how badly I wanted to make beautiful music and serve the world through words and harmonies and teaching and creating beauty.
But I am certainly not at the end, either–there is still a long road ahead to the place where I can say that I have brought my dreams fully into reality.
And so, I wanted to share a little bit with you about how this process has gone and how this process is going. This process of going after my dreams.
Good God, This is Terrifying
My take on going after dreams is colored completely by my specifics–my background, my upbringing, my experiences, my choices.
I have read that, for some, dreams come true easily and effortlessly.
That hasn’t been my experience, though.
In my case, even getting to the point where I could see my dreams took years and years.
I began playing the guitar when I was 16. I had wanted to play the guitar for several years previous. But I hadn’t yet surrendered to my desire to make music on the guitar because I carried around some beliefs about how my family wasn’t musical and I probably wouldn’t have the talent for it.
The love I felt for music eventually grew loud enough that I couldn’t ignore it anymore, so I got my first beater guitar and started learning how to make music with it.
Tentative but Steady
Looking back, I can see that the first three or four years as I was learning to play the guitar, I was constantly torn between excitement and joy over learning to play, on the one hand, and embarrassment and discouragement that I would never really be able to play much of anything.
The brakes were on, and how.
I kept at it, though. Friends who showed me things along the way encouraged me, and I made slow but steady progress.
When the Dreams Become Too Loud to Ignore
This is all to say that I wasn’t raised playing the guitar from birth. Music wasn’t a major part of my home growing up.
It took me a while to listen to the inner urge to learn how to make music on the guitar.
And even after I started playing, it took me some years before I released the brakes and really started pouring everything I had into making music.
I am very grateful that I eventually did set aside all the doubts and considerations. I stopped rationalizing why I could never play the guitar as well as I wanted to and instead started really working hard and learning more and more new music.
The Dream Journey Is Chock-Full of Surprises
I’m now 15 years into this adventure of learning to play the guitar.
And I wouldn’t trade this adventure for anything.
Just last week, I returned from Rio de Janeiro, where I was finishing up my new recording. 10 songs, full professional quality studio recordings, fully arranged with incredible intertwining flute, cello and viola parts swirling all around my guitar work and the vocals.
The experience of being in a professional studio recording a full-power album was a major dream come true–one I don’t even know if I ever actually dreamed would come true.
And then it did.
Now that I have the songs in hand, I can listen to the tangible results of all the work that went into creating this music (at least three full years of intensive guitar practice plus many discarded songs that didn’t make the final 10-song cut plus 18 months of actual planning and detail-handling leading up to the 10-month process that began with me in the studio in Rio last April and concluded with the mastering of the completed album last Friday).
It is unbelievable–one of the most amazing experiences of my life, this journey from deciding to give up everything and an entire life in Brooklyn, New York in order to return to Nashville and dive deep into my playing in order to take it to a whole new level and then receiving songs from out of the silence of my deep practice stretches and then, now, having a finished recording that is more beautiful than I ever dreamed it would be (and I dreamed big).
What the Dream Encouragers Don’t Tell You
Historically, there are a lot more dreamers than doers.
Recently, I think more and more people are really going after their dreams. The Internet allows the stories to spread, and everyone who reads the accounts of dreamers-made-doers receives encouragement to then go out and make their dreams reality.
Chris Guillebeau inspired me through his work and writing on his website about traveling to every country on Earth.
So did Derek Sivers with his intense perspective on how you can actually achieve your dreams through complete surrender and flat-out busting ass.
But by and large, it’s the starry-eyed encouragement that gets transmitted the loudest by those who would have more people go after their dreams.
And being well into the process of really going for it, I have a perspective I’ve never had before on this whole “going after your dreams” thing.
Failure Staring You Right In the Face
If you don’t like feeling uncomfortable, I really don’t recommend going after your dreams.
Three years of full-time dream-chasing into this (and, really, it’s been longer than that), I don’t even remember what comfortable feels like. My dreams have (almost diabolically) required me to leap continually out of my comfort zone.
Maybe my comfort zone was particularly small and my realized dream zone is particularly huge, which translates as me being continually uncomfortable. But I don’t think so.
I think discomfort is part of the deal of going after your dreams.
I think, as scary as it is to slip slowly into a “comfortable” life where you haven’t really put your dreams on the line, going after your dreams is way scarier–because the prospect of failure is real. Because the risks are genuine–you won’t have any excuses if you really go after your dreams and you come up with sand.
As far as social perceptions and the definitions of success and failure as agreed upon by the human collective, I am very much right on the edge. What I’ve done in putting this recording together is absolutely insane relative to a conservative perspective on how people should live their lives.
The Success Stories Make a Whole Lot More Sense From Here
Have you ever heard about a successful author who received continual rejection letters from publishers until finally, after being on the verge of completely giving up, a publisher came along who decided to give the author a chance on the whim? And then the author went on to be a huge success, which makes all the rejecting publishers look foolish?
There are tons of these kinds of stories around–the underdog who fought against the odds and emerged victorious.
I have a whole lot more respect for the humans who actually pushed through and made those successes happen.
Again, speaking from somewhere in the long middle passage from deciding to go after your dreams to actually realizing them, I’m amazed by just how tough this whole “going after your dreams” thing really is.
And that’s why actually pushing through into realizing a dream fully is actually worth something.
Because it isn’t easy.
Because it’s damn hard.
Because it’s often against all odds.
And because it forges the dream-chasers into seasoned, humbled, grateful human beings.
Gladly Paying the Price
I have read plenty of successful people writing after the fact, from the vantage point of having achieved their dreams, about the struggle they had to go through to get to their success.
And I have read, over and over again, that they would gladly pay the price required (and more, even) if they had to do it all over again.
So I keep those exhortations in mind as I wend my way through this journey from dream to reality.
Are You On the Edge?
Through my early- to mid-twenties, I lived close to the edge but not completely on it.
When I was 28, I decided to jump thoroughly and completely out into the unknown in pursuit of the realization of a gnawing urge that lit my heart aglow.
And here’s what I have to show for all this three and a half years into that wild leap:
I have one of the most beautiful recordings you will ever hear in my possession and will be releasing it in March 2011.
I have this blog, which attracts more and more visitors interested in the guitar each day.
I have a group of amazing students who I love teaching and whose progress brings me incredible joy.
I have an extraordinary and beautiful fiancee who loves me even through my many growing pains.
I have great friends, fantastic family and incredible opportunities all around.
In fact, in virtually every way, I could easily conclude that I am, in fact, a big success. Except for the financial question, which holds so much weight in our modern world.
I say none of this to brag. I share it only to say that much of this came about only because I fully and completely dove off the comfortable platform of my former life and advanced right to the edge in pursuit of my wildest dreams.
Are you there? Are you on the edge?
While I don’t want to take on the responsibility of being one of those shysters that encourages folks to leap into the unknown willy-nilly only to watch them flounder in the overwhelming reality of the struggle that invariably intercedes between going after your dreams and actually realizing them…the fact remains that I hadn’t really come alive until I went ahead and surrendered to my dreams and passions.
And now that I have, I would never go back.
The water’s better over here even if it’s often choppy, frequently freezing and seemingly never-ending.
Can Everyone Realize Their Dreams?
I don’t know, honestly.
Deciding to become a masterful musician and share my music with the world in a mighty way has been unbelievably difficult. And I’m still just at the beginning of this process in so many ways.
Going after your dreams isn’t for the faint of heart.
On the other hand, I have also come to believe that our deepest urges exist within our hearts because we have the ability to realize them. Their existence means that their realization is absolutely possible. IF we fight hard enough and want it badly enough to push through every obstacle that falls in our way.
And all of that is just, like, my opinion, man.
Since so much of this “go after your dreams” stuff is offered up by those who have already made it, I thought it’d be useful to share these words with you from my current location where I have decidedly not yet made it.
Will You or Won’t You?
If you’ve read this far, then you’re clearly someone who is interested in this whole “going after your dreams” topic.
So let me ask you a question: will you go after them, or won’t you?
Dreams often feel like a curse. They scratch at us and refuse to let us rest easy in our current status quo. They laugh at us and draw us forward into struggle and challenge and confrontation with our perceived limitations.
I had a friend recently lash out at me for what I’m doing with music. He decried my insistence on going after a “pipe dream.”
So, yes, I am an unabashed dreamer. And I’m putting all my effort and energy into realizing those dreams.
How about you?