Friday, March 6, 2015

Daring to Dream Big – Pros and Cons

Today's post was inspired by a family trip to Walt Disney World last summer, a place where the word "dreams" is a kind of idée fixe. Here are some examples associated with Disney:

  • The Disney Dreamers Academy ("We help unlock the potential in young people and enable them to imagine their futures anew through inspirational leaders who show how to set goals, make plans and dream big"),  
  • A Dreams Come True parade, which in a previous iteration was called…
  • Walt Disney's Parade of Dreamswhose eight floats included Getaway to Dreams, Dream of Enchantment, Dream of Laughter, Dream of Another World, Dream of Imagination, Dream of Adventure, and Dreams Come True,
  • The Dream Along With Mickey show, 
  • One Man's Dream (a pavilion celebrating the life of Walt Disney), 
  • Many promotions, such as the Year of a Million Dreams, which included Disney Dreams Giveaways (my boys and I were randomly given Mickey skullcaps with plastic ears one day), 
  • Many commercials that use the word "dream," and
  • The Disney Dream (cruise ship).

Disney marketers and imagineers clearly believe that many of us are attracted by the idea of following our dreams, but what are the risks and rewards of doing so, and, in particular, of daring to dream "big" dreams?

There is much encouragement to fearlessly follow our dreams in songs, movies, biographies, interviews, etc. — wildly successful people are often said to have done so — but what about people whose life experiences have been more like those of Wile E. Coyote (see below; a lifetime of frustration, aided largely by his unshakable-but-consistently-misplaced faith in faulty products from the Acme Co. catalog, followed by the cancellation of his show) or Charlie Brown (who, according to Wikipedia's rather harsh description, "fails in almost everything he does"), than those of Walt Disney or Bill Gates? Don't big dreams lead to big disappointments?

An ill-conceived plan; this will not end well. 
For Wile E. Coyote, they never do.

For Charlie Brown, life can sometimes feel like an endless series of disappointments.

Well, for me the answer is obvious: Big dreams can lead to big disappointments, but that doesn't mean we should not have them.

To be clear, by “dreams,” I mean aspirations or goals, as opposed to the reveries we all have during REM state while sleeping, most of which we are unlikely to remember. And by "big" dreams, I mean lofty aspirations, such as wanting to become ridiculously rich, wanting to be the King of Iceland (bad news: Iceland's monarchy ended in 1944, but who knows, maybe they'll bring it back for you!), or wanting to become a ridiculously-rich great composer AND the King of Iceland, and be recognized as such by your subjects, the good people of Iceland.

Walt Disney supposedly said, all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them, and if you can dream it, you can do it.

(These quotes are frequently attributed to Disney on the Internet and are found in How to Be Like Walt; Capturing the Magic Every Day of Your Life (2004) by Pat Williams. However, I have yet to find when, where, and in what context these statements were made, making me wonder if he actually said them, or if an awful lot of Disneyphiles wish he had said them.)

As mentioned above, daring to follow your dreams is promoted as a core belief at Disney theme parks and in many Disney movies. This advice is summed up nicely in the following song, by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, from Walt Disney's 1940 adaptation of Pinocchio.
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true

Of course, it's not just the Walt Disney Corporation that promotes this belief/marketing strategy; many others have expressed similar sentiments:
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Eleanor Roosevelt
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman 
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Henry David Thoreau

But before we all quit our day-jobs and head off to Hollywood (or Iceland), it may be prudent to ask ourselves whether it is wise to dream big. Here are some quotes that may give you pause:
A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.
Oscar Wilde 
A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.
John Barrymore
He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.
Douglas Adams
Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way.
Baltasar Gracian
Take everything easy and quit dreaming and brooding and you will be well guarded from a thousand evils.
Amy Lowell
When younger writers and poets, musicians and painters are weakened by a stemming of funds, they come to me saddened, not as full of dreams and excitement and ideas. I am then weakened and diminished, and made less rich.
Maya Angelou
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
J. K. Rowling
The last four quotes above (highlighted) are particularly sobering; they articulate the dilemma with which we all must wrestle:
While it is probably true that many or even most great things could not have been achieved without big dreams, it is also true that most dreams do not come to fruition, and indeed, the loftier the dream, the lower the likelihood of its coming to pass, and the greater the potential disappointment.

There have been at least ten different songs — as well as a television series, a film, a painting, and a book — with the title, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."

Broken dreams — dashed hopes — is cleary a concept that resonates for many people, just as the more hopeful Disney quotations above also resonate for many, presumably because we all have had aspirations of varying magnitudes during the course of our lives, but we have all experienced deep disappointments along the way as well; we have all felt both optimism and dismay at different times.

We must all learn to navigate between chasing lofty dreams and pragmatism, but my advice for all composers is to go ahead and dream as big as you wish, because you are unlikely to find much success without first dreaming of it.

However, greatness in composition does not result from luck, like winning a lottery; it is the product of years of hard work, critical thinking, thinking outside and inside boxes, a positive attitude in the face of rejections, and many other factors, some of which I have discussed in previous posts. Luck can certainly play a part as well, especially in terms of one's success as a composer — composers are sometimes "championed" by music directors and conductors, for example — but even in cases like these, you have to be good to be lucky, as the sports saying goes.

So, go ahead and dream big, but be prepared to put in a lot of hard work along the way. Be pragmatic at least some of the time, because we cannot survive, let alone entertain lofty aspirations, without the provision of our basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, and Belgian dark chocolate, but be aware that too much pragmatism can be a dream-killer; a highly-pragmatic person might decide to abandon their dreams in favour of more "realistic"or achievable goals, and, while there is nothing inherently wrong with that, I wonder how many people would ever achieve their dreams if we all felt this way.

It may be comforting to know that many people who did not achieve their "Plan A" dream were successful in achieving their Plan B (or C, or D, or …) dream; failure in one area can lead to success in a different one. Or, to put it another way, most people who achieved success in one area were unsuccessful in others along the way.

If Plan A did not work out, you are one plan closer to the one that will work out, provided that you keep setting goals and working towards reaching them.

When I was a boy, I wanted to be a writer. That was Plan A. While I didn't exactly fail at that – I am writing these very words right now (!), and I have written many other things as well, some of which have been published – at some point, I decided I would rather become a guitarist and songwriter in a wildly successful rock band, kind of like George Harrison in The Beatles. This became Plan B, and it seemed like a pretty good gig, with excellent salary and benefits.

After spending most of my teen years playing guitar for 6+ hours every day (no exaggeration; I played from the moment I woke up to the point I had to go to school, then after school 'till bedtime, with occasional interruptions to eat, do homework, and sports), it began to dawn on me that Plan B was unlikely to come to fruition, for several reasons , one of which being that I was Paul McCartney's friend (George and Paul became friends as teenagers). Nor did I know any Paul McCartney-types, meaning fantastic musicians who could play anything, were seemingly indefatigable and constantly in good spirits, workaholics, and on a path towards becoming, arguably, the most successful song-writer in the history of popular music.

Other roadblocks in achieving Plan B were that I was also not as good a guitarist as George, and I lacked the alpha personality to form a band, ruthlessly fire people who did not work out, get gigs for the band, or go through all of the other stressful experiences involved in the formation of a successful rock band.

So, what to do instead? Well, I didn't really have a Plan C, so I went to university and got a BA degree in Humanities. I finished a few weeks after my 20th birthday, and promptly got a job as a telephone information operator at Grey Coach Bus Lines, in Toronto.

Not bad at all, eh? Living the dream!

Indeed. But despite the giddiness that came from having a regular salary, I decided that I REALLY wanted to make some kind of music dream happen, but maybe I should learn a little more about music first; I thought it might be useful to learn how harmony worked.

A friend suggested I take a class in music rudiments at the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) in Toronto, So I did – every Saturday morning, along with a bunch of kids who seemed to be around 12-16. Thus, at the age of 20, I began learning about key signatures, how to subdivide different meters, and how to spell different chords. What the heck am I doing, and why am I doing it, I wondered, frequently.

I came to realize that I was learning nothing about how harmony works, or song-writing for that matter, so, when I finished the rudiments course, I decided to take a harmony course. And then I decided to take more history and theory courses after that.

This is an example of "falling down the rabbit hole," because, what with one thing leading to another, in no time at all (well, 15 years, but that's not long, geologically speaking) I ended up with a doctorate in classical music composition.

However, since I like to feel that I am not, strictly speaking, a geological formation, 15 years actually felt like a very long time indeed.
Quick digression: On the question of whether we are or are, or are not, geological formations, John Donne wrote a famous poem called, No Man is an Island (Meditation XVII – Devotions upon Emergent Occasions). Paul Simon wrote a song in which the protagonist unsuccessfully argues the opposing viewpoint: I am a Rock, I am an Island.
Getting a doctorate was not Plan C, however; at least not initially.

No, Plan C was becoming a jazz guitarist, because, while working at Grey Coach, I had begun to stay out 'till all hours of the night listening to jazz musicians, and I decided that playing such music in poorly-attended clubs on a nightly basis was the life for me.

So I studied jazz guitar for a while, while continuing to work at various jobs and study at the Conservatory, but – and I don't exactly remember how this happened – somewhere along the way, I started to become inordinately excited about renaissance counterpoint, contemporary music composition, and all manner of musical studies.

This – becoming a skilled composer – became Plan D.

Initially, my lofty aspiration within Plan D was to finish all the RCM harmony, counterpoint, and history exams. This was Plan D, part 1. It took about 2.5 years, but when I accomplished this, I decided to pursue studies leading to an ARCT in Composition (Plan D, part 2). This involved writing 12 three-hour exams in a variety of musical styles, such as renaissance counterpoint, baroque harmony and counterpoint, 19th-century harmony, contemporary techniques, history (all periods), and analysis. It took me 4.5 years to complete all exams. So, that's a total of 7 years of music studies so far, for those keeping score.

My next lofty aspiration (plan D, part 3) was to do a master's degree in composition at U of T. This was seemingly impossible, since I did not have a BMus degree, and U of T was famous for telling prospective applicants to go away and perish if there was anything irregular about their background.

After an interview that was perhaps the most humiliating experience of my life, U of T very grudgingly allowed me to take a year of 4th-year courses with no degree standing. The understanding was that if I did well enough, my 4th-year music results, plus my ARCT in composition and my BA degree, might make me admissible to their master's degree.

I apparently did well enough in my one year as a 4th-year Faculty of Music student – some of the courses, such as renaissance counterpoint, were easier than the level of exams I had taken at the RCM, but that was fine by me – because I was admitted into their master's programme in composition the next year. I finished it within 9 months.

I had, at that point, completed 9 years of music studies, which of course only began after I had already graduated from university.

Plan D, part 3, was about as lofty as my dreams got at that point in my life. I never gave much thought to what I would do if and when I ever got a master's degree in composition. I thought perhaps I could become a private music teacher, and make a living that way, while continuing to compose music, and hopefully win a prize or two some day.

But then the Faculty of Music's graduate secretary called me one day and asked if I was planning to apply to the doctoral programme, and I thought, okay, why not? And so I did, and that – getting a doctorate in music composition – became Plan D, part 4.

Plan D – all 4 parts – took 15 years to complete from my first rudiments class to the completion of my doctorate degree. During this time, I worked as a sales clerk at The Bay, a department store in Toronto, most of the time. I also sold stereo equipment briefly. And, around the time I turned 30, I was hired by the RCM to teach composition, theory and history, so, while I wasn't making much money, I was able to get by. I also got married, and we had a lovely daughter along the way, who became the greatest and most meaningful joy of my life.

The trouble with Plan D, aside from the length of time it took to complete it, was that it was almost impossible to make a living as a composer of contemporary classical music in Canada, no matter how skilled you might become. People who make a living from composition usually work in other fields, such as television, cinema, advertising, and video games, not in contemporary classical music. The only exception I was aware of at the time was R. Murray Schafer.

While there are many 'art-music' composers in Canada, almost all of them do not make their living from their compositions. Most do other work, such as teaching, among many other options, or they are supported by a partner or their family.

When I realized this, I decided to pursue a new plan – Plan E – which was to become a composition and theory professor. I did not appreciate what an absurdly-improbable aspiration this was at the time; there may have been only about 6-7 full-time, tenure-track university jobs in composition that became available over the past 26 years in Canada.

And somehow, through a lot of work, perseverance, many ups and downs, and an inordinate quantity of luck, Plan E worked out, for which I thank my lucky stars every day. The collateral damage was that my wife and I separated, and then divorced along the way, and I only got to see my daughter for a few weeks every year, although we spoke on the phone for many hours every week. All of this was extremely painful, as you might expect.

Eventually (about 7 years after I started working as a professor in Newfoundland), fortune smiled upon me again, because I became friends with, and eventually married, another professor, and we have been blessed to have two more children, plus many cats, and a hound. My daughter and I have remained close through her entire life (she is almost 28), but I never stopped missing her.

So, it took a ridiculous amount of time and many revisions of plans, but it all worked out in the end, at least so far.

I would guess that variations of this story – many plans, over many years, with many ups and downs along the way – are pretty common for many people in different walks of life.

Here's a chart that I had fun with (when I wasn't getting frustrated over the challenges of formatting it in HTML); the statements on the "pro" side (left column) are arguments in favour of pursuing one's dream, with counter-arguments represented on the right column. To be clear, neither side necessarily represents views that I hold; this is just a thought experiment, looking at the pros and cons of following one's dreams.

Which statements do you agree with?

Some Pros and Cons of Dreaming Big Dreams
• Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

• Nothing great was ever achieved without first dreaming of it (me, paraphrasing Emerson)

• Dare to live the life you have dreamed for yourself. Go forward and make your dreams come true (Emerson)
• The greater our enthusiasm, the greater the pain we feel when something does not work out

• The greater the dream, the less likely it is to come true. Dream of small  achievements, like finding a good parking spot, and you won't be too disappointed when they don't work out.

• You are unlikely to make your dreams come true unless you dream of small things, like finding a good parking spot, or beating the boss level in a video game.
• When you have a dream, and follow that dream, you will gain from the experience, no matter the outcome (me)

• Pain, disappointment, and frustration are all experiences from which we can learn (me)

• That which does not kill us makes us stronger (Neitzsche)

• Yeah, you'll gain pain, that's the only guaranteed outcome of following a dream!

• Sure, you can learn from these things; it doesn't mean you have to go looking for them, however. Why not choose a safer path that is more likely to produce a positive result?

• Neitzsche alienated many during his life, and became become "effectively unemployable… Subsequent feelings of revenge and resentment embittered him," (Wikipedia: Nietzsche) and he eventually went mad. This would seem to call into question his statement in the left column.
• All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them (Disney)• This is self-evidently ridiculous, but in case you feel otherwise, here is why: Even if your dreams have no imagination whatsoever, like aspiring to find a good parking spot when you go shopping, there will be times when your dreams do not come true. You may have to park a long way from your favourite mall entrance during the Christmas rush. The store may be sold out of the item you really want. Your favourite restaurant may take your favourite dish off the menu. And if your dreams are loftier than this, there is a greater probability that at least some (and probably most) will not come true.
• Did Disney even say this, or is this something that the Disney Corporation wants you to believe while visiting their theme parks, presumably so that you will spend lots of money making sure your kids' dreams are not dashed?
We are all resilient, to varying degrees. Yes, following a dream can lead to profound disappointment, and even leave us feeling crushed; however, we have it in us to bounce back and try again, possibly a little wiser from experiencing the setback

• Not only are we resilient, we are adaptable; if, after working at it for some time, we conclude that our dream is unattainable, we can re-think our dream and come up with another one. Frequently "dream B" (or dream "C," "D," "E," etc.) succeeds in a way that exceeds our wildest hopes for "dream A" 
• Some people are more resilient than others. We all have a pain limit… If chasing a dream fails repeatedly, and the pain of it all becomes too much to bear, perhaps we should stop chasing that dream

• Well, if you conclude that "dream A" will not work out, or if you conclude that to continue pursuing it is resulting in more pain and frustration than you can bear, do you really want to open yourself up to more of the same by chasing "dream B," "C," and "D?"
• There is no path in life that is devoid of pain, frustration, and disappointment. Yes, following your dream can (and likely will) lead to negative experiences, but to think you can avoid them completely by following another path is foolish. So, if these are a given in life, why not experience them pursuing your dream, instead of following a "safer" path that you don't really want to be on?• Some paths have a significantly-lower probability of success than others. If my dream is to become a huge Broadway star — the next Idina Menzel — and I find myself reduced to doing poorly-paying sporadic dinner-theatre shows to bored audiences in suburbia twenty years from now, I don't think I would be very happy. There is a time to admit when your plans are not likely to lead to a positive outcome, and come up with more realistic plans
The decision of when to follow your dream, versus when to modify your expectations and pursue something else, comes down to "risk tolerance;" how much are you willing to risk, and for how long, in order to achieve your dream? It's a dilemma with which most people wrestle, and there's no, "one size fits all" solution for everyone.

I've known people who kept chasing their dreams until they turned 35 or even 40, at which point they experienced a mid-life crisis because they were poor, and didn't have a back-up plan; how do you train for a different profession AND subsequently get hired when you're 40? (Ans.: It's possible; I've known people who did this, but it's not easy). 

How do you start a family if you are poor throughout your twenties and thirties? (Ans.: This too is possible – I know people who did this – but, once again, it is not easy, because raising children well can be a fairly-expensive proposition (clothes, baby paraphernalia (car seats, strollers, toys), food, an instrument if they want to do music, music or dance lessons, band trips, etc.)). 

My concluding thought is that, while I think it 
 something with which most people struggle, and it is a decision we must all work out for ourselves. 
• I actually agree with many of the points on either side of the above, "pros and cons" chart. I think it's good to have a dream, and to overcome any fears that may be preventing you from pursuing your dream. 

• I also think it's wise to check-in with reality periodically (acknowledging that different people have different realities), and to consider other options if option A is not working.

    • I have met successful business people who told me that they too had dreamt of becoming musicians, but they ultimately decided to go to business school when it became apparent that their dream was not likely to pan out. The people I met didn't seem to regret their decision at all, presumably because they found tremendous success in another area of life, and I think this is fairly common. 

       But part of my motivation in holding onto my dream of becoming a composer was the worry that, if I didn't go after my dream, I would regret it later in life. I don't know if I actually would have regretted it or not, of course — in retrospect, I think I might have been content in other pursuits as well — but I didn't want to become a bitter old man, regretting things he didn't do in life, so I stuck with my goal, despite frequent doubts as to the wisdom/practicality of this goal, and some significant, soul-crushing setbacks along the way. Luckily, things worked out, at least so far…


Mitchel Fleming said...

I would like to start off this post by first stating that I hope you and your family had a good time at Disney. It truly is the place where "Dreams come true", or rather, a place where we are mesmerized by our own childhood wonderment and have time to reflect upon our current ambitions, goals, and aspirations.
I have been told that I am a dreamer; that I aim too high, shoot too far, or wish too much. That is true, and unfortunately it can lead to me missing out on the present. I catch myself dreaming of being in the audience, listening to my first symphony instead of sitting at the piano and composing it. Or fantasizing of the perfect date instead of getting the confidence to ask her out. This habit of getting caught up in ones dreams can lead to you missing out on the present, which will never turn into the future you desire. Nikola Tesla once said "Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I really have worked, is mine." He states that you work today, for the future you want for yourself tomorrow.
This however, is where we see the importance of having dreams. It gives your life a purpose; a goal to be achieved; a mountain to be conquered. Without these ambitions, you are living a life without meaning. Without dreams, you are LITERALLY living to survive. Having these dreams will lead to a happier life; a more fulfilled existence with more memories than regrets. Dreams are essential to living a full, happy, and satisfying life, as long as we do not forget that our dreams (our future) is impossible without a little hard work today

Sarah-Beth Cormier said...

In their storylines, if not their marketing, Disney-Pixar actually appears to be changing their tune on dreams. In Up, the lead character, Carl, upon achieving his dream, comes to realise that his dream pales in comparison to the day-to-day life he was lucky enough to spend with the woman he loved. In Monster's University, all of the hard work and confidence the protagonist Mike put into his dream couldn't make it come true, and the failure nearly crushed him. However, though he never achieved his dream, pursuing it lead him to success in another path, not as lofty but just as satisfying.

One of my dad's favourite sayings came to mind while reading this: We never have a choice between risk and no risk, only the risks we are willing to take. What are the risks of pursuing one's dream? Emotionally of course, there's the disappointment, and that risk must be judged by one's personal threshold for it. Some find that it gets easier to take after the first few times, others just get beaten down. I am less concerned about disappointment though, and more concerned about the financial and professional consequences that following a dream can have. Investing significant time and resources in following a dream without ever seeing it come to fruition, or having repeated public failures that damage one's professional image, can have tangible impacts on one's quality of life.
On the other hand, not following a dream has risks as well. There's the nagging "what if's", the lost opportunities, the wasted potential. While following a dream can result in negatives, choosing not to follow can result in lost positives, leading to a similar net result.

I think, therefore, that the best course of action may be to measure the size of one's dream against the size of one's safety net. The question shouldn't be, "Can I?" it should be "Can I afford to fail?" Invest as much as you can in a dream, but don't burn your bridges if it isn't worth it to you even if you fail. As my dad also says, you need to choose which hill you want to die on. If you're going all in, accept failure as a possible outcome, and figure out whether you would feel closure or regret should it come to pass.

Perhaps more importantly, we should attach less importance to the result and more to the process. You may not achieve what you set out to do, but no work is wasted if we are willing to see how it allowed us to grow, whether in our compositional skill, our work ethic, our enjoyment of life, anything. Maybe we won't end up with our dreams, but maybe like Carl and Mike of Pixar, we'll find something worthwhile along the way.

Kassandra-Anne Demers said...

Life is not a fairy tale but it doesn’t mean we should limit ourselves. Dreams, aspirations and goals can be the fuel to bring us to great places; even if the risk is “failure”. In the end, the result is experiences. In my opinion experiences are worth the risk. I am also trying to live my life without regrets. So far, so good! I believe it is important to balance our dreams with survival to keep us grounded with reality.

Adrian Irvine said...

At this point I'm finding that having a few "big dreams" that I can constantly be taking little steps towards is a good way of staying inspired and active while avoiding the pressures associated with fully investing myself in a single "big dream." That being said, this can easily lead me to feel as though I'm stretched too thin in the amount of time and energy I have to put into each thing. This unfortunately is most frustrating when I feel like I'm "on a roll" in my pursuit of any or all of my goals, but so far this frustration has been manageable and the results of my efforts have been positive.

I know I will be forced to change this philosophy/work flow in the coming years as I enter into graduate studies, but for now I will continue to work to grow in as many areas as possible so that a few "big dreams" will be closer to my reach when it comes time to decide which I should invest myself in entirely.

Robert Humber said...

When I think about my future, there is certainly some confusion as to how my life will play out. I decided to chase a dream in my senior year of high school on the basis that nothing interested me as much as music and creating it was (and is) like meditating. I just kind of outlet everything into the music and I can't say I have that kind of passion for anything else like science or math or law. Knowing that it is very difficult to make a living by composing is a tough reality. I think it is important to think not too far ahead in the future, because if you just focus on one step at a time, your end dream will most likely morph into something slightly different just like you will as a person. When I arrived at music school, all I could think about was writing video game music for a living. Now, that is still on my mind as an amazing career, however I love the idea of writing classical music and writing things that in Grade 12 I would've had NO idea how to replicate. I've also thought about teaching music to children. At the end of the day, even in two years my dream has gone from "I'm going to be the next Koji Kondo" to "I'd love to have a lifestyle where I can be around music a lot and hopefully have the opportunity to write some music for video games and concert halls along the way. Basically I just hope I'm not extremely poor and lonely". So I think that it is important to hold onto dreams as long as possible. I am close friends with a man who regrets holding down his dreams to pursue a stable job every day. I don't want that. As long as you can change your dreams slightly to accommodate reality, you can do it!

Sarah Bartlett said...

Oddly enough, I agreed and disagreed with things on each side of the pros and cons list without actually changing my opinion. Upon reading Malcom Gladwell's book 'Outliers,' which was effectively a study of success, as well as through personal experience, I hold the opinion that dreams most often are reached by a lot of hard work. It's very easy to think of dreams as random events that happen to people; that people just get promoted, or they just become rich, but this is very rarely the case. A lot of what people consider to be luck on the part of other people very often isn't. As it's said, opportunity is often disguised as hard work. Dreams give us goals to work towards, and give us a feeling of purpose. Just because a goal seems far-off doesn't mean we necessarily shouldn't try. Just because someone's career path seems challenging doesn't mean it's impossible. After all, someone's got to do it; it might as well be you.
I think that rejecting dreams out-of-hand leads to a sadness and dissatisfaction often found in people who gave up before they started. People like this will often justify their not-going-for-it with sayings like "it's too competitive," "I wasn't good enough so I didn't try," and the ever-popular "it's impossible." Dreams have a way of helping motivate us to try. Pessimists often don't try for fear of failure - but as is made clear in your March 24th blog, failure isn't always a bad thing. Thankfully, everyone has the capacity to dream and recognize their goals, even if not everyone has the courage to strive for them.

Timothy Brennan said...

Growing up I absolutely loved Disney films and I continue to do so today. Disney movies have a way of making us believe that the impossible is possible and that sheer determination and perseverance can help us achieve our goals and ambitions. But they also show the reality that there are obstacles to overcome while chasing your dreams, and that often there is a price to pay for doing so. For example, Ariel's burning desire in The Little Mermaid to become a human leads her to making a deal with the sea witch, which nearly costs her to nearly lose her own life and endangers the life of her father and Prince Eric. In this case, Ariel is blinded by her ambition, which causes her to lose her sense of judgement and make poor choices for the sake of her desire. I think that film sends a powerful message with regards to staying grounded and the importance of staying in touch with reality while pursuing your dreams. However, as a kid I was more infatuated with the catchy songs, talking fish and the action than worried about trying to uncover a deeper meaning. Kudos to Disney for doing this, as earlier Disney fairytale films present heroines who sing about their woes and desires for a prince to save them, then suddenly and magically, the prince and/or a fairy godmother magically appears. In my opinion, this is a distorted view of reality, as only you can make your ambitions come true and fairy godmothers and Disney princes/princesses are a figment of imagination. While they make good stories and films, they are fairy-tales for a reason! My overall point, and the point of many of the comments listed here, is that yes it is okay to have big dreams and desires, whatever they may be in any field. But exercise caution and judgement when setting out to fulfil those dreams!

Emery van de Wiel said...

When we typically read about dreaming big, specifically reading quotes on dreaming is that most of these quotes come from people we hear of. People that we listen too. People that are famous. Peoples who's dreams have come true. Obviously that doesn't happen to every everybody. I'm not stating to not dream big, as I dream dream big, but don't blindly think that by following the instructions of an already famous man or woman who are trying to get the public to like them by using these motivational speeches that you'll become famous.

Anaïs Siosse said...

And the dream comes true… and then what ? Should we work hard to realize our dreams, or should we keep dreaming ? Should we stop dreaming our dreams when they become true ? I often asked these questions to people around me and each time the answer was "Go, do it !! Life is too short". My mom is the only one who cares about these kind of answers, because consequences happen very fast… "You have to know why you want to make you dream come true". Sometimes I feel that we should think a lot about planning our ideas … but sometimes I feel "stop thinking" and you will see what life has to offer you… but if one do nothing… then nothing will happen…

I really think that there is no answer for that. If someone really wants something, then he has to work really hard and have some luck and faith… I also feel that there is a difference between dreaming and deserving something. I do dream about a lot of things days and nights… but still I do not want them to become true, it is just the beauty of dreaming. If all the dreams could become true, then the word dreaming would not exist anymore. However, becoming a late musician was one of my deserved dream… and I feel the most grateful to be at MUN today.

I really hate multi national companies such as Disney just because they use the word dream to manipulate the brain of children and some adults. I think this is a complete disrespect of the human being. The only thing that we own today is our thinking, we should be very careful about our kids and our own brain and psychological health. I hope I am not to direct here. I am sure I would have chosen other words than these in french, or maybe not… Having said that, I have to say that I had a lot of pleasure when I was a kid in Disney world/Orlando, it it might have taking part of opening my mind for dreaming and becoming a musician today?

Andre McEvenue said...

This was a very thought provoking read. I would echo Sarah-Beth's comment about the process having more value than the result. In fact, I have always felt this way about university. I suppose I have people in my life who offer me advice that is more pragmatic, and I have people in my life who encourage me to dream big. Maybe it is the balance of those two influences that determines how one feels about big dreams.

Robert Godin said...

A great movie that somewhat summarizes the struggle to become THE next big thing is whiplash. It's about a drummers internal and physical struggle to become the best at something and what it would take. *Spoilers* It takes pretty much everything from him: his social life, family life, friends. He goes through great psychological and physical abuse to achieve his goals. At the end, there is a great scene where he is booed off stage (because he was tricked by his conductor) and his father comes to console him, and he has to make a decision, admit defeat and have a "normal" life (the same as his fathers) or fight passed the ridicule and prove that he can be the best. Obviously those extreme examples but it all boils down to: is the juice worth the squeeze? If you're not happy for a large amount of time doing something, you should maybe rethink about what you're doing.

If anyone is interested, here are a couple of videos explaining the main characters points of view. *Strong language*

Flutiano said...

The other comments here are like another post! It's great to read my peers' ideas about this topic.

I often find that the recommendations regarding dreams and aspirations are to make them realistic; dreams are supposed to be achievable. However, how am I supposed to know what I am capable of? Is it not possible to expand one's capabilities, or to achieve things that you previously thought were impossible?

I think that the most important part about a dream is how dedicated you are to it. Are you willing to work for it? Are you willing to work for it, knowing you might never get it? How much does your dream matter to you?

Personally, I like dreams that are beyond what I am capable of. I wouldn't want to achieve all of my goals, because then I wouldn't have anything left to work towards. If I am going to fail to do something that matters to me, I would rather fail after working hard at it than fail by default because I never tried.

Not achieving a dream is disappointing. There is no denying that. However, even when you don't achieve your dream, maybe you'll end up somewhere you had never dreamed of. When I graduated high school, I never thought I would end up a Composition Major. Composing was something I was interested in but couldn't do, or so I thought. I was going to be a performance major, with both flute and piano. People told me I was crazy, and told me that I had to pick an instrument, and that no university would let me study two instruments. Two years out of high school, MUN proved them wrong and let me study both flute and piano. However, despite getting farther towards my dream than I was led to believe was possible, I didn't get there. I was not accepted into the performance major, for either instrument never mind both. Disappointing? Yes. Devastating? No - I got part-way there, and I learned a lot along the way.

I'm not completely sure what the point of my story is, so I'll end of this comment with one of my favourite quotes: "I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it." - Stephen Leacock

Josh Chancey said...

While I agree that the quote "All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them" from Disney is a hyperbole, I do believe that in this post, your counter-argument to the quote extends the same hyperbole. I believe in order to provide greater context, a working definition of a dream should be established. I always took this quote from Disney to mean that dreams are much like lifelong goals, rather than simply dreams (the silly things we think about, the thoughts that come to us late at night, etc). In this context, I feel that a "dream" to find a parking space doesn't fit. Few people truly think of finding a perfect parking space as a true dream. That being said, even some of our lifelong goals may not come to fruition exactly as we planned, but I believe that dreams need not be concrete. If we all aspired to the first dream we had, we'd likely be in very different places right now, and perhaps many of those places are places we would not wish to be. Perhaps in music school, a would-be performer discovers they'd like to run a music-based business instead, or perhaps they discover a passion for sports and chose to pursue that instead. I think finding out how to make your dreams work for you is just as valuable as making your original dream come true.

Josh McCarthy said...

I feel like dreaming big can be helpful sometimes, in that it can help give you the drive you need to achieve your goals. I feel like when I have a deadline or a goal, it can really help force me to get off my butt and start working instead of watching Netflix or napping... and trust me this happens much too often. So having this finish line really helps me get things done, especially when it comes to finishing projects for my courses, if I didn't have deadline I feel like I would never get things done, or even forget about them. This often happens during the summer when I tell myself that I'm going to compose lots of things over the four months and end up not doing a thing, solely because I don't have to. It can also be hindering because like mentioned in the blog, having a deadline can also be daunting and lead to a form of writer's block (which I know plenty about, as do most people) because of stress.

Kristina Bernardo said...

Growing up as a kid with hand-me-down clothes and apartments crowded with too many people, dreaming was all I had. To watch heroines dance and sing across wide open fields, wishing with all their hearts to change their destiny. All it takes is for them to be given an opportunity and for them to keep striving for that dream to come true. It's no wonder why I wanted to be like them. They're what made me want to sing and if I didn't have that dream, where would I be today? Not trying to pursue that dream, I don't think. But this dream has been the cause of just as much pain as it has been happiness. "What does not kill us makes us stronger" is very true in my situation. Overcoming the odds is what made me who I am today and I am stronger for it, but how many times can I be pushed to the edge before it's too much? This big dream of mine is made almost impossible for those lacking privilege. But if I didn't have it, what else could I try to do?
Dreams can be hindrances and can hurt more than help but they do give one thing and that is hope. Hope for a better future, a reason for getting up in the morning. Dreams might not be for everyone, but for children that have no hope sometimes all you have to do is put on a Disney movie.

Joe Donaghey said...

I feel there is nothing wrong with having a dream and working towards it. Chances are your dreams will change as you grow up from a kid into an adult. My dream as a child was to be a lawyer but only because of my lawyer neighbors having a boat and a nice car. This continued a few years later when I wanted to be a realtor because I saw a realtor with a BMW. Obviously, as I grew up my dream changed into something to do with music. First, it was music production, and then somehow I ended up in performance and now I am taking a job as a music director. A very far cry from a lawyer I wanted to be all those years ago. Sure if I stayed with that goal as a kid I would probably be close to getting my bar license and working in law by now but I wouldn't be enjoying it. I feel like this is true for a lot of people. No one is the same person as they were as a kid, even a few years later. Then again you hear stories of kids who start something while they are young and they spend their entire lives dedicated to it and when they grow up they make an incredible living from it.

Dreams are not bad, dreams change, dreams will disappoint, and dreams will reward you. What could be considered bad is telling people they need to follow their dreams in order to be happy or successful. At least for me, I know I much prefer to see where life takes me while retaining a goal in mine to be successful and financially stable one day.

Jack Etchegary said...

As I read this post, I reflected on my own dreams and aspirations that have shifted ever so drastically throughout my undergraduate degree. Upon first starting my degree, pursuing education was the only thing I was interested in, and was pretty much certain that I would be choosing to do the comprehensive major at the end of my first year of studies. Funnily enough, by the time came around for me to declare that major, I wasn't feeling so sure. I was told that I could always just apply for the program later on, in second year (or beyond) so I decided not to choose to declare the comprehensive education major and wait it out. Then, things only got more interesting as I took electronic music 3104, choral conducting 2311/2312 and intro to composition. I had keen interests in both composition and conducting after taking these courses and when it came time to declare a major, I chose composition, and was luckily accepted to the program. Since this time, I've been developing interests in so many different fields of music. Conducting has still proven to be a contender for a masters program, as has music management. Education has also lingered in some ways in my mind. My own inability to make a solid decision on what path to take, as well as the decision I made to not apply for any masters programs for 2018, makes me reflect on the purpose and benefit of dreams. For me, I am still very much so figuring things out and am sure I'll choose something sometime soon to pursue. What I initially thought I would do with my music degree, and what I think I will do with it now, are two very different thoughts. So, does that mean that it was never my "dream" to pursue education in music? It is hard to say. I have many interests in a lot of different areas and for me, I am not one to say that I have a big dream to pursue. This all being said, having big dreams can work for many people. When someone is so committed to pursing a particular thing, the motivation which comes with dreaming big I think can have huge rewards for many. Whether someone is unsure of what lies ahead (like me) or has it all planned out, I think the most important thing we can do is always have a positive mindset, be interested in learning new things, and not be afraid of failing.

Duncan Stenhouse said...

I think that dreams are extremely important for all people to have. Dreams and aspirations are what fuel the drives of people, something I believe is extremely important if a person wants to thrive. I do also agree with your point that your dreams can change and that if dream A or B doesn’t work out it doesn’t mean someone can’t be extremely happy with dream C or even D etc. The fact that failure is an option is both scary and a source of motivation. By knowing the possibility of failure is a prevalent one it pushes you that much further to go out and succeed. Utilizing this sense of fear is the key to approaching and achieving your dreams in my opinion. You may fail but there is always a way to learn from those failures and move forward. The enemy of a dreamer is stagnation and we must be willing to adapt and move forward even when it feels like we have failed because success isn’t made by doing one string of things well and just having it work out, its made by working hard, picking yourself up when your fall and realizing that to move forward you may have to take a few steps back first. I do not agree with the Disney quotes that every dream can come true if we pursue them. We must be rounded and thoughtful of how we go about achieving our goals or else we may be blindly following an unachievable goal our entire life when what makes us truly happy is waiting for us elsewhere.