Last spring I was heading up to Harriman State Park (1hr north of NYC) for a Bush Smarts gear testing / photo trip. Looking off into the mountains I had a realization that in the heat of having a kid and starting a company I hadn’t really maintained the notion of having dreams in life.
A year later I’m still a bit on the fence; one side of me thinks that a Dad should live an impassioned life–conveying to his family that life should be lived with zeal, but I think also that dreams can be a slippery slope. Their pursuit can become the embodiment of selfishness and ruin. Should Dads be entitled to dreams, for themselves and for the family? How does that play into your role as “head of household” if that’s your schtick?
To the Non-Dreamers:
At times I think my life is governed by hard & fast realities, with very little room for much else. While I’m growing Bush Smarts, I make all of my money from creative consulting, at times just skimping by to allow my wife to be at home with our son Charlie. We have a pretty typical load of American debt, a combination of credit cards, loans and school loans. The end is years away at our current pace. When I’m “realistic” about our budget, it is not a very forgiving situation at all so not dreaming and sticking to reality is a pretty natural course of life.
Something happened to me though, after 4-5 months of inflicting a frigid fiscal discipline on my family; I found that I was actually diminishing my and our ability to enjoy life. Sounds dreadful I know, but it’s true – we found that we stopped caring about anything other than getting out of our situation, without actually bothering to plot a trajectory of what that destination was, and what we would do when we got there.
In my past, pre-Charlie I would say, Whitney and I were filled with wanton adventure–always looking for the next trip, restaurant, dinner whatever. Experiencing our neighborhood and traveling were huge parts of our life and we really liked it. The DINK (double income no kids) lifestyle was quite agreeable, we had the full menu of life without ever looking at the bill.
Realistically, that left us was without any preparation or plan for how to live off of one income and fighting tooth and nail to stay above water. The dream became not drowning.
Be it for good or naught, I found solace in my grandparents generation – growing up in the Great Depression, learning to subside off of less and drawing fulfillment from the scarcest morsel of release.
Not dreaming, seems to be a very safe way to go about life. You dig your way out of life’s proverbial holes by stacking brick by brick, always keeping 3 limbs on the ground–knees and hand, the other to place the next brick. If you can stomach the monotony, you have little choice but to ascend out of your hole – but I can make no guarantee the condition you’ll be in when you get there. It is a life driven by sheer discipline, void of inspiration or joy. The hardship isolates you, and insulates you from the very people you’re hoping to “save.”
You May Say I’m a Dreamer:
Well I’m not the only one… Recently, I’ve been riding the crest of an epiphany. Dreams have reignited their value in my life, though honestly I’m still dipping my toe in the water and playing it safe (baby steps). Much like a starving backpacker finding a prime-rib buffet in the woods, I historically have a tendency to charge into dreams with delusions of grandeur. Now being older, surlier and I guess you could say scrappier – I’m finding that my time spent in the trenches has enhanced my executional abilities to a point where my conversion rate of dream to reality is much higher.
In pursuing dreams, I’ve found there’s a newfound romance in our marriage. We look forward to the possibility of doing more together, and see glimpses of hope not as torture but as inspiration to go out and get more. My relationships with my wife and son are deepening, as my cold-hearted trap door psyche melts from the inside. Last Saturday I took my son around the neighborhood and even though he’s only a toddler we hung out – at least in my mind we did. It was probably some of the most fun I’ve had in months. More so–I’m ready to do it again next weekend.
As I said in the beginning, I think that dreams unchecked can lead families to ruin. One thing I love about listening to talk radio (you’ll hear about Dave Ramsey in a minute) is that you get an intimate glimpse into real life stories from around the country. What I find from call-ins, is that especially men often pull their families on half-baked schemes without every actually weighing the reality behind it. This is coming from a guy that co-founded an artisanal camping gear brand but hear me out. There’s story after story of the mechanic, contractor, good ol’ boy, or whatever who squanders everything his family has to fill up his tool shop with tools / cars / trucks / motorcycles to run a business that doesn’t exist.
My position is to differentiate dreams into those that are beneficial, and those that are detrimental. In the pursuit of a good dream, as I’m finding, every step along that path is a good one–not always easy, but always enriching, teaching and encouraging. Pursuing bad dreams leads to waste, resentment, hurt feelings, lost time – and empty pockets.
Here’s how I got here:
If there’s a silver lining to rock-bottom fatalism, it’s that if you can’t find a point to it all then you should realize that you’re creatively free to make that point whatever you like. In my case, I started seeing that many of my limitations were a result of invisible scripts that I had in my head – and those scripts needed to be evicted immediately.
You can’t make enough money to be comfortable, you’re a startup owner
This script was a huge hurdle to get me back in the dreamscape. In the fall 2013 I became a huge fan of Dave Ramsey (still am) and went nuts “growing up” and “getting real” about the direction I steered the family. Though there is a huge amount of wisdom in his approach, like anything else – in excess it can become its opposite. I found that rather than adopting a dream of financial freedom, I was basically crushing any prospect of dreams for the end goal of I guess financial…isolation? What would we even bother to do when we got there? As a reminder, I’m still on the road to financial freedom, but maybe switching vehicles 😉
Next I saw a blog post from Tim Ferriss about Avoiding Burnout that told an incredible tale of his intern Charlie (also my son’s name), and how he was running full-throttle for years before realizing that he was hopelessly burnt out and in need of resuscitation. His book Play it Away beckons the overworked and under-played to accept the harsh reality that playing is the only thing that can unwind the rigorous damage of job distress in your life. In the Ferriss’ article with Charlie, they prescribe an absolutely perfect test to see if you’ve gone too far:
- Do I feel guilty or anxious when I’m not working?
- Have I stopped playing with my friends?
- Do all of my daily activities revolve around building a more successful career?
- Am I always sleeping fewer than eight hours per night?
- Am I consuming stimulants multiple times per day to hide my exhaustion?
- Am I sitting still and staring at screens for most of my waking hours?
- Do I interact with people primarily through screens?
- Am I indoors all day long, depriving myself of fresh air and sunlight?
- Do I depend on alcohol or drugs to cope with social situations outside of work?
I was blowing it on every single one of these points (except drugs I guess) and it propelled me to reframe the approach to my work. That’s a story worthy of its own post. From there I’ve started reconnecting, unashamedly with things that my wife and I enjoyed in our early days. Dreams don’t have to be sex under the Eiffel Tower–though that is on the bucket list 😉 but rather small things incorporated into every day life. Taking Charlie for “hang outs,” going for Sunday drives and even eating dinner without looking at client emails are all huge dreams accomplished, despite how trivial they sound. As my reality shifts, I know our path will bring those crazy things back, whether it’s treks in Iceland or cannabis in Colorado.
- Dream, but use your brain. Here’s my guide to whether you should start a business.
- Use your dreams to enrich your family, not punish them
- You know yourself better than anyone else. Don’t let your Achilles Heel become your legacy.
What’s your story? Do you think that dreams make you selfish? Do you avoid them – do you embrace them at the cost of your family?Follow worklifedad