What is the dream?

dream-content-analysisI worked with a coach last year who started by giving me a packet to fill out.  I had to write about my relationship to myself to my body to my career to money to family to friends to romance and to community.  There is definitely a method to the madness from my coach who is the entrepreneur behind the Handel Group.  I also wrote about my relationship to my parents, siblings, our children.  We dug into my my interests too.  Yet through all of this she kept asking me so what is the dream?

I had a really hard time with that.  I am so pragmatic that I kept telling her I can’t dream.  I would answer saying that I could not do the dream of opening of a restaurant because it wouldn’t work into my lifestyle anymore.  I couldn’t open up a store either because that wouldn’t work into my lifestyle either.   We talked for a few months and we both decided it was time to disconnect but I could always come back for a tune-up.  I saw myself better for who I am.  I am really glad that I spoke with her.

Fast forward I have never got the concept of the dream out of my head.  I sat down with someone else from her group that works with CEO’s and we talked about how they help CEO’s become better leaders.  As a coach it is not so important to understand the business world but to understand all the personal baggage that makes it difficult to be a leader.  Breaking that down is the key to success.  You bring it with you.  When we spoke he also brought up the dream.

I have been thinking a lot about the dream and the importance of the dream.  There is one entrepreneur that I work with who has gone through several iterations with her business.  It has not been pretty and it is been really hard on her.  I’d never count her out as she is really scrappy and focused on her product but I guarantee you that she can not explain what her dream is.  She is committed to being a consumer business without realizing that perhaps it should be a business to business company.  She has to decide what is the dream.  Sometimes you build something and you want to see it live but before you know it there is funding, people who are working for you and growth and it isn’t exactly what you dreamt about.  If you know what the dream is then those pieces of the ladder do not bother you as they are a means to the dream.

Another entrepreneur that I work with knows exactly what her dream is.  We were down at the stock exchange the other morning for a breakfast.  We were with a group of founders having a breakfast and getting a tour of the stock exchange.  We were going to see them ring the bell.  She said to me “you know it is my dream to ring that bell.  I want to do that”.  She knows exactly what her dream is. Growing her company to be so big that she can go public.  That is a pretty awesome dream and it helps her focus.  She knows that everything she does is working towards that dream.

I was talking about my dream with Fred when we walked home from dinner the other night.  There are some pragmatic pieces to it and I am not going to share what it is but now that I have a dream it certainly helps a lot of things fall into place.

DREAM..and more important dream big.

Comments (Archived):

  1. fredwilson

    Great post and great topic for a talk. Good luck today

  2. CCjudy

    thank you as always for your amazing honesty

  3. WA

    Self actualization is an ongoing and infinite process. Perhaps we attain our dream chapter after chapter until like a great book, we achieve resolution we are content with as our legacy. What a great piece and thank you for the share.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i like that….chapter after chapter.

      1. WA

        Your post fuels some deep work-life integration thoughts and planning fodder. I find the work-life balance cliche may not be as relevant as the integration positioning-as the GenY/ Millenial approach appears more rooted in the latter mindset. JLM-spot on.

    2. JLM

      .Every person has 5-9 careers inside themself. Let them out.Soldier, developer, construction, angel, adviser, CEO, writer — and still a few more left.JLM.

      1. WA


  4. Brandon Burns

    If I could have my way, I would own an urban B&B-esque establishment, like in a Brooklyn brownstone or something, with a really great restaurant on the ground floor. I’d be the chef. And I’d take 2 or 3 trips per year to learn culinary techniques from far away places, come back and incorporate them into the food. And I’d pick up lots of great products I can use to design the space.I had a poker night last week, and I cooked, as per usual. The bulgogi tacos with kimchi slaw were a huge hit. Everyone said to me, “Really, Brandon, I don’t get why you don’t just open a restaurant instead of what you’re doing.” I cook all the time, and this is said to me so frequently that I almost don’t even hear it anymore. I think its because I wouldn’t know where to start. I spent the past decade of my career building platforms for the web, not running restaurants. So I figure it makes more sense to do what I know, work in bits of things I love… and then retire doing the dream. But why should dreams be left to retirement strategies?!Anywho, just thinking aloud…

    1. Gotham Gal

      Love these thoughts.

    2. LE

      The bulgogi tacos with kimchi slaw were a huge hit.Not knowing anything about your cooking abilities I think it’s obvious that running a restaurant as a business is way different than having tasty recipes and people liking your cooking.It’s like the difference between being able to make people laugh at a party or the office, and doing standup every night at clubs until you hit it big. Or having some ideas for other people’s businesses every now and then and turning that into a well paying consulting business.The dream part is fine of course. But I think the approach that you mentioned which is “do what you know and then make money and do what you want in semi retirement” is way more practical and possible and makes total sense.By the way the peanut gallery that always encourages never suffers the downside of any suggestion. And most likely they either haven’t really thought it out or don’t even know what is involved.Now of course if Danny Meyer wants to help you out that a different story.By the way I had a deal with a nice NYC well known small restaurant chain and they couldn’t scrounge together $10,000 for something that they needed and wanted. Took them 6 months to pay a bill and these are people that, from the outside, appear to be in great shape. It’s a tough business (but you know that already).

      1. Brandon Burns

        I assure you, my culinary skills are far from pedestrian. ;-)That said, the restaurant business is super tough. Margins are low, labor costs high, and there are little to no economies of scale (at least compared to a technology-heavy company).That said, does it matter if you’re happy and making a good living?I might do a pop-up supper club in my apartment with a friend this summer, for like 2 nights a week for a month, just to try out some ideas and see what happens. The working concept is American comfort food with an international spin, all elevated a couple notches. If we end up doing it, I’ll make sure you get an invite!

        1. Erin

          Oh please invite me too!! Sounds delicious.

  5. Mario Cantin

    I dream to create more empathy in the world by providing the means to anyone to share what any experience in their life is / was like. But you knew that already 🙂

  6. pixiedust8

    For your entrepreneur having problems–isn’t that why some people recommend prototyping? I think a lot of the time, what people think the business should be isn’t really want customers want it to be. I can also see how it would be really hard to have a vision in your head, but not be able to see beyond that.Also, sometimes I feel like “small” dreams are dismissed a bit. I would never want to create a business and have it go public. That process seems like such a nightmare and I used to work in an incubator!

    1. Gotham Gal

      All dreams are good

  7. LE

    I had a really hard time with that. I am so pragmatic that I kept telling her I can’t dream. I would answer saying that I could not do the dream of opening of a restaurant because it wouldn’t work into my lifestyle anymore. I couldn’t open up a store either because that wouldn’t work into my lifestyle either.I used to dream when I was a kid of having a boat and a place down the shore. When I made a bit of money I bought a small place down the shore and a boat. Then another boat. The boat was docked right outside the place and I could see it from my window. I really enjoyed taking the boat out because I not only like it but it had what I call “secondary meaning” [1] which my definition is something that goes way beyond the normal desire for something (luxury brands work this way you like them but your mom might think “eh who needs that”.) As opposed to good food which most people agree is great to eat. Although I could argue that you have 2ndary meaning with food!)Ok, anyway after several years with the boat and place at the shore I noticed that I actually wasn’t that disappointed when it rained oddly enough. Why? Because that way I could just hang out and read. Something I never thought would be something I wanted to do down the shore except on the beach of course. So the rain gave me freedom. And I found that I got enjoyment in a way that I didn’t really think I would.Fast forward and I sold the boat and now, for the first time, I have rented the place out. Something that I never thought I would do.Ok so my point? Don’t question what makes you happy. If you are happy with what your life is now (and it seems that you are) don’t mess with it. Don’t question whether there is something else that will make you happy or why you are happy “just reading a book”. Which is not the same as not having dreams (when you are younger etc.).[1] I could write a book on this one.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I am totally happy. I do have a dream and if it happens great. If it doesn’t I am ok with that too. 🙂

  8. LE

    She has to decide what is the dream. Sometimes you build something and you want to see it live but before you know it there is funding, people who are working for you and growth and it isn’t exactly what you dreamt about.While it is important to like what you do, and there is plenty written about that, to me business is about making money and something actually working. It’s not enough to just want to do something without looking at the practical aspects of actually running a business that makes sense.She is committed to being a consumer business without realizing that perhaps it should be a business to business company. Without knowing any more than that sentence my guess is the reason for that is that with a consumer business there is more glory in her mind or (to re quote my other comment) secondary meaning with being a consumer business to her. This is really tough. Sure it would be nice to have a business that everyone knows about, just like when you are a Physician it’s instant respect. But that is not a reason to do something on it’s own. It’s nice to do something that everyone knows about and admires in their mind but not if it doesn’t pay the bills.You have to be practical. My first business was for sure nothing anyone gave a shit about. No tv shows, no glamour, not something that generally impressed people. Made money though.Did you ever go into a bank and see all those people making jack squat because a bank has nice carpet and is clean and they get some stupid title “VP of the branch”. And they might be able to make 30% more at some wholesale business on the Lower East Side but they need the fancy title or office building etc. To me this is the wrong way to look at things.Do what you love but always factor in being practical.

  9. AG

    Hope we get to see the dream come to fruition, but either way, it seems like it’s been a pretty good ride. One worth being proud of, anyway, and not just from a business perspective.

  10. AMT Editorial Staff

    Maybe before you were already living the dream. “Dream” is a loaded word. Substitute in “goal” and your post takes on a different feel.

    1. Gotham Gal

      You still have to dream about your goals

  11. pointsnfigures

    Love this, a lot. I find myself being too pragmatic as well. Be pragmatic about the small stuff and it gets you to the big stuff. But, if you don’t dream big, the small stuff becomes obstacles in the way. Really true to heart post.You know, Martin Luther King was a great entrepreneur….his most famous speech was….

  12. JLM

    .Big dreams and little dreams cost the same. Dream big.Sometimes, you actually accomplish your dream. You get it.I wanted to build great Ayn Rand Howard Roark high rise office buildings. I did. When I drive by those buildings, we speak to each other as they have a piece of my heart in each and every one of them.Then I wanted to rehabilitate important buildings. I did.I laugh at myself and they join in. It is like having a dozen wonderful wives, one of each hair color and physique.Is this a great life or what?JLM.

    1. TanyaMonteiro

      ‘big dreams and little dreams cost the same. dream big’ – love that

  13. Erin

    “There are some pragmatic pieces to it and I am not going to share what it is…”I was once told by a coach to keep quiet about my idea for a while. On the other hand, I’ve also kept quiet for too long and the idea died because I didn’t know how to get it out of my head and into action. A delicate balance of sharing with the right people and letting the idea work its way into your blood stream is what is needed.

  14. TanyaMonteiro

    I so loved this post, especially coming from you Joanne. Makes me think of that quote, “if your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough”

  15. Scarlett Sieber

    I love the piece Joanne and I appreciate your honesty. At 14 years old, when creating my first resume I put down that my objective was to be a CEO or a major corporation in NYC. I kept that on my resume for 6 years until my dean my sophomore year of college insisted I took it off. He was it was too ambitious and that it was not a realistic career goal. I had heard comments like it before, people telling me I had too great of a sense of self, that I should bring my goals down because I will be let down. I eventually took it off as my dean instructed but the dream has stayed with me and I am working every day to accomplish it, although now that major company might be one that I start 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal

      Good for you. How utterly ridiculous that someone would say tone down your dreams