60 years of dreaming

Photo by Bs0u10e0 via Flickr

Follow your dreams. Is that a good idea? A case study . . .

When I was ten, I dreamed of being an astronomer. I read everything in the library on stars and planets, and then asked to go to a new library to find more. I could close my eyes and see the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram and Jupiter’s great red spot.

When I was 20, I dreamed of being a mathematician. I immersed myself in everything MIT had to offer, from linguistics to Godelian logic. I was certain of two things — that math would enable me to stand out, and that I’d never get married.

When I was 30, I dreamed of being a software mogul. I learned the rungs on the startup ladder, immersed myself in every corporate discipline, and managed. With my first divorce behind me, I dreamed that somehow I could be happy, too.

When I was 40, I dreamed of being a respected analyst, disrupting the media industry with startling insights, getting quoted everywhere. And I dreamed that my new, young family would grow and thrive.

When I was 50, I dreamed of being a bestselling author, giving speeches to thousands in exotic locations and returning home to school and nurture my children. We would take trips to amazing places and return to a warm home that was an oasis of knowledge.

Today I am 60. I’ve accomplished some of these dreams. Others I abandoned.

I still dream. Are there any dreams left for me?

My dreams are smaller. I dream of writing every day, of publishing books that make a difference to people, of mentoring writers and authors. I dream of my children spreading their wings as adults and taking flight.

My dreams are bigger, too. I dream of a world where rationality and science and reason inspire people to work together. I dream of harnessing technology to share our inspirations, not just our prejudices.

I have lived a life full of possibility. I have realized some of these dreams, but somehow, along the way, they have shifted and morphed and revealed new paths to follow.

I’m not done dreaming. My life has been a gift. Now I carry the weight of experience. I’m not slowing down, but I’m not lunging at shadows anymore either.

Follow your dreams as long as it seems useful to do so. They’re a fine set of stars to navigate by. In the end, though, the destination is not as fulfilling as the journey, wherever you imagine yourself to be going at any given moment.

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  1. “Follow your dream” becomes dangerous if your dream requires winning a zero-sum game. There aren’t enough slots for every kid who aspires to be a network anchor, a Broadway lead, an NBA center, or the lead designer at Apple.

  2. Happy birthday, Josh. I appreciate – more than you can know – what you wrote. I’m at a place in my life where I, too, and evaluating my dreams.

  3. I always enjoy your posts, and I have especially enjoyed this week’s posts on getting older but still dreaming and planning.

    I am 64, and I am fortunate to have found something I liked doing when I was 18. Here, 46 years later, I am still studying vertebrate biology, just as fascinated as always by the sheer diversity of living and fossil animals. I am lucky to have had a long and happy career in my field. In 2005, I returned to teach at the university where I first learned about my field, and, as luck would have it, I am teaching in the same great 19th century lab where I took the course long ago. I have no wish to retire, but I do have a jobby waiting for me when and if I do.

    Thanks for your posts, and good luck in your 60’s!

  4. Happy birthday Josh. When I graduated from high school, I had to give a commencement speech, and this was the theme of my speech. I sort of got lost sight of my own advice in my 20s. But now in my 40s, I’m trying to get back to this good practice. Thanks for the reminder. It was great to see you last week.

  5. I think an important caveat about Dreaming is “Don’t Expect Someone Else to Paid for Your Dream”.
    Once I started cash flowing my own dreams I found I was much more realistic, succeeded more often and was way more satisfied with the results.

  6. Happy birthday and happy 60s! I agree that the joy is in the journey (and love your mother’s comment).

  7. Happy Belated birthday, Josh! I hope you had a blast celebrating your special day. Remember you matter in this world!