Friday, January 31, 2014

The Dream Forum: What Do Our Authors Want Out of Life?

TaraElla: I want my ideas and music to touch others' lives. I want people to read my ideas, think about them, maybe come back to them later when they need them again. I want people to hear my music, and be able to come back to it whenever they want to. I certainly have been touched by others' ideas and music, and sometimes when life gets dark, I know what the spark of an idea or the sound of some particular music can do. (Luckily, there's this thing called the internet, where we can find whatever we want to when we need it. It certainly did help me reconnect with some earlier days when I desparately needed to do so.)

Rosie: I want to write a great novel, hopefully a series. I want it to change people's lives. Just changing one life for the better would be great. Other than that, I just want a good life, with friends and family.

Amanda J: I want to leave my mark on the world but don't know what it is yet. Other than that, I am very conventional - I want that promotion, I want that pay rise, I want that beautiful home, I want a husband and family. But if I miss any of those things, it won't be a great deal. I have learnt that life is much bigger than our immediate desires.

Natalie K: I was a happy girl growing up. I just want the future to be like the past - happy, with not much to worry about. I don't really care about the other details.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Secret Ingredient to Battling On Whilst Keeping your Dream Alive: Feeling Special

Besides having the right mindset, the roadmap, and the priorities, there's another secret ingredient to keeping your dreams alive for a long time, even in the face of adversity. It is believing that you are special.

Let me tell you something: you are special. You are special because of who you are, the way you see things, and the way you do things. You are special because of your experiences, and how you dealt with them. You are special because of all this combined, and as a result, what you have to offer to the world.

You are special, and you were born to do some special work in this life. You may not know what it is yet, but the dreams you have in your life will guide you there. Once you have this in mind, you will be able to face any adversity, and keep your dreams alive and energetic.

You may ask, how can everyone be special? Am I telling a lie here? After all, who is ordinary then, if everyone is special?

Actually, everyone, every human being has been special from day one of history. Computers can be ordinary, but all humans are special. But although society has existed for so long, until now it has not been evolved enough to allow everyone's specialness to be recognised - just like once upon a time it was not ready to embrace ideas like equality for men and women and rights for gay couples. We are the first generation where society has become ready to embrace this idea - hence many of us were taught this idea when we were growing up. This idea alone can cause a revolution, however, and there are signs that sections of society are pushing back against it as a result. We must push forward with this revolutionary idea, however, and ignore those voices that want to take us back.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

It's a Long Ride: Living the Practical Life whilst Chasing your Dreams

When you were younger, you could have all these wild dreams about the future. But then, you also needed to deal with the reality of what was then right now - schoolwork, exams, all the practical stuff associated with your life at the time. After all, if you failed that test, your parents would likely give you a hard time, and you didn't want that.

Now that you are an adult, it's a similar situation. In parallel with dreaming big and trying to achieve your dreams, you also need to take care of things like making ends meet and paying bills. It's just how life is. It's just that these things have replaced your schoolwork and exams as the things you 'just need to do' in life.

Don't let all these things drag you down though. Although like school you need to do these things 'well enough' to avoid trouble, you shouldn't let your spirit of dreaming get tarnished by any setbacks in these practical everyday things. After all, a poor score on one test at school didn't affect your dreams about the future, right?

Another thing is that, for dream chasing young adults these days, 'settling down' has become a thing of the past. The practical realities of the biological clock and dreams taking longer to come true means that we often will need to think about starting families before the dreams in life have come true. However, starting a family doesn't mean we need to adopt the 'settling down' philosophy of previous generations. To us, the duties and hard work associated with starting a family is just another thing we have to juggle in life, on the long road towards achieving our dreams.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

You need a Roadmap, and Some Priorities

With dreams taking longer than ever to achieve, the ride can seem long and dark at times. Having an all or none approach can add to this. This is where you have one big end goal, which probably won't be achieved until 10 or 20 years later. Meanwhile, you will have a decade or two of feeling not achieved, desperately asking 'are we there yet'. This could be enough to zap your spirit out before you can get to the end.

Therefore, there are two things I wouldn't recommend a person to set out on their journey of dreams without: a roadmap, and a sense of priorities.

The first thing is to get your priorities right. You want that package that is your ultimate goal at the end, but you have to decide which parts of it you really want the most, and which parts of it must come before the others. Set out on achieving these first.

Say your goal is to live in New York City and write a book about it. However, you currently live in a small town in New Zealand, and don't even have the money to travel to New York to have a look at the place. Your two first goals may be to familiarise yourself with New York, its landmarks, its culture and the way people think about it, and get a higher paying job so you can save some money for your eventual move. With the internet nowadays, it is very easy to get somewhat familiar with big global destinations like New York. You can get familiar with where things are in the city for a start. Google maps or any other mapping application can be useful for that. You may try to get into Street View and 'walk' a block or two to get a sense of how the places connect together on the street level. You would also try to read the many articles people write about New York. Articles like 50 Things I Love About New York or 40 Reasons to Hate New York, or even things like 30 Signs You Grew Up in Manhattan can be very useful sources of information for you. It will take years to go through all of that and get it absorbed into your brain, trust me. Meanwhile, during your day, you may like to start looking for a job if you don't already have one, or look for a second job or a higher paying one. You may decide to return to education so that you can get even higher paying jobs later on.

Then you need to draw up a roadmap. Using the example above, once you have saved some money, your next step may be to move to Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand, to get a feel of how city life is like. Auckland may be a lot smaller than New York, but it has skyscrapers, international food and lots of business activity, some of the experiences you will find in New York. It may help you get used to New York when you eventually get there. An alternative would be to take a two month holiday in a nearby large multicultural city like Sydney, Australia, which also has all these things, perhaps on a slightly larger scale. Meanwhile, you will want to continue to connect with the cultural phenomenon that is New York. You may want to watch so many New York movies that you become so familiar with the settings you can point to where they are exactly on a map. You may want to make some New York friends online. When you feel you have enough knowledge and connection to New York, perhaps you can start writing parts of your book. You will have to modify and rewrite parts of it when you actually get to see the place, but it's great to make a start when you already have something to write.

Eventually, your dream may be achieved in a similar fashion to your roadmap plan, or maybe not. Maybe you'll find something even more suitable in your life. But in any case, none of it goes to waste, and every bit of it would have helped coloured your life vividly. Twenty years down the line, it's quite likely you would have lived in New York and finished your book. Or alternatively, you may have decided to just settle in Auckland, but have a cultural connection to New York. By then you might have already seen the city on two or three different trips there during your annual leaves, paid for with the money you saved over the years. Although you didn't write a book about living in New York, you did write a book about your connection to New York and your opinions about the city as a New Zealander, an even more unique thing. You might have also written another book about living in Auckland, or perhaps a book comparing and contrasting the two cities. Either way, the dream did not go to waste.

One important thing is that you enjoy the process as much as the outcome. In my example above, there would be new experiences and inspirations every year along the way. It's not the final act of moving to New York (or not) that mattered, it's the knowledge, experiences and friendships gained over the years that were the main gains from this big dream.

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Your Dreams vs The System

The outside world is often hostile to your dreams. In fact, it is a hazard for your dreams, which stand a high chance of being killed either slowly or quickly by this outside world if you don't protect them well. And it does all this without even trying.

For example, if you believe that you need a promotion at work now to get to where you want to get to, and nobody decides to give you that promotion, your dreams may just die quite a bit. When you write a 600 page novel and nobody even wants to read a page of it, that would also seriously harm your dreaming spirit for some time. The fact is that they probably wanted a specific person for the new opening, or that people were too busy to read your novel, especially amongst 1000+ other ones to choose from, but that never makes anything better, right?

The world is one giant, inhumane machine that get things done every day when viewed from a certain angle. Life goes on, but the system never cares about how many people are destroyed by it. This is the reality of a world that has become so big and so complex, with various established interests running every part of the system. There's no denying it.

But it is up to you to protect your dreams, especially when it may face some darker times. It is up to you to keep them alive and healthy, so they can keep your life energized. One great way to protect and nurture your dreams is to take as much of it 'outside the system' as possible.

But what is 'in the system' and what is 'outside the system'? Anything that requires input or approval from established interests as an essential ingredient for success is relying on part of 'the system', I believe. If your life goals are that you want to travel the world or write a novel that other people will want to read, they really don't rely much on any company, government or any established interests, if you think about it. Surely, it may take some time and money, but you can work towards it with your own effort. But if you dream relies on a series of promotions within a corporate or political hierarchy, then they essentially rely on the decisions of powerful people in charge of different parts of the system. I am not saying that those dreams are any less valid, it's just that putting all your dreaming eggs in a basket like those is a big risk to take in life. It essentially sets you up to have a high risk of being quashed in spirit.

Fortunately, there are many ways of achieving the same kind of dream in this world, and usually not all of them need to involve 'the system' that much. For example, if your dream is to 'make a difference in the technology world', you can either work for a tech company, hope to climb up the ranks there, and eventually influence the kind of products it makes or the ethics it conducts its business by. But another way of doing it is to learn some programming yourself, and write and release your own dream software. Yet another way is by starting a tech blog, and sharing around ideas that may help shape the tech sphere. The difference is that first way relies on the system, and the other two ways don't. You mileage may vary even with the two ways that don't rely on the system, but it's not like another year without a promotion can quash your spirit so easily. In this world where dreams take so long to achieve, it's really an advantage not to be subjected to barrier after barrier where you may be quashed by the system each time.

I am not saying that you should give up your dreams that are somewhat tied to the system. What I am saying is that, you may need to develop other dreams in parallel, if your primary dream is tied to the system. This way, your dreaming spirit cannot be easily quashed by some random corporate decision, perhaps caused by some random economic event. This alone will make you feel much better about yourself in the longer run, trust me.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Your Dreams that 'Never Came True'

Perhaps once you too were influenced by that dreaming big culture, and some time ago you dared to dream big. And then the dream never came true. You became so disappointed that you stopped dreaming, and now actively avoid that dreaming big culture. In other words, you would rather become old prematurely rather than get hurt again. You just can't let yourself get hurt again. Perhaps you also know quite a few friends in the same situation too.

That really doesn't surprise me much. I know quite a few friends who feel the same way too.

Let me ask you one thing: how long did you give that dream to come to fruition? One year? Maybe two or three years? After all, in the movies dreams always come true in a year or two, or even sooner, right? Therefore, if it hasn't come true in three years or so, it's surely time to quit, right? By the way, it wasn't just that it hadn't come true in three years, I worked so hard during this period and have absolutely nothing to show for it. Shouldn't I just quit trying?

The truth is, there's a great chance that the dream which 'never came true' wasn't doomed, you just gave up too soon. As I said before, dreams take much longer to achieve nowadays, even though ironically people these days have much less patience.

When you think about it, working hard on something for five years or more and having nothing to show for it isn't really unusual nowadays. It also makes perfect sense. When you have a dream and you set out to achieve it, you have almost unlimited hope and energy that you can pour into it. But the world is so big and complex nowadays, and there are so many possibilities everywhere. Just searching through these possibilities and opportunities to find the right path for you can take years. And with a complex system comes more barriers too. This applies to relationships, careers, and goals of all types. Realistically, you may need to work on something for ten years or more before you see some results, and it may take even longer for you to feel like 'you have arrived'. Meanwhile, if you don't have the right strategy and the right worldview, your energy and optimism can fizzle out within a few years, when you are likely just at the beginning of the long journey.

Popular culture is unhelpful here again. I guess movies generally have a limited time frame, and it also sounds not hopeful enough from a marketing perspective if dreams are shown to unfold throughout many years. But way too many movies show dreams that come true within a year or two, and that has created unrealistic expectations in many people, similar to teenage millionaire celebrities and 20-something IT CEOs. The fictional world is reinforcing an illusion of the real world here, and it just makes the possibility of almost overnight success all the more real. But it is ultimately unhelpful, because people inevitably find that their dreams haven't come true yet two years down the road, and that false hope turns to despair.

Therefore, it's time to set yourself free from the dreaming prison now. If you have a dream that 'never came true', it's time to have a look at it again. Surely, many years may have passed, and conditions may be very different in your life and in your worldview. You may need to adjust many parameters of the dream. But if you still believe in the spirit of the dream, the essence of it, that is all that matters. It's time to give your dream(s) another go.

Some Related Musical Inspiration:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Dreams are Essential for Youth Culture

If the essence of youth is a boundless view of time, space and opportunity allowing for the wildest dreams in life to be made, then it should follow that dreams are essential for youth culture. And I believe this to be true. Let us have a more detailed look to see if this is really the case.

A recurrent theme in the culture of being young is simply that you have the ability to do pretty much everything you want to. From Billie Piper's Because We Want To in 1998 to Katy Perry's Roar in 2013, the music of youth celebrates this idea very well. Movies celebrate this idea as well. Movies from Spiderman to Transformers are all about unlikely people becoming heroes, doing previously unimaginable great things.

Another manifestation of this is in its talk about relationships. A lot of music and movies have that theme where somebody is able to get the unlikely dream boyfriend or girlfriend, either as the main theme or an important sub-plot.

Yet another manifestation is in those movies about having a big adventure, the most popular settings being a road trip with friends or an overseas adventure. There are too many movies here to name, really.

As you can see, the spirit of dreaming big is not just present as a part of being young, it is interwoven into every aspect of life, and appears in different forms in different parts of culture or life. It is omnipresent.

Put it simply: if you want to regain the spirit of youth, the spirit of dreaming big must be omnipresent in your life and your culture.

Some Related Musical Inspiration: