Why Big Dreams Work

Setting seemingly unattainable goals is the best way to succeed, stay focused and execute in business living happily and fulfilled. Jim Collins, in his book co-authored with Jerry I. Porras, Built to Last, posed the idea of a BHAG. Establishing a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” that visionary companies use to inspire bold missions as powerful ways to stimulate progress. The thinking behind such an approach is that to generate exceptional focused growth, a “moon shot” goal is needed. The manned lunar mission led to countless innovations in manufacturing, technology, computing, and new human physiological and psychological understandings resulted from this endeavor. Once a dream is achieved and discoveries made, they lay the groundwork for more and more innovation.


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Using dreams to hone your attention demands that you filter out whatever is not required to achieve them and move forward with singular focus. The people, conversations, distractions, and diversions that might normally pull you away from the path, are no longer relevant. Your commitments and activities become aligned with the bigger project. Only the actions that will move you a step closer to the dream and achievement of the smaller goals become important.


As in the case of Jobs, Musk, Gates and all big dreamers, such thinking fostered the setting of a target that could ONLY be achieved by reaching clear milestone markers en route to fulfilling the dream. What is evident is that the bigger the dream, many small achievable goals must be accomplished to make it happen.


In my late 30’s I trained and competed in triathlon races. Both Olympic and Half Ironman distances. I had never done anything like it to that point in my life. In fact, I never swam more than a couple laps (I was most definitely a sinker), did not ride a road bike and never ran over 20km, let alone AFTER swimming 2km and riding 90km! When you start training for a 5 ½ hour race, it is abundantly clear what the dream is – to finish. My goal was to reach the top 20% of all racers and higher in my age category if possible. From week one to twenty-five, my plan was always clear, and every short-term goal, milestone and achievement was marked in the calendar. To achieve successful attainment of my dream, many small things needed to happen. I had to log the volume necessary to build my base fitness to complete each discipline of the race, and then link them together. I had to consider the time to train, so planning work, family and personal pursuits around my training was important. I also had to sleep and eat properly as well as have the right equipment. Because the goal was so significant, and the incremental steps needed to succeed crystal clear, it was easy to remain focused on the race. If I did not, it would be a painful experience and I would even risk not finishing, let alone not reaching my own goal (a sub 5 ½ hour race time).


What I did, and thousands of people do every year, was train for something where the outcome was known. It might have seemed like a big dream for me at the outset, but it was something done by a million people before. I had many resources, guides, and examples of what to do.


When you step beyond and imagine a future that no one else has contemplated, many of the necessary objects, tools, and processes to achieve the goal, won’t even exist. What will be needed must be invented, created, and innovated along the way. Big dreams result in advancement of technology, theories and understanding.

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Putting a computer in every office or home sounded impossible when the technology to do so, did not exist, but imagine the audacity of confirming the center of the universe when mankind believed earth was the focal point for millennia before. The origin of the scientific method started in the stars. It took big dreams and willingness to consider observations which were in stark contrast to the common beliefs at the time. In fact, during the 16th century, in Europe Nicolas Copernicus created a model of the universe that positioned the sun near the center as opposed to the religious and long held view of the earth being the center of the universe. He recognized how planets orbited the sun and the concepts of gravitational pull became evident. The publication of his model was a catalyst for the Scientific Revolution. It gained momentum into the next century with Galileo continuing Copernicus’ concepts looking at forces applied to bodies. In turn, he was severely punished by the church for expanding on this thinking.


Subsequently, Isaac Newton considered orbits and the gravity of non-celestial bodies, and developed fundamental laws of motion that describe objects and the effects of forces acting on them. Copernicus started the ball rolling, if you will, and his dreams when realized, inspired others to improve and expand on those ideas.


When we dream with passion and tackle each goal needed to reach our dream with purpose it aligns our energy with the effort needed to achieve. Committed, we are prepared to endure the doubt, ups and downs, and regular successes and failures that accompany our quest. The journey of an entrepreneur is hard and some days overwhelmingly so, therefore conviction is necessary. Conviction for one’s actions is the result of connecting the future dream with your passion to and purposeful action to achieve it.


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