Why Dreams Die

Have you ever wondered why dreams die?

Why do people settle for lives that are less than what they imagined? How is it that too many of us (most of us) quit on our dreams and decide they’re no longer worth chasing?

People talk a lot about making a difference and changing the world, and that’s all well and good, but the problem with dreams is they’re not real until we act on them.

I get it. Dreams don’t pay bills. The exchange rate on what-ifs is not great.

It takes a certain mindset to come up with purposeful ideas that will change things for the better, but it takes an entirely different mindset to bring those ideas to life.

See, most people hear success stories and think that great ideas and the audacity to dream are what you need to succeed. But it’s not true.

Dreams require a lot of planning, and more than anything, a lot of action.

Thinking and dreaming and hypothesizing mean absolutely nothing until you take the necessary steps to bring it to life.

In my line of work, I get the opportunity to connect with a lot of entrepreneurially-minded and intellectually savvy individuals. “Idea people”, you might call them.

But what usually ends up happening is they’ll have a short period of time where they’re extremely passionate and ready to take on the world with their new idea, but then within a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, they fizzle out.

The idea they were once on fire about is now the furthest thing from their mind. It’s as if the idea never entered their mind.

It’s actually kind of amazing how quickly people can give up on something. And it’s painfully predictable.

It’s sad to watch because a lot of these ideas are really good, they just don’t see the light of day because the people behind them don’t fully commit. 

What I’ve learned from working with idea people is this:

There is one fundamental difference between people who execute on their dreams and people who don’t.

The difference is found in how they deal with internal resistance. 

Internal resistance is the feeling you get just before you sacrifice something you have for something you want.

  • It’s the feeling you get immediately after you seriously consider posting something on social media that you don’t normally post. 
  • It’s the feeling just before you speak out in a meeting about an idea of yours. 
  • It’s the voice that tells you that the art you want to become proficient in isn’t worth the time you’d have to put into it because you’re an adult and you have to be realistic.

We all have reasons why we shouldn’t be extraordinary and we shouldn’t go above the median line, and all of those reasons are forms of internal resistance. 

The difference between people to execute on their dreams and people who don’t comes down to this:

When faced with internal resistance, the people who win are the ones who take one more baby step.

The people who quit tend to think in terms of long strides. They like big sweeping progress and huge bursts of energy. 

The winning team consists of people who don’t instantly get traction but continue to take baby steps until they’ve created a small “momentum snowball”. 

All they need is one small snowball.

It might take them a while to build that small snowball – but day after day, week after week, month after month, sometimes year after year – they’ll be packing just a little more snow on it.

And when they do finally get that first little snowball, they’ll start rolling that thing up the hill a little bit at a time until before you know it they’re very likely to succeed.

It’s uphill for a while, but at the inflection point at the top of the metaphorical hill, the work begins to pay off for them. Hence the 25-year overnight success.

It’s not like there’s some kind of secret to success. 

What successful people do usually isn’t that extraordinary or groundbreaking. 

Successful people create services and products that solve a problem that’s common to a group of people, then show up consistently for a long time, build trust, and deliver on their promises.

If ever there were a summarized secret to success, that’s about as deep as it gets.

Find something people want, make something that reliably fills that desire, then just don’t quit.

The question for you is, what’s your plan for internal resistance?

Internal resistance can come in a lot of forms. 

It can be distraction or self doubts or lack of enthusiasm.

Whatever it may be, remember this:

The key to seeing incredible things happen may simply be found in the mundane task of taking daily baby steps through internal resistance. 

I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but nothing you come up with is going to be so extraordinary that it’s going to “take off”.

Sure, overnight successes happen, but they’re unicorns.

Data shows that 90% of startups fail. According to one source, “in years two through five, a staggering 70% of new businesses will fail.”

When those stats stop depressing you, then you will have come to the realization that there are no perfect ideas.

In fact, most of the great businesses and organizations we know and love were really just semi-good ideas executed with unrelenting effort.

  • Chick-Fil-A started as the Dwarf Grill in 1946 and didn’t open the first Chick-Fil-A until 21 years later in 1967.
  • Walmart started as Walton’s 5 & 10 in 1950 and didn’t open the first Walmart until 1962.
  • Amazon started as an online book store in 1995 and didn’t turn its first profit until 6 years later.

I know a guy whose granddad took over his father’s pest control business when he got out of college. Pest control is without a doubt the least exciting career field on earth, yet he gave up his dream of being an architect in order to do it. 

The internal resistance for him was probably that pest control companies aren’t that important and probably don’t make that much money.

After all, they don’t make movies about pest control moguls. 

But this one man continued to take the next right step and he baby stepped his way up the hill to build a snowball that is now one of the largest pest control companies in the country. 

Now that man’s grandson has the character and the resources handed down to him from his father and his grandfather that has enabled him to affect serious change in his community, in his state, and in the country. 

He now has immense influence and is extremely well off because of the baby step mindset that his grandfather had. 

He faced the internal resistance of a million reasons why pest control wasn’t a smart industry to go into, or better yet, that it wasn’t his “purpose”.

Yet he took the next right step, embraced the process, and pushed through the internal resistance to create something extraordinary. 

So whatever it is you have on your mind, whatever it is you know you should be doing even though it isn’t exciting or glamorous, go do that on a small scale today.

Weigh your options if you have to, and by all means count the cost before jumping in. But don’t overthink it. 

There are no perfect opportunities. There will always be flaws in anything you do.

Take the next right step. Then another one tomorrow. Then another. Keep taking baby steps through the internal resistance. And know that despite the doubts you’ll have along the way, the right direction is the one you consistently take for the betterment of others.

Look, having a dream is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong. Trust me, I’m full of them. After all, dreams are how all great things start.

But until there’s a plan to actually put legs and feet and boots on that dream, it’s nothing but another cool story to tell people about.

And frankly, most people are tired of talk.