Vail Daily column: Begin here
“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” — Oscar Wilde
David and I were systematically going door to door, each of us posturing a touch to show off the skill we had been practicing every day for more than a year of our young lives. We had never worked together, but special circumstances connected us for the evening. David and I were 19 or 20 at the time. He was an English-speaking focused missionary leading a small group of missionaries in the area and the young man responsible for ensuring compliance when a new member would join the church. I was a Spanish-speaking missionary in the city. That evening we would welcome a Hispanic woman to the church who could no longer leave her house. The two of us would observe her baptism in her own porcelain bathtub.
The leaves had started to turn yellow and red. Meanwhile, the Italians in the neighborhood had their garages open, and in an effort to preserve their own cultural identity outside of the sprawling suburbia of Toronto, were crushing their own grapes in barrels. We wandered from home to home, finding incredible generosity from most people as we ate more grapes than could be justified. Most individuals were engrossed in their work, and as a result, our attempted conversations on God and religion were quickly deflected.
As was customary, we focused our attention on making the best of a likely unproductive outing by getting to know each other. I was irredeemably academic as a missionary, and David didn’t seem too far from it. The result was a deeply satisfying theological conversation. Before long, however, we gave into the temptation so common among missionaries like ourselves, and started to dream about what our future would hold when we returned to our lives.
“What will you do for a living?” I asked.
“I’m going to start a university.”
I recall being surprised by the specificity and the surety with which David answered my casual question. Though we parted ways after the mission, David would resurface in my life nearly a decade later as the CEO of a tech startup called Degreed. He didn’t just start a university … he created a platform that would eventually jailbreak the traditional degree and allow every individual and enterprise to measure learning on a micro level. As the Harvard Business Review noted in a Jan. 14, 2014, article, the traditional degree is doomed.
Now, you may say, “Nice story, Ben.” Here’s what most people miss: Do you suppose that David’s journey was a straight line of accomplishment? Of course not. There were constant course alterations. There was relationship building. There was disappointment, hard work, poverty, heartbreak, doubt, overconfidence, moments of terror and impostor syndrome. I don’t know all that David has been through over the past 10 years … but I can guess.
What if I told you that 10 years from now you could accomplish in great measure any dream which dwells in you?
Perhaps you wandered a bit too long and some of those dreams have become dormant. Perhaps you’ve never really thought about what you would accomplish if you could choose (and you can). Here is my promise and my curse to you: If you take the time to truly develop a dream in your heart, you will have done the majority of the work necessary to accomplish it. David had a dream and was brave enough to make a decision. It’s just a decision. The naivete of the decision might wear off … but all the easy things have been done already anyway. You are the one who made the decision. It is yours to claim or yours to abandon. Be mature, but don’t be so mature that you fail to be courageous and emotionally connected to your own life.
As I imagine what David is thinking these days, I believe that he, like me, has realized that a 10-year goal must soon develop into a lifetime of growth. It’s likely he knew how he would spend his life only a few years into the process. You see, we cannot be content with the arrival of accomplishment. It is the divine nature in all of us to be fulfilled only if we are moving toward greater accomplishments than those of our past.
And this, my friends, is where I must ask you to expand your thinking. While most of mankind will go from baby step to baby step, minor improvement to minor improvement, I now ask you to think about your endgame. A man who changed my life once told me that to have a goal that could be accomplished in my lifetime was to think too small. If 200 years from now they write a chapter in a history book about you, what will it say? Decide.
Benjamin A. Gochberg was once a banker. He now lives full time. He can be reached for inquiries, business and questions at 801-725-7344 and at email@example.com.
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