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The #1 Way to Achieve Your Dreams

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No matter your age, we can each learn something new about the power of showing up in order to achieve our dreams.


Now that I’ve reached an age where I’ve lived a little I have found myself being more reflective about my life so far. In doing so, and despite feeling pretty good about most of my choices, I can also say that there have been a few ‘missed opportunities’ along the way.

I won’t bore you with all of them but I did want to focus on one missed opportunity in particular because as I thought about why I didn’t take it I realized that there was an invaluable lesson to be learned.

Despite picking up a clarinet when I was 11 and a guitar when I was 21, I missed a big opportunity by never actually following through in learning to play either instrument.

Yes, I know the old adage that ‘it’s never too late…,’ but let’s be honest, it’s harder to do the older you get. Now that I have children and other interests in life my time is very limited.

I suppose one could argue that perhaps music wasn’t for me, except that’s not true. I love music, in all its various shapes and sizes, and to add further insult to injury both my Mom and Dad were Classical Musicians. From a young age, I was exposed to all the great composers. We constantly had music wafting around our home and that classical foundation formed in me a deep appreciation for all kinds of music, particularly rock.

How to Live Your Dreams: The Power of 'Showing up' Every Day

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So, if music was such a bedrock of my life and my parents were musicians and I tried learning two different instruments why on earth can’t I play an instrument? The answer is pretty simple, I couldn’t stand showing up to practice for thirty minutes every day. I just wanted to be able to play.

You might say, “You were probably young, that’s totally normal.” Well, for the clarinet I was eleven so perhaps that shoe fits, however, I picked up the guitar a good ten years later.

In hindsight, I think it’s fair to say that the clarinet wasn’t the instrument of my heart but the guitar definitely was. From the first time I heard rock music, which was around age 12, I had been playing the air guitar in my bedroom. By the time I was twenty-one faking it just wasn’t doing it for me anymore, so I picked up a real guitar in anger. I even thought I’d learned my lesson from my brief dalliance with the clarinet and fixed in my mind that come hell or high water I was going to learn the darn thing and become a rock star or, just perhaps a passable guitarist.

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I bought all the beginner’s paraphernalia; auto tuner, extra strings, guitar pics, songbook and started off pretty strongly. I picked up my new acoustic guitar every day and worked on simple chord progressions and my strumming action. My finger-tips got calloused and after a few weeks I could string a few chords together and I started picturing myself playing Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ and then, Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ in no time.

Then, something happened. I just stopped. It wasn’t even gradual. No, I just stopped playing and before long my guitar took a dusty perch up against a wall in my room and I quickly forgot about it.

“Well, maybe you didn’t have an aptitude for the guitar.” You might say. Well, I wish that were true but it isn’t. My Dad, who’d made a living at playing an instrument, had commented that I had an ear, which was high praise from a typically quiet and introspective man.

The simple fact is I just didn’t want to put in the time and show up. I just couldn’t bring myself, despite having all the time in the world at 21, to show up for thirty minutes each day to learn to play an instrument that I so revered.

Somehow, I just assumed that within no time at all I would be able to jam out and take my rightful place next to the guitar gods. That, and I couldn’t believe that they started off similarly to me. Surely, it couldn’t have been this hard and boring for them, I said to myself. Surely, they didn’t have to sit in their room and play the same chords over and over and over again. Surely, it didn’t sound this terrible. Surely, they didn’t get this frustrated and bored. Surely, there were better things I could be doing with my time than learning to play the guitar, like watching TV.

There’s a saying that goes, ‘youth is wasted on the young.’ When I was young I hated that saying because it sounded like something that a grumpy old person would say. But then as I got older that saying came back to haunt me.

The great thing about learning to show up is that you’re learning to develop a muscle that can be used in other areas of your life.

No doubt I’m taking that quote out of context but, I think it’s applicable to the point I’m trying to make. That, in our youth, despite all our best intentions and great ideas we fail to see them into fruition because we’re not willing to pay the price; we’re not willing to simply show up every day and put in the time, which more often than not is ‘about the grind,’ as my father-in-law calls it.

I’ve spent a lot of time with young people over the years in a mentoring capacity and one of the things I love to hear them talk about are their dreams and aspirations for their lives. I actually find it incredibly inspiring listening to them because you can hear the genuine belief in their voices that they will achieve their dreams.

How to Live Your Dreams: The Power of 'Showing up' Every Day

Image courtesy of Shutterstock, Inc., Used By Permission.

I think this is because they are not tainted yet and their young minds and hearts haven’t been calloused by the ebbs and flows of life, which are inevitable. But that shouldn’t detract from the genuine belief that they have. I never try to undermine them when they say they want to be a film director or the world’s greatest architect or eye surgeon.

Invariably these young people will have a hero in that particular area that might have lit the fire and birthed the dream. I start from there and get them to talk about why that particular person inspires them and invariably they’ll go straight to talking about all the things they’ve achieved.

In asking the how I am trying to coach these young people to realize that their biggest obstacle to achieving their dreams is the ability to overcome the mental and physical barriers that they will inevitably encounter along the way.

If they’re a sportsman it’s the trophies they’ve won, if it’s an architect it’s the buildings they’ve designed, if it’s a surgeon it’s the lives they saved, stuff like that.

Once we’ve covered that ground I then go for the jugular and ask them if they know what it took to get them there. That question, for me, is the one where the rubber meets the road. How long was it before that architect was able to design that building they so loved? How many reps of his throwing action did that star quarterback make before he was able to hit the target from fifty yards without even thinking about it? How many years of schooling and strenuous testing did that surgeon go through before he was trusted in the operating room?

Essentially, I am trying to get these young dreamers to think about what ‘showing up’ is going to look like for them and to realize that the finished product is the icing on the cake and not the main ingredients.

I remember hearing the musician, Questlove, from the Roots say, “When I talk to musicians I don’t care about the music I care about how they made it.” I think that statement perfectly encapsulates the mindsight that I try to ingrain in these young people and myself.

The how is the showing up. The how are the hours in your bedroom, waking up early, saying no to a multitude of distractions and choosing to stick at it despite how you feel on any given day.

In asking the how I am trying to coach these young people to realize that their biggest obstacle to achieving their dreams is the ability to overcome the mental and physical barriers that they will inevitably encounter along the way.

For those of you, like me, that might be a little older now and know what I mean when I talk about missed opportunities, it’s not too late. I actually put my failure to good use and used it to focus on my other big passion, writing, and committed myself to write a book. Every day I sat at my computer for a minimum of an hour. Some days I wrote a few thousand words and other days just a few hundred but that wasn’t important. The important lesson I was trying to teach myself was the act of showing up.

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After six months of writing, I had finished the first draft of a book that probably won’t see the light of day! But that didn’t matter to me because I’d done something far more important: I’d shown up.

Off of that experience, I then wrote my second book, which I intend to self-publish. If someone had told me three-years-ago that I was going to write two books I would’ve laughed at them.

The great thing about learning to show up is that you’re learning to develop a muscle that can be used in other areas of your life.

I’m now a stay-at-home Dad and there are days when I’m tired, not feeling it or the repetition is just killing me. It’s in those moments when I lean into my ability to just show up. I put one foot in front of the other. And more often than not the tiredness and negativity fade away and I’m able to appreciate the privilege I have of being able to raise my children and sow into their lives, which outside of my marriage is the biggest opportunity I never want to miss.