Once upon a time, I was scrolling through Instagram and I saw a picture of a woman floating in water. The picture was stunning, and had been taken from high above her, using a drone to capture the vastness of the ocean that surrounded her. I was mesmerized. That was the start, and a seed was planted that I didn’t even really notice at first.
Then, H and I went to Maui to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary. I posted a picture on Instagram and tagged it with our location. Later that day, I noticed that a local Maui photographer had “Liked” my picture. That was pretty exciting to me, so I clicked through to learn more about this photographer. His name is Cyrus and his Instagram feed is beautiful. His feed includes images taken with a drone, of people floating in the ocean. I reposted one of these images and said I wished I had a drone of my own to take a picture of me, floating in the ocean. If you’ve read my book, “Every Little Thing,” you know floating in the ocean is something that was hard-won for me. It’s something I learned to do late in life, and something I nearly missed, altogether.
The more I scrolled through Cyrus’ Instagram feed, the more I was enthralled with the idea. Then, it finally hit me and I realized, “I can see if this guy would be willing to take a picture of H and me, floating in the ocean!” So, I reached out to Cyrus and, if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know that’s H and me, in that image up there. My dream came true!
I’ve had a lot of what some would call success with making my dreams come true. Some people have wondered how I make it happen, and many of you have dreams of your own that you’d like to see come true. Whether you dream of starting a blog or business, or embarking on a fun adventure, here are some things I’ve learned and want to share with you about how to make your dream come true:
Bring your idea into the open
Start talking with people about your idea. Sharing your idea begins to help it take shape in the world beyond your head or your journal. As you begin to share your idea, be ready for people to offer suggestions and to validate your ideas. However, also be prepared to have people tell you how or why your idea won’t work. All of this is worth paying attention to. Filter the feedback of your friends and acquaintances through these lenses:
- What you know to be true about your personal strengths and weaknesses: I knew I needed someone experienced at operating a drone, and I knew that person was not me. Even though there are companies on Maui that rent drones, if was going to make this happen, I needed someone who knew what they were doing. I was not willing to take the risk of losing a rented drone in the Pacific Ocean.
- What you know to be true about the purpose for your idea: My goal, as usual, was to have fun. I also wanted a memorable way to commemorate our thirtieth wedding anniversary, and I wanted that experience to be unique to us. H and I had talked about a vow renewal service, but that just didn’t seem to fit our personalities. When the drone photo shoot idea popped into my head, I knew I was onto something.
Make it a goal, not just a dream.
As long as it’s a dream, it doesn’t have to be acted upon. Once you transition your idea from a dream to a goal, your relationship with the idea changes. Having a dream is like the very first days and weeks of marriage. One of the people working at the resort in Maui where we stayed said to H and me, “You know what we do with the honeymooners, right? We just slide the pancakes under the door every morning.” That’s how it is when you have a dream. Everything about the dream is beautifully flawless and all you want to do is admire and caress and love it. But, making your dream a goal means getting down to brass tacks. Just as with a married couple making their way in the real world of life, with its bills and sickness, disappointments and boredom, a dream that has been elevated to a goal is more than a notion. Keep these things in mind as you settle into this new relationship with your dream-turned-goal:
- It’s not going to happen on its own. One of my favorite skits from Sesame Street is a quick little sketch about a boy and girl who try to wake up a fading and wilted plant. They try to wake up the plant by talking to it. They try an alarm clock and a trombone. They try to get their dog to wake up the plant. And then, they try watering the plant. The plant comes to life and one of the children says, “Plants need water, man.” When I’m working toward a particular goal, through trial and error, I find out what works, and what doesn’t. When I find the things that work (often incorporating that feedback I’ve received from others), I’ve been known to say out loud, “Plants need water, man!”
- It’s all a learning experience, and nothing is wasted. Just as with those two children in the Sesame Street sketch, you’ll try a few things that don’t work, before you find the thing that does. All of this is progress. All of it counts. You’ll learn more about yourself and about the world by learning what works, and what doesn’t.
Go through the doors that open.
This is one of my mantras in life. I believe strongly that opportunity is all around us. In the case of our drone photo shoot, Cyrus was our open door. At first, I didn’t recognize the open door for what it was. I am sometimes slow to put two and two together. In retrospect, however, it was clear as day. I needed to find someone experienced at shooting images with drones and, here was someone who had already “Liked” my photo on Instagram, and who happened to be a photographer who used a drone. This was a clear path to reaching my goal. The only thing I needed to do was to get in touch with Cyrus to see if he could actually help me meet my goal. Here’s what you need to know about open doors:
- Call me crazy, or mystical, or a heretic, or whatever, but I have found that putting my ideas out into the world is the first step in revealing the doors that stand open for me to walk through. When a door opens up for you, step through it. You don’t need to overthink it and try to figure out what will happen next if you step through the door. All you need to do is to step through that door, and that door alone. Then, wait to see which door opens next and, when it does, step through that one. When Cyrus “Liked” my photo on Instagram, that was the first open door. Stepping through it, for me, meant clicking through to his profile. The next open door was realizing his contact information was right there in his Instagram profile and, stepping through that door meant reaching out to him via email. The next open door was when he responded to me and, stepping through that door meant talking through pricing, scheduling, and other logistics.
- Do not open a closed door. There are many doors that do not open. In fact, I’ve experienced more closed doors than open ones. There have been times I was sure a particular door was supposed to open for me. I’ve prayed about it, lying prone on the carpet in my living room, my forehead imprinted with the weave of the fabric, and still the door stayed shut. I’ve learned to trust the wisdom of the closed door. If a door is shut, the thing on the other side of that door is not for me. I’ve stopped trying to bust those doors down and, instead, wait for the open door that belongs to me.
Step into the fear—it’s worth it!
When the day arrived for H and me to meet Cyrus for our photo shoot, I was terrified. I wanted to cancel. I wondered to myself, “Why do you keep getting yourself into these things?” The honest truth is that if H had not been so excited about the idea, or if I had been alone, I would have texted Cyrus and said, “Never mind.” I know this about myself. I get right up the edge of the most exciting thing ever and then I chicken out. If you’re like me and you find yourself balking at the same point in working toward your goal, consider these stop-gap measures I employ to get me over the hump:
- Enlist an accomplice, or two. Find someone who will do the crazy thing with you, even if it simply means they’ll drive you to the appointment, call you to make sure you actually did it, or send you encouraging texts along the way. For me and my drone adventure, H was my natural accomplice. He pep talked me all the way through our nearly one-hour drive to meet up with Cyrus, and H was confident in my track record of making a crazy idea come true.
- Trust your track record, and learn from it. Yes, some of my crazy ideas have bombed. But, most of them have really worked out well. When I get a little bit doubtful about whether or not things will work out, I look back at where God filled in for my miscalculations and missteps, I make course corrections based on what I’ve learned from past mistakes, and I move forward (usually fearful and trembling with excited anticipation) toward the goal that will not let me go.
Now, before we wrap this up, I’ve got to make sure we all recognize Cyrus’ role in this dream come true. Cyrus has dreams, too. He wants to make a living doing this kind of thing and he is well on his way. People who are working at turning a dream into a goal and then working that goal are active participants in the adventure. I would never have found Cyrus if he hadn’t “Liked” my image on Instagram. He didn’t necessarily “Like” my image because it was great. But, by “Liking” my image, Cyrus made a connection. He went through an open door of his own, having no way of knowing whether or not I would respond. Either way, he had nothing to lose. At worst, he had shown hospitality to a visitor to his island and, maybe he’d get a few more “Likes” on his Instagram feed. But, better case scenario is actually landing a paid photo shoot and a couple of links in a blog post. Voila! (Best case scenario, of course, might be that Ellen or Oprah find his feed and hire Cyrus for life!)
In the end, there is risk involved for all of us and sometimes that four-letter word sabotages the whole thing. Don’t let it. Press through. Gather your accomplices. Walk bravely through that open door and into your unique adventure.