My first memory is when I was 5 years old. I went to the beach with my father, and for a long time we ran back and forth trying to get a kite to fly. After a while, my father said, “Son, I don’t think there’s enough wind to fly the kite today.” Undeterred as a stubborn 5 year old is, I continued running back and forth trying to get the kite to fly. Eventually, the kite took to the sky. I never forgot the lesson.
Our parents always told us that we can do or be anything we want when we grow up. Somewhere along the way though, something happens, we become reasonable, allowing our sense of what’s possible become influenced by other people and we lose our ability to dream and confidence that we can do anything.
The American Dream: Get a good job, get married, have 2.5 kids, get a dog, build a 401(k), become successful. But what is a good job? What is success? What is happiness? Many of us take the safe and predictable route in life, doing things that others thing we should do and what we think they expect us to.
We’ve all heard the stories of people who suddenly “wake up and figure out what’s important in life”. Many times these stories come from someone who has had a near death experience or some kind of traumatic event. As the “rational guy”, I never quite understood what it was that they figured out, but glad that they had learned a valuable lesson from such a tragedy. Frankly, I never really gave these kinds of things much thought. When I had my “Aha”, life changed. I was lucky; I didn’t go through any kind of traumatic experience. I was open minded at the right time.
For the first time, I perceived the world in three distinct groups. 1) There were the people who “got it” 2) The people who were “open and looking for it” 3) The people who were just going through life and existing. The “It” I’m referring to is “what’s important in life”, or the meaning of life and secret to happiness. For the first time in my life, I realized that making a difference makes me feel fulfilled. The first group, (the ones who “got it”) seemed to say, “Welcome, we’ve been expecting you.” Follow your passions and your dreams and the most amazing things will happen.
Perhaps, “You can do anything you set your mind to” is a dangerous thing for a 5 year old thing to learn, or perhaps we should all try to live more like the stubborn 5 year old that is in each of us. I started flying kites again, literally and figuratively.
Today, as we witness the magnitude of the moment of the first African American President of the United States be inaugurated, let us remember that greatness begins with dreams and we need to have the courage and conviction to make the dreams come true no matter how difficult the journey. Dreams are where greatness begin.