“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can” – Arthur Ashe
So in lieu of a full episode this week, I want to come to you with another solo episode that really zero’s in on one aspect of the adulthood experience. It is something I have personally become very familiar with traversing over the past few years, and it is something that whether they notice it or not, I have found in the underlying subconscious of answers. I am in no way inferring things about them that I do not know, but instead trying to distill the unconscious symbology, metaphors, and insights that can help all of us better tackle our own dreams.
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney
Walt Disney, along with many others in the world since and probably before have said “If you can dream it, you can do it.” This is something I heard a lot growing up as a musician. In jazz bands at school, in private lessons, in percussion ensemble, orchestra, marching band, garage bands, and before huge studio recording gigs— you hear the same advice. If you can sing it in your head, you can play it on your instrument. You are as good of a musician as you allow yourself to be, and the same can be said about dreams for many.
This, I think is where most of us hit a wall when it comes to living our dreams, planning towards them and the like. We create these dreams, grandiose and often broadly defined, and then they become insurmountable mountains to climb because the path is either too long, too winding, too steep, or too unpaved to be walked on. In the interviews I have done, and through the people I have interviewed in doing research for the blog and my writing on these subjects, one thing has been clear in talking to people who are actively working towards the dreams they have had since kindergarten, high school, or at 25 after divorce or after having kids. It’s that the path towards their dream is the only one that seems achievable. Every other path, no matter the conditions leads them back to that singular dream. Whether it is artistic, political, or more practical— the dream in-and-of-itself has to be the only solution to every equation, or it won’t be possible. If you cannot envision your dream and every angle you’d take to get there, then it may be out of reach.
What it means to “distill”
This is where the idea of “distilling” your dreams comes in for me, because I have admittedly been a person who has never really had a pre-defined career. I never wanted to be a firefighter or police officer as a kid. Never an astronaut or an actor. I always liked writing, but I never had a longing to write movies or sketch comedy, or something singularly defined. This, along with other obstacles and events that life throws at us created scenarios where for flashes I thought of doing X career or Y career, and pursuing that would somehow fulfill my dreams. The amazing thing was, when a few of those dream concepts fell through overtime, I rarely felt devastated or as if my life was over because of it. Mainly, in hindsight this was because they were solely my dream, but they held assets within them that were qualities I looked for in my dream career/work.
I talk about this a lot, especially to people coming out of college and trying to enter the workforce for the first time. Many realizing that their discipline in college is not going to always be relevant to their career path post-university. I’ve interviewed people who started in a professional sales job just to end up becoming writers, people like my former guest Jessica Dye from the band High Waisted who began a path towards Military service just to take a left turn into music, and now enjoys a touring life far different than a military tour would be. Most times, all of our dreams show up in what we do unconsciously, because of what we are drawn to, but being able to distill those various attributes can help you, if you are like me in finding multiple pathways to a happier life and career.
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can” Arthur Ashe is quoted saying, and that is where we are going to begin. Let’s talk about what distilling means. To distill something is defined as the act of extracting the essential meaning or most important aspects of something from one thing to another. Let’s tie some loose ends here, because I personally dream of storytelling, so I cannot help but fall prey to any chance to utilize storytelling tactics. Let’s use the example from earlier of the dream of being a musician. Now let’s distill what someone might enjoy about that career path. Traveling the world, writing lyrics or stories, creating things with a team of like-minded people, sharing something vulnerable or personal with the world, being on film or in the spotlight in some way, expressing themselves through music, and maybe even creating a community around branded products, the products being the songs.
Well, can you already see here how all these various parts of the concept of being a musician can be found in other careers? Collaboration with a team can be found in Advertising Agency, being in the spotlight can be in acting maybe, traveling can be for truck drivers or military service, and so on. We are done yet though. Breaking it down to actual, tangible attributes is just one step. The next step becomes exploring the deeper meanings to why we dream the things we do.
As a musician, what are we trying to accomplish? Beyond fame, glory, money, and all that surface level stuff that doesn’t really have much to do with fulfillment anyways? Well, maybe it is connecting with people, maybe it is explaining certain topics in a new light to people who would not otherwise be exposed to it? I know for me, wanting to play music came down to two more symbolic acts— telling stories that people would engage with and building projects as the band to challenge my own creative thinking and problem solving mind. I liked building social media campaigns to promote single releases in unique ways to try to one-up myself or to write songs and lyrics that developed meaning for different people and engaged them differently. As a writer at heart, those were the subconscious things that I gravitated towards music to achieve.
Knowing these things, I was able to take the tangible attributes and the symbolic virtues and apply those criteria to various professions and career paths. That is how I ended up in the PR industry and gravitating towards the political sphere early in my career. I wanted to be able to take complex things and engage people, to teach them, to help others explore various concepts through interpretation of my writing and storytelling, while being able to do various experiments or campaigns that I could compete with myself in some way to constantly grow and learn. I found out that I never really wanted to be a musician for the sake of being a musician, but for something bigger and deeper. It helped me move away from that dream and desire, and helped me realize that becoming that was not ever going to fulfill me fully, because it was too finite and exact, and I think many of us fall victim to this. Knowing how to distill those dreams, if we are not one of the zeroed-in, one-track passionate people who knew from 4 years old that they wanted to become actors, painters, scientists, or doctors— for the rest of us, take your college years, take your twenties and really distill what those childhood dreams meant.
I am toying with the idea of doing more of these one off episodes where I analyze a little, the insights that I have taken from the various interviews, because one common emailed comment I have gotten so far about the podcast to date is that people wonder how all this relates back to answering the question of What Adulthood Is, and I think these little episodes serve as a great Spark Notes, a recap or summary of sorts, progress report of where we are at and what we’ve learned so far. I would love to hear from everyone listening about whether I should continue to do these in-place of full interviews or if I should maybe do them as a separate episode that releases a few days after full interviews. I also have some little episodes planned leading up to Christmas and into the new year to try to keep turning this ship towards answer that titular question, so as always if you have any suggestions, questions, compliments, or complaints— feel free to chat with me on Twitter or over at the email address, firstname.lastname@example.org
Interviews coming up in December include an interview with comedians, bloggers, podcasters, and even some animal advice from a Veterinary Nurse incase you’re one of those lucky people planning to get a dog, cat, fish, hamster, or tortoise for the holidays.
“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” – Napoleon Hill
Please leave us a review on iTunes. It helps keep this whole thing growing.