Several days ago, I saw a request on the HARO email asking about business owners who daydreamed and how forced themselves to quit daydreaming and get to work. IMO, “daydreaming” and “work” are not mutually exclusive.
I don’t know how businesses get created without a dream. Business starts with an idea, and any way you label it, “ideas” aren’t too far from “daydreams.”
The trick, which is probably what was driving the reporter’s question, lies in turning the idea into reality.
For me, the first step between a dream and reality is writing. Some people have their best ideas in the shower. I have my best ideas with a pen in my hand. Once I recognize I’m in a “day dream” (and, of course, not driving at the same time), I’m writing. It helps that I write for a living, and paper and pencil are never far out of my reach. Write the story.
- What is it that I am thinking about?
- What do I want to have happen as the outcome?
- Who’s starring in the latest drama?
- Why have I cast the story with these players?
Sometimes, simply writing a daydream is enough. I’ll see, “Oh, I’m still processing XYZ______,” and make a note to discuss the issue next time I talk with the person involved, and poof, the story is gone.
Sometimes, however, I’ll see something bigger. “Hum,” I thought, the last time this happened, when I found myself dreaming about teaching a class on a topic I know well but never thought to teach. “If she’s never thought of that approach, (this particular “she” is an expert on developing and implementing goals), then maybe this IS new material and maybe I should follow up on it…. Maybe this is a new way of looking at the problem!”
After I write out the story and identify the core elements, the daydream transforms itself into one more business idea. It needs to be worked into my project list and acted upon, and grown into something that can be sold. David Allen, of Getting Things Done fame, made his fortune working in this space.
The Universe Baits its Hooks with Daydream Bait
One way to explain daydreams is “universe bait”—God, maker, source; your choice of name—wants to have something created, and dangles hooks baited with ideas in front of our minds. Those ideas first present as daydreams. What if …? Wouldn’t it be great if….?” I wonder what would happen if …? If we don’t actually take the bait, the idea moves on, and someone else takes the hook, implements, and turns an idea into reality. In business, that usually means income. When that happens, we’re left on the sidelines, saying, “But I had that idea last year!”
I have to admit, I used to be someone whose air castles stayed evanescently in the air, never descending to intersect with my real ilfe. “Wouldn’t it be perfect if…”, I could go on for hours. I’d exhaust myself. Once I started writing out the stories, it wasn’t long before I noticed ideas starting to grow in new directions. When I committed a train of thought to paper, the next step would appear. I saw a knitted rug in a book and thought, “I could make that,” and I did. I’ve since made 72, and sold 40. Similarly, a thought that ran, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could take this Chatlist outside into my carving tent?” turned into the book Carve Smart a year later.
Two new books are cued up and waiting for me to take the next step. The goad that will get me over the “it’s too hard” hump is imagining how irritated I will be if I see those ideas, written by someone else, on the shelf at Barnes & Noble.
When I hear people talking “air castle talk,” I don’t suggest they stop. Instead, I ask, “what does the foundation look like?” They look at me with a blank stare, so I go on. “What’s the first thing you would need to do if you wanted to live that life?” A rock-star wannabe girlfriend needs to take guitar lessons. Her dream of performing in Madison Square Gardens may never happen, but she’ll be a whole lot closer when she knows four guitar chords. It may turn out that she’s called to be some very different kind of performer, and the universe only dangled the rock concert in front of her because it knew she’d jump at that bait. She won’t know until and unless she learns to play.
Daydreams outlast dreamers
Ten years ago, a friend was forced to leave her new house because of Black Mold. She had an agonizing two years of health problems, followed by two moves and attempted remediation, before the problem was solved with a new house. She dreamed of telling her story on Oprah. She contacted the producers of the show, but she never heard back. One woman, one house? Oprah likes to hear from movements, not individuals. It’s possible that a different first step—a notice in the grocery store, or Craig’s List, looking for other people affected by mold, suggesting a meeting, self-help, activism–could have been the start of a national movement. She’ll never know. Her life moved on. I just checked today, and there is a “Moms Against Mold” website, started by someone else, several years after my friend’s story. The idea was in the universe, waiting to be developed.
There are two paths away from “not daydreaming:”
- Not dreaming
- Implementing the dreams and making them real
Only one of them has any value. I can’t stop daydreaming. I can learn to become faster at taking the hook and building foundations under my air castles. It’s a nice life.