Let me disrupt the norm just an eensy bit.
There are plenty of people out there who will exhort you to “think bigger”. To “dream big”. To “live large”. To “go big or go home”. And, ironically enough, they often have something to sell you.
I’m going to suggest something quite different.
Believe me, I love dreams. I have a real thing for goals. And I have reached quite a few of them, thank you very much. So what I know is this:
To reach your dreams, they need to be completely yours and they need to be completely grounded in reality.
Let me give you an example. I happen to like football. Yet if I have a dream to play nose tackle for the Washington Redskins, I’m going to be setting myself up for abject failure. How many women play for the NFL? For that matter, how many 5’6″ people play nose tackle? How many people my age play in the NFL? Zip, nada and zilch, respectively.
Oh, sure, I could hold on to my dream of playing professional football, and some people might tell me to hold on tight because it’s a big dream. But holding on would mean always living my life unfulfilled. Falling short. Feeling like a failure. In pursuit of the impossible.
Or, I could channel my love of football in another way – an achievable way that just might stretch me a little, too. Like: I could challenge myself to make enough money to buy season tickets to the Redskins. Like: I could form a Redskins fan club and meet other like-minded fans. Like: I could coach peewee football (now, that would be a hoot).
When I hold on to a big dream just because other people tell me it’s important to go big, I live a life full of anxious striving. Of chronically falling short.
I’m setting myself up for failure.
I will never be enough.
And why would I do that to myself?
Some people believe that bigger equals easier. And that’s an exciting prospect. The thinking goes: I get bigger, I get richer, I get famous, I’m on Easy Street.
If only that were true.
I know people whose dream is to appear on Oprah Winfrey’s TV show. They believe that if they can only get on the show, the Oprah Effect will happen and suddenly they’ll be famous. Of course, I happen to know people who’ve been on the Oprah show and guess what? They didn’t suddenly become rich. They didn’t suddenly get highly-paid speaking engagements. They didn’t get book deals. And some of them wonder what they did wrong. Because lightning didn’t strike. They’re not on Easy Street.
If you really want to get rich, the tried and true method is to work at it every day. Slow, steady, purposeful, focused. Do you know the book The Millionaire Next Door? In it, the authors research how people get and stay rich. They don’t win the lottery, there’s no reality television show, there’s no flukey Antiques Roadshow find in the attic, there’s no get rich quick scheme.
Most millionaires become wealthy by living below their means, investing wisely and making good decisions.
OK, it’s not flashy or sexy. You’re not going to get a ton of attention and groupies this way. It’s true – the wealthiest people don’t live large. They aren’t devotees of conspicuous consumption. They aren’t necessarily driven by impressing others. They don’t attempt to keep up with the Joneses.
The wealthiest center in their strengths. They grow their world starting with their expertise. They work at it every day.
And day by day, they get happier. And more satisfied. And stronger financially. And they do more of what they want. And sometimes, sure, bigness comes along as a result of all the hard work.
That’s what I call doing it the right way.