My friend Jacob over at Sensophy recently published an article in which he posed the following question to a bunch of bloggers and entrepreneurs:
What one great thing would you dare to dream if you knew you couldn’t fail?
I was very touched to be included, but it was some of the other responses that really blew me away. I mean people had dreams, BIG dreams. It didn’t even occur to me to dream on this level (which is interesting)…
Here are a few of the bigger ones:
“I dream of a world devoid of shame.”-Arsène Hodali
“One thing I dream of often is ending world hunger.” -Tyler Tervooren
“I’d like to build a really fast spaceship so I can visit other worlds in just a few hours.”-Henrik Edberg
“To gather all the religions together under a big umbrella of mutual respect and understanding.”-Danny Brown
“I want to make it possible for bisexual polyamorous cyborgs to exist in this world without fear.”-Everett Bogue
(heh go Everett.)
Why do we Stop Ourselves from Dreaming?
The fear of failure tends to creep up when we feel like success is beyond our control. This is the reason I love concepts like self-employment, life-hacking and the democratizing power of the internet.
If you can cut out the gatekeepers and empower yourself, then your dream is within reach. Then all it takes is effort, determination and creativity. You don’t have to win anybody over. It’s all up to you.
Getting Around the System
He’s a great collaboration partner and we compliment each other well. He’s into developing big themes and season arcs and I’m more about the actual writing process- turning those ideas into engaging dialogue, the subtleties in character interaction, etc.
We spend our weekly meetings developing our series idea and strategizing about backdoor ways to get around the system. We’re making progress on both fronts, and it looks like we may actually score ourselves a pitch meeting or two (fingers crossed)!
Sometimes Gatekeepers are Unavoidable
We were working together last week and he turned to me and said:
“I’m afraid that we’ll do all this work, pitch the show and then nobody will buy it.”
This sort of took me aback.
I’m not sure why. It’s a very natural question.
I mean of course, no matter how much hacking we do, the television industry has a certain hierarchy in place. Unless we go around the entire system altogether and produce our own web series (something I’ve considered), there really is no way to avoid having to sell our idea to someone at some point.
Like so many other things in life, you can only empower yourself up to a certain point (a point that, granted, is far beyond where most people assume it to be). But beyond that, a dream may still be dependent on someone else’s approval. Gatekeepers may simply be unavoidable.
It’s not like I didn’t know this. In fact, my initial reaction to his comment was, ‘yeah, that’s a very likely outcome.‘ And it is. There’s a very good chance that nobody will buy our idea. The thing is, I’m unconcerned.
Whenever you set goals, it’s important to frame them in a way that is self-empowering. See, the reason I’m not worried about failure is that I haven’t defined success as us selling the show. To me success would be taking all the steps that are in our power to take, and that’s it.
I truly believe that if you focus on doing everything you can, learn from your mistakes and then refocus your action as you go, doors will open up. But it takes persistence and a willingness to fail.
The Colonel Sanders Approach
Anyone who’s familiar with Tony Robbins or Napoleon Hill knows the Colonel Sanders story. At 65 years old, Sanders began approaching restaurant after restaurant, offering to license out his chicken recipe. They all said no. In fact, he received 1,009 nos till he got his first yes. And now look at him- immortalized in cartoon form on gross fast food restaurants everywhere.
But you get my point. You can’t expect to succeed the first time around. Most people fail again and again before they hit upon the right formula. It’s like they say, if you want to improve your success rate, try increasing your failure rate.
So lets say we pitch our show and it gets rejected. If we wanted to, we could continue pitching the show to more production companies. We would learn from our mistakes and refine our pitch, make contacts and expand our network. We could also develop new series ideas and pitch those to the companies we’ve already established connections with. If none of that works, we could simply produce the show ourselves as a web series.
So if the first few pitches result in a hand shake and a boot out the door, that’s okay. It won’t be shattering.
Make Failure an Afterthought
Don’t make your success dependent on some gatekeeper’s approval. Focus on what you can do and view rejection as a natural step along the way.
If you remain persistent, that persistence will set you apart from the 99% of people who either give up after the first no, or (as is more common), allow the fear of failure to stop them from dreaming at all.
What have been your experiences with failure and gatekeepers? Can you think of a time when you tried something, failed and then pressed on anyway, only to eventually reach your goal?