A twelve year old boy spent a year building an incredible two story wooden tree house. His parents claimed he started playing with lincoln logs right out of the womb. He was so proud of himself. So one day he invited all his friends over to play in this wooden tree house. They were all very impressed, but none of them believed he actually built it himself. This didn’t stop him from building more things or improving that tree house. As he got older and continued to toil around in shop class, most people believed he’d become an architect or a carpenter. It was in his blood. But he really only wanted to build immaculate log cabins from the finest of fine wood from around the world.
It was a dream he shared with his closest friends. He’d architect blue prints of log cabins in high school. He’d research property all over the country. He searched for the best trees, wood, and building materials. In college, he’d meet with his friends and speak about his log cabin dreams. Some people thought he was a little obsessive. But it’s what he loved and nobody could take that away from him.
But he never became an architect. He never built a log cabin. He wound up becoming an insurance broker in the city. He still dreamed of building log cabins and in his spare time he toiled away with designs, stories, plans, land surveys, etc. You could say he was an insurance broker by day and a log cabin architect by night. One day he’d build that log cabin. One day he kept telling himself.
That twelve year old boy is like many of us. We’ve all heard the saying, “do what you love and the money will follow.” I’m not sure who really believed this, but for many people, it’s a self-help ideal. But it’s not true. Not even close. Life has a habit of derailing peoples dreams and passions.
A lot of people have passions and love interests, but most people can’t survive doing those things. They either need a full time job or a spouse who has a good job. It costs a lot of money to live these days, even if you’re single. It’s even more expensive and hard if you have a family to support. So those dreams get pushed farther into the back of your mind. But some people can’t escape their passions and moonlight in any way they can to keep that dream alive. One day they keep telling themselves.
Moonlighting isn’t a new term. People have worked during the day and attempted to conquer their dreams at night. But at some point it takes a toll and many of us give up or lose hope. It’s tough spending your free time doing something you love while working a full time job. Even rougher if your full time job is something you don’t really like doing.
Your passion and drive could be anything. It’s not always about some artistic endeavor, a business venture, some new kind of food creation, an athletic challenge, or a log cabin, but rather doing something that drives you toward some other goal. Sometimes that drive and ambition keeps tugging away at your heart and soul and no matter how far away it seems, that passion keeps knocking on your door.
Sometimes you need to be a little crazy if you spend most of your free time doing something that might never amount to anything. Not everybody attempts to conquer a dream though. There are those who have second and third jobs just to make ends meet. That’s also moonlighting. But I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about those who attempt to conquer some long lost dream. An internal drive where you strive for something more, something better, even though that something might never amount to anything considered successful to most.
Maybe you had a dream as a child and let it slip away. Or it could be something you’ve been plugging away at for years. There’s just never enough time to really finish. It’s never an easy task. Sometimes your spouse isn’t that supportive or your children don’t understand why you’re not around. Especially if you work long hours at your full time job and are tired when you get home. Time is precious to your family. They might not always understand why you’re spending a few hours a day away from them. Especially if there is no return sum in sight. So people wake up earlier or go to bed later to find that free time.
You wind up working around your job, your family, your life, and more all in some internal hope that one day you’ll accomplish what you set out to accomplish. Maybe it’s a finished novel that gets published. Or maybe it’s a song you hear on Itunes or on the radio. Maybe it’s your name up on the movie screen or at a local theatre. Or it could be some log cabin finally completed after dreaming about it since you were a child. Whatever it is, you need more than just dreams to make it come true. You need passion. Determination. Hope. Drive. Talent. And most of all, a profound love for what you’re doing.
Sometimes our own ambitions supersede our actually talents. And maybe we can’t accept this or other people never tell us the truth. Ego does get in the way sometimes. It doesn’t hold everybody back though. A lack of genius like talent doesn’t always matter. People do learn. They do work hard. They do improve and not everybody has to become Beethoven or Shakespeare. But for those with limited talents and skills, you’ll need far more determination, drive, and passion than most. And maybe that’s what will make you great.
There was a question a teacher asked my class years ago about writing. It was a class filled with published authors and writers, money hungry want to be writers, and other people interested in finishing a book or article. This was a few years before the internet actually became popular. In fact, Google didn’t even exist yet. The teacher didn’t have a right or wrong answer for their question, but the truth was it rung true no matter what your passion is. It’s probably going to be the difference between actually making it or giving up along the way.
And that question was, “Why do you write?” Most people in the class answered with your typical, “I want to be an author, I want to make money, I want to be like Stephen King or John Grisham.” Again, there was no right or wrong answer. The truth is everybody was right and everybody was wrong. But not one of those answers gets you to the end game. It won’t make you wake up at 4am just because. It won’t make you drive to the middle of New York state to survey some abandoned property. And it sure won’t force you to spend all your money making a film or play or opening a restaurant. None of those answers will get you to where you really need to go. Not even close.
If you want to be like Dean Koontz and you never make money or never get published or receive a million rejection letters, or not one reply, you’ll probably give up long before you ever finish. As they say, it’s about the journey and not the end goal. Sometimes you have to love the entire process, and not just look at the finish line. If all you do is wish for some fame or money and hate the entire journey, do you really think you’ll finish? Probably not.
Imagine that twelve year old boy and his log cabin dreams again. He drew out the architecture plans in grade school. Improved upon those plans in high school. Found sweet little land plots in upstate New York and Northwestern California in College. Became a young adult and did extensive research, spoke about it with friends, and actually planned to build his log cabin. The dream felt real. He could almost smell and taste that log cabin. It felt like it would happen. Then life happened.
He became busy with his insurance broker job. He met an attractive and intelligent young woman and soon fell in love. They got married and started a family. She wanted a brick house in the suburbs. And so goes life for many people.
That log cabin dream was pushed farther and farther into the back of his mind. It probably faded from his memory for awhile. Every once in awhile those juices flowed again. Once he helped his own son build a tree house and started dreaming of that log cabin again. But it didn’t last for long as life’s normal routines smacked him upside the head again. And the days, weeks, and years kept moving forward.
He’s promoted, makes more money, has more responsibilities and less free time. His children grow up, go to school, have dreams of their own. Then one day he’s sixty years old and it’s all but forgotten until his son, a young adult himself now, finds some old blueprint in the garage. It’s an old blue print of a log cabin.
Those old memories and dreams come to fruition again. The spark is back. Suddenly the passion ignites something and that sixty year old man turns into a twelve year old boy again. That log cabin is no longer just about a log cabin. It’s more than that. It’s a lifelong dream, need, want, a desire that needs to be fulfilled. And before long, it’s almost certain that the log cabin will be built.
Life has a way of changing things, but for most people, they lose touch with who they really are or what they really want. Or maybe it was never that much of a passion in the first place. It can’t always be about money. Because if that’s the only reason you do something, you either work on wall street, sell drugs, or wind up giving up way too early because most things never come easy. It takes a lot of hard work. It takes patience. It takes time. Sometimes it takes a little luck and perseverance. And it takes a lot of love and passion. If a simple roadblock derails you, it probably wasn’t that much of a passion to begin with.
Like that twelve year old boy who wanted to build a log cabin. If it was just about flipping a house or making money off of it, or even just about a career, nobody would wait that long to build it. He would have given up a long time ago.
And so he builds that log cabin in upstate New York. And it’s immaculate. It’s beautiful. It’s two stories high with the finest wood from the Amazon forest. A dream comes true, even though it took more than forty years to do so. Sometimes it’s more than just talent, passion, determination, and luck.
If you really want to do you love in life and really succeed, you have to answer one simple question.
Do you really want to build that log cabin?