To Dream or not to Dream

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a dreamer. When I was a kid I used to think about running around, being a super hero and beating up bad guys. As I’ve matured, so have my daydreams. In college I thought about traveling the world, eating amazing food and finding a kick ass job that fulfilled me while still allowing me to feel free.

In the last few years my dreams have shifted to living a good, simple and relatively stress free life. I want acres, a nice family, close friends and financial security. Don’t get me wrong, I still want the kick ass food and (a little) travel. Travel is a slightly lower priority on my list now though, but there is no debate about the food! Good food is a must have in life.

I spend a fair amount of time ‘dreaming’ about these things. To me, that’s not a bad thing. It’s not time wasted. Daydreaming has always been a way for me to visualize where I want to be in life. It helps crystallize my goals and figure out ways to achieve them. It also acts as a semi-meditative escape from work or life. Shutting down your brain and day dreaming for a bit can be a nice stress reliever.

As it stands, I’m not a super hero (unfortunately), but I am fairly physically fit and strong. I lift weights and am a pretty physically functional human being. I also have a wide array of cool skills. To name a few of them: I can play piano, fully renovate a house, repair small engines and cars, brew beer, and I have a pretty solid scientific / engineering background. Who I am today directly stems from who I dreamed of being at various points in my life.

There are people out there who believe daydreaming is a waste of time; an escape mechanism for lazy or unhappy people to avoid facing reality. Teachers often criticize students for ‘wondering off’ in class (I did all the time). Is that such a bad thing? In my opinion, most people don’t day dream enough.

It may be those who do most, dream most.

It may be those who do most, dream most.

People are so brainwashed with the corporate cubicle mindset that they forget about what they desire, or what’s best for them. They focus on their “career” and doing what’s best for The Company. To me, daydreaming about where you want to be in life sounds a lot better than sitting in your cubicle prison dreading every moment. Eventually most people start to realize that The Company doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about their best interest. By then it’s usually too late though.

I think the great Uncle Buck (RIP John Candy) said it best when talking to a teacher about his niece:

“I don’t think I want to know a six-year-old who isn’t a dreamer, or a sillyheart…They’re ALL good kids, until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good. “

In our case, we adults are the dreamers and the brain-dead skag is the culture of corporate America.

Uncle Buck

Uncle Buck

Now, a person should learn to daydream effectively. The key is teaching yourself how to harness your daydreams and spin them into attainable goals. Daydreaming CAN be a waste of time if you don’t do anything with it, or you’re thinking about the wrong things. Don’t spend your time wondering if some stupid Kardashian had plastic surgery, or thinking about what the Bieb is up to today. Newsflash: It doesn’t matter. If you died today none of them would care, so why do you care about them?

Use your daydream time to visualize where YOU want to be, and who you want to be, in 5-10 years. Then start formulating a plan (no matter how small) to work your way there. Some of this goes back to my post about who you see when you look in the mirror.

Take action to turn those daydreams into realities. I dream about having acreage and retiring early. To achieve that, I have started side hustles (real estate, blogging) in addition to maximizing my earning potential at work to achieve financial independence (Getting my M.S., taking advantage of opportunities to move up, switching companies, doing more than my peers etc.). My wife and I save 50%+ of our income, and she is working hard to pay off her student loans. Once those are gone, we will be saving even more!

I’m willing to wager that your daydreams don’t involve sitting in a cubicle, listening to Becky complain about putting on another 5lbs as she plows through her bag of chips, then retiring at 65 to sit at home and think about all of that wonderful time spent in your cubicle-induced hell.

Office workers day dreaming

Office workers day dreaming

Your daydreaming probably has a common theme. Take a minute to write that theme down. Next time you day dream, flesh it out a little bit. If you continue doing this, you’ll notice your lofty dreams start to seem like real, attainable goals that you can take action to achieve. Each time you day dream, try to envision a few more details than the time before, and think about how you can work on the details.

Here’s how my theme started and propelled itself after I got my first ‘real’ job out of college:

The quoted material is what I was thinking / dreaming at the time.

“This can’t be it, am I really going to spend the next 40 years in a cinder block office with no windows?”
Yes, I started in an office. It flooded when the air conditioner ran, had no windows, was next to the production area and was nothing but artificial light…but it was an office. Thought it seemed more like a dungeon than an office.

“There has to be more to life than coming to work at ridiculous hours, working for 14-24 hours straight, then repeating the same shit next week…”
The plant runs 24/7, and I had to be there whenever needed, so there were some crazy hours. 2am to whenever-the-job-gets-done pm or am. My boss at the time did his job for 30 years. He was about 56 and looked 80. No joke. I knew I didn’t want to end up like that, and I knew I didn’t want to live that hectic and unpredictable life forever. I wasn’t sure what I could do about it though.

“How do I get more control over my life so I don’t have to do this crap if I don’t want to? I need more money…”
The key takeaway from this thought was figuring how to get financial control so I could pursue other things in life. This led to…

“How do I get more money…well I can reduce my expenses, or earn more money. Ideally…I do both”
At this point I was really immersing myself in financial education and long term planning. I started outlining myself on the basics. Budgeting, saving, debt reduction etc. Eventually I thought…

“Reducing expenses is relatively easy…I can quickly pay off my student loans, not buy that new car that I was looking at and instead pay cash for used one, not buy a big house that I don’t need, keep my credit cards paid off and just try to live more frugally in general”
I put all of these thoughts and my research into action. Form here I saw my long term plan to achieve my day dream(s) start to mold itself.

“Reducing expenses works great, but I need more money. Hmmm, I can get my Master’s, which work will pay for! I could leverage that to leave my current position and get a better paying job elsewhere”
I knew I was getting half of the equation down at this point. There was another side to this financial independence thing that I needed to look at – making more money. From here I pursued my masters in food science. Now, this took 2.5 years to do while working full time, but this is how it started. This led to…

“I have my new job and am making 20K more, and I’m saving a lot with no debt…but I still need more to achieve my goals. What’s the next step…side income!”
Okay so my master’s is paying off, I’m saving a lot. However I only had one income stream. If I’m going to achieve financial independence, I need to dig deeper…

“Boy, there are TONS of ways to make money on the side. Real estate, starting a business, blogging, providing services, selling products, consulting, writing, leveraging existing skills…the list is huge.”
This was a heavy research phase, which is still ongoing. I really dug into this stuff though, learning all kinds of ways to make side money. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what would work for me.

“I started (and closed) my first online business. That’s okay, at least you tried. But real estate might work better…I’ll look at buying a duplex to rent. Real estate seems like it could be awesome”
I tried selling a niche product, which is a story for another day. It didn’t work out, but I broke even and learned a lot. So that’s okay. It led to me exploring another path, which was real estate.   I bought a duplex!

“I still need to make more money! I’ll leverage my unique skills at work to get into a certain science position for my company that pays very well and is a sweet looking job to have”
I knew there was a certain job in my company that I wanted. It had normal hours, great pay, and was in line with my food science background. I worked my ass off in the plants, built great relationships, took on and conquered projects and problems that nobody else would, and eventually got myself that job. Along the way my performance earned me a solid reputation and steady pay increases. Mind you, this took ~3 years, but I am now where I wanted to be because I set my sights on it and worked hard to get here.

“I want more than one side income stream…how do I make that happen. Real estate is going well, but I wouldn’t mind trying something else. Marketing/selling products isn’t really my thing. I do HATE cubicles and the current corporate America culture. I’m also big on frugality and financial independence…blogging could be the ticket”
At this point, I have a cash flowing duplex. I am doing everything I can to save, budget, invest and live frugally. I have done a solid job maximizing my salary at work. However, to fully achieve my day dream in the time frame I want, I know I need another side income stream. I like to write, and I feel like I have some decent thoughts. That propelled me into the blogosphere. This is roughly where I am today.

In a nutshell, that’s how the last 7 years have played out for me. My initial thoughts and daydreams helped me form goals and started me on a path that will eventually lead to financial independence, early retirement and getting the hell out of cubicle land.

For the record, as I said earlier, I’ve also picked up all kinds of cool hobbies and have done some travelling. My dreaming and goal setting is not all financially driven, as I realize there is more to life than that. That’s just what I focused on in this post.

Doing what I do and how I do it is not for everyone, but I want everyone to take some time today to DREAM. Dream big. Dream something wild. Then focus on slowly turning those dreams into realities through planning and action taking. Your life won’t change overnight, but over a period of a few years you might be surprised how far you can come. Eventually you will wake up and realize you can play Für Elise on the piano, deadlift 400 or 500lbs, cook a shockingly good meal from scratch, or live a financially independent life.

In the words of Aerosmith – Dream on…dream on…dream on…dream until your dreams come trueeeeee….Oooohhhhhhaaaaaaoooohhhhhhaaa… *bum bum, bum bum, bum bum, BUM BUM BUM BUM*

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