The Importance Of Big Dreams


I have a copy of this children’s book that I take everywhere I go.
It’s called An Awesome Book, and everyone I know who’s had a baby in the past six months owns a copy, because I bought one for them. It’s a kids’ book, but I think the message is for adults too.

I like it because it reminds me that I don’t need things, but I need dreams, goals, things I decided I wanted to do one day when I was looking out a window somewhere scratching my chin and thinking about what my life should look like. And Dallas Clayton draws incredible unicorns and dinosaurs and bears.

My favorite passage in the book is this:

There are places in the world where people dream up dreams

so simply un-fantastical and practical they seem

to lose all possibility of thinking super things

of dancing wild animals with diamond-coated wings

instead they dream of furniture

of buying a new hat

of owning matching silverware

can you imagine that?

I like to buy books for my friends’ children because I think stories are more meaningful than toys, and more memorable. And that goes for adults, too, although sometimes we forget it because we make our lives so hectic.

If you do anything at all in the outdoors, somewhere in your mind is the capacity to dream big, or envision yourself doing something amazing. You want to ride Slickrock, climb El Cap or Mount Rainier, run the NYC Marathon or the Western States 100, or do a raft trip in the Grand Canyon. Maybe you just want to be a climber, or a skier, or a mountain biker. Or marry a beautiful girl, or see the Eiffel Tower, or write a book.

But we get busy. Too busy scrolling our phone screens, watching TV, catching up with all the mundane shit in life and we forget about our dreams. We say things like “I don’t have time,” and when we get frustrated that we don’t have enough time, we assuage that feeling of impotence by buying shit we don’t need, which we think will make us feel better. Granite countertops, leather sofas, sometimes skis, climbing gear or bikes we never use. Maybe that’s because we’re scared of whatever it is we’ve been thinking about for so long, or maybe it’s easier to buy something instead of doing something. Or maybe something we saw told us our dream was something different, and we bought into that.

A few months ago, I was talking to a friend of mine and she told me she had always dreamed of going to Hawaii for her tenth wedding anniversary. I asked Are you going, and she said Well, we don’t know, for a number of reasons — a new house, some stress and financial things with a new business, et cetera. I said I think you gotta put that shit on a credit card if you can and go to Hawaii this year. We go into debt for tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars for the most mundane things — houses, cars, sometimes furniture, sprinkler systems — but most of us have a hard time sliding our credit card or taking money out of a savings account to pay for what could be the experience of a lifetime.

If you start a sentence off with, “I’ve always wanted to …”, you either

  1. aren’t going to do it, which means it’s not really your dream, or
  2. just haven’t done it yet.

Procrastinating, putting it off is fine as long as you’re 100 percent sure that you’re not going to die in the next year. Because you’re going to die someday, and if you’re honest with yourself, you will admit that you never once as a kid said to anyone, When I grow up I want matching drapes, or a riding lawnmower that mulches too or a cozy living room. You wanted to be a cowboy or a polar explorer or Amelia Earhart.

-Brendan

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20 Comments

  1. Jason Chapman
    June 21, 2012

    Hey, where’s my copy! We had a baby three weeks ago! ;-)

    I’ll look to pick one up, this sounds like a fun book.

    Reply
  2. Jason Chapman
    June 21, 2012

    “But we get busy. Too busy scrolling our phone screens, watching TV, catching up with all the mundane shit in life and we forget about our dreams. We say things like “I don’t have time,” and when we get frustrated that we don’t have enough time, we assuage that feeling of impotence by buying shit we don’t need…”

    You’ve got to be kidding. I was beating myself up for this exact same thing last night. I was standing in the living room before heading up to bed, realizing I’m not doing the things I want to or need to and I’ve been buying too much stuff lately, is some attempt to make myself feel better.

    Thanks for the article.

    Reply
  3. June 21, 2012

    You’re right. I didn’t dream of shiny silverware when I was a kid. I dreamed of surfing big waves and skiing steep chutes. A few years ago, my husband had cancer and needed a liver transplant to save him. The prognosis was grim. No one survives this one. Long story short: he lived. Now he’s on a tear to travel and follow his most important dreams. It’s like living with a dream barometer all the time. He’s constantly challenging me to do more, to think bigger thoughts and to aim higher. We have a big trip to Indonesia coming up and it makes me love him even more for making the time and financial sacrifice to do the trip. In the end, it’s our experiences that sustain us.

    Reply
    • Kendall
      June 22, 2012

      Kim, this sentence is worth gold in my mind: “It’s like living with a dream barometer all the time.” Enjoy Indo!

      Brendan – thanks for stretching the mind.

      I once had a guy tell me to “chuck that busy!” and I’ve tried not to use “busy” as an expression/answer to the “How are you doing?” question since then.

      Reply
      • June 25, 2012

        Thanks Kendall. I agree. “Busy” should never be the right answer.

        Reply
  4. June 21, 2012

    Thank you so much for sharing this, it made my morning.

    Reply
  5. Tara
    June 21, 2012

    My favorite quote and why I’m in physical therapy school today is: “Remember, if you don’t do it this year you’ll be one year older when you do” Warren Miller.

    Reply
  6. June 21, 2012

    What if one of my goals is to build all the furniture in my abode?

    Reply
  7. June 22, 2012

    Thank you for this story!
    My wife and I adopted our son Canyon almost two years ago, and have since become the definition of the word procrastination. We have been married for 13 years, and always said that we would never let “life” get in the way of our life. Well, we let it, and are just now getting back into the swing of things. This just gave us a little boost to let the mister system wait until another day and go hiking today instead. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

    Reply
  8. Adam
    June 22, 2012

    I WILL learn to speak Spanish.

    Reply
  9. June 23, 2012

    Yep. I had one of those moments where you say, “Is this really all that there is to life?”. And I answered with “fuck it” and quit my job and here I am riding my bicycle across country to figure out what’s next in life.

    Keep on setting kids straight, Brendan!

    Reply
  10. ivan
    June 25, 2012

    dont know who said this, but seems appropriate:

    Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently.

    Reply
  11. KatieSue
    June 27, 2012

    Thank You! As I told my parents when I went to Argentina on a whim, The memories will be worth more to me than the money in the bank. And they are. I think my dad understood more when he had 4 stints put in his heart and afterwards all he could think about was that he almost died without seeing snow again. 2 weeks after the surgury he was in Utah snowshoeing with me and complaining that he couldn’t go ski.
    I need inspiration like this to motivate me to sell my useless house so I can work less and play more with more money to spare. Thank You Thank You Thank You. I’m bookmarking this and reading it everyday.

    Reply
  12. Harri
    August 4, 2012

    To the point, again! I also have been buying more gear than I have time to wear out. At the same time I’ve been planning (and doing!) small adventures by myself and with my kids. Must do bigger ones, thanks for reminding me.

    Reply
  13. Becca C.
    October 6, 2012

    Indeed. Another way to look at it is to ask yourself,”In two years (or 20, or 1) which thing will I regret more?” A friend of mine quit hiking the CDT this year to pursue love because he asked that question. He had already hiked the AT and the PCT so he didn’t have anything to prove. I dropped out of doing a half marathon race this week because I realized that I couldn’t do it all, and I would regret it way more if I didn’t get into nursing school because my grades weren’t good enough. My husband and I decided to do a bike tour next summer in Europe and send me back to school instead of buying a house. A good quote I’ve been repeating to myself is, “don’t give up what you want MOST for what you want NOW.” That has been keeping me going for months.

    Reply

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