Light Bulbs, Airplanes, and Impossible Dreams

“Fear wants to stop our stories,” Anne Jackson writes. And I think I’m going to have to read the chapter over again because all I saw was that simple sentence. So at the risk of writing something that might already be written let me tell you why that sentence stopped me in my tracks.

I think most of us are more aware of our dreams than we care to admit. When someone asks you what you want to do when you grow up and you reply, “I don’t know,” I’m inclined to wonder whether you honestly don’t know or whether you’re afraid of what you do know. Because Fear has a way of killing our dreams.

The thing about dreams is that they’re larger than life. Impossible, even. And maybe in your heart you know what you would really love to do if there were no possible way you could fail. So what do you want to do with your life?

And you’re still saying that you don’t know because the big question I just posed was “if.” I said “if” there was no possible way you could fail, but that’s just the thing. There are countless ways you could fail, says Fear. And if you fail, people are going to laugh. If you fail, you will have wasted your life. If you fail, you’ll have nothing to show for yourself but a pile of shattered dreams.

But listen closely before you close the door on your dreams, because Fear says the same thing I did. “If,” Fear whispers. “If.” And maybe all those things Fear says are true. People may laugh and your dreams may shatter if you fail. But there’s no guarantee that you will fail. And what’s the harder life to live – the life of someone who dared to pursue their dreams regardless of what the critics said or the life of someone who died having never attempted to do that one thing that beat in their heart?

One day your heart will stop beating and your dream will die with it. Unless… Unless you dared to give it life before you encountered death. Because some dreams outlive the dreamer. In fact, I would imagine that most dreams do.

Don’t believe me? Hit the nearest light switch and see what happens. What happens is all because Thomas Edison dared to dream that there was a better source of light than candles. And he burned a few candles in the process of making that dream a reality. A new friend of mine is boarding a plane back to Barcelona tonight, but I never would have even met her if the Wright brothers hadn’t quit their day job and decided to invent a flying machine.

Light bulbs and airplanes… Impossible dreams. You can bet that there were critics. You can bet that Fear screamed that it couldn’t be done. And history shows there were failures. The dream didn’t fall together in a day. There were setbacks and frustrations and things that didn’t work.

And you can bet that these dreamers got discouraged. But they didn’t let their temporary failures destroy their dreams. Because they knew in their hearts that lights were made for shining and men were made for flying and that, one day, in the not-so-distant future their dreams wouldn’t seem so impossible after all.

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