Sunday, November 29, 2009

Now's a Good Time

Current Reading: Myths of the North American Indians, by Lewis Spence

Inspirational Quote: "We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes" -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I've been reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Freelancer's Survival Guide. I recommend it even if you're not planning on starting your own business. She always raises at least one point that makes me think deeply. This week's post was on, to paraphrase, when to start pursuing your dream. Her opinion is "now."

As a father and husband, a man of responsibilities, I find it difficult not to protest. But, I say, what about the mortgage, the children's education, bills... What I'm doing pays for my life and that of my dependents. So what if it's uninspiring drudge? Following my dream is unlikely to lead to financial reward. And all of that is true.

Yet, if not now, when? When the kids are grown? When the mortgage is paid? When I retire? The problem with putting off anything until tomorrow is that none of us know when there will be no more tomorrows. I draw your attention to the quote at the top of this post, which came from a man who pursued greatly and achieved much, but ran out of tomorrows before he could achieve all that he might have. Wil Wheaton writes about the same sort of thing when he urges his audience to "Get Excited and Make Things."

So I find myself thinking about all I would like to do, and looking with some discouragement at what I am doing. It's the biggest contrast in my life. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People asks readers to imagine their epitaph, and although my thoughts on that vary from moment to moment, one thing I never want said of me is that I left my dreams unfulfilled. It also discusses that frequent confusion between those things that are important and those things that are urgent. Most of us spend our whole lives fighting the most visible fires, while leaving the most important ones to smoulder unnoticed. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, is all about how Pausch achieved his childhood dreams. It contains observations, inspiration and instruction given in the shadow of the knowledge that one of his dreams -- watching his children grow up -- was one he could not live to fulfill.

A life with no room for the pursuit of dreams is a tragedy. A waste. And in the face of uncertain tomorrows, how can anyone put off pursuing their dreams? How can anyone, regardless of their responsibilities not say, "Now?"

But in a life already short on time, making room for dreams requires recognizing the difference between urgent and important. It requires letting a few of the urgencies rage on and turning attention instead to the smaller, hotter fires that are more important.

And I do that now, because tomorrow is an uncertain thing, and I hope that whatever your dream, you find the courage to do the same.

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