It’s time to think bigger, or not at all.
I like to call myself a “nature trust-funder.” My parents’ Colorado dream and their love of hiking and mountains got me where I am. The same way people are born into money, artistic talent, athletic prowess or effortless coolness, I was given the love of the great outdoors.
It’s the simplest gift to give. All you have to do is put someone at the head of a trail. Which is easier said than done, as many of us know. Despite the fact that I can be riding the chair at one of my favorite ski hills barely 40 minutes after leaving my house, even on storm days I often find something else to do—like walking the dogs through the powder, or having a late lunch with my wife downtown. I am lucky: There are plenty of people in this country who don’t have the ability to access even these simple pleasures.
When I do spend the day on the mountain, I come home feeling like I am smack in the middle of enjoying one of the best days in the world. Skiing is good for the soul. Which is why one of my dreams for this year is to keep on arcing turns until what I hope is a slow-starting spring has melted all the snow.
Of course, as the ethos we’ve been raised to embrace as The American Dream continues to be edited by a rapidly changing climate, a battered democracy and what I hope is only a momentary lapse of empathy and compassion, I’ve been putting together a couple of longer-term plans in the dream department. Here are some of my rules.
#1) It’s Only a Dream if it’s Bigger than You
You hear a lot of people in Colorado say they are, “Living the dream,” especially if they just got a job on the ski hill, leading bike tours, fermenting micro-brews, or working as a “budtender” two weeks after moving here from New England. And what they say is real, because what they do for work is making other people happy, too.
Which is the point of dreams, I think, that they benefit others while also resulting in a sense of accomplishment and personal fulfillment for you. That’s because unlike winning the lottery—which is pure dumb luck—real dreams take a plan, lots of passion, and the help of family and good friends who believe in your dream as well.
So whether you’re out there planting trees this spring, creating the ultimate app for social awareness, or perfecting Colorado’s next perfect golden lager (quick beer prediction, lagers are going to be huge this year!), if you can find a way to share your dream with others, you may be surprised to find yourself helping to make many dreams come true.
#2) To Thine Own Self Be True
My dad liked to say, “Do whatever you want, just do it well.” And he loved to see the diversity of Rocky Mountain people—Harley heads, Front Range cowpokes, cross-country skiing barkeaters—completely embracing whatever sport, profession, or pastime they had committed to. As a passionate skier, high lake sailor, lawyer, cyclist, father and husband, going all in, on everything, was what he liked to do.
People can tell when you’re faking it. And even worse, when you’re pretending to be someone you aren’t—you know it deep down in the core of your soul. As someone who briefly wanted to be an East Coast prepster, and who flirted with the thought of being an attorney like my dad (and older brother), I always knew that wasn’t the real me I was talking to.
Making a career as a writer, ski bum, dog-loving dude in the Rockies was and always has been the first dream. It hasn’t made me rich or famous. But it has made me very happy, and so far, it’s paid the bills.
#3) Know When the Dream is Real
The most important rule about dreaming—and especially about dreaming big—is to be able to recognize when your dreams really are coming true. Like when you wake up beside a person you love, with shiny, smiling retrievers at the foot of the bed, and good coffee in the kitchen, and remember to think, or even say, “This is really freakin’ cool.”
Too often, even after we find someone who really gets us, and friends who care about us, and take a job we’re actually kind of good at, and walk into nature right out our back door, we still spend all our time worrying about one million things we can’t control.
Life is the dream, and by living it as well and honestly as you can, while reminding yourself of the real Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”—you’re likely to realize how much you’ve already accomplished. You’re more than ready to take on some other really big dreams. The kind that scare you, and also make you smile.
The only time is now.