Million Dollar Dreams, Minimum Wage Effort

One of the most inspirational movies I have ever watched was the Pursuit of Happiness. The main character in the movie Christopher Gardner, as played by Will Smith, endures all types of obstacles and setbacks in his effort to provide for his son and to become a better man. Despite losing his wife, his home and his financial means of support, Christopher continues to push forward and ultimately lands a life-changing job with Dean Witter. Never revealing his struggles to his potential employers, and never allowing them to be used as a crutch or justification for failure, Christopher persevered and succeeded. What is even more amazing is this movie is based on a true story. The real Christopher Gardner went on to form his own multimillion-dollar brokerage firm. Amazing!!!

The fact that Gardner went on to become a millionaire is the least meaningful aspect of the story for me. I watched that movie and got goosebumps based on the fact that he never gave up. He had a goal in mind, which seemed just outside of his grasp, but he kept fighting and pushing forward despite all odds. Don’t get me wrong- achieving the status of a millionaire is impressive. However, in my opinion, if he never reached that status his story would not be any less meaningful to me.

Too often in my work I meet with both students and adults who are very quick to express to me their goals, ideas and ambitions. I am always welcoming to hear them. However, I do not take the approach that many people I have seen take. I will not just smile and pat you on the back for having big dreams and goals. That is what too many people did to me as I expressed the goals I set for myself and honestly it wasn’t helpful. My response now is simply one question- what are you doing today to get you closer to that goal? This is when the excuses and the stories and the “what had happened” moments occur. This is unacceptable provided your goals and dreams mean more to you than a conversation starter. This is unacceptable if you are passionate about what you want to accomplish. It is unacceptable if your dreams and goals require more work than you are willing to put in. If you set your goals and dreams as something to admire from afar then you are doing it all wrong. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer, I would have a lot of money. If I had a dollar for every time someone told me they wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer and didn’t because it seemed too hard, or three years was too much to sacrifice, or they doubted they could do it, I would likely be a millionaire.

I will be 100% honest- this mentality and approach is relatively new to me. I was the king of putting things off. I would get excited about ideas and then it would soon fade away. I would say I was going to do something and then spend more time coming up with excuses as to why I didn’t do it then to actually do it. This approach affected me on a personal and professional level. It was in 2009 that things changed for me. I wish I could say that it was because I had an epiphany or the universe suddenly started to make sense. The truth is I was depressed. I was at the lowest point in my life. I was in a failing marriage, felt like I was a horrible father, was in a dead-end job, and barely living check-to-check. The worse part was that I was incredibly lazy but had big dreams and goals. The switch went on the second I made the first step to become an entrepreneur. Things changed for me that day and I have never looked back. If I have a goal, I make it happen by any means possible. If I have to work on weekends to complete a task, then so be it. If I have to make sacrifices or take a few steps back in order to move forward, let’s do it. I may never be the smartest person in my field but I will not be out worked.

I read an article a few years back that was entitled “The 20 Habits of Eventual Millionaires”. At the time I read it I was still growing into who I am today so it didn’t carry as much significance. Despite that, I wrote down some of the habits that I felt were eventually going to help me step my game up once I was no longer considered a rookie in the entrepreneur world. I want to share few with you, whether they carry weight now or not, in the hopes that they will be meaningful to you soon.

  • No Excuses – Blaming, complaining, justifying, explaining- all of these are incredibly draining and a waste of time. They also will not get you any closer to achieving the goal you set for yourself. Save the time and energy, learn from your setbacks, and keep pushing forward. Also, keep your dreams and your goals to yourself. This eliminates the number of people you would have to worry about justifying any excuses.
  • Don’t Be in a Rush – I blame technology and the instant gratification that comes with it for why people are so spoiled and expect instant results. The struggle to become successful is a slow and tedious process and one that is often hidden behind the bright lights and sounds of success. Be methodical, keep moving forward even if half a step at a time, and never stop. To avoid becoming drained or losing focus in the slow process, make sure to celebrate all the smaller successes along the way.
  • Write Down New Ideas Each Day – The same way people exercise to develop their muscles and go to the gym as habit, we must take the same care in developing our creativity. Every day write down ten ideas that you have, whether it be focused on professional or personal life. This will stimulate your creativity and soon the idea will be followed by a plan of action which will result in achievement of that idea. To be honest, this approach is what motivates me to continue to grow and expand my personal business. My ideas list becomes my to-do list which becomes my accomplishment list.
  • 1% A Day – Whatever you want to become successful at, invest 1% more of your time and energy into it each day. That 1%, compounded, become 3,800% each year. That is incredibly significant and meaningful. The goal is to spend time each day working on and towards your passion. The great thing is that eventually, after 30 days of repetitive action, it will become a habit.
  • Every Day, Avoid Death – All work and no play will drive anyone to burn out. While we take great care in working towards our goals, we also have to take great care in taking care of ourselves. Diet, exercise, play, dreaming, fun, sleep- all essential elements of success which few people really talk about. Just as critical to my success as my plans and lists are my nights playing pool. Without balance we will self-destruct.

Whatever your goals and dreams are in life, do not let them turn into a fantasy. If you want to make them a reality you have to be willing to work harder than you may believe you are capable of working in order to make them happen. If you keep putting off your goals, maybe you have to ask yourself a tough question- do you really want it bad enough?