Living “The Dream”

* 9 minute read *

September has been a month of massive inspiration for me. Last week I reflected on what it means to be inspired after some amazing experiences at BIGSOUND and Creative3.

This week, the inspiration continues as I reflect on what it means to not just dream, but to “live the dream”.

Yesterday, in my home town of Brisbane, Australia I was involved in the annual TEDxBrisbane event.


There’s something about the TED environment that creates an atmosphere greater than the sum of its parts. The audience arrives open-minded and ready to be inspired, and the speakers rise to the occasion, inspiring the audience by sharing their truth and feeding off the energy in the room.

There was a diverse range of speakers covering topics from social enterprise, architecture, urban design, photography, music, astrophysics, neuroscience, comedy, literature and ballet.

But, as I was reflecting this afternoon on the diversity of the speakers, the words of one of the last speakers for the day, Anita Heiss rang in my ears:


“Start considering what connects you to someone rather than what separates you.

Focus on what makes you the same, not what makes you different.” – Anita Heiss

I realised that what connected each of these speakers and what connected me to them was the power of “living the dream”.

Let me explain…

Image by @theMelanieMcK

Image by @theMelanieMcK

Rebecca McDonald is a former business executive, who is now the founder of Library for All, an international not for profit working to provide an e-book platform for schools in the developing world. Rebecca shared a story about how for two weeks she had recurring dreams about travelling to Haiti, to help with the rebuilding process there.

Despite how illogical this idea seemed at the time, the dreams didn’t go away. Rebecca was also haunted by the voice of a young girl that she met in Bali who had approached her in the street with a simple, yet bold request; “please say YES!”

Consumed by the dream to travel to Haiti and haunted by the young voice pleading for her to say “YES”, in spite of logic, Rebecca eventually convinced her husband to make the trip to Haiti. And it was during her time there that Library for All was born.

photo (1)

Michael Curran and James Teh are blind computer programmers who have a dream to create universal access to computers and the Internet. They’ve created a free, open-source program called NVDA, (Non Visual Desktop Access), that translates websites and computer data to voice and braille. NVDA has now been downloaded more than 60,000 times and is available in over 43 languages!

Image by @TheStoryBoxes

Image by @TheStoryBoxes

Simon Griffiths along with friends Jehan and Danny have a dream to provide a toilet for the 2.5 billion people from across the world who currently don’t have access to one. So, they created ‘Who Gives A Crap‘, an online toilet paper store where every roll purchased provides someone in the world with access to a toilet for one week.

photo (2)

And finally, Daniel Flynn has a dream to end global poverty by changing consumer purchasing habits through bottled water, body care products and food. Although he founded Thank You 5 years ago, realising his dream has not been easy. He’s faced countless disappointments, failures and setbacks, yet he has never given up. And now, 5 years later, the Thank You range of products are about to be stocked in Australia’s two major supermarket chains, and the real global difference is only just beginning!

These guys are all professional dreamers!

large field of dreams blu-ray5

A few weeks ago, I was stuck in bed, sick with the flu and so I decided to watch the movie ‘Field of Dreams‘, which I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. Sure, Field of Dreams is fictional and none of these TEDx speakers had actually built a baseball field that brought people back from the dead, but I couldn’t help but sense the similarities in what it means to not just have a dream, but to follow and live that dream in spite of other people’s “logic”. And I feel like there is a common story to what it means to “live the dream”:

13-09-22 Diagram 2

It starts with not living the dream. The dreamer finds themselves caught in the grind of mediocrity; whether this is an unfulfilling career, an unhealthy relationship or a world that is out of balance, this mediocrity and numbness slowly gives rise to an inner yearning that “there’s got to be more to life than this.”

13-09-22 Diagram 3

This dissatisfaction grows to a point where it can’t be tolerated or ignored any longer and the dreamer starts to listen to that voice in the back of their head telling them to follow their dream. Do you know the voice I’m talking about? For Rebecca it was the voice of the child saying “please say YES”, for Kevin Costner it was that voice whispering “if you build it, he will come”.

At first the dream seems ridiculous. Most likely the dream is either impossible or close to impossible and certainly has never been achieved before. At first, when the dreamer shares their dream with others, reactions range from laughter to polite nodding. To the rest of the world, the dream seems illogical.

13-09-22 Diagram 1

Yet, the dreamer believes in the dream. Despite what logic might tell them, there is a feeling that can’t be ignored and they know that feeling is driving them to follow their true purpose. They reach a moment, a split second in time, where they have to make a choice to step into the uncertainty of their dream. Many of the TEDx speakers recounted this moment where they said “YES” and made the first step toward turning their dream into a reality.

But saying “YES” is just the beginning.

13-09-22 Diagram 4

The dreamer faces rejection, failure, disaster, ridicule and exhaustion and the dream changes shape and direction.

But they never, ever, ever, EVER give up!

With persistance they realise their dream, or exceed the expectations of their dream, or discover a dream even greater than they could have originally imagined. They learn through rejection, failure and trials that their real purpose was not just to realise the dream but to make the choice to walk the path of their true purpose, to listen to that inner voice and inspire others through their journey.

13-09-22 Diagram 5

So, to return to Anita Heiss’ comment that we all share more in common than we do in difference, I believe one thing that we all share in common is hope for a better life; both for ourselves and for others. I believe that we are each connected by this common force and we express it uniquely through our purpose (whether that’s through toilet paper, bottled water or libraries!). When we follow our purpose we have hope for the future and hope is what continues to drive us forward.

I have a dream for Be Awesome. It’s a little bit weird and involves a pimped out bus and pop-up festival that tours the world supporting and empowering school kids. I’m not really sure what it’s all about yet but I’m continuing to listen to that voice.

And I know that you have a dream too.

What stage are you on the journey of “living the dream”? It starts with creating space to listen, then having the courage to say “yes” and the persistance to continue. But the dream is not a destination, because once you have found and are following your purpose you have already arrived!

So, I’m curious:

  • What is the voice in your head whispering for you to do right now? I challenge you to say “YES”!

Til next week, Be Awesome!


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7 thoughts on “Living “The Dream”

  1. Pingback: Only Connect | Be Awesome

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