“Potential is good when you’re 15 years old. After that, you need to start doing something.” Chris Guillebeau
Some moments change you forever. My senior year of college I sat at a bar drinking a beer with my friend Dan, talking about life as we always did. On this occasion, our conversation took on a seize the moment kind of tone. The last year of college will do that to you, I suppose. We both knew in May a really responsible world awaited us. But it was only September. And for now, we were plotting how to wring the towel of time and draw the most of life’s next few months.
In the spirit of the moment, I brought up this woman I’d seen around campus. The golden-haired woman. Dan rolled his eyes. This was not the first time he’d heard about her. I’d been love-struck since our sophomore year. Every time I spotted her, he got the news. She was gorgeous, changed my day. She had inspired a lot of bad poetry and a few good piano songs.
“You know, maybe I’ll ask her out this year,” I said and sat back proud of myself for being so courageous in the moment.
“Okay,” says Dan, “You’ve got a month.”
“A month... what do you mean a month?” I asked.
“If you don’t ask her out in a month, I’m going to deeply and significantly embarrass you in front of her.”
Now I was backpedaling. I didn’t mean I was actually going to ask her out. I was just caught up in the moment, keeping the conversation going, playing around. He smiled as I squirmed. He was not going to budge.
Four weeks later, with two days left of my month's deadline, he dragged me across the library and into a conversation with her. And I finally asked her out. Two years later, I married her.
I am forever grateful to Dan. I have him to thank for my sons and nine wonderful years of marriage with Amanda. I shudder to think all of this might never have happened, might just have become a passing love-struck fantasy, if he had not pushed me to do one simple thing: follow through.
A few years ago, I attended a birthday party for my friend Xan. As he opened gifts, we took some time to share things we appreciated about him. Another friend of his, a woman, said what she appreciated most about him was that he followed through on his word and his dreams. I had never heard someone be complimented for this.
And it got me thinking that follow through really is a truly admirable quality in a person. Follow through is rare, maybe even a virtue. We all have dreams. We all hope one day to realize those dreams. But few people actually, continually, persistently take steps to keep at those dreams.
Xan was one of those rare persons. He did things. He pursued his dreams. He talked about a lot of lofty goals. But then he actually did stuff to achieve those goals. And he had successes - and, yes, failures - to show for it. Yet, come hell or high water he embodied resolve. He had the virtue of follow through.
Follow through let people trust us, let them know we are people of our word. But even more so, its a gift we give ourselves. There is a burden to carrying around dreams, to hoping that one day when life is different or easier or not as busy, you’ll finally live out that calling or desire or dream. One day is the kiss of death.
As a counselor, let me be the first to validate the difficult road to realizing your dreams. There is a lot that keeps us from our dreams. And some of it is serious stuff. In other words, this is not meant as a not be a “just go do it” pep talk. There are legitimate reasons you may not be able to move forward in following through on your desires. That must be honored.
Yet, you will only be able to deal with those blocks while you are trying to follow through. Seriously. This will be obvious but no one succeeds in following through unless they try to follow through. And you cannot heal or change or grow if you stop trying to live or dream or change anymore. The opposite actually begins to happen. If you roll over and play dead, your dreams will haunt you and lead you to bring more damage to yourself. And you’ll have to find some anesthesia to shut them up. Alcohol, sex, workaholism, TV. Trying to shut your dreams up will only wreak more havoc inside.
Let me assure you: No one follows through without having to face the same treacherous journey you will face. And therefore, no one can follow through alone. The obstacles are too great, the fear too much, the doubts about our abilities or talents oh so haunting and gnawing. You need people to believe in you, support you, challenge you, and push you. Maybe even drag you across the library to ask the woman of your dreams out.
Maybe it’s not dreams you’re missing. Maybe it’s time to follow through.