Practical Dreamers & The Secret of Winning

Passing Storm.
Passing Storm. | Source

There is a wonderful story about Thomas Alva Edison, the famous American inventor. Edison was a remarkable man, responsible for over a thousand inventions, the most notable of which is the electric light bulb. As Napoleon Hill reports it, “Thomas Edison dreamed of a lamp that could be operated by electricity. Despite more than 10,000 failures, he stood by that dream until he made it a physical reality. Practical dreamers do not quit. ” Practical dreamers dream big dreams, decide to pursue them, and strive to realize them, even if it means learning 10,000 things that don’t work before succeeding.

Practical dreamers also realize that a dream without a plan of action is merely wishful thinking; while a dream toward which you decide to effectively and relentlessly strive is the way to succeed.

Edison had a summer residence which he very much enjoyed. He had many visitors and liked to take his guests around the property and show them his various inventions and labor-saving devices.

There was a certain place where each person needed to go through a turnstile in order to reach the path back to the main house. As the story is told, one had to exert considerable effort to pass though this turnstile.

One day a visitor asked Edison about this. It seems the visitor couldn’t understand why the great inventor would have such a difficult mechanism, given all the other devices that he had designed and created to save time and effort; and which were fashioned in ways that increased ease of operation. Edison replied, “Well, you see, everyone who pushes the turnstile around pumps eight gallons of water into the tank on my roof.”

I love that story. Because life is so often like that. We do not always know or understand the hidden dividends that our efforts and required exertion might be accruing; or what possible unforeseen benefits and deep, imperceptible meanings might be forming while we are going though something very hard. It is so easy to think only of how grueling or tedious something is, or how painful and difficult it is to push through it, without thinking of what it might later yield. Growing pains are generally just that.

Yet our efforts and the need to draw again and again and again upon our strengths, quite often produce something of real value. There can be fresh wellsprings of discovery, growth and new life, which we cannot see at the time.

As Denis Waitley astutely counsels, “Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning.”

This is a key insight as to how we can be grateful, even in the midst of struggle; and why we must stay within our integrity, even when others might try to persuade us to take short-cuts. It is the main reason we need to persist without exception, especially when our own inner critic or well-meaning naysayers tempt us to give up.

Dream big, decide what you want to pursue, and then strive for it with all of your focused strength. Find what you love and pursue it with passion. As Jack Welsh so poignantly put it, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.” If having someone else control your destiny works for you, that’s great. But if not, then you need to be clear about where you’re headed, stay self-directed, and never give up, give in or give yourself over to the diversions of others. Don’t let anyone diminish your dreams. It’s been said, that there are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened. Which are you? Which do you want to be?

Kahlil Gibran has written, “Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.” I know people who take alms, people who whine as they work, and people who work with love and joy. I imagine you do, too.

Those who dream big dreams, exert themselves and intentionally push through the many heavy turnstiles of life tend to be happier, healthier and wealthier.

If you relentlessly pursue your dreams and work with love and joy, you are a practical dreamer and possess the secret of winning. Give yourself permission to dream big and to pursue your dreams! If you do so consistently, your life will never be the same and you can leave those unfruitful aspects of your past behind you. Your future is just exactly as bright and promising as your biggest dreams.


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