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What’s The Dream?

What’s The Dream? What’s the big hairy audacious goal that’s getting you out of bed early or keeping you up late pursuing? It’s always the dream that gets you doing that without ever really noticing that it’s early or late.

What’s the dream? What’s that big calling only you are hearing that is an itch deep in your soul, the one you know can’t be scratched away in a day. It’s the one that sets the wheels of your life in motion sending you down a road you have never seen.

What’s the big dream? It’s the one that scares you to articulate it to even your closest family and friends. The chances of fulfilling it can look slim from where you are right now. But even so, you can’t get it out of your mind no matter how much you try to ignore it. It’s the dream of something you’ll become or a mountain you’ll scale that makes ignoring the idea impossible.

The big dream is one that excites you to the core today, but could be the most frustrating thing in your life tomorrow.

“Big” is never “easy”. “Big” is not a scripted journey that goes by your ideal timeline. It’s got a life of its own. The big dreams always stretch you beyond your current capabilities. “Big” sends you back to kindergarten to learn the skills from the ground up  you’ll need to succeed. If you’re a big shot, that is going to be painful. But with humility and innocence it’ll be exciting. Each step adds something new to your character no matter how awkward each nugget of “new” is to embrace.

My “Big” for years was to try to win the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii.

I had patience. I knew it would take years of gradually building my experience and fitness to win. And I knew there would be setbacks. I was ready for those as well. Six long years I dedicated my entire professional life as a triathlete to fulfilling this dream.

But those first six times I fell short. I finished in 5th, in 3rd, even 2nd place. I could be in the lead at the end of the bike, half way through the marathon, even with just a few miles to go in the race. But the big dream didn’t happen. And each time I fell short the emotional strength it took to pick up the pieces of a shattered dream again and again got more and more difficult to find.

Finally I said forget it. I’m not going back. How many times do I try and fail before the message is clear…this dream is not one I’ll ever achieve. In 1988, after my sixth race in Kona, I said was done. I would never go back to Hawaii to race.

The big dream won’t leave you alone, not even in your darkest moments of doubt.

The big dream gives you just enough strength to get up off the floor one more time. It keeps scratching your soul long enough, strong enough until it finally wears your “quitting” side down and your “winning” side said F#*@K it, I have to step back in the ring.

That’s what happened to me in the winter of 1989. The Island of Hawaii was whispering undeniably to me. “You have to come back, you have to come back!”.

But I knew that the dream I’d had was not the right one. It had to change.

If the big dream is not getting the best out of you, change the dream to one that does. This is in no way saying change the dream to one that is easier to achieve or has less meaning. It’s taking a reality pill and first asking if “the big dream” is going to carry you to the place of personal excellence you envision. For me, six years trying to win the IRONMAN in Hawaii and falling short was long enough to know that was not the dream that was going to bring something amazing out of me.

I had to change it. Trying to win was not bringing my best race out. Doing the IRONMAN conservatively was not my best race. Going for it but then falling apart and walking during the marathon was not my best race. The dream had to change.

In 1989 the big dream, the quest, was to put together my best swim, bike and run possible at the IRONMAN World Championship.

Forget about where that would place me. Forget about how my race would be judged against that of the others. Focus on getting ready to have my best day. In the end, that year was the turning point in my IRONMAN journey. I did have my best race that day, and it was also good enough to pull off the first of six wins in Hawaii.

I share this story because you may be at a point on a long journey where your big dream might seem completely unattainable after what has been years of chasing it. You may be ready to quit, to move onto the next big quest. And it might actually be the right time to do that. Not every dream is going to turn out the way we want.

But there might something else that is just under the surface wanting to be revealed. It could be that the best version of yourself is simply asking for a different purpose or goal to bring it out. Try on a few new versions of that original dream and see if any of them creates a new itch in your soul!

This trophy is a powerful reminder to me that the past is not the script of the future.

At the moment I earned it I thought I was destined to never be any better than a runner up in Hawaii. Even changing the dream was daunting. How do I put together a great swim, bike and run in Kona? I’d never done that before. And success would be much less measurable than the goal of trying to win.

But that shift in focus was what brought out my best. I no longer had to worry if what I was doing was going to be good enough to outdo the others. I only had to outdo myself. I only had to ask each and every day if what I was doing was that the best I could get from myself with no comparison to anyone else.

Here’s the story of changing The Big Dream that transformed my racing from losing to winning.

What’s your Big Dream? Join me at TriDot. I’d love to coach you on your journey to fulfilling it.



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