What if dreaming isn't as important as experimenting?

“Great souls have wills; feeble ones have only wishes.”Chinese proverb


When it comes to finding career success, there’s a popular notion that you need to identify your dreams and passions and then “follow” them with all of your heart.  This approach is promoted in videos (e.g., my Alex Honnold post last week) and motivational posters around the world.

There’s part of me that really, REALLY wants to buy this idea.  Unfortunately, I have a problem; I’m not a big dreamer.

I don’t have lofty, world-changing goals.  Sometimes I wish I did.

I mean, I wish I was motivated to squirrel away with a notebook resting in a hammock and dreaming.  I’d love to be the kind of person who would buy a       one-way ticket to New Zealand and search Middle Earth for my “big idea.”

However, I’m not energized by dreaming, but by DOING.  I am motivated when I experiment, when I try new things, when I’m “out there.”

Maybe you can relate.  Perhaps daydreaming is a drag on your creativity; you’d rather risk moving before dreaming about something. You might enjoy starting at “square one” because it gives you the opportunity to find a new path.

You are not alone.

In fact, the first time I felt better about my lack of career dreaming was when I saw Reid Hoffman’s now famous power point presentation. Hoffman is the founder of Linkedin, the largest professional networking site on planet earth, and in his slide show (now a book) he dispels the dream myth repeatedly.  In fact, his entire premise is summed up in one statement:

“Your career identity isn’t found through introspection (‘follow your dreams’) but through experimentation.”

Now THIS statement rings true.

What do you REALLY know about careers when you graduate from college? How do you find out about jobs you’ve never heard of? What if a career perfectly suited to you isn’t on your radar for years? Should you ignore its appeal?

Not according to Hoffman.  To him, finding your best fit doesn’t happen inside your brain, it happens when you go out and try the job on for size.

That’s why he says, “if you can tolerate the ‘worst-case outcome,’ be open to it.”

How does this challenge land with you?  Where can you find ways to experiment with your career?

What will it take for you to go for it!