We’ve all seen or know someone that sucks the energy out of room. Whatever the situation is, you can count on this person taking an overly realistic or boring approach. The person who in that moment, invokes visions of a disgruntled stranger popping a child’s balloon or an internet Karen screaming at retail employees because she has fabricated disrespect. Their mere presence results in an extra mental wall being erected by the rest of us. This attitude makes loose riffing with friends and dreaming impossible outcomes…impossible, because they happily point out the gaps of logic in your thinking.
There are two general permutations of this trait –
1. Totally integrated with a personality, this is always present for that person
2. Random occurrences not necessarily in line with the typical character of a person
Everyone is susceptible to letting out their potential dream-smasher. It’s really easy to do if you’re trying to make fun of your close friends. I did this myself just a few weeks ago! With the NHL and NBA bubbles in full swing, my friend was getting back into sports betting. For a few mornings he was sending screenshots of some solid wins, which had the total winnings displayed. He sent the salivating dollar sign eyes emoji, to which I immediately responded “do you have to pay taxes on those winnings?”. I’m literally laughing about it right now. He rightfully responded with:
But we all know there’s a line we dance along to make fun of the people we care about most. Then there are the real dream-smashers. The people who aren’t joking around, they’re genuinely lobbying you to walk away from whatever ‘crazy’ thought you’re entertaining. Some of these people are just genuine assholes – people who are so blinded by anger and misery that it infects all of their interactions. I’d simply say steer clear of those people. However, dream-smashers also come in a more elusive form. People you respect and care about who may not realize the underlying message of the input they’re providing.
I believe these people are trying to give you genuine advice from a good place, but the message has an unapproachable wrapping. Dreams have the tendency to be tethered to taking risks, forfeiting security, and the potential for failure. These negative realities are the only thing dream-smashers think about when giving you advice. The advice is motivated by fear.
“You know a dream crusher? The person who, no matter what you say you want to do or try, they’re like, mm-mmm. Not you. And you’re like, ‘it’s good to have you around'”
Tom Segura covers this well in his special Ball Hog. He talks about how he was first telling his mother his dreams to be a stand-up comic, and she told him to go to the post office. After trying to clarify he wanted to do stand-up as a career, she was very clear that she understood and thought he should try to be a mailman instead.
What’s frustrating about this encouragement to abandon the creative voice you carry with you, is you have no idea what path these ideas and dreams could lead to. What life you could be living. When these ideas get thrown around with dream-crushers (or even more conservative views), It’s hard for those people to appreciate the potential of a risky or unique idea. The idea gets overshadowed by the overwhelming likelihood it will fail. Without having everything perfectly planned out and lined up, support is understandably hard to come by. And as ideas get more unique or abstract, they get harder to be appreciated as good ideas.
People will often say well that idea is risky and you don’t know what will come of it so why risk what you have? But that argument flows the other way! No one can say what will come from any given idea when in the hands of the right team. You can’t possibly know that either. It’s almost like business version of Pascal’s wager – why walk away from your 9-5 with a pretty distinct ceiling to go play around with some risky pipe dream? Well I say why spend the one life you know you have living someone else’s dream and making them rich while you always wonder ‘what if’? The risk seems to have far graver consequences living my life on someone else’s terms.
Think of bumper bowling. You see those rails go up and you have may initially find some relief as the pressure is off. Very quickly into the game, you go on autopilot. There are no stakes, the risk you have hedged has also stripped away freedom. Hitting a strike doesn’t feel so good if there wasn’t the risk of throwing a gutter ball to begin with. It’s enticing to live our live with these safety rails of having more structured roles and responsibilities, for example, a traditional corporate job. And there is nothing wrong with that – you can build a wonderful life doing that. IN thinking about agency and creative freedom, you’ll likely always be missing something with the rails up. At a certain point, in some facet of our life, we want to take the rails down. We don’t even care that we might roll a gutter ball. We just want to be free to see what happens.
Seth Godin has great, succinct commentary on what is a ‘good idea’ in his post well, that’s a dumb idea. Only retroactively do people really convey how they ‘knew all along” that Uber would work, or AirBnB, or Amazon, or Google. And you don’t have to be any of those monoliths. Be a quiet success. That seems far better anyway. The point is who knows what a good idea is. No one can decide what’s worth lowering the rails for, but you.
Tom Segura goes on in his dream-crusher bit to talk about the most invaluable skill when ignoring dream-crushers’ discouragement. It’s the power of managing expectations. Which he rightfully points out, is a skill we can all choose to employ and practice to get better at just like anything else. “As long as you accept that your dream might not go exactly as you plan, you will still feel fulfilled by the pursuit of your dream. So always go after whatever you want to do. Otherwise, what’s the point in living, right?”
See you tomorrow.
Inspirations: Dreams, Crazy ideas, Taking chances
Quotes: Tom Segura