When I was in my early 30s, my boyfriend at that time was a very successful hedge fund guy. He told me, "I'm going to quit my job someday and open a successful winery and art gallery!" Huh? In my mind he was a 'financial guy' not an 'art and wine guy.' I was like "Yeah right. How are you going to do that?" It is 15 years later, and somehow, he now owns a very respected winery, a few very sophisticated art galleries and a little place for upscale travelers in Napa. All this without investors. He just saw himself as another person, that I clearly didn't see, and he willed it all into fruition.
I now see with such clarity, that not only was I a complete asshole, but I was also deeply terrified of his dreams. They felt 'unsafe' to me. I don't drink, how could I be with someone who owns a winery? Would all of his accomplishments diminish my importance in his life? How was he possibly going to do this? I had him pegged as a guy who reported to other guys. To me this was a far safer person to be with than an entrepreneur.
I've since had a few experiences now, a few dreams that I've willed into fruition myself, including and especially The Retreat Napa. Some of what I consider to be my greatest successes in life (as I measure them) were dismissed as ridiculous or impossible. There were countless people who told me my ideas weren't good and spent a lot of time trying to convince me to come to my senses. Well-meaning friends who said little things that could have easily pulled me off track if I didn't have my heart and head so clearly directing me to my vision.
I worked at an ad agency, Hub San Francisco, founded by a good friend from college, DJ O'Neil. The main ethos of his agency, DJ's mantra for advertising (and his life) is his concept that 'Safe is Unsafe'. It is the thread that's woven into every eye-catching, clever, thought-provoking campaign that comes out of Hub. The clients of this agency, including the Oakland A's, The San Francisco 49ers, University of San Francisco, and Dropcam, have been taught, then benefitted from, the idea that when you strive to blend in to be like other brands, you are toast. I realize this isn't an entirely new concept, however you cannot believe how many companies still just strive to be like every other brand. Just go to Best Buy and you'll see 90% of the packaging is still trying to look like Apple...just trying to fit in. To this day, if you cover the logo of 90% of university websites you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. You'd have the Asian kid, the White kid, the Black kid and the Latino/Indian Kid all hanging out under a tree in a cap and gown looking at a computer laughing with saccharine smiles. (Which is completely unrealistic, BTW because everyone knows that if you are finally wearing a cap and gown, you should be one foot into celebratory champagne black out.)
Now taking this idea of 'safe is unsafe' to our personal lives, for many of us who grew up anywhere in the United States, but especially in the Midwest, being 'safe' was of the utmost importance. Blending in was the absolute goal. I remember when I told my parents I wanted to move to San Francisco, they said "Oh my gosh Kath, San Francisco is so expensive and sorta gay, why don't you just live in our basement and become a flight attendant?" Now, my parents are/were good people, and if you knew how much fun my parents' house was and that my father was a pilot for United, this actually was a very tempting offer for me at one point...let's face it, I've had a very extended adolescence. However, living in my parents’ basement was probably not the best idea for a rich, full varied life, but safe? You bet.
So here we are now, and here YOU are. If you are reading this, I am assuming you are of sound mind which means, it's time to stop playing it safe. I don't mean be reckless or irresponsible, but it is time NOW to get out and do what it is that the universe intended for you to do...really, or live the rest of your days giving it your best go.
In the countless business books, 12-step books, and self help books that I've read, the huge neon light that keeps flashing for me is the only thing that is stopping all of us is...Fear. Fear of shame, fear of being a leader, fear of 'Who do you think YOU are?', fear of failure, but most importantly fear of ridicule. But none of these are really that bad, not nearly as bad, as I'm coming to realize, as living in a grey cubicle then reporting to someone whose sole job it is to keep things stable and boring and status quo for the president of a company who he/she has never even met nor probably ever will meet. And if they do meet them it will be a big deal. How freaking boring.
A friend of mine is seeing great success as a health and fitness coach. And she really should, as she's lost a ton of weight, kept it off, and naturally possesses unending empathy, sympathy and kindness. She is perfect in the role of helping others, and because she loves it so much, what do you know, money is starting to follow. She is also starting to form a 'tribe', to reference Seth Godin, but I don't even think she realizes it yet. At first she had people who admired her weight loss and followed her with enthusiasm. Then her success started to become more apparent, and she told me that people were starting to snipe at her, saying she was too 'out there' and she needed to reel it in. I noticed she did sorta dim her light for a nano-second, but that nano-second of feeling ashamed for being great at what she is doing is over, I'm happy to report. My friend has now pretty much painted her naked body in bright sparkly colors (metaphorically speaking), jumped off of a cliff into the arms of God, service and eradicating unhealthy eating, letting her freak flag fly the whole way. What a spectacular way to go, am I right?
Here are the things that kill your dreams:
1. YOU. YOU KILL YOUR DREAMS. No one else can.
2. Asking "How?" It is the ultimate dream killer. As Mike Dooley, author of Thoughts from the Universe says "The cursed 'hows'!"
3. Not making the time and space to dream your dreams.
So here is my big pitch to you, many of the people I admire most take time away, to dream bigger dreams. In the case of Deepak Chopra, he takes one week every three months, to review his life. He was quoted as saying he has always done this, taken time to review his life, this is not new to his wealth or station in life. He makes time to reflect and visualize. I promise you, however busy you think your life is, Deepak Chopra's is busier. But without this quiet contemplation in places of beauty, how is he possibly going to write his next book? Crammed into a cubicle with his email going off every two seconds? Nope.
Come to The Retreat Napa, take the time to review your life in a beautiful setting, create bigger dreams, and meet other people who are also dreaming bigger dreams and accomplishing them. You will be shocked at what attendees have accomplished from 2016 to 2017.
The craziest thing for me is, as soon as I think I can't dream a new dream, a step towards a bigger and cooler dream is revealed to me.
And if your own fear is masquerading in one of my biggest fear's favorite costumes, "It's too late, you're too old!", let's review my favorite list, the list of people who accomplished great things, far after the age of 40:
- Vera Wang, one of the most successful designers in the world, began designing after 40.
- Julia Child, the woman who transformed crappy American cooking, made her TV debut at 51.
- Tim and Nina Zagat, the husband and wife team gave up their legal careers to launch the Zagat Guide at 42.
- Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species at 50.
As I was getting ready to publish this post this morning, I heard today that TESLA has now surpassed Ford Motor Company in value. I believe just a few short years ago, many people said, "There is no room for a new auto manufacturer, Elon Musk is out of his mind!"
Ford Motor Company just learned...playing it safe is definitely unsafe.
Come play with us, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
PS: That boyfriend who I doubted, the one who opened the winery and art galleries? He has graciously offered to have a representative from his company come to The Retreat Napa and provide a private wine tasting of his Blackbird Vineyards wine. How lucky are we and how grateful am I?