I can’t remember where I read it.
But the second I did, I knew it was true.
You have to make yourself the only person who can control your dreams.
I instantly set up a daily text reminder, and you should too.
Because right now, you’re not.
There are plenty of people who control your dreams.
And chances are a lot of them are nay-sayers.
They are all around you.
Your friend, who tells you your idea for a shoe-tying robot is “stupid”.
Your boss, who says you “can’t just buy a fitness tracker for everyone in the office to improve company culture”.
Even your Mum, who might say you’re “too old to play video games and upload videos of it to Youtube”.
Easy for them to say, right?
They don’t know any better.
They don’t know that what they’re guarding is really just an archway.
It’s wide open.
Anyone can go through.
But no one told them.
And no one told you either.
So you both think you actually need their permission to go through.
With the rise of the internet the last few gates vanished.
Whether it becomes your dreams or a tool on the way to accomplishing it, access to the internet is all you need to take control of your dreams.
Want to create a shoe-tying robot? Use Kickstarter.
Fitness trackers for the office? Create a massive Doodle survey, to show people want it.
Make money playing video games? We all know that’s happening.
The truth is, you have zero excuse not to live your dream.
So why are you not?
What is it then, that keeps you from living your dream?
In one sentence: You’ve gotten comfortable in the gatekeeper system.
I can’t blame you. You’ve been raised to.
Just like me.
And it works. Oh how great it works.
As long as people keep opening their gates for you, there’s no reason to leave.
Trust me, I would know.
I’ve been complacent all my life. I had no reason not to. I didn’t know what struggle was.
I was raised in a German upper class family. I had the most cotton candy pink bubble rainbow unicorn childhood you can imagine.
I could read before I went to elementary school. I did my homework. I never had to study. I would just get straight A’s (except for gym class, oh wonder), no matter how much time I spent outside, hanging with friends, or playing Xbox.
I got into every college I applied for. I got a scholarship to study abroad. I got an internship at the greatest company on earth.
Open. Open. Open.
Everyone kept opening their imaginary gates for me.
Come on through.
Until they didn’t.
“I’m afraid you’re 5.5 credits short, Mr. Goeke. You see, we do this process to make sure you’re able to follow the curriculum.”
The lady looked at me like I was a hobo, living in the woods.
I had applied to get into the Mannheim Master in Management program. One of, if not THE most prestigious business school in Germany.
The gate is closed. You can’t go through.
What did I do wrong?
I passed all the other gates!
The GMAT gate — 680 points when they required only 600.
The deadline gate — I submitted my application on the day they opened submissions.
Why can’t I pass the credit gate too?
She explained to me how a module that was labeled “business” at my former college was “too specific” for their taste. Yet somehow supply chain management was business enough.
Did you know that in Europe we have a new system in place that makes all credits equal?
It’s called European Credit Transfer System.
Don’t you think that’s a funny name when I can’t even transfer the credit from Karlsruhe to Mannheim, two cities which are 40 minutes apart?
I asked the lady that in a later email.
I bet she’s busy opening the credit gate for other people.
What a bitch!
Are there gates after all?
There are gates sometimes. And they really are closed.
But they’re never the gates to your dreams.
They’re mostly the gates to other people’s dreams.
When you reach such a gate, it’s time to turn around.
Turn around and find another way.
Here’s my dream:
I want to live on my own terms, make my own hours and not have to answer to anybody. I want to help as many people as possible to live better lives, create better habits and reach their full potential.
And I want to do it all while having the freedom to walk away from it whenever I please.
That’s my dream.
As it turns out, getting into business school wasn’t a gate I needed to pass to make that happen.
I’m still on my way. But I just keep going through those archways.
3 steps to put yourself in control of your dreams
If you’re ready to turn away from the closed gates, and stop waiting for others to wave you through their archways, this might be for you.
If you want to keep playing that game, I’m not gonna stop you.
(See what I did there?)
But if you’re ready to accept that everything between you and your dream is a bunch of wide open gates and archways, that you just have to go through, then I invite you to join me.
Here are the ones you have to go through to do so.
Step 1: Ask yourself what your dream is
This isn’t easy.
But it’s not as hard as you make it out to be.
Imagine your perfect day for a second.
Now scratch that.
You just imagined your perfect holiday.
The kind of day that will get boring after 2 weeks of re-living it over and over again.
Now I want you to imagine your actual, perfect day.
A day where you do something meaningful with your life.
You can still get up late. Or eat fancy. Or sit on a beach.
But you’re doing what you love. Work you love. And what others will love you for doing.
Maybe you’re teaching underprivileged kids how to surf.
Or you’re helping small businesses stand out from the crowd.
But you could also just study chess for 7 hours.
That’s your dream.
It will change over time. And that’s okay. But you need to start somewhere.
If it’s something you thought you wanted to be when you grow up when you were a kid, there’s a good chance it’s part of your dream.
If you can see a theme in it, whether that’s freedom, leaving a legacy, prestige, money, or having an impact, grab on to it and hold it tight.
This might all sound wishy washy, because it is, but so is your dream.
It’s not a fixed point in life and by the time you get there what it is will have changed 1,000 times.
Just calibrate your compass to at least point towards your true north.
Step 2: Schedule your dream
Just schedule it.
30 minutes at a time.
Every day for the next week.
It might start with reading magazines about cars.
Or practicing to juggle.
Or doing the same spin over and over again for 8 hours straight.
For me, that means writing.
Some days I just write crap. Some days it’s brilliant.
I often don’t even know which days are which.
I’ll let you decide.
But I know I must write.
To keep going through archways.
So I schedule it.
Simple enough, right?
I’m making an appointment with myself.
“Nik, you and I are going to meet at 10 am, every day, and then we’ll work on your dream!”
Okay me, got it.
Step 3: Remember that it’s YOUR dream
You have to make yourself the only person who can control your dreams.
In reality, you already are.
But sometimes you might run into people who try to gate their archways.
Or actual, closed gates.
It’s your job to not get mad then.
It’s not their fault. And it’s not their dream. It’s yours.
You must remember that.
To just politely pass through, without offending them, or turn around and find another path.
After all, it’s not your Mum who wants to windsurf every day.
It’s not your boss who wants to teach kids in Africa about the value of music.
And it’s not your friend who wants to build that shoe-tying robot.
So go ahead. Make it easier on yourself. Install that text reminder.
Tell yourself, every day.
When you don’t feel like showing up.
Or people tell you “you can’t”.
Remember that it’s really all up to you.
How the next 10 minutes can change your life
“Dude, I just read this great blog post about gates ‘n stuff today, you need to check that out!”
“Ohh, that was good, let me recommend that.”
I’m flattered, but before we get to that part, I really need you to take action first.
It’s so easy to read this, bookmark it, share it, and forget it.
But it’s actually just as easy to, in Shia LaBeouf’s words, just do it.
Take the next 10 minutes to do these 3 things:
Step 1: Ask yourself what your dream is. Zone in on that thing that’ll make you die with a smile.
Step 2: Schedule it. Work on your dream. 30 minutes a day. One day at a time.
Step 3: Text yourself this reminder every day to stay on track.
See? Easy as 1–2–3. Literally.
I’m done for the day.
I’ll look for new archways tomorrow.
The only question is…
Will you be there?