Random Thoughts On Dream Exhaustion, Success and Calling It Quits

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Catherine Hughes

Director of the 8 Women Dream Project at 8 Women Dream
Catherine’s dream is to make 8 Women Dream the premier online publication for women looking to pursue their dreams. She is a published author, a freelance writer, and a guide for those who want their dreams to come true online. Catherine would someday like to be invited to speak at TED about her observations about her 8WD project inviting women to take a chance on their dreams. Wine was required... Catherine posts on Sunday evenings and fills in dream stories as needed. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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His best friend leaned in to him, “Your mom is here. I saw her in the stands.” He doesn’t look up right away – not wanting his friends on the high school football team to see his excitement. “Dude, your mom’s here,” another player shouts as he runs by. He still doesn’t turn around, even though his heart is racing. His mother finally made it to one of his football games.

“Hey, your grandma’s here too – sittin’ next to her!” another boy shouts. It’s at this point he can’t take it anymore – he turns his head to look up into the stands. He spots his mother sitting with his grandmother. She’s in bright red – the colors of the team – with a 49r jacket hanging from the back of the bleachers so she will be easy for him to spot. “B. Cox, it’s going to be a good night tonight – I can feel it!” his best friend on the team yells as he slaps him on the shoulder pads. “Yeah, I think so too!” Brian would be heard saying as he runs out on the field for the first play of the game.

“First tackle of the game Brian Cox!” I hear the broadcaster say as I lean in to hug my mother at the start of my sons football game.

Unbeknown to me, my son had been missing me at his football games, so much so, that he had shared this fact with his friends . . . but not me.

Sometimes the life of a dreamer can slap you upside the head.

You see, I’ve spent the last 12 Friday nights putting together the Find Your Dream e-book. I could justify this (to myself) and say that all his football games were out of town, which brought up transportation issues and leaving work early issues, but the truth be told those Friday nights were the only opportunity I had to be alone, and I needed to be alone to finish my e-book.

Brian has told me all the long that it was okay to miss his games to finish the book. He wanted to say his mother finished a book that is published online. But each Friday night when he’d arrive home after loosing a game and being yelled at by coaches, I could tell that he was thinking it was all going wrong because I wasn’t there. I knew this so I pushed harder to finish the book.

On our ride home Friday night Brian told me the story outlined at the start of this post – of how he knew I was in the stands –

“Did you really miss me at your games Boobello?”

“Yes mom. I did. Everything is better when you are around.”

“But sweetie you told me it was okay.”

“I know . . .”

“Why didn’t you tell me it wasn’t?”

“I wanted you to finish your book.”

Please pull the knife out of my heart.

The Good, bad and the ugly of dreaming big . . .
I share this story because I promised you readers of 8 Women Dream that we would share the good, bad and the ugly of dream achievement. There is a saying, no success without sacrifice. This is especially true in the land of dreams; be it time not spent with those you love or time not spent doing other things you love – there’s sacrifice.

Every now and then we have to stop and get off the Hamster sacrifice wheel and check in with the people we love. It’s good to push away from our table of goals and allow our bodies and minds to rest.

Whenever I am at this place of overwork, exhaustion, and dream sacrifice bite-me-in-my-butt place, I pause to reflect on the ideas of those who have successfully survived to the point of the type of success that I want to emulate. To quote best-selling author Seth Godin, “The problem with putting it all on the line is that it might not work out. The problem with not putting it all on the line is that it will never (ever) change things for the better. Not much of a choice, I think. No risk, no art. No art, no reward.”

And trust me I want change and my son, wants change too.

Seth Godin warns, “Be in it for the long haul. Things rarely come easy. Make the journey worth it. Chip away at success. Listen to your vision and make something for the long haul. Because that’s how long it’s going to take, guys.” He also warns that when you are close to success, you’ll feel tired and contemplate giving up.

I think I must be pretty close to success then.

Can I tell my son we’re almost there? But what if we are stuck? What if we aren’t moving forward, getting better, challenging the lines, making a difference?

Change This, a website started by a few interns as a way to distribute short manifestos online advise – ” . . . We got caught in a Dip. Not because the site isn’t great (I think it stands up to this day) or that it isn’t a great idea (we broke books like Blink and Freakonomics and Guy Kawasaki’s Art of the Start) but because we didn’t push hard enough after we’d done all the ‘hard’ work.”

Are we there yet . . . ?
How do you judge where you are at with your dream when you have been working on it day in and day out for years? Big achievers Daniel Pink, Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell all say that we have to achieve mastery before we see success. Once we’ve mastered our dream, then success follows.

They also say ” . . . Prepare for the process of mastery to be mentally and physically exhausting . . .”

I got the exhausted part thank you very much.

Dream mastery follows a long period of effort to improve performance in a specific area. Deliberate practice isn’t walking a few miles each day, strumming the guitar for ten minutes a day, or throwing up a blog post once a week that didn’t take more than 3 hours to compose. It’s much more purposeful, focused, and, painful. Daniel pink says that if we follow certain steps – over and over again – we just might become a master – and a big success at our dream.

The 5 Steps to Mastery and Success (thank you Daniel Pink) –

1. Deliberate practice.
Remember that deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance. ‘People who play tennis once a week for years don’t get any better if they do the same thing each time’. ‘Deliberate practice is about changing your performance, setting new goals and straining yourself to reach a bit higher each time’.

2. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Repetition matters. Basketball greats don’t shoot ten free throws at the end of team practice; they shoot five hundred.

3. Seek constant,critical feedback.
If you don’t know how you’re doing, you won’t know what to improve.

4. Focus ruthlessly on where you need help.
While many of us work on what we’re already good at, ‘those who get better work on their weaknesses’.

5. Prepare for the process to be mentally and physically exhausting.
That’s why so few people commit to it, but that’s why it works.

There’s a 6th piece of advise on mastery that really should come first: Choose what you do very carefully and never start another project until you have mastered the one you are in now.

Because there will be sacrifices to achieve your dream and you have to honestly ask yourself if you are willing to go through all of this – the steps – the exhaustion – the repetitiveness – the being sick of it – the focus – the feedback to get you to your goal – and the choice to keep on going when it gets rough.

I’ll leave you with Seth Godin’s 7 Reasons You Might Fail –

1. You run out of time (and quit).
2. You run out of money (and quit).
3. You get scared (and quit).
4. You’re not serious about it (and quit).
5. You lose interest or enthusiasm or settle for being mediocre (and quit).
6. You focus on the short term instead of the long (and quit when the short term gets too hard).
7. You pick the wrong thing at which to be the best in the world (because you don’t have the talent).

“Brian, I’m home all day on Sunday. Want to hang out, go to a movie or something?”

“No mom! My friends are coming over and we’re going to George’s – sheesh mom – it’s Sunday!”

“Then I’ll be writing most of the day okay?”

“Well, yeah mom I hope so!”

If you are raising a teenager, then they will help – bless their hearts.

Keep on Dreaming –


Catherine in black and whiteCatherine’s dream is to be a motivator and published writer. She is testing her theories on motivation with this blog and the seven other women who have volunteered to be a part of her dream project. Catherine also writes about her life as a mom at the blog A Week In The Life Of A Redhead. She would also like to be invited to speak at TED as the next Erma Bombeck. Catherine posts on Monday mornings.

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  • Heather Montgomery, CEO & serial entrepreneur

    Out of the mouths of babes. Or not. I love it when my son comes to bug me in the office at 8, 8:20, 8:48, 9:05, and 9:28 before I ask “What’s up?” only to be answered like a 4 year old – “I’m bored”.

    Mom translation “You won’t stop working so I can hang out with you. But I’ll never ask.”

    The good news is that he gets how much work this entrepreneur stuff takes – since that’s the road he’s headed on.

    Thanks for taking that (first) break with me! Here’s to that becoming a habit – H

  • Mariska Smith

    I love what you are doing here and I imagine it is very hard work. Which one is your son? I used to be like that to my mom. I’d be mad that she was busy, then mad if she bugged me too much. I am sure he loves what you are doing. M

    • Yes number 69 is my son. Yes, teenagers want you around when they want you around, then they don’t want you around when their friends are over lol.

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  • The focus on weakness means if you are a Soprano and you can’t hit a solid C6, but need a solid C6 to make it – then you have to work on that weakness. Just like a writer has to work on grammar weaknesses, a runner on improper running styles, a chef who overcooks fish every time he touches it, a football player who is afraid of being tackled and more. What he is saying is that you must work the weakness until it is no longer a weakness for you – it’s the way to become remarkable.

    Exhaustion is a part of dreaming big as are thoughts of quitting. All normal, and all pass in due time – if we aren’t stuck in a cul-d-sac ;-)

    Thanks for always being there for me!


    • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

      ok, your sentence was not that detailed, so yea I agree with you. I need to master my technical skills and work the camera the best way possible. Still learning! We are NOT in a culdesac. We are driving around streets where there is no map to guide us…we are carving the path. trailblazing is tough. Most don’t make it. but you are tougher. I’m confident of that. xox Rem

  • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

    by the tone of this post, and by our conversation yesterday – I would wonder if my “GET THE HELL OUT OF THE OFFICE” comment on Friday worked for you – or against you.

    I’m so glad you were able to get to his game. I hope you continue to do that for you and for him. I had to write something once, needed quiet, and ended up sitting on the bathroom floor for a while, then in my car parked in an empty parking lot till it got dark. You just do what you have to do.

    I will interpret “focus ruthlessly on where you need help” a bit differently. Let’s say you are a singer. You need help in creating the layout for your new CD jacket. It needs to get done, but you aren’t good at anything computer related. You shouldn’t get caught up in becoming an expert in computers just because it’s a weakness.. accept that its a weakness, and get someone else who has that strength to get it done for you. Closing the gap on your own weaknesses is a tough way to go. Focus on developing your creative strengths. Its why you are special Cath.

    Keep singing.
    Just my 2cents.

    xo Rem