Creative LeadershipCreativityEngaging Culture

How Much Did it Take to Buy You Away from Your Dream?

Words like “stability” and “safety” are what financial advisers try to make happen for their client’s money.  But is that what you’re looking for with your life?  Better yet – what are you willing to risk to accomplish your dream? In my book “Jolt” I tell the story of the movie “Up in the Air” starring George Clooney.   There’s a wonderful scene in the Jason Reitman film where Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, whose unusual job is to fire people from theirs. He’s hired by major corporations to handle big layoffs. Although he’s become brilliant at the task, the anguish, hostility, and despair of the job has left him empty, falsely compassionate, and yet—strangely enough— loving every second of it.

In a powerful scene where he and a new assistant are firing an aging middle manager, Clooney’s character notices on the manager’s resume that he had been trained as a French chef. As the angry manager despairs over losing his job and having to face his wife and kids, Clooney reminds him of his original dream. He asks a remarkable question, the essence of which is, “Back when you started, how much did it take to buy you away from your dream?”

It is a compelling scene as the middle manager thinks back to the time he exchanged a steady paycheck for what he really wanted to do with his life. Now, decades later, he realizes the devastating impact of settling for second best.

Have you ever rationalized settling for second best?  It’s amazing how you can make it sound as if it’s the right thing to do, even when your innermost being is crying out for you to follow your heart and discover your real potential.

Stability or growth?  Back when you started, how much did it take to buy you away from your dream?

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  1. One answer: Family responsibilities. “..if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” 1 Timothy 5:8 (KJV)

    At the same time, did your dream originate within you or is it from God? If it is from God, we trust that where God guides, God provides.

    Then, there are the seasons of life. In my case, the children are grown and I am now pursuing my dreams…which have been affirmed by church-world leadership (checks and balances).

  2. Thanks Phil for a great post. I’ve been thinking of the whole work ‘or’ dream thing for a long time now. Just got Dan Millers book today (No more dreaded Mondays). Would love to read your book too. Steve

  3. Rationalization is what we do when we settle for something. If that end goal is neigh on attainable you may just give up. It’s better to rationalize than face defeat.

  4. Phil, wonderful. I always ask people if they have a passion. That’s what is lost today, passion. Greed and settlement has replaced passion. I encourage everyone to get passionate. Follow their dream. Thanks for the reminder. EPB

  5. Ok, so now what? At 60 yrs of age how does one benefit from being helped to realise that the “dream/s” of youth was never realised? What’s the positive application to this discouraging question?

    1. Great question Stan. The positive application? You have 20 or 30 years left to pursue what you were really born to do. So don’t waste another minute. That’s great news. Remember the quote – “It’s never to late to be what you might have been.” You’d be surprised at the incredible number of great men and women who didn’t discover their passion until they were your age or older. Even now, you’re actually one of the few. Most people don’t realize this until their deathbed, but you have time. Now – go make it happen!

      1. Thanks Phil, I have actually enrolled to do a two years course, starting September, on one of my life’s passions, and my wife and I are also planning to do a tour towards the end of the year accomplishing much of what we wanted to see and do when we were younger but were unable to because of starting a family when we were young.

        1. Good for you. I would encourage you to get a copy of my new book “Jolt!”. After you’ve read it, I’d love to have you send us your story to

    2. I’m still working at age 65 but I anticipate another “career” even though I don’t yet know what that will look like. You may have your own dream already intact. If not and you’re interested in serving others, check out Finishers Project is a group that connects seniors to ministires or public service projects where their gifts can be utilized to make a difference.

  6. I think I am very fortunate. I pursued my dreams. They became reality. Now I’m challenged anew to steward the gifts I’ve been given, and take them to another level. Technology has required me to relearn aspects of my craft. It’s like starting over. I think I am a better student this go round. I have a deep desire to be a life long learner like my Mom!

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