Please Stop Following Your Dreams

I wrote this opinion piece for Fox News, and I’d love your response.  It’s completely counter-intuitive to what most people think, so check out this article  and let me know what you think…



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  1. Phil,

    Your book and article are a wonderful affirmation for my own
    life. When you finally are doing what you are born to do work is no longer
    work. It becomes an obsession. The book should be required reading for every
    spouse of every obsessed person as well.


  2. My definition: A dream is the God-inspired desire to share your unique gifts and passions to serve others and change the world. You gotta love it, be good at it, and it’s gotta serve.

  3. I love your reference to “the esteem movement”…

    How about starting a “its time you knew THE TRUTH movement”?!

    Lead the charge Phil…

  4. It’s right up there with “follow your heart.” Egad. Do what you are truly gifted at. I ran into a guy last night at Trader Joe’s here in ATL. He had been acting for nearly 30 years. He started when he was three but after years in LA both he and his actress wife felt empty. He had started working at TJ’s in LA but wanted to be somewhere that they could afford a house, a child…a real life. They moved to ATL and they LOVE it. He now manages the store and LOVES it. He gets vacation and time with his son AND he gets to “cast the players at the store.” Interesting way to look at it. He is happy and doing something that he really enjoys. If only more people would do that, maybe the world would be a less cranky place.

  5. Hello Sir, thank you for this message which I got through UCB inspiration radio. I studied biochemistry in university and travelled to london in 2007. for the past 5 years I have done nothing Biochemistry, instead I have worked as anursery nurse. my first role was without any qualification and everyone thought highly of me and my experience. honestly my only expereince has been at home with my siblins.
    My mum has always my energy as 9 year old and ability to wake up at dawn and care for my young siblins and yet do well at school. my best grade in school have been acheived at time that I have been most busy caring for my siblins.
    saying that, its taken a broken relationship that last 4years, medical discharge from the army, an endured relationship from which I got a lovely little lady- she is one, broken heart to finaly decided with the encouragement form my mum to decided all I want ot do is care for children.
    Perharps its taken her so long to encourage me on this area because before biochemistry I wanted to study medicine and care for children. but I did not make the short list for medical school and so settle for biochemistry which seem to be the next grand subject.
    Now I have applied to study nursing or midwifery next year and work my way to work on a neonatal intensive unit one day. my challenge is sometimes the mind game – I cannot compare to my mates who attended medical school and regrets of my past relatioship. but I encourage my self through the bible and my passion to care for children and the burden I woud feel doing anything else.
    Now I have a child I hope to open my heart and eyes to natural gifts of my little and encourage her to persue them.
    I would love to have a coarch such as you. My name is Emelia and am 28 years.

  6. I think you are dead wrong. We only have one life to live, and we should be following our dreams with passion. Life is not a dress rehearsal. You believe that only a chosen few have the talents to be a writer, a musician, an actor. My question is who the hell are you to discourage people like that? I’ve never heard of you before, but you act like you’re some great writer, and an almighty expert on life. I read your article. Your writing style is very pedestrian, and your advice is highly questionable. How is somebody with such limited abilities be a published author? No one’s confusing you with Ernest Hemingway or Dale Carnegie, but your selling books.

    You have absolutely no clue where art comes from, yet you’re going to discourage aspiring artists. You tell aspiring writers to take a writing class. That’s the worst advice you could give anyone. Great writers are not great because they took a class from some failed writer. Great writers are great because they dig deep down in their guts, into their souls, and find within themselves that raw emotion that makes them tick, that makes them who they are, and they get that out onto the page. The dotting of the I’s and the crossing of the T’s, that you would learn in a class then becomes a perfunctory exercise that takes care of itself. It is the passion that an artist brings to their work, it is their ability to identify and explore the human condition that draws people to their art, that makes art great, and you want to discourage people’s passion, the very thing that makes art great, that makes people great, their passion, their dreams. In my experience, and I have been around extremely successful people in all walks of life, that what makes a person great in their chosen field is not their inherent talents, but it is the passion that they bring to their work, and you want to discourage the passion, the very thing that makes the great people great. If you do not understand that, then you are a fraud, a snake oil salesman.

    1. Thanks Judd. Always good to hear other opinions… 🙂
      Passion is great. I’m a big fan of having passion. However, no matter how passionate I get about it, succeeding as a walk-on for the Los Angeles Lakers isn’t going to happen. You may not approve of classes, coaching, study, and experience. But I think if you ask a host of great artists, filmmakers, and leaders, you’ll find they didn’t just show up out of the blue with a bundle of passion. First – they figured out where their talent was, and second, they learned everything they could about making that talent real.

  7. I have one quibble: you use the word “Talent” in places where I think the word “Skill” would be better. Many people use them interchangeably. I think they are not. Skill is something you can learn. Talent is something you’re born with – or not.

    In your point #4, you write admirably about spending the time, with which I think people acquire the skill they need. I completely agree. I think you could make this point a little more strongly by using “skill” instead of “talent”.

    (For more on this distinction, see “Bounce” byMatthew Syed.)

  8. I think that there’s a clarification that needs to be made. Just because you start off bad at something doesn’t mean you’ll always be bad at it.

    Michael Jordan was such a bad basketball player he was cut from his high school team. This very thing motivated him to practice until he got better.

    Now, if he was 4’11”, no amount of practice could fix that.

    Should bad writers keep writing or give up? Yes. Some need more practice and some will never get better.

    I don’t think you need to encourage people to quit. Most will give up; sadly many will give up on their one thing.


    1. Absolutely bad writers can become good Paul. But I think many need a good “jolt” to wake up and realize just how much work is needed to change course. Michael is a good example. On the other hand (and really the reason for this article) is people who spend years, decades, even a lifetime pursuing something that they clearly have no skill or talent at doing…

  9. I totally agree with you Phil. God gives each of us a gift. If we are in alignment with God’s Will for our lives we will discover what that gift is. We are each born with a gift/talent and a purpose according to God’s plan for our lives. This desire or passion to do what God has given us to do will haunt us and we will be absolutely miserable until we decide we are going to follow the passion God has put into our hearts. And, I do believe that God will also make a way for this true gift/talent to emerge. At the same time we must be willing to put in the enormous amount of effort it takes to achieve the “one thing” in our life that we must do. To waste time on something we merely “think” we should do, or do not have the talent to accomplish,
    is a terrible waste.

  10. According to UFC guru Ricardo Pires, knowing your limitations is the key to success. “Know your weakness–and block it,” is Ricardo’s maxim, and I think his philosophy does a good job of bridging the gap between the fanatical “dreamers” and the “for the love of Pete snap out of it” people.
    It’s okay to have a dream. Everyone should have a dream. It’s making the dream reality that is a sticky wicket.
    Ricardo says business school changed his attitude to the martial arts and everything else in his life. He now puts all his dreams through the SWOT treatment (SWOT standing for Strengths, Weaknesses, Objectives and Threats).
    Just to digress a second, does anybody remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry finally tells an aspiring actress she is horrible, then feels so bad about it he recants and she goes on to have a successful one-woman show completely dedicated to ripping Jerry to shreds? And, judging by her “appearance” within the show, she is truly horrible, but it is a kind of horrible that strikes a key with audiences.
    Personally, I appreciated this article very much. I remember years ago reading in The New York Times a finance blog entitled “Don’t base your retirement on “The Secret”” or something like that. In other words, go ahead an wish upon a star, but remember, wishing doesn’t make it so.

    1. Great comment Deborah. I think that Seinfeld episode is exactly what keeps most of us from being honest with people. We don’t want to be that one person who tells a genius that they have no talent. But if we’re serious, and look at the talent issue and not the person, I think it makes a real difference. After all, you don’t want a poor soul spending years (or decades) pursuing something they’re not really capable of doing…

  11. Was it you who quoted Mother Teresa as saying: “It is not success that matters but being faithful to what we were called to do” or something like that? How do you reconcile with that?

    1. I don’t believe God would call us to something we weren’t qualified to do, or able to learn. The tragedy is the number of people who spend their lives (and not a little money) pursuing a dream they’re not remotely able to accomplish.

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