Thursday, February 26, 2009

To chase the dream?

The Cambridge University webmail service recently completed their voting on the question “Should you chase the dream or chase stability?”.  The results, from 227 voting members, were heartening, especially in these hard economic times:

Dream 1

As a pure left-right decision, starting from nothing, I think that the aspirational choice to ‘Chase the Dream’ is the obvious one, both individually and culturally.  But what if the question is rephrased as a conditional choice?

If you have stability, would you give it up to chase the dream?"

So, I have a good job doing worthwhile things with talented colleagues.  Still, there are things that I dream of doing that I am unable to do in my present position.  At this point, I really could chase that dream: there would likely be a couple of hard years getting going, and real risks of failure.  It would come at a cost of giving up the stability that I have with no turning back to my former position if I failed.

My wiser friends are split on the answer.  Some say that I’m at an age and stage in life where I have a window to do this project, and that if I hesitate it will be gone forever.  Others say that I am ‘sinking my own yacht’; giving up a gilded 80%-solution in fruitless pursuit of some will-‘o-the-wisp.

‘Just to further increase the tension:

If you might have stability, would you give it up to chase the dream?"

The memo arrived on Tuesday: “At this time, we don’t know exactly how many positions will be affected; however, reductions may impact a variety of businesses, geographies, levels and functions.”   Suppose there were a 5% chance of being among those affected, or that there might be incentives to leave.  Does the answer change?

The natural reaction is to lean towards stability, assuring an island to stand on as the storm passes.  In reality, it might provide added resources that facilitate pursuit of the dream, although not increasing the chance of success.

will_o_thewispReal life is never as pure and simple as “Should I chase my dream?”  Three years ago I met with a VC friend to discuss whether to pursue a new business proposition.  I went through the pro’s and con’s, balancing risks and benefits, and asked his advice.  He told me that unless I really believed in the goal, and consumingly desired it, I’d never achieve it.  I tried it part-time anyway, and failed: I see where he was right.

A “Dream Decision” requires sacrifices, risks, uncertainty, cost.  More importantly, it requires commitment: this isn’t something that can be done part-time or half-heartedly.


Patti said...

I wish you all the best success and luck. We do live in interesting times, and contrary to that old Chinese curse, I think we are lucky.

Dave Hampton said...

Many thanks...I am rooting for your story to unfold with wonderful, unexpected results as well!

Dave Hampton said...

Patti, your blog bacame available only to subscribers yesterday (March 8). If I could still be a reader, send me a note at drhamptn at and let me know how to join? thanks, Dave