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Why Big Dreams Can Be Big Problems

Why Big Dreams Can Be Big Problems

Growing up, our parents and teachers told us we could be anything we wanted to be. Wide-eyed and excited about the endless possibilities, we began dreaming . . . big. My classroom was full of future astronauts, brain surgeons, CEOs, and several professional ballerinas. Slowly but surely, we got a hard dose of reality (or should I say hard work).

Big dreams come with big baggage — a tiny detail that our parents and teachers seem to have left out.

We all look up to successful icons like Richard Branson and Steve Jobs, marveling at their triumphs. We study their successes and attempt to replicate their journeys. The cold hard fact is that it takes years and years of hard work to even get a shot at dreams like theirs. And even then, it’s not guaranteed.

That’s the problem with big dreams: there is no “guarantee” on the side of the box.

We’re told that it’s easy, it’s guaranteed, and if (insert famous person) can do it, so can we. While it may feel warm and fuzzy to only think positively about your big dreams, reality always has a way of humbling even the most optimistic among us.

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You will get beaten down, you will have disappointments, and your dreams will never be handed to you on a silver platter. Success isn’t a privilege, it’s a rite of passage – littered with potholes, ditches, and seemingly insurmountable mountains.

Success isn’t a privilege, it’s a rite of passage — littered with potholes, ditches, and seemingly insurmountable mountains.

In Ryan Holiday’s book, The Obstacle is the Way, he brings this to life by saying:

“Certain things in life will cut you open like a knife. When that happens — at that exposing moment — the world gets a glimpse of what’s truly inside of you.”

It’s not the moments of success where we find out what we are made of but rather those moments when we are bloodied and beaten to a pulp. So when we inevitably get cut open or smacked in the face with something totally unexpected, what happens to our big dreams?

For most, they end up fading away. They give up when faced with an obstacle, a challenge, or a disappointment. For others, it gives them a reason to make their dreams bigger than ever.

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Despite all of the obstacles in front of your dreams, there are things you can do to mitigate their blows. There are mental shifts you can take that have been applied by some of the most successful and happy people in this world.

Unfortunately, these shifts aren’t easy to apply. They take consistency, persistence, and dedication. If you are hungry enough and driven enough to apply them, your big dreams might actually come true. Here are a few that I’ve applied in my life which have massively helped:

Reframe Your Definition of Failure

Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx and the youngest self-made female billionaire, has embraced failure ever since she was a little girl. Her parents taught her at a very young age to judge failure based on the effort, not the outcome. In an interview she recently had with Business Insider, she recalled her dad celebrating her failures and even giving her high-fives when she failed. She said:

“…all it did was just reframe my definition of failure.”

Even if you don’t have parents like Sara’s, it’s never too late to redefine your own definition of failure.

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When you turn your failures into times when you don’t try, failing no longer defines your success. So rather than beat yourself up for when you fail, celebrate that you tried, re-evaluate what went wrong, and change your strategy moving forward.

One of my favorite language tricks is from Ramit Sehti, who calls his failures “tests.” Just like in high school science, everything is a test. You develop a hypothesis of what will work, you apply specific tactics, and if you don’t get the outcome you hypothesized, you change your approach. A simple shift that can make a huge difference.

Only Work Towards the Next Milestone

When I first started running “for fun,” I absolutely hated it. To me, it was boring and monotonous. That was until someone gave me this tiny bit of advice: focus on just running to the next obstacle — a tree, a light post, a mailbox, etc. Once I started focusing on those short term wins, it not only became fun but it also helped me run further and faster.

If you keep looking up the mountain at your big goals and not down at your feet, you won’t go anywhere. Real progress is made in the short term wins. Simply refocus on the next thing you have to do. What is that next step? By doing this, you too will go further and faster.

Surround Yourself with People Who Challenge You

I still vividly remember an experience I had at a networking event a few years ago. I was standing in a group of people, and someone asked me what I’d been up to lately. With confidence (and a little bit of cockiness), I proudly said:

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“I’ve been trying to get more fit.”

The guy standing across from me, who was built like a brick house, interrupted me instantly:

“Trying to? Are you getting fit or not?”

Although this call out in front of a bunch of strangers was a bit embarrassing, it changed my life. He pulled me aside later and explained to me the negative effects that language can have on our mind.

The people whom you spend time with matter.  When you improve the quality of people in your life, you improve your results. Invest your time in people who are willing to challenge you and make you better. The results will follow. Just make sure they are positively challenging you and not dragging you down.

What to do Next . . .

Now that you have some ideas on how to realistically make your big dreams happen, my plea to you is that you decide to take action on at least one of these things. Just one of these mindset shifts can be profound in reaching your big goals.

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Scott Bradley

Self-Leadership Coach and Creative Writer

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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