career goals

Will Leitch: Turn Back Tuesday

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A little more than four years ago, I interviewed journalist Will Leitch to debut my first web site! This week, let’s revisit my conversation with him for two reasons: First, Will offered some great insights. Second, this is the first interview on Dreaming Made Simple.

Dreaming Made Simple is your dream destination for practical strategies and resources to help make your dreams happen!

Sam Miller: What is your dream?

Will Leitch: All I ever wanted to do was write for a living. More accurately, all I ever wanted to do was to write about things that I care about. For me to have the opportunity to write about what I want in a lot of different places, it is a dream. My dream is to be able to keep doing this as long as I can. It’s not so simple as “OK, you made it. You’re all done now.” I have to keep working hard to sustain that.

Sam Miller: When did you realize you were living your dream?

Will Leitch: If you had told me six years ago, “Will, you’re going to be able to do a movie site with your friend Tim [Grierson]; you’re going to be able to write for New York magazine, one of your favorite magazines; and you’re going to be able to write a big story about Michael Vick for GQ,” I would have been like “Holy crap, I’m living the dream.” Once you’re actually doing it, it’s just work, which is good. I think people have a bad connotation with work. They equate work with job. I like to work. That’s what gets me up in the morning.

Sam Miller: What are the steps you’ve taken to get where you are?

Will Leitch: A large percentage of everything that happens for anyone is luck. You make your own luck, don’t get me wrong. Once you are given an opportunity, you have to take advantage of it. As it happened, Hugo Lindgren was a deputy editor at The New York Times Magazine. (He now runs the Magazine.) He stumbled across one thing I had written at The Black Table and was like, “Hey, this is kind of funny. I’ll e-mail this guy and see if he wants to do something.” That was absolute luck. The funny thing was I got assigned a huge story, a big huge story, that to be honest I am not sure I was quite ready for, but I worked my ass off on it. It was luck that he even stumbled across me in the first place. On the one hand, he did come across the story. On the other hand, I also wrote a million other things that he did not just stumble across. People misunderstand luck. They think, “That person’s just lucky.” No, you have to put yourself in a position to be lucky.

The first step was deciding that this was what I was going to do. I don’t know if I had necessarily decided that when I moved to New York. I think I knew it in college, but there is a difference in knowing what you want to do and to be, like “I’d do this forever even if I die.” I remember a lot of people in my journ program or different English programs that wanted to be writers, wanted to be journalists. They’d say, “I’ll give this [career] until I’m 27 or 28, then I’m going to law school.” Well, in my opinion, you’ve already lost when that happens. I remember a conversation that me and [Deadspin editor, A.J. Daulerio] had. I was 26, he was 27, and we were both really struggling. We had a friend of ours who was a lot older than us. He was not doing well with his career. We thought, “He was a failure. Are we willing to be failures?” We both decided yes. We were willing to have it not work because we wanted to do it and believed in it.

I think that’s the most important thing – to be willing to go down with the ship. You can’t look for an escape hatch.

If my wife had met me in 2003, I was the biggest loser you could find. I could barely afford rent, I had a crap job, I was writing for free, I was a mess. But I knew what I wanted to do eventually, so I had to put in the work and hope that I caught a break and, if I did, to take advantage of that break.

Sam Miller: What lessons have you learned?

Will Leitch: The main one is not to get distracted and not to give up. I find a lot of people act like a job is owed to them, or they deserve it, or they’re special. A lot of the people who have a really hard time are people who are not ready to deal with setbacks.

A lot of people want to be writers but they don’t realize that requires a ton of work. I don’t think there’s a mystery to it. I think people want there to be. I know a lot of people who love the vision of themselves as writers, but really, you’re committed to it or you’re not.

You don’t even want to know how many years my parents thought, “Why is he in New York? What is he doing there? We send this kid to college, and he’s working in a doctor’s office. What a waste of time this was.” I was a total failure for a long time.

Sam Miller: What’s next?

Will Leitch: All I want to do is to keep doing this and to make it work with my life. I want to be able to do the things I want to do while making sure it doesn’t take away from the things I need to be as a husband and a father. That’s my next goal, to figure that out.

There’s no point where you hit a finish line. That’s something I didn’t realize when I was 25 or 26. I always thought I’d hit a point where I made it. You never hit it.

Thanks for reading!  Keep watching this space for more interviews like this one and for more about Dreaming Made Simple

Inspiring Women's Miriam Gonzalez on the Importance of Role Models on Dream Journeys

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Inspiring Women

Miriam González is the founder of the Inspiring Women campaign, a UK-based organization that gives girls in school opportunities to hear from female role models who cast vision for their futures.

This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, González, named an Influential Educator by Noodle, shares about the importance of mentors, giving back and seizing opportunities on the dream journey.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your dream for the Inspiring Women campaign? How did your dream originate? How has it evolved?

Miriam González:My dream is that every girl in the UK, and then in every country, realizes that they are free to shape their lives, that the only constraints they face should be the extent of their own effort, and that there are lots of women out there ready and willing to help them.

I would like to see the Inspiring Women campaign expand abroad, and I would simply love convincing UN Women to support the campaign worldwide.

I started the Inspiring Women campaign in 2013. I have always been passionate about gender issues, but it wasn’t until I had been myself subject to many labels in the public eye that I realized I should speak up publicly about the remaining sexism in our societies. I believe in women speaking up and talking to the next generations of women. That is what the Inspiring Women campaign is all about.

Also, I had read an interesting survey conducted by Girlguide in the UK, saying that more than 55 percent of girls aged 11-21 years old don’t think they have enough access to female role models. So I thought, “That is ridiculous, there are thousands of great women out there. Let’s just bring them to schools where the girls cannot miss them!”

And that is precisely what we do. We ask volunteers to give one hour per year to go back to school to talk about their life, their career, their choices… In two years, we have gotten nearly 20,000 wonderful volunteers from all backgrounds within the UK, and we have reached 500,000 girls at state schools across the country.

Now, we are about to launch the campaign internationally, and we do hope that the U.S. joins us soon!

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Miriam González: Being able to start the Inspiring Women campaign is one of the things I feel most proud of. I feel very privileged for having had the public exposure (thanks to my husband’s role as the UK Deputy Prime Minister the last five years) that has allowed me to set up the Inspiring Women campaign and have such big success.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream? What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Miriam González: I have had many dreams throughout my life and my career, but I never had a plan. There is not a clear path for everyone, and we all have ups and downs. The most important thing is to aim high and keep trying, no matter what. I have always worked hard – I still do work hard - and I have taken most of the opportunities I have found on my way.

Thanks for reading Sam's Dream Blog!  Click here for more information on the Inspiring Women campaign

Brad Webster: Making Your Mark

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Brad Webster

Brad Webster is brand strategist/ creative director at Webster Branding Strategy & Design. This week, on Sam’s Dream Blog, Brad shares about the importance of planning, taking risks and having right beliefs during the dreaming process.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your professional dream?

Brad Webster: To propel people, give them an opportunity to step into their own calling. Some of the best ways I can do that emotionally is to encourage people and continually call out their potential. Practically I can be a person who provides opportunity. So basically, my professional dream is to hire people with potential, give them an opportunity to do what they love and earn a good income.

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Brad Webster: Some highlights are putting on a benefit concert for the Costa Rican rainforest when I was younger. I had some connections and brought in Anthony Kiedis, who is the lead singer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers... I used to be a sponsored snowboarder, so getting on the Airwalk snowboard team in '97 was cool... Also I was a snowboard coach and coached two of my kids to national championships.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream? What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Brad Webster: The main thing is follow through. When we have a dream, we almost always imagine that dream in full glory, but it's quite a process to slog through the initial start-up part. There are details we never thought about, as well as road blocks and disappointments.

Often money can be an obstacle, and right now, for me, that is. What I am learning, and the advice I would give others, is to make a plan. Pretend you have the money sitting there and then make your plan. It needs to be a real plan, not just a pretty plan for investors, one that you will actually execute. At the end of the day, the ones leading any conversation will be the people who actually did it - whether it's a bad movie or a good movie, a book, a business idea, whatever. If you don't do something, there will be nothing to talk about, only what others have done.

SDB: What steps have you taken to get to where you are presently?

Brad Webster: Easy: risk. At the end of the day, you can plan all you want, but at some point, you have to step off the end of the dock. You have to push away and actually try it. It was scary to leave a steady paycheck, and it's always a risk. Any dream you have is a risk inviting you to push the envelope in some area. Otherwise it wouldn't feel so appealing or enticing. That is one step.

Another is having a plan. A third is having people believe in you. You need people to push you on when you don't know if it's possible anymore. I needed to know my wife backed me in my risk. Having people run with you is really, really important.

Wealth is not about money. Wealth is about influence. It is that simple. When you believe that you are powerful and you can make a positive difference in the world around you by going after your dreams, you move forward. When we move forward and bring change, we create momentum for ourselves and hope in others that change is possible.

If you ever speak to a homeless person, they may have definitely had some bad things happen, but the difference is they have lost their belief that they can influence or change the situation. They think if something in the system was changed, or somebody else would make a decision to help them, then things would be different. They basically have lost their influence on their own life. They believe they have 0% influence and the cold, hard world has 100% over them. But it's just a deception. It's a wrong belief. So always believe that you can do something to make a difference.

You pursuing your dream will bring personal fulfillment to you as well as release the potential for others to be inspired by you, and go after their own. Others will see them, and it creates a strong ripple effect. You can do it!

Thanks for stopping by Sam’s Dream Blog!

John ZuHone: The Sky's The Limit

John ZuHone is an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  This week, on Sam’s Dream Blog, John shares about realizing a childhood dream, pushing through doubt and endurance on the dream journey.

Sam's Dream Blog: What's your professional dream? How did your dream originate?  How has it evolved?

John  ZuHone: My professional dream was to do something with outer space. I think it started when I was a child. I loved to read, so my family bought me books on all kinds of subjects. One book (which I still have!) was on the planets. I was hooked. I begged for a telescope, and at age six, I got one. We lived out in the middle of nowhere, so it was easy for me to see the night sky.

For the longest time I said I was going to be an astronaut (most kids do at some point). As the years went on, I found myself most interested by the science behind what was going on beyond our planet. Eventually, I decided that I would become an astrophysicist. I also enjoyed computers growing up. Little did I know that they would become an essential part of my job--running computer simulations of what's going on in the universe.

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

John  ZuHone: I am mainly a theoretician, in other words, someone who thinks about how the universe works and formulates theories to explain what we see. However, very soon I will have the opportunity to use the Chandra X-ray Observatory, an X-ray telescope orbiting the earth, to observe a cluster of galaxies. It is kind of hard for me to believe sometimes that I get the privilege of using a real observatory that is sitting out in space to do real science.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?  What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

John ZuHone: Often, the biggest obstacle has been myself. Self-doubt, the idea that I couldn't hack it, that it was foolish for me to keep going because I wasn't cut out for it--those were things I had to overcome. Gaining the confidence that I was truly able to achieve the goals I had set out for myself, with the support structure that my family, friends, and faith gives me, is what got me to where I am.

To anyone who is pursuing their own dream, I have the following bits of advice:

* Know the difference between giving up (which you don't want to do) and realizing that your goals may have shifted from where you thought they were originally. As you move forward, you may find that other things inspire you, that you are interested in other things than what you had set out originally. That's not a sign of failure. It just means you have moved on to something else. And that can be exciting.

* Other people are important. No one ever gets anywhere in life without help from someone else. This includes your family and your friends, but also people you meet along the way. You never know how the connections you make with others will benefit you down the road. And the way you show gratitude for that is by paying it forward--someday you will get a chance to give someone else a leg up when they need it. It's also very humbling--knowing that making the world run, working for things like justice and knowledge and beauty and everything else that's good, takes teamwork. We're all in it together.

SDB: What steps have you taken to get to where you are presently?

John  ZuHone: First, it was lots of school. 10 years, in fact, counting both college and graduate school. That's how long it takes (give or take a year or two) to get a Ph.D.. After that, you spend time building your research career, doing what we call "postdoctoral research." I'm currently nearing the end of that part of my career, transitioning into something more permanent. But a lot of the education that you need to excel in this area, as in many, is self-taught and self-sought. The classroom is very important, but some of the most important things you will ever learn are not taught in the classroom. You only learn by doing them, and usually doing them wrong a few times before getting it right. In that sense, I am still learning.

Thanks for stopping by Sam’s Dream Blog!  Learn more about John ZuHone's work here

Andrew Skurka: All about Dreams, Adventures and Challenges

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Andrew Skurka is an adventurer and guide, best-known for his solo long-distance backpacking trips. In total, he has backpacked, skied, and packrafted 30,000+ miles through many of the world’s most prized backcountry and wilderness areas.This week, on Sam’s Dream Blog, Andrew shares about his dream journey, including the preparation and endurance required.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your professional dream? How did your dream originate?  How has it evolved?

Andrew Skurka: My backpacking dreams evolve every few years. Early on, I wanted to hike as many long trails as I could, and to do it fast and light. Now, I'm more interested in shorter, more intense trips that are largely off-trail. This shift is directly related to my learning, or lack thereof. When I'm not being challenged by what I'm doing, I change it up.

SDB: What makes you most proud of your long distance hiking feats?

Andrew Skurka: I'm most proud of how smoothly most of my trips go. I attribute this to extensive pre-trip research and planning, which ensures that my plan is feasible and that I'm as prepared for it as possible. If I've put in the time beforehand, there are fewer unexpected events.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dreams?  

Andrew Skurka: The biggest obstacle to my dreams was the unconventional lifestyle that I had to live. I don't have a conventional job, and for a long time did not live like a normal adult: no permanent address, little income, no long-term relationships, etc.

SDB: What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Andrew Skurka: There are few substitutes for hard work and persistence.

Thanks for stopping by Sam’s Dream Blog!  Learn more about Andrew Skurka here

Jessica Watson on Sailing Toward Your Dreams

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At age 16, Jessica Watson became the youngest person ever to sail solo and unassisted around the world.  This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Jessica shares about braving new territory, the importance of a team in your dream pursuits and about overcoming adversity.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your dream for sailing? How did your dream originate?  How has it evolved?

Jessica Watson: My family sailed when I was young, but it wasn’t till I was 11 that I dreamt of sailing around the world. I was fascinated by the ocean and wanted to prove what young girls are capable of. These days I love sailing more and more and dream of inspiring more people to give sailing a try.

SDB: What makes you most proud of being the youngest person ever to sail solo and unassisted around the world?

Jessica Watson: Great question. It was a solo voyage around the world, but it took a whole team of people to get safely to the start line. I’m proud of the hard work from all of my team. I’m also proud of how I managed the mental side of the voyage.  There were times when I was scared and upset, but most of the time I stayed positive.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dreams?  What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Jessica Watson: At first finding the support and funding I needed was hard.  Then I actually hit a huge ship just before I set off on the voyage. That was a big setback, but I learned so much from the incident, and it made me stronger.  There are lots of things I could say about the determination and persistence it takes to achieve your dreams, but I think the most important part is to take the first step and have the courage to chase your dreams.

Thanks for stopping by Sam’s Dream Blog!  Learn more about more about Jessica Watson here

Gainlight Studios' Derek Oddo Shares His Dream Journey

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Derek Oddo is the CEO and owner of Gainlight Studios branding company.

This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Derek shares about the evolution of dreams, how to adjust to surprises and how to make your dreams happen.

Sam’s Dream Blog: What’s your professional dream? How did your dream originate?

Derek Oddo: My professional dream has always been to run a successful business that provides for my family and others.

This dream likely originated as a child. I grew up in a large family with four other siblings where there was no such thing as an allowance. Any discretionary money for baseball cards, video games and other items had to come in large part from money I could scrounge together. I mowed lawns and cleared driveways from a young age. I helped neighbors with tasks they did not want to do, all the while collecting any money I could to buy the same things my friends had. That is not to say my parents did not help, they most certainly did when they were able; it was merely a requirement for me to contribute financially if I truly wanted something.

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Derek Oddo: The things that give me the greatest satisfaction are old interns who reach out years later to let me know how much I impacted their lives. It is seeing a t-shirt I designed years ago still out and about in the community. It is seeing a logo I designed mounted to the side of a building. Everyone, everywhere, inevitably wants to know that they somehow impacted the world. While these may be minor, they serve as pleasant reminders to stay the course and cause you to realize there are things beyond money that make you appreciate what you do daily.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream? What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Derek Oddo: The biggest challenges I have faced are those related to changing circumstances. I became a business owner because I like knowing the decisions I have made or have not made are impacting my bottom line directly. The realization, though, is that I am at the mercy of a number of factors. And as sure as night and day, life will always be there to throw you curveballs.

The best advice I can give to dreamers like myself is to remain nimble, to remain hungry, and to always move forward. Always seek to improve on something every day.

SDB: What steps have you taken to get to where you are presently?

Derek Oddo: Many, many little steps. The two largest being sacrifice and a willingness to execute. Everyone has dreams. Every single one of us. These are as simple as daydreaming about a new car, to something more complex like trying to impact your family generationally.

The only difference that separates the dreamers from the doers is execution. It’s taking those small, tangible steps in the direction of achieving these dreams, regardless of how crazy those around you might think you are.

Along the way, you will be called to sacrifice. Sometimes, these sacrifices are easy, like skipping a night out with friends to be up early for a meeting with a new client. Other times, they are far greater.

It is too easy today to get caught up in instant gratification. We hope to see immediate results, and sometimes we can realize our dreams quickly. But, for the great dreamers, it often takes years for the seeds we plant to become fruitful. It is why it is important to stay the course.

Thanks for stopping by Sam’s Dream Blog!  Learn more about more about Gainlight Studios here

Kenji Claudio: The Creative Journey

Kenji Claudio is managing partner/director, executive producer at BYOB Bring Your Own Board Orange County TV series.

This week on Sam's Dream Blog, Kenji shares about following childhood passions, making your own opportunities and finding your team.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your professional dream? How did your dream originate? How has it evolved?

Kenji Claudio: My professional dream is to write and produce fun, compelling stories in film, television, any medium that allows for the story to be told and enjoyed. I was four years old when I watched Jim Carrey's "The Mask" and was in awe of how somebody got all of the intense car action scenes on camera – like, did somebody just happen to have a camera and press play when all of this happened? My childlike awe for film has stayed with me through the years.

I graduated, majoring in public relations and working in a comfy government job. Meanwhile, my friend was directing and producing a full-length feature film in Georgia. I asked him, “If I paid my way out there, would you let me work for you?” He took me under his wing. Eighteen-hour days, six days a week, pushed me to near-exhaustion, but I awoke every morning feeling like it was all worth it. That is when I knew that this is what I wanted to do, not just for a living, but for my career.

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Kenji Claudio: My most proud accomplishment is when I began producing, at the green age of 22, a full TV series worth of content on a shoestring budget with all my friends. I didn't really know what I was getting into when I called up my friends, asking them, “Hey, wanna make a TV show with me?”

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?

Kenji Claudio: Three years later and two seasons in, I look back, and I see how truly difficult producing a season of TV is. But my naiveté kept me going, not really knowing how hard it was until I finished doing it. Other producers go through hell producing TV shows, but I chose an easy format of television, shooting scripted reality that can be done in a way that can always be produced no matter where I am...because there is always a story to be told wherever you go.

SDB: What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Kenji Claudio: My advice to others is to find a group of friends/creators that love to do what you do. Go with them as a team into whatever idea/venture that you're all passionate about. The creative process is a journey, and you won't know where you land until you get there. In the end, I think about all the fun times I had and remember that failure is a very real thing that can happen at every turn if there is a diva in your squad.

Thanks for stopping by Sam’s Dream Blog!  Learn more about more about Kenji Claudio and Bring Your Own Board here

D'Wayne Edwards Educates Emerging Designers

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D'Wayne Edwards
D'Wayne Edwards

D’Wayne Edwards is the founder of PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy.  “PENSOLE’s ‘learn by doing’ curriculum teaches students the entire footwear design process.”

This week on Dreaming Made Simple, Edwards, one of the youngest design directors in Nike’s history and a man whose designs have sold more than $1 billion worldwide, shares about planting seeds, dreaming bigger, and about discovering your ‘why.’

Dreaming Made Simple: What is your professional dream, and how has it evolved?

D'Wayne Edwards: I’ve honestly achieved almost all of my professional goals. I am more focused on my goals as an educator, and the first one is to make you forget I ever designed shoes. Not that I want to discount my previous life, but if I can get people to talk to me as an educator, that means I am doing something right if it overshadows my past.

My new focus is not about designing the next great shoe but designing lives that will design the next great shoe.

I see myself as more of a farmer, planting seeds across the industry that will make the industry better than when I entered it. My dream is for PENSOLE to be the best academy in the world!

Dreaming Made Simple: You let go of your dream job at Brand Jordan for an uncertain future pursuing a new passion at PENSOLE.  What convinced you to set your former dream aside, and what has been the result?

D'Wayne Edwards: I have had several dreams and am proud to say I have accomplished several of them, but I never had just one. I set daily goals. Those goals are attached to dreams, and once I achieve one, I move onto my next one. Ironically, working at JORDAN was not a dream of mine because I was not dreaming big enough. Once I was blessed to work at JORDAN, that taught me to dream bigger. If a poor, African-American kid from Inglewood, who could not afford to go to college for design, still reached the top spot in the athletic industry, I realized, if I put my mind to it, I could achieve anything. So to me, why can't a kid with no college education start a school that does not exist, in an industry that is $68 billion...?

Dreaming Made Simple: How does someone keep dreams and passions alive, even when it’s not immediately possible to live them out?

D'Wayne Edwards: First, people need to discover what their dreams are.

Most people don't dream. Dreams are FREE, and there should be no limits on them.

As people we put limits on ourselves, and when we do that, we never discover or realize our full potential. Mark Twain has a quote that says "There are two important dates in our life: One, the day we were born; and two, the day we discover why." I did not discover why until I was in my late thirties. I thought it was to be a top footwear designer who designed for the greatest athletes in the world, for the best brand in the world. But I was wrong... It was to become a designer so I could help others reach the same level of success I was able to achieve, and then for them to help others the same way I helped them.

Most of the time the only thing keeping people from keeping their dreams alive is they don't know WHY they are living....

Thanks for stopping by Dreaming Made Simple!  Learn more about more about D'Wayne Edwards and PENSOLE here

Dick Traum Inspires to Find a Way

Dick Traum
Dick Traum

Dr. Dick Traum is the president and founder of Achilles International. Achilles International is a non-profit organization with members in 65 locations nationally and internationally. The “main objective is to bring hope, inspiration and the joys of achievement to people with disabilities.” Dick is an above-the-knee amputee with a successful computer applications company. Dick became the first amputee to run 26.2 miles.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your dream for Achilles International? How did your dream originate? How has the dream evolved over the years?

Dr. Dick Traum: At the beginning, my dream was to have a local running club. Currently, there are chapters in each major city in US, with hopes to expand internationally to 100 chapters in total. Additionally we want to expand Achilles Kids from 12,700 members in 14 states to 25,000, and we want to expand the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans to include older disabled veterans.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?

Dr. Dick Traum: Race directors are not yet ready to include large groups of people with disabilities.

SDB: What is something more able-bodied people miss when they relegate people with disabilities to merely being an “inspiration”?

Dr. Dick Traum: They do not realize that people with disabilities are more similar than different. Also, they are unnecessarily uncomfortable with them.

Thanks for stopping by Sam's Dream Blog!  Learn more about more about Dick Traum and Achilles International here

Book Review: "Silver to Gold"

Book Review: "Silver to Gold"

You know it is summer when people start talking about summer reads. Whether you need an excuse to stay inside or you need something to take to the beach, here is a book sure to encourage you on your dreaming journey!

Behold the Possibilities

This picture reminds me of the heartland. Few things make my soul come alive like the lush fields of Illinois.

Gazing across the horizon, it’s as if the possibilities are as limitless as the eye can see.  There’s nothing standing in the way, just wide open spaces to dream, explore and create. Look at all that green!  It might as well be freshly-grown dreams, planted some time ago.  Of course on that day gone by, there probably wasn’t much to see.  No matter.  Memories of springs gone by were sufficient.  Seeds sprouted before, and they would sprout again, to be sure.  And now?  A wide expanse of vibrant green life rewards expectation.

So what’s the point, you may ask.  First, plant today so you can reap when the time is right.  Do what you know to do, and confidently wait.  Second, ask yourself, “Where can I go to refresh myself?  When I’m lacking inspiration, how do I regain what is missing?”  For some, the answer could be traveling.  For others, it could be going to an art gallery or to a sporting event.  We all need a reset from time to time.

What is your reset?  What refreshes you?  Leave a comment below

Dreams: The Importance of Your Core Team

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This past Saturday, I celebrated my birthday on the heels of graduation earlier in the week.  It was a blessing to be surrounded by some of my closest friends.  Of course it gave way to a time of reflection, and that is what I want to share with you in your pursuit of hopes and dreams.

Here are five reasons why you need a core team on your dream journey:

1. You need encouragement First, most of the people around me Saturday have played a prominent role throughout my last few years. There was not anyone at the dinner who I had just met recently. Nothing against making new friends; you need to continue making new friends to grow in knowledge and influence, but you also need friends who know you. You need people with whom you have history in order to have a broader context and perspective. You need friends who can tell you how much progress you have made and also what you need to do to arrive at the next destination in your journey.

2. You need consistency Along those lines, you need a consistent core. I remember the first celebration I had with this group three years ago. Again, my birthday falls when everything is in flux – graduation, Mother’s Day and so forth – May is one of the busiest months of the year, and there is no avoiding that fact. As a result, three years ago, I was more than a little bit worried that I would have to celebrate my birthday by my lonesome. Instead, this group, that would become my core, carved out an evening for me in their schedules. This year, I had no doubts. They would be there. My core team made time for me, and yours will make time for you.

3. You need vulnerability Now you may be asking, “How did you find this group of friends that you can count on?” I would suggest two keys. First, you have to consistently make time to pursue what you want. Significant friendships and accomplishments don’t just happen. Second, when you are making time for your inner circle, you need to choose to go beneath the surface. To be clear, the idea is not to be vulnerable with everyone, but with your core group, you need to share both your highs and your lows. That’s what builds trust. That’s what builds relationships.

4. You need momentum If you have made it this far, you are well on your way, and that’s the point – momentum. We have already established that building relationships takes time and effort. It wouldn’t make sense to keep stopping and starting the process, then, would it? Find your group to focus on, and don’t spread yourself too thin.

5. You need variety Finally, if you look at the above picture closely, you will notice that there appears to be a variety of personalities and ages. That is not entirely by accident. Different ages and personalities keep you on your toes. They help you to see points of view you might have missed. In particular, older people can offer wisdom about the road ahead. Younger people can remind you of ideas you might have forgotten.

Do you have a core team?  What’s one step you can do to build your friend group?

Patricia Kelly Offers Riders Reins to Their Dreams

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Patricia Kelly is founder/president/CEO/ head riding instructor of Ebony Horsewomen, Inc., located in Hartford, Conn. Ebony Horsewomen is an organization “to empower youth toward successful lives through the use of equine-assisted-growth learning."   The CEO of the organization for the past 30 years, Mrs. Kelly is also a former United States Marine.

This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Kelly shares about the difference perspective makes, how your childhood can shape your dreams and how to know if you are pursuing the right dream.

Sam's Dream Blog: In the Hartford Courant, you were quoted as saying, “Urban children are denied so much. What we are trying to do is unlock the genius, the brilliance in children to live their best life. We want to unlock the caged heart so that they will dream, and dream big." What difference does it make to get someone out of his or her environment for a little while so that they can experience something like Ebony Horsewomen offers?

Patricia Kelly: The answer to that is perspective. When your perspective, based upon experiences and resources, is limited, your perspective of the world is limited. You tend to think that all that there is what you have been able to experience. Often, youth in the inner city are not afforded experiences and resources to grow their perspective. It’s important to broaden a child’s perspective so that they can get a more global picture of the world, rather than only what’s in their limited neighborhood.

SDB: You mentioned children.  What age group does Ebony Horsewomen serve?

Patricia Kelly: Five to 19, although we have one program that goes up to 28. That’s the mounted patrol, our park rangers. We have our own park rangers in Keeney Park, where we are located. Keeney Park is 693 acres. We do it as a courtesy.

What is it about Ebony Horsewomen that is able to unlock people in a unique way?

Patricia Kelly: There are a number of things. We are in the middle of a metropolitan area that has the largest city park in New England. Keeney Park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, the same guy who designed Central Park.

Within this park, we have the ability to introduce country life and settings, agriculture on several levels. We have farm land here that we grow crops on. Not only do we grow the crops, but once the crops have been harvested, we teach the kids how to prepare the food.  They cook the food, and they learn the nutrition. That’s one aspect.

The second thing is we use equine-assisted therapy. Many of our children have difficulties in school, and some in the community. Many of them are suffering despair and depression. The equine-assisted therapy allows them to receive therapy without the stigma. We use horses to bring them to some answers in their situation.

Then, of course, the experience of learning how to ride a horse is another level that has a couple of different benefits to it. It’s the physical benefit, the emotional benefit, and the benefit of focused concentration and the ability to execute instructions that you are given as you are being taught how to ride. Those kinds of things are transferable to schoolwork.

SDB: Is there a success story that comes to mind?

Patricia Kelly: We have been doing this for 31 years. There are hundreds of success stories [from alumni.] We have one young lady who is a civil rights attorney for the federal government in Washington, D.C.  We have teachers. We have one young woman who is at Harvard University right now on a full scholarship. We have nurses and teachers and principals and business owners.

SDB: What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

SDB: What about your passion?  How did Ebony Horsewomen come about?

Patricia Kelly: It’s a complicated story, but it started in childhood when I was introduced to my first horse from a Jewish neighbor.  It stuck.  It became an obsession for me, a passion for me.  When I got out of the Marine Corps, I settled in my spirit that this was something I was going to pursue.  I was going to flush it out a little bit more, if you will.  Upon my attempt to do that, it became crystal clear to me that this in fact was my passion to do.

Thanks for reading Sam’s Dream Blog! Learn more about Ebony Horsewomen here

Miller's Musings: Making Time to Dream

What inspires you?  What are your hopes and dreams?  Recently I had the privilege of traveling with a team to another country.  Again and again, while meeting businesspeople there, we felt compelled to ask those questions.  Furthermore, what is the effect of dreaming vs. not dreaming?  The people with whom we interacted were without question hard workers, but a number of them had yet to be awakened to their dreams and passions.  Or they had been silenced.

This led me to wonder, is it possible that working too hard is a problem?  Is it possible that an outcome of working too hard could be that you forget to dream because you are so busy doing?  Is that the way we are meant to live?  Perhaps the answers to those questions depend on the person and the situation.  Perhaps there are seasons to simply put one’s nose to the grindstone and work hard.

Personally, I find that getting away from routine and making space to ponder questions like these to be illuminating.  Repeatedly, when our team encouraged our international friends to dream, light bulb after light bulb went on for all of us.  It was as if they, as if we, all knew we were at these events in part to evaluate our lives.  Since we had given ourselves permission to explore possibilities, there was no better time to take advantage.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  It’s in pursuing your passions that you do your best and find the role you were designed to play.

Thanks for stopping by Sam's Dream Blog!  Have a great day, and check out the next entry on Tue., April 14

Jami Curl Shares Sweet Treats

Jami Curl
Jami Curl

Candymaker Jami Curl is founder of QUIN candy co. and was one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. She is the author of Candy Is Magic: Real Ingredients, Modern Recipes. Below she shares about creating a memorable product, putting yourself into your work and why finding your dream is akin to a unicorn sighting.

Dreaming Made Simple: On your web site, you write, “Jami Curl here. I’m a candy maker, a business owner and a hard worker.” What is the value of finding a dream or a passion to pour into through hard work?

Jami Curl: I have had plenty of jobs where the passion just wasn't there. For me, all of those jobs involved work other than being directly involved in food. Still though, no matter what the job is, I am a hard worker. I think what you put into what you're doing defines so much of a person. - I have generally never been one to half-ass anything, putting my whole self into everything I do all the time - That's just the Jami Curl way. I think I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who led by example.

Finding a dream, realizing that dream and then being afforded the opportunity to turn that dream into work is a little like finding a unicorn. I think if you are given that rare, rare chance and then squander it, how sad and devastating. You have to find value in what you're doing, period. Whether it's dreaming up candy flavors and figuring out ways to sell that candy, or clocking in to a desk job in a cubicle.

Dreaming Made Simple: I read in your interview in DINE X DESIGN where you talked about snacks creating memories.  What is it about candy that so captures our hearts?

Jami Curl: Food memories are REALLY strong memories for many people. I remember nearly every family vacation I took as a child, simply because of the food we ate or the meals we shared while traveling. Whether it's the snacks my mom would pack for road trips or the dinners we had under the stars on our beach vacations, I can almost taste that stuff, just thinking about it.

Candy has never been something that people eat and then feel bad about (unless you eat too much!) Generally, candy is eaten when we need a boost, when we are celebrating, when we are happy. I don’t know anyone without memories tied directly to candy, whether it's the candy dish at a beloved grandmother's house or the 10-cent candy picked up at the neighborhood corner store.

Dreaming Made Simple: What steps have you taken to get to where you are presently?

Jami Curl: I'd say my steps are kind of all over the place. I have a degree in English, and I also did half of my Masters in Public Administration but quit grad school to open a bakery. I have opened myself up to failure and have taken my successes lightly. I get out and meet people, doing food shows, attending workshops and conferences, and now hosting my own workshops. I teach classes and learn more about my craft by attempting to each others about it.

The biggest step of all is remaining open to opportunity because I never know when something totally amazing might pop up.

Dreaming Made Simple: How do you set your brand apart?

Jami Curl: For QUIN, I pour my entire self into what we do - everything from the types of candy that we make, to their names, to our look and feel - All of it is something I have either done myself or led the way. The important part is forming a team that understands that and supports it. I'm lucky enough to have a team that really understands the importance of our brand and then works to support it.

Dreaming Made Simple: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?  What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Jami Curl: Sometimes the dream is a total grind. Sometimes the work is so hard that it doesn't feel at all like a dream or a passion. The hours are the longest. Your social life takes a total beating. The lows are very low - but the highs! The highs are the highest, and there's nothing like looking at the work you've put into something and realizing how worth it was.

My advice would be to work hard and to remember that you're going to have days where it feels totally miserable to be you. Fight through it because it's worth it!

Learn more about Jami Curl and QUIN here

Whipsaw Co-Founder Dan Harden on Taking Risk and Facing Fear

Dan Harden, Whipsaw

Dan Harden, Whipsaw

Fast Company named designer Dan Harden one of its 2014’s 100 Most Creative People in business. This week, the co-founder and CEO of Whipsaw shares what to do with risk and fear and how to put your personality into your work.

Sam's Dream Blog: Designs must stand out. What is your advice in terms of taking risk and demonstrating passion in a productive way, rather than for the sake of taking risk for risk’s sake?

Dan Harden: First of all, some designs should not stand out. Some need to blend into an experience so the user can go about their business without something screaming at them. Most design problems can only be solved by taking risks. If the risky answer is right, it's more risky not to do it.

SDB: How do you advise putting personality into one’s work?

Dan Harden: Good design often exudes its own personality. That can come from either finding its internal essence and giving that essence a voice... or putting your own personality into a design. Putting your own personality into a design can work if your product needs attitude (like an aggressive boxing glove or a piece of fashion), but you have to be careful when doing that on a serious piece of equipment like an ultrasound scanner where function, safety, and usability trump personality.

SDB: What are traits to look for and to stay away from when assembling a team?

Dan Harden: We seek smart go-getters with tons of passion and talent; we avoid the opposite.

SDB: I have read that you advise getting rid of all fear.  How do you get rid of fear?

Dan Harden: Fear in context of creativity is not having the courage to try something different for fear of judgment or failure. Once you witness the success gained from creatively reaching, the fear simply vanishes.

Learn more about Dan Harden and Whipsaw here, and check back for the next Sam’s Dream Blog post on Tue., March 17

Sit up Straight for Vanessa Van Edwards on Sam's Dream Blog

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Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and a behavioral investigator. Vanessa’s workshops and courses teach individuals how to succeed in business and life. She has been featured on NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the Today Show and USA Today.

This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Vanessa shares how to use pain points to your advantage, how to overcome nerves, and how good body language makes a big difference.

Sam's Dream Blog: From your bio on Udemy, you discovered your passion for teaching about body language from a former pain point of being a “recovered awkward person.”  How important are pain points in discovering one’s dreams or what makes that person come alive?

Vanessa Van Edwards: I think if you want to be successful, you have to be able to relate to your customers, readers, and team members. If you have pain points, you can literally feel their pain. This helps you address needs, be more relatable and tap into what truly inspires us. Pain is also a crazy good motivator. We will do anything to get our bodies and minds out of pain and this will push you better than any motivator.

SDB: Speaking of body language, how do you avoid giving off the wrong signals when you don’t want to be in a situation or when you are really nervous?

Vanessa Van Edwards: Power posing! Sometimes you can't help being nervous. But you can help your body’s response to nerves. When you expand your body--widen your arms, tilt your chin up and forehead back you power up your testosterone and this helps you feel good and perform well.

SDB: Can you give me an example of a before-and-after, so to speak, how improved body language made a big difference in a positive way?

Vanessa Van Edwards: I have a very specific example for you. I pitched a conference to be a speaker. They did not book me. That year I learned how to use my hands as trust indicators and to use the power of leaning (2 body language techniques). When I pitched again I got the gig! One lady on the committee said I was like a completely different person--but it was the exact same pitch.

Learn more about Vanessa Van Edwards and the Science of People here, and check back for the next Sam's Dream Blog post on Tue., March 3