Your dream is realized. That’s it right there -- your idea, a product now, on store shelves. Something you can touch!
Over and over again, you’ve been envisioning this moment. You’ve struggled to get here. Your friends and family thought you’d lost it. Frankly, there were times you thought that too. But now, finally, it’s real. It’s happened. What began as just a concept, an impulse, is now broadly available for sale. You did it. You brought your idea to life. It’s the best feeling in the world.
The first time I experienced this, it went something like this. It was February, right around Valentine’s Day, and I was in New York City on a cold, rainy day. Worlds of Wonder, the startup I’d recently joined, had flown me out to attend Toy Fair. When I had a moment to myself, I made a beeline for FAO Schwarz, the legendary toy store on Fifth Avenue that closed last year. I’d never been to the city before, and it was the first place I wanted to go.
Before Worlds of Wonder, I’d been making and selling novelty gifts primarily made out of fabric, first on the street, and then in a retail store. At the time, FAO Schwarz sold the most realistic-looking stuffed animals in the world. Like a kid in a candy store, I stood amazed and overwhelmed. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something I could not comprehend: One of my designs. There was Sandy! Sandy the golden retriever, the first design I produced for Dakin.
I wasn't prepared. In fact, it took my breath away. And in that moment, my vision crystallized. My dream had come true. Something I made was selling in New York City at FAO Schwarz. I wasn’t crazy. I could do this. It empowered me.
Over the course of my career, I've had many other ideas I either licensed or designed make it to store shelves. But rarely have I felt that same feeling. That initial struggle, it was painful. When a project is easy, I’ve discovered, it doesn’t mean as much.
For example, the rotating label I innovated took a long, long time to bear fruit. It was rejected over and over again. When I was finally able to intrigue a company, it took another six months to figure out manufacturing. As I drove down to Los Angeles from Modesto every Sunday, I thought to myself, one day this product will find a home and be brought to life.
And sure enough, about a year and a half later, I walked into a Walmart -- and there it was. There were even ads on television with Alex Trebek.
What am I trying to say? You have to believe in yourself -- especially when no one does. The victories hardest fought are also the sweetest. Fast forward to today. Just last year, I was in Montana attending my best friend’s son’s graduation from Montana State University. As a group of us were sitting in the auditorium, I realized all around me, people were drinking from plastic water bottles featuring the label. They were spinning them, in fact! It was bizarre and novel. A friend who was unaware I had invented the design remarked to me, “Can you believe this label? It spins!”
I was totally blown away. I felt the same way I had on that rainy day in New York City.
It doesn’t last, I’m sad to say. It’s fleeting.
So what do I think really matters after all these years? The journey you take. That you’re still standing. It’s how you get there that will define you, not the achievement. Remember that.
To all of you who are chasing that feeling, please know -- everyone who dares to dream is rejected. Stay with it. Be the last one standing. The rewards are immeasurable.
People who think you do it for money don't get it.
It's about that moment!