Embrace the Full Value of Your Life
Are you one of the millions of people worldwide who followed the inspiring Claire Wineland? Chances are, if you didn't, one or more of your friends did. Claire, who passed away last September, was the beautiful young YouTube star with cystic fibrosis who founded the Claire's Place Foundation, which provides emotional and financial support to families living with CF. And she had a phenomenal perspective on life.
Watching Claire's videos was a reminder that sometimes, in our pursuit to build the perfect business, craft the ideal career or perfect the most successful marketing campaign, it's easy to forget that "putting food on the table" is not the primary reason you are alive. No. You were born for more than that. You are not a cog in a system. You are not a mere functionary in your own life. You are not just another mechanism of capitalism. You are someone with a gift. Someone who had a dream. Someone who has something to share.
"Pshaw!" you might be thinking. "That's just woo-woo stuff. Most people don't get to live their dreams."
But in reflecting on Claire's empowering message, broadcast in a new YouTube documentary on her short but stunning life, I was left asking myself: What's the difference a person who lives their childhood dream and people who don't? What is life for if not to explore our dreams? Why dream at all if they cannot be fulfilled? Examples in my own life abound.
A dear friend told me that as a kid, he loved to create haunted houses for his cousins. Today, he spends some time every October as a minimum-wage actor in the best haunted house in his state. His day job is pretty glamorous and lucrative, but he commits to that Halloween tradition because he loves it. Similarly, a mortgage broker friend told me that when he was a boy, he often put on magic shows for anyone who would sit still. Now he does magic for parties, complete with a cape and top hat (rabbit optional). As for me, I decided by the time I was in fourth grade that I wanted to write books when I grew up. My first title was released by an impressive publisher when I was 26 and went on to sell 65,000 copies in its niche.
I recently had lunch with the producer of Claire's documentary, who told me how many thousands of emails and notes he and his co-producer have gotten since they released the film, mostly from people who found courage in her courage, strength in her strength. I reminded him that when I first met him, he was just another marketing guy and I needed his company's services. About four years ago, he announced that he was going to become a documentary filmmaker "making films that matter." Obviously, he achieved that.
What about you? What did you want to do when you were a kid? Are you living even a slice of your dream? If not now, when? We tend to think of life as an "all or nothing" proposition. Either we quit our day job and go live in the mountains raising goats or nothing. Either we take a year off work to type out that screenplay or nothing. Either we wait until we win the lottery to open that B&B in Vermont or nothing. Either ... or.
To invoke Claire's deeply wise insight, you're alive now. You're breathing now. You have a desire in your heart. You have a dream, however deeply buried by grownup worries and responsibilities. Here's what you don't have: forever. Start now. Start today. Do what you are most purely called to do with your lifetime. Sing your song. Live your gift. Share your story. Grow your heart. Be fully you.
The graveyard is full of people who never got around to even trying to live their dreams. The old folks homes are overflowing with great artists, writers, musicians, scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, teachers and inventors who never took the chance. Don't wait. Seize your dream and start living your life every single day you are alive.
Wendy Keller is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Platform Building; she is also a literary agent who has sold 18 New York Times best-selling books and helped close 1,700 rights deals worldwide, and recently appeared on Dr. Bill Lampton's podcast. To find out more about writing a book proposal ready to be shown to literary agents, visit Book Proposal Workshop.