February 24, 2024

Your Dreams Give You Direction and Purpose

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Marco Island Sunset

Throughout my life, I have always had big dreams running through my mind. Most were not grandiose dreams that had no possibility of coming true. However, they were dreams that at the time I conceived of them, seemed impossible to achieve. Nevertheless, I would set goals around these dreams and imagine them coming true. I would envision what I wanted to achieve by a certain age and then imagine what it would be like to have reached those goals.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I decided I wanted to become a software engineer. At the time, I was an electronic technician working for a medium sized company. In my role as a technician, I worked closely with software engineers and I was amazed at what they did, and inspired by their professionalism and their knowledge. I wanted to become one of them. To do this I needed to go back to school at night and on the weekends while working full time. I had no idea how long it would take me to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science, nor did I know what type of job I would be able to get once I did. I just knew I wanted to be a software engineer.

My path to going back to school was not a straight line to success. I started a few classes while I was still an electronic technician. However, at about the same time I went back to school, I also decided to take a technical support specialist position with the same company. The new position was a promotion and a great opportunity to work directly with customers. In this new role, I also got to work directly with the engineers who developed the hardware and software products for the company. In the beginning, I felt a bit overwhelmed with my new responsibilities and at the same time, I had some things going on in my personal life that caused additional stress. Because of these things, I put my classes on hold for about one year.

Eventually I started classes again, and in the end, it took me about five and a half years to earn my degree. Along the way, it seemed like it was taking forever and I often wondered if I would ever be able to finish. During the time I was working on my degree, I got a position as a starting software engineer at the company I was already working for. I believe the engineering organization took a chance on me because in my role as a technical support specialist, I had learned the ins and outs of the products I would be writing software for, and I had shown the drive and determination of wanting to become a software engineer by going back to school to get the credentials.

Another big dream of mine was to retire at age forty. I use to talk about it all the time when I was in my twenties and thirties. Well I never retired at age forty but the dream evolved over the years to wanting to be able to have more choices when I got to age forty or fifty, and be able to do something else should I decide I wanted to. I was not sure what the “something else” would be, but I knew I wanted to be in a position to have choices. This caused me to start thinking about how I could get myself in that position.

Fortunately, personal finance became my hobby and I loved to educate myself on how to save and invest for the future. Sure, I made financial mistakes as many people do when they are young, I bought new cars too often, I built up some credit card debt, I invested in the wrong things, and I was not saving enough. Thankfully, I learned my lessons early and over the long run, my wife and I chose to live beneath our means, to focus on saving and investing for the future, and to stay out of consumer debt.

In 2010, I decided to make a change and leave my job. I was tired and worn out after a twenty-eight year run in the high technology industry and I needed time to recharge. At the time I left my job, I was not sure I wanted to walk entirely away from my career. In the end, I did decide to switch careers and become a professional financial planner. I still have a long road ahead. It is not easy changing professions, starting over, and creating something new entirely from scratch. However, I am happy I was in a position to be able to go down this path and take the chance. I love running my own business and helping other people figure out how to accomplish their dreams. Did I know when I would leave my prior career? No. Did I know what event would trigger my leaving? No. However, because of my dream I was prepared and able to do it.

I believe having big dreams in the back of your mind no matter how impossible they seem, gives you direction and purpose throughout your life. It is like a burning light off in the distance that you can see, yet you are not quite close enough to touch. Therefore, you keep trying to move towards the dream, and so what if you do not get there at the exact time you originally planned? Maybe the path towards the dream is not as straight forward as you had imagined, and so you take a winding path to get there, and possibly exit to some side roads along the way, before getting back on the path towards that dream. I have always told people that you can adjust your expectations and change the time frame for accomplishing your dreams when things do not quite work out the way you originally planned, but whatever you do, do not stop dreaming and striving to reach those dreams. In the end, even if some of your dreams do not become reality, I believe the act of striving for them ultimately enriches your life and makes you a better person.

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