You work as a marketer for Nigerian jollof. You are passionate about what you do, so you show up for work early and are always ready when you are needed, displaying high work ethics. You recently proved to a group of Ghanaians that Nigerian jollof is better.
You are creating value. You love what you do. You are part of a group that provides food, making the world safe for democracy.
You should be proud of yourself – and you are.
But then one day, you scroll through social media and see one of these quotes:
“If you don’t build your dream someone will hire you to help build theirs.”
This makes you feel really sad, inferior and unappreciated. So you decide to quit your job – to build your dream.
At one point or the other, you must have come across one of these well-meaning but erroneous quotes that tell you that the only way to be relevant and successful is to follow your ‘dream’. And like most of us, I had bought into such ideologies for a while. I thought it was a wise saying that pushed a person to be more, a good way to motivate you to seek the good life.
It seemed like a good idea with a truckload of benefits; a robust bank account, free time, bragging rights and hey, you get to be your own boss; do your own thing. And then there is the tiny fact that you don’t want to be building someone else’s dream. But there is a problem with sayings and ideologies such as these – several problems actually.
The first being that ‘building a dream’ is a far more than what those motivational speakers dish out. So you are hyped and motivated enough to quit your job and follow your dream but after the great leap, then what? What do you know about what it actually takes to build a dream? Really, what do you know? And to be honest, what most of us actually want to do is ‘chase’ a dream.
Secondly, imagine a world filled with dream chasers, a world where everyone is busy deciding, “You know what? I’m going to follow my dream” and no one is actually building the dreams we chase. Imagine a world where there are no systems, just single-man teams that consist of one person ‘brave’ enough to be their boss. I’m sure you realize by now how chaotic that world would be. I sure don’t want to live there.
Now every person is unique in themselves; some are given the dream/plan, they are the ones who see the problems and envision the solution. While others are the problem solvers, the dream builders. I am tired of people attacking those who are humble and brave enough to believe in the dreams of others. I am tired of society labelling such people and such a life as inferior.
Am I saying not to be an entrepreneur? No, of course not. That would be ridiculous. But I want us to have a balanced view of the roles of various individuals. When we are all running away because we don’t want to be that one building the dreams of others, we forget that even the dream we want to build for ourselves cannot be built by us alone if it will stand. It doesn’t matter how awesome you think you or your dreams are, if you do not have people who believe in that vision and are able to work with you to build it, you will fail.
I believe very strongly that this mindset is rooted also in the belief that jobs are just for making money. However, to be relevant, you must have a career and not just a job. In a career, you are creating value for yourself and others, you are building systems. It is not just about the money now.
The principle of work is not first about making money but creating value.
This means that building the dreams of others is not so bad because it is not just about money and financial independence but something more fundamental – value; Mission. And the truth is, when you create value, money will naturally gravitate towards you. No human would want to lose someone who adds value to them not matter how intensely they dislike their face.
When we begin to cite examples of great entrepreneurs who have made it – Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates etc etc. – we forget that all of them who built these sustainable companies and businesses did not do it alone. And we forget also the thousands of faithful workers who show up every day to commit to a dream they believe in. It takes a level of courage and humility to do that.
The world would be in more mess than it is now if we all decided to quit our jobs and ‘follow our dreams’ (and please I’m in no way telling you not to follow your dreams I’m only opposed to confining what following ones dream truly means). I’m tired of reading books and articles that tell me that this is the ultimate key to freedom and happiness. No, it is not! Not everyone was wired that way. It doesn’t mean you should be a mediocre of course, but it means becoming so much of an asset that the dream is achieved because of the value you give.
In summary: whether you are the architect with the plan/vision or the builder who works to build the vision, we should respect and appreciate ourselves, not exalting one over the other and despising another or making either of them feel inferior to the other.
If you are a boss, respect those who work for and with you. Don’t despise them because let’s face it: you’ll crumble terribly without them. If you are a worker, don’t quit your job if you don’t need to. If it’s something you believe in, work hard at creating value and building the vision. Know the vision, understand it and own it if you believe in it.
And if you don’t, then yes, run – either to one you believe in or your own dream. However, do not let anyone talk and hype you into chasing a dream when you are not ready to commit to building it. Don’t be pushed into thinking happiness is about being in the spotlight. Don’t be pulled into entrepreneurship just because it looks like some plateau of all the goodness in life.