Summary Post for Week 1 of Class

As I go through my entrepreneurship class, I’ll need to post these weekly summaries of what I’ve learned over the course of the week. Occasionally, there will also be specific topics or questions I need to address in the post, as in this case.

As the class really got off the ground this week, I learned the most from the lecture by Jeffrey A. Thompson, What is Your Calling in Life? One of the things I struggle with as I consider the idea of entrepreneurship is seeing how it might apply in an employment setting such as I’m in right now. What Thompson’s lecture taught me is that my calling in life derives from the spiritual gifts and talents I possess, and those can be exercised in any setting. As I use those gifts to bless the lives of those around me, whether as an employee or even outside of work, I am living my calling in life. Over time, too, as people grow to understand and appreciate my talents, they may open up new professional opportunities for me. Going forward, I hope to gain greater insight into my particular gifts and how I can apply them in everyday settings.

There are three questions I’m asked to answer about Randy Pausch’s lecture, but before doing so, I’ll point out that Pausch is a great example of what Thompson taught. Pausch had gifts and talents that he used in every setting, even settings that weren’t necessarily what he dreamed of as a child, and by using those talents, doors opened for him that allowed him to realize his childhood dreams and that created professional opportunities for him based on his talents.

Now onto the questions…

Why do you think Randy Pausch was able to achieve so many of his childhood dreams?

I mentioned above that Pausch used his talents in whatever setting he was in, and that created professional opportunities for him. But there was another factor that I feel was more important and that Pausch himself emphasized in his lecture: perseverance. As he said, “[B]rick walls are there for a reason…to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” This idea resonated with me the first time I watched the lecture (a few years ago) and again, as I skimmed through the lecture transcript this week.

Childhood dreams tend to be fantastic; in the parlance of Disney Imagineering, they are “blue sky.” And as we work toward such lofty goals, we hit these brick walls. For many of us, the brick walls are the showstopper, and we convince ourselves that the childhood dreams are unattainable pipe dreams and childish; we move on to more practical realities.

This is the purpose of Pausch’s “brick walls”: to sort out those who really want something from those who don’t. The childhood dreams are on the other side, and if we persevere, we’ll find a way; we’ll go over, we’ll go around, we’ll dig under, we’ll tear that wall down brick by brick, or we’ll build a device to teleport us to the other side. Whatever the case, we’ll find a way if we will just keep trying and if we’ll be creative.

Do you feel that dreaming is important? Why or why not?

Absolutely! Dreams give direction and drive desire. Dreams are the promises of what lies in the unknown darkness. As a society and as individuals, we stand in a circle of light that defines what is known about our world. It’s possible to live life within that circle and achieve many of the things that we think important. There is more in the dark matter outside that circle than within it, though.

We begin to explore the shape of that outside world through dreams; maybe it’s better said that we begin to create the shape of that outside world through dreams. But the dreams stay out there in the dark until we actually take steps toward them, and each step beyond the boundary of what we know is an act of faith.

Once we take that step, we push the boundary out, and we expand our knowledge and opportunity as people and as a society. That is how advances occur in society. One person out of a thousand dreams of something beyond the light, and one dreamer out of a thousand dreamers has the courage to step into the dark to attain it, and one million people benefit from the dreams and faith of that one in a million persevering dreamer.

Discuss at least one of your childhood dreams. Explain why you believe you can or cannot achieve this dream.

As a child, I dreamed of being an astronaut. My dreams were part fantasy (driven by TV shows like Buck Rogers and movies like Star Wars) and part reality. The space shuttle was relatively new, and each launch was an exciting televised event. I watched people float around in space and knew I had to be there. I had a plan to get there, too:

  1. Get good grades
  2. Get a scholarship to the Air Force Academy
  3. Become a pilot
  4. Join NASA
  5. Go to space

Somewhere along the way, though, I let the dream go. I tell myself it was the Challenger accident and the attendant realization that space travel is dangerous. I don’t know if that’s truly what turned me off the idea, but fear was certainly a brick wall for me. Whatever the actual cause, being an astronaut remains a childhood dream.

Can I achieve it today? My gut thought is no, I’m too old. But if I apply the “yes, if…” thinking I learned back at Disney, well, maybe there’s a way. Yes, if I become wealthy enough, perhaps I could buy my way onto a Russian space flight (Lance Bass did it, right?). Yes, if I lose some weight, get fit, become a scientist, and develop some experiment that NASA finds valuable and that I might perform in space. Yes, if I sign up to go to Mars and then help push that work forward. Yes, if I hold out long enough for commercial space flight to become a reality; I could help push it forward in some way and increase the odds of it occurring in my lifetime.

I count four different ways I could do it. And really, that’s four different ways of getting to space. If I broaden my scope a bit, I bet I could find several other ways to become an astronaut while staying here on earth. Yes, I could achieve this dream if I set my mind to do it and find a way past those brick walls.

Summary Post for Week 1 of Class

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