Begin Now — The First Step

Our dreams are the visions that shape our lives. Do you know what your dreams are? Have you stopped dreaming? Sometimes we do. At different points in our journey, both professionally and personally, it is easy to get so caught up in surviving that we stop dreaming. When we stop dreaming, we slowly begin to disengage from our work, from our relationships, and from life itself.

As a manager, it would be easy to read this book and immediately begin to focus on the dreams of the people you manage. To do this would be to miss a most critical step.

For more than a decade now, I have kept a Dream Book. I don't remember exactly how I came to this idea, but I do remember walking through a bookstore in Sydney in the early '90s and coming across a journal with thick, rough pages. I purchased it, though at the time I did not know why, as I had never kept a journal. As I flew to London a few days later, this simple journal was transformed into what I now call my Dream Book.

Since then, I have filled the pages with dreams. It is not a book of essays. On most pages, there is just one word or one phrase or one picture. The pages are filled with places I want to visit, personal and professional goals I want to accomplish, qualities I want to develop in my character, quotes that inspire me, the occasional fortune-cookie message, pictures torn from magazines of things I would like to own someday, hopes and dreams for the various organizations I am involved with, adventures I would like to take, the legacy I would like to create, and much more.

I take this small companion with me wherever I go. From time to time, on the plane, I will take it out and just flip through it slowly and ponder my dreams. Some nights, I read a few pages before I fall asleep. But on most days, I visit with my Dream Book while I am working out. For that hour, while I am on the treadmill or the elliptical, I just flip through the pages, reflecting upon my dreams, one at a time. Some have been accomplished long ago, and I like to remember how unattainable they seemed to me when I first wrote them down. Other dreams still seem distant and uncertain. Most of my dreams seemed that way when I first wrote them in the Dream Book. The dreams I have already accomplished give me the courage to chase the unaccomplished dreams. Passing through the pages, one dream at a time, I imagine how I will feel when I have achieved a particular dream, and I am constantly amazed at how this simple process begins the manifestation of my dreams.

Get yourself a Dream Book.

Start writing down your dreams.

Dream without limits.

Date your dreams as you add them to your Dream Book.

Date them again when you achieve them.

In time, you will look back on dreams you thought were impossible when you wrote them down and be amazed at the ease with which they were finally accomplished…and you will marvel at how much you have advanced in the journey.

One of the first dreams I wrote in my Dream Book, more than a decade ago, was to walk the Camino. The Camino is a five-hundred-mile walk. Beginning in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in southern France, one travels directly south across the Pyrenees and then due west across northern Spain to a place called Santiago. For more than a thousand years, people have been walking this path, and from the first time I heard of it, I was intrigued with the idea.

At the time, I went to write it in my Dream Book, but as I did, I remember thinking that I would probably never actually do it. My mind filled with questions and doubts. When will you be able to take a month off? Most people never take a month off. Who will take care of things while you are gone for a month? It's not practical. It could be dangerous. You will tell people, “I'm taking a month off!” and they will ask, “What are you going to do?” You will reply, “Take a walk!” and they will think you are crazy. For a moment, I hesitated. For a moment, I was not going to add this dream to the pages of my Dream Book, but I forced myself to write it down. That was more than eleven years ago now.

Day after day I would flip through the pages of my Dream Book and, over time, walking the Camino — along with so many other dreams — went from impossible, to maybe, to next year, to…

Last summer, I took a month off. I flew to southern France with a backpack, a map, a water bottle, a sleeping bag — and I started walking. I walked for twenty miles a day, twenty-five miles some days. Just walking — through the mountains, through the vineyards, through the cornfields, through the wheat fields, along the long, flat, dusty plains. Just walking for ten, twelve, sometimes fourteen hours a day. Walking. No cell phone, no e-mail, no iPod, no computer, no television, none of the things that fill our everyday lives.

Walking the old road to Santiago was a life-changing experience. At the end of the first day, I had walked thirty-one miles in silence and solitude. My mind was so fresh and so clear, brimming with ideas, and I remember thinking to myself that even if I stopped there and returned home at that very moment, I would never again be the same. By the time I walked into Santiago three weeks later, I wondered why I had waited so long to make this journey.

What are your dreams?

A five-hundred-mile walk may not be your idea of an exciting adventure. It doesn't matter. You have your own dreams to dream and your own adventures to pursue. Some time today, drag yourself away from all that occupies your daily attention and write down your dreams. Make a list of one hundred dreams. If you absolutely cannot do it today, at least take a moment to schedule it for tomorrow or the next day. And if you find yourself putting it off, ask yourself why.

The list does not have to be complete or perfect. You don't need a nice Dream Book with thick, rough pages. Just start writing. Don't place limitations on yourself. Dream and write from that stream of consciousness, as if anything were possible.

What has this got to do with managing people? What has this got to do with building a dynamic team? What has this got to do with running a business? I think you will be surprised.

As you write your Dream List, I offer you these twelve areas to stimulate a good cross section of dreams:













To further stimulate your dreaming, here are some examples of dreams that people have shared with me during the corporate retreats I conduct with my colleagues.


look and feel healthy

run a marathon

quit smoking

lose weight

drink less


help my spouse and children discover and pursue their dreams

buy my own home

be in a great relationship

take my spouse to Italy

really try to listen more


go back to school

learn another language

read more


develop greater inner peace

learn to enjoy uncertainty

study the Scriptures


strengthen my willpower

overcome my fear of flying

face my addiction


get a new car

buy my dream watch

own a place by the beach


get a promotion

become #1 in the market

build a dynamic team/department

develop a new product

reach $100 million in sales


pay off credit-card debt

start a college fund for my children

earn $250,000 per year

build a stock portfolio worth $1,000,000


write a book

learn to play guitar

take a painting course

study photography


visit the Great Wall of China

visit Australia

see U2 live in concert

walk the Appalachian trail

visit the Picasso museum in Paris

go skydiving

climb a 14,000-foot mountain


raise my children to have a healthy sense of who they are

volunteer at my favorite charity

donate to my favorite charity

do my part to preserve the environment


develop patience

do what I say I will do

be respected for being completely trustworthy

It is important to note that some dreams may belong to more than one category. For example, paying off credit-card debt is financial, psychological, and emotional. Earning $250,000 a year could easily find itself in the professional and financial categories. Owning your own home has a financial element but also has a significant emotional component. Spending time with your children clearly has a place in the emotional realm but also has a legacy component.

These are just a few ideas to stimulate your imagination. You may choose to take some of these as your own and add others to them. Fine. Write your own list of one hundred dreams. Try to do it in one sitting. Nothing is too wild and wonderful. There are no limitations. Don't concern yourself with what you think is possible and what you think is not. Just write…

For the next week, take ten or fifteen minutes each day just to read through your Dream List. Other dreams may come to mind — add them! You may decide some dreams are not really you, or not that important to you. Delete them from the list if you wish, or leave them there so that you can look back in time and see what you thought was important to you.

After one week, go through the list and apply one of the following three categories to each of your dreams: short-term (within twelve months), mid-term (one to five years), or long-term (five years or more).

The next step is to get a Dream Book. You may not want to put all one hundred dreams straight into your Dream Book, but then again you may. There is no right or wrong way to do this. What is important is that you start to write down your dreams and ponder them from time to time so that you don't lose sight of them in the midst of your daily activity.

Over time, you may discover that you need more than one Dream Book. Today, I have one personal Dream Book, another professional Dream Book for my consulting company, and a third for my nonprofit foundation. One day, I hope to marry and have yet another Dream Book that my spouse and I share.

Get yourself a Dream Book!

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