Currently in the middle of a career shift, I picked up this book looking to find some encouragement and inspiration in dealing with the changes. While this was plentiful, what struck me the most was how it made me look at my hobbies and other interests with a different perspective.
I found myself filled with energy and ideas while reading Dream Year. The blank pages in the back are brimming with my notes about various “dream” projects. In fact, they spilled over into my brainstorming journal. Arment’s suggestions would inspire my mind so much that I stopped reading it before bed, my brain racing in so many different directions, feeling too excited and unable to roll over to sleep.
Having said that, I think this book will only have that effect if the reader is in a place where they’re open minded, curious, and already filled with ideas. He presents hundreds of ideas as examples and ways to create a program for success, but it is not a prescriptive step-by-step set of instructions for the reader to follow. I presume that would come with the Dream Year coaching service provided outside of the book.
The book succeeded at getting me to think outside of established industry processes, finding new/different ways to approach opportunities. It fueled the fire of inspiration regarding some of my personal projects, helping me to see them in a new light.
Ways to reach more people, beyond the generic and now outdated “create a Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat account.”
Fine tuning my strategy to fit the niche I would like to fill, yet being agile and open minded to shifting that strategy if it takes an unexpected turn, as it most likely will.
How to fill all the different roles required to turn a dream into reality.
Here are some key takeaways.
Find the sweet spot
Discovering your dream is about finding your sweet spot. It’s where these four components — passion, demand, platform, and giftedness — come together in one coordinated expression.
I appreciate how Arment delves deep into each of these areas, helping brainstorm ideas, challenge established perspectives, and provide exercises to break through mental blocks. For example, he provides the following suggestion for how to shift your perspective.
To be original requires a new way of looking at your industry. Rather than making lists of inspiration, trolling the Web, or copying the ideas of other people — start with a list of rules. Identify the conventions by which your industry operates. Then ask why those rules exist. And break them.
It takes work. Lots of work. And then more work. There is no shortcut to success. People might be viewed as an overnight success when they become popular, yet there are years upon years of work leading up to that point in time.
Success comes after many attempts. It usually takes years of trial and error to find the right combination of things that work.
Great business ideas come about because of course corrections and failed experiments.
Solve a problem
Your dream sells itself because it addresses a great need.
Be everything for your dream
Be the Chief Executive Officer of your dream. No one else will steward it like you will or can.
Be the Chief Financial Officer of your dream. Without funding it will die all too easily.
Be the President of Marketing of your dream. Don’t rely on a “build it and they will come” mentality, it doesn’t work.
Be the Chief Operating Officer of your dream. In order to scale, there needs to be an infrastructure to deliver it to your audience.
Unless you decide not to be one of these. The above roles represent a significant amount of work and responsibility, which isn’t always possible for a single person. Perhaps you lack the time or expertise, in which case you should consider having someone else fill the role. Arment discusses several ways of making an idea into a reality when you need help filling one or more of the different roles. You don’t have to do it all, but you are responsible for its guidance.
Referring back to break the rules of your industry, use that brainstorming process to consider alternative streams of revenue. For example, a photographer could do more than just sell their photographs, they can provide premium photo sessions, personalized albums, custom picture frames and so much more. Arment provides several different examples of people that have created whole new revenue streams by changing their perspective, finding that their customers wanted something different than what was traditionally expected. Trial and error is usually the key to these discoveries.
We’re often our own worst enemy, getting in the way of starting the work required for our dream. We feel like we need to create to-do lists, research the topic/industry, and wait until we have all the answers before we get started. List the actions that need to be taken and then do them. Better yet, execute on them as you list them. Execution is key.
There are a hundred little things we do in a week’s time that can be skipped altogether and our lives wouldn’t change one bit. Find these things, stop doing them and use that time to put in the work.
If you still don’t think you have the time, try this experiment: Take a week to keep a detailed account of how you spend your time each day, hour by hour. You’ll be surprised by the results.
I’ve tried this exercise before and was shocked at how much time I was spending on various things that didn’t contribute to my long-term goals.
Don’t answer “no” for other people. If you need help from someone, ask and let them say no.
Good relationships are the key to bringing dreams to life.
Arment covers many other facets of bringing a dream to fruition: branding, design, style guide, audience, social media, demand, marketing, pricing, growth, and even quitting. I found them all intriguing and thought-provoking, spurring me to shift my perspective and think outside the norms.
After reading Dream Year, I visited Ben Arment’s site to find this blog post, Started From the Bottom, Now We’re (Still) Here. He has recently (2015?) sold his coaching business, STORY, and stopped being a Dream Year coach to pursue his own dream of writing a fictional novel. The Dream Year site doesn’t appear to have been updated in over a year, as the upcoming events are from 2014.
Ben provides a somewhat bitter description of his years creating STORY and Dream Year:
I think the last decade was all about building a platform for most people.
Selling our soul to the devil of social media.
Then trying to convince people we were “experts.”
In the meantime, we lost our identities, stayed perpetually in “post mode,” and generally let the tail wag the dog of our lives.
But it sounds like he’s on the right track for himself now, which, ironically, is what he spent all those years helping others discover and turn into reality with Dream Year.
I think we’re entering a new season of getting our lives back.
Spending time with the people we actually care about,
And making good things we love.
Update February 2016: The Dream Year site no longer works, which I presume means the consulting company is now defunct (I never intended to hire them). Regardless, I think there is a lot of useful information in his book for those who want to pursue their dream. In a nutshell, make it one of your top priorities.