You remember what it felt like to dance when you were young? That’s what pursuing our dreams should feel like. I love to connect with leaders who are “Dancing With Their Dream” – one of the seven practices of authenticity that I write about in my book Wired for Authenticity. Why the metaphor of dance? Perhaps it’s because dance brings me so much joy. It reminds me of how pursuing our dreams can be life-affirming, fun and playful.
Dance is a movement – you move a few steps forward, some back, and some to the side. My inner high-achiever saboteur (I call her “Flog Me Now”) just expects a march forward so this reminds me to keep it light! Dance is organic. As you move to a beat around you, you stay present to what is happening in the now and flow with it.
And the best part about dance is that you can do it by yourself or you can do it with partners. The below is a guest post from David Langiulli who is one of my tribe-mates also dancing with his dream. He took a rather bold step leaving his job at Princeton University as head of a fundraising team to pursue his dream of coaching fund-raisers to create an abundance mindset and drive successful outcomes for the causes they care about. David turned 52 today and here’s his inspiring story.
This morning I awoke in the pre-dawn hours of my 52nd birthday with a piercing pain reverberating through my chest. No need call 911, it was not a heart attack. It was (and is) the pain that one can only experience by taking an inadvertent knee to the chest while rolling with a friend at my local gym (Paulo Riberio Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) yesterday. It is a pain known only to those who choose (as Teddy Roosevelt said) to “dare greatly”.
Many might call this foolhardy. My own inner critic (“Sledgehammer”) is certainly having a field day. Between the ongoing physiological pain from my bruised rib cage and the psychological beating from Sledgehammer, perhaps a widow making heart attack would have been preferable. But then again, I am living one of my dreams. That dream was initially catalyzed by one of my father’s returning Vietnam War veteran students who showed me a few moves many years ago so I could defend myself in the inevitable street scraps I experienced as very young boy growing up in Brooklyn. That dream, which has been with me ever since, was to become proficient in a martial art. That dream is one small expression of my life purpose. That dream will take some time, effort, and perseverance to fully manifest (should my body last). And, there’s no guarantee that I’ll achieve proficiency. All I can say is that I am enjoying the path (despite the pain).
I share this story at the urging of my good friend Henna Inam who is manifesting one of her own dreams, which is to bring authenticity into the workplace. I also share this story to encourage those leaders (fundraising and otherwise) who follow my posts to dream big, and as the authors ofThe 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership counsel–live in your zone of genius (Commitment #8). Yes, sometimes it’s scary pursue a dream. Yes, sometimes you get hurt (emotionally or physically). Yes, it is uncomfortable to stretch beyond our zone of excellence where we already know our strengths and abilities and can excel with ease.
As fundraising leaders there is a temptation to become complacent, play it safe, and strive to hit our numbers each year. Understandable. We have families to support, bills to pay, and lifestyles to maintain. I will assert that no institution (or individual) was ever transformed from that perspective. Some donors want to fulfill their dreams of helping organizations they care about through their philanthropy, including the deployment of their time, talent, and treasure. One of the great privileges of the fundraising profession is that we are in the rare position of helping donors dream big, while sharing their joy when those dreams come true.
Leading (and helping others lead) a fulfilled life where one pursues his or her dreams is a radical act. So I’m curious: what unfulfilled dream do you intend to pursue, and will you wait until you’re 52?
David Langiulli is a Certified Professional Coach who helps mid-career fundraising professionals reduce stress and overwhelm, think more strategically, and lead their teams for success. He also co-hosts a leadership retreat in Colorado each year for professionals interested in personal and professional development.