Tia is eight and wants to be a designer. She loves dressing up her Barbie. Even flips the fashion magazines her mom reads. She is sure this is what she will do when she grows up. Tejas is four and wants to be a neurosurgeon, just like his dad. His favorite pastime is to perform imaginary surgeries on his friends. Aryan dreams of cars and has a huge collection of hot wheels. He wants to be a car racer. In his art class, he even draws himself straight into the future on a grand prix track.
These were some moments from a fun evening I spent with a bunch of kids in my neighbourhood. After a little bit of warm up, they made me a part of their game. They were playing – ‘Fantasy Fantasy’. The rule of the game said it has to start with, “When I grow up, I want to be....”
Few minutes into the game and the colorful imaginations of these young dreamers coupled with a belief that they will live those dreams one day, absolutely amazed me. On probing further I learnt that these dreams came from the movies they watched, the bedtime stories they heard and from the people they met – a favorite teacher, an aunt who’s a designer, an uncle who’s a pilot and so on.
Few days later, I stumbled upon another side to these childhood fancies. It was a finding that said, “Only 6 percent of adults end up in the careers they dreamt about as kids!” And why don’t the remaining 94 percent end up in the careers they wished for during their ‘fantasy play’?
Here’s what happens it seems.
As children, our dreams aren’t tainted with adulthood notions that say: “It’s just not possible”, “How foolish of me to have such a dream” etc. But as we grow up, peer-pressure begins to overpower the free will our childhood dreams once had. And when the real moment arrives to steer our lives, our choices are driven by what others approve of, how they chart out their careers, what’s a sure shot way to rise above and fast, and so on. While chasing one of those so-called secure paths, we don’t even realize that we’ve drifted away from our real dreams.
But there are exceptions.
And since we’re talking about childhood dreams, am reminded of a man from Japan who has lived his childhood dream – the three Michelin star rated chef and the great sushi legend, Jiro Ono.
Jiro left home at the age of nine and has been making sushi ever since. He admitted that he'd even wake up in the middle of the night, and in dreams would have visions of sushi. No wonder, an award winning film made on his life is titled ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’. What’s more exciting is that Jiro still dreams of sushi and strives towards that one goal he set out in his childhood - of making better sushi than yesterday every single day of his life. For him, making sushi is not just a task - it’s an obsession, an art form, a pursuit to excellence and most of all, a childhood dream come true.
Jiro Ono is now 90 years old.
Yes, 90, living his dream and despite being world’s greatest sushi chef, still improving.
Jiro’s quest for making better and better sushi reminds me of the Japanese concept ‘Kaizen’ that’s often applied in business settings. It stands for constant and never ending improvement. The way Jiro applied Kaizen to his pursuit we all too can inculcate the quest to be better than our previous self while working towards our goals.
And for those of us who aren’t among the 6 percent yet, it may be worthwhile to revisit our childhood and recollect what we were damn good at, what we really wanted to be? And if what we loved doing then doesn’t form even a portion of what we do now, may be its time for a small change - a change where we make money but we also make meaning. With little progress, we can move towards what we always wished to pursue, one day, some day.
Because it’s never too late to turn our CANT’S into CANS and our DREAMS into PLANS.
Anupriya Nayyar is a personal leadership coach with Greenlatte. She brings along an interesting blend of consulting and the creative writing world. Having worked with McKinsey & Co. and Deloitte Consulting in the past, she is now a screenwriter scripting food, travel and lifestyle shows for leading television channels. Her goal is to help individuals lead a purposeful life and maximize their innate potential, at work and in life beyond work.