Building Dreams

Gapingvoid - building dreams


  • Trust me, I love my job, but there is a dark side. Dreaming is easy. Too easy. The hard part is making dreams come true. And that’s not a dream. That’s a lot of grinding away in the salt mines.” – Hugh

Today is Gapingvoid’s 14th Birthday. Gapingvoid was the first blog whose RSS feed I ever subscribed to. It was one of the inspirations to the start of my own blogging. Over the years, Hugh and I have become good friends though our interaction has reduced with his departure from London. Still, his daily email keeps me inspired.

This one above captures the duality of dreams that I explore in my Dream Bubble posts. Dreams are powerful forces. In the right hands, they can propel one forward. But they can just as easily be abused and mishandled grinding one down.

This blog is about balance across duality. Leadership and Management. Success through Failure. Advantage through Adversity. Yin and Yang. Hugh always has plenty of insight into getting that balance right.

Happy Birthday Gapingvoid.

5,126 Failures That Didn’t Suck

Gapingvoid - scrunched


James Dyson turns 69 today and celebrated by hitting a new high on the Sunday Times Rich List this week reaching #17 in the UK with his £5 billion pound empire (a £1.5 billion increase from last year). Of course, such phenomenal success is built on a solid foundation of failure…

  • “Five thousand one hundred and twenty-six failed vacuum cleaners. That’s how many prototypes it took for James Dyson to get it right. 5, 127 was his lucky number. He’s now worth over $4 billion. It’s not about being brilliant, or about always being right. It’s about not giving up before you have the chance to succeed.”

Or as Hugh says, “failures scrunched together”…

Turning Adverse Thoughts

Gapingvoid - never give up

  • Hope is fuel, it moves us forward and it amplifies our best work.” – Seth Godin Hope and expectation

World Wish Day today. A time to celebrate your hopes and dreams and aspirations. For the skeptics out there, there is actual evidence that wishing and dreaming can provide real, documentable benefits. Robert Rowland Smith in his article “Does daydreaming serve any purpose?” explores this dynamic with its own tinge of turning adversity to advantage…

  • “Sigmund Freud argued that daydreaming is a form of fantasising, fantasising is a form of imagination, and imagination is the basis of art. Hence creative writers. He did add a proviso, however, to the effect that daydreaming is a sign of unhappiness. If you have to fantasise about something else, it means you’re not content with your life as it is. So artists and writers might produce great art, but are constitutionally miserable. A later psychoanalyst, Hanna Segal, had a more positive take. She suggested that daydreaming and imagination were ways of turning unhappy thoughts into something creative. They are signs of good mental health. They might even alleviate depression. And a third psychoanalyst, Christopher Bollas, implies that the distracted or abstracted mood we’re in when daydreaming provides the mental downtime necessary for us to be able to focus again. When the mind wanders, it refreshes itself. Daydreaming is a holiday that restores our ability to think acutely.”

Given my ongoing series on the “Death of Dreams” you might be inclined to think that my marking of this day would be muted. On the contrary, dreams occupy that duality of both upside and downside. And while my failure embracing side advocates the letting go of faltered dreams, it is only so new ones can thrive in their place. Hugh MacLeod said it best when describing his piece shown above…

  • “It’s not that you must never, ever give up on your dreams, sometimes dreams don’t happen. I once dreamt of living in Tokyo, for example. It never happened. It’s OK, I got over it. I found new dreams instead. It’s when we lose the capacity to dream, I think, is when the rot seeps in. When we stop giving ourselves permission to make the world a better place, even on a modest scale. It’s dreams that make life seem actually real to us.”

Witty Failure


If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

Wittegenstein’s birthday today. Famous for his brilliant logic, some of my favourite wisdom of his is the counterintuitive embrace of stupidity.

  • “Our greatest stupidities may be very wise.”

He also embraced the failure of knowing…

  • “Nothing is so difficult as not deceiving oneself.”
  • “If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.”

Purple Rain Harder


Can you make it rain harder?” – Prince

Everyone is sharing their Prince stories this week with his tragic loss. Lori and I once passed Prince in the streets of Boston one evening. Just ambled past by himself. We were a bit shocked that he was strolling the streets of Back Bay, but he had a series of concerts that week and must have been out getting some fresh air. He is obviously someone who remained humble (the essential personal quality of embracing failure) despite his stratospheric fame and achievement.

He also was someone who was happy outside…no matter what the conditions. As his legendary performance at the Super Bowl XLI Halftime Show dramatically showed. Super Bowl Production Designed Bruce Rogers recounts about his performance…

  • It felt surprising.  It felt spontaneous.  Whatever script you might have had in your head for ‘ok, here’s what he’s going to do’ [in response to the rain], he didn’t do that.  Musically, it felt very loose.  He played big epic Prince-style guitar solos.  Turning the bad weather to his dramatic advantage.  It was almost like a special effect.  He could totally lean into that and make it seem ‘Sure it’s raining.  I would have wanted it to rain.  I ordered that.”

Comic Heroes


The Queen’s Birthday today is the time celebrate Britishness with all manner of street parties, etc. And one of those British qualities to celebrate is its embrace of failure. Specifically in its comic heroes according to the grand doyen of British comedy, Stephen Fry. In the clip above he asserts that all of the British comic heroes are failures. “Our [culture] is bathed in failure, but we make a glory of our failure. We celebrate our failure.”

He contrasts it with “American optimism” where the Yanks maintain a “refusal to see oneself in a bad light”…

  • “If you go to an American bookshop, by far the biggest section is self-help and improvement”

(thanks Isley)

Learning to be Violins

John Ciardi - Wish Tree

  • Examine the lives of the best and most fruitful people and peoples and ask yourselves whether a tree that is supposed to grow to a proud height can dispense with bad weather and storms; weather misfortune and external resistance, some kinds of hatred, jealousy, stubbornness, mistrust, hardness, avarice, and violence do not belong among the favourable conditions without which any great growth even of virtue is scarcely possible.” – Nietzsche

Arbor Day today celebrates trees for all their fruit, lumber, shade, beauty, oxygen and other gifts they give our world. They also provide life lessons for people who examine these enduring creatures. I particular enjoy the reflections Father Brian D’Arcy shared in BBC’s “Pause for Thought”…

  • “I love the story of the old violin maker who always chose the wood for his instruments from the north side of trees. He believed it was that side which was beaten and buffeted by the hardest and fiercest winter winds. When the winds blew, the bending trees groaned under the storm. Yet the violin maker didn’t feel sorry for them. ‘Listen,’ he would say, ‘the trees are learning to be violins’. When life is dark and difficult and when the winds of change break open our hearts, we become stronger through weathering the storms.”

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