Since 1977, I have been sending out a newsletter called LEARNINGS. Here is how I began the first issue:
This newsletter—LEARNINGS—is my way of sharing with you what I am learning. Often I learn something with one client that would have been useful with another client the day before. In order to bridge that gap of time and also to bridge the gap of space that separates me from clients and other friends outside Cleveland, I will share my learnings with you regularly in this newsletter.
That statement feels amazingly accurate more than 35 years later. The only real change is that I moved from Cleveland to London and then on to the Crook of Devon in Scotland.
In the earlier newsletters, I shared one or two learnings each time. Then I read a wonderful book by Michael Phillips called The Seven Laws of Money. He describes the Taoist approach to creating Seven Laws about anything.
I like that approach except that instead of announcing Laws, I prefer to share Learnings. I’ve now discovered Seven Learnings about all sorts of things, including Journaling, Love, Retreat, and Diversity. The latest Learnings starts here; the rest are in the Learnings Archive.
LEARNING: I want to live – and die – pursuing my dreams.
By the time you receive this the shock will have worn off. But as I write this it is still only ten days since seven astronauts died on their way into space.
These seven people died while doing exactly what they wanted to do. I think that explains why I feel inspired as well as shocked and saddened.
Certainly it is dangerous to venture into the unknown. Centuries ago when explorers sailed into unknown oceans, they carried maps on which the mapmakers had written Here Be Dragons.
James Lipton wrote an excellent essay on that theme some years ago in Newsweek and I have kept those three words above my desk ever since. His point was simply that wherever the dragons are is also where the challenges are.
If I really want to live, to pursue my dreams, I must be prepared to go where the dragons are.
For some years now I have been working with people as they design their lives and careers, using a worksheet that I have entitled How High Is Your Castle? The key to the design is quite simple: A goal is a dream taken seriously.
The first question the Castle worksheet asks is Why? Why do you want to do whatever you want to do? What dreams do you want to take seriously?
One way that I help people to begin dreaming seriously is to ask other questions – such as “When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Who were your heroes and heroines? I have been thinking about those questions this week.
Ever since I was a little kid – reading Popular Mechanics magazine and a big golden Book about spaceships that described a shuttle craft that would build a space station – I have dreamed about going into space. And ever since I began reading science fiction as a slightly older kid I knew that not all the people who went into space would get back alive.
In fact, two of my earliest heroes did not make it back. They were both in Robert A. Heinlein’s book The Green Hills of Earth. Both of these heroes – Johnny Dahlquist in “The Long Watch” and Rhysling in the title story – were ordinary people. Like the ordinary people who flew into space last week.
They all had the dream of going into space. And many of us still have the dream. I have signed up with the tour company that is offering trips into orbit within ten years. I am more scared now, but where there are dragons there are also dreams.
Space travel is a perfect example of serious dreaming. The very idea is still fantastic to many people. Yet it cannot and does not happen without the most meticulous, detailed, and complex organisation and preparation. It is clearly a dream taken very, very seriously.
I have seen the power of serious dreaming in my own life; I would not be thriving in London if I and many of you had not taken seriously my dream of moving here.
And I continue to work toward my ultimate dream of preserving this planet of ours. If more people learn to communicate and negotiate effectively and positively, if more people work toward their dreams, then perhaps it is not impossible.
My favourite way of taking my own dream seriously is to empower other people to go after their dreams. For almost four years I have been using my special Dream Check account to give people a supportive nudge toward taking their dreams seriously. If you have a dream, please let me know.
Someday people will go out into the solar system and beyond. And then their descendants may return. One of the common themes of science fiction is that when the voyagers return the Earth is dead. That is the challenge for those of us who continue to live here. We must work on the spaces between us as well as the space above us.
And so for me the best memorial to the seven astronauts is the song that Rhysling wrote as he realised he would never return. It is not only a memorial to them but a challenge to us to preserve the planet we all cherish.
“The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
All hands! Standby! Free falling!
And the lights below us fade.
Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps the race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet –
We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.”