Achieving Your Dreams

Dream Search


Are you happy? That's the million-dollar question. If your answer is an unqualified yes, then congratulations! You are doing the things you want to do, you have plenty of love in your life, and you have something to hope for.


If your answer to the question is a qualified yes, you have another question to answer. Do you want to be happier and "raise the bar?" If so, you have to go through the same process as those who answer the million-dollar question with a definitive "no". The process starts with a dream search, and as the CEO of SELF, you have to lead the search.


The most obvious place to start the search is in your heart. Throughout this book and my life, a central theme has been, "Hope is the key to happiness, and happiness is the key to success." What do you hope for in your heart? It may be something you used to dream about as a child or teenager, but circumstances caused you to put it aside. That's very typical, because success is a journey, and the journey is not a straight line.


When I speak to students, one of the questions I always ask of them is, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" When I speak to adults, I sometimes ask the same thing, but they think it's a trick question.


Students know they are still on their journey to success, and most of them have been asked this question before, so it makes them think about their answer.


Adults wonder why I'm asking such a dumb question. When they realize that they still have dreams in their hearts that go all the way back to when they were a child or student, they recognize that it is not such a dumb question after all.


You may have already realized some of your dreams, and others you may have just forgotten. It may not have even been a dream, but something you just always loved to do. That's a good place to start your dream search.


When I ran that first Burger King restaurant, I had to fire an assistant manager for consistently poor performance. He should have been "redirected" much earlier, but the previous management did not want to make the tough call. When I sat down with him and gave him the bad news, the young man was shocked and became emotional. After he regained his composure, we started to talk, and I asked him what he had really enjoyed doing earlier in his life.


After about a five second pause, he said he used to love fiddling with old broken radios and TVs, and got a lot of satisfaction out of making them work again. I then asked why he had not pursued that as a career, and he said he'd never thought about it as a career and just took one of the few jobs he was offered immediately out of college. And besides, liking the job was not a big priority when he accepted the Burger King assistant manager job. He just needed a job.


After our talk, I suggested that he contact a friend of mine who worked in Human Resources at Honeywell, Inc., a computer company. He did, and after taking some technical aptitude tests, he was quickly hired and trained to be a computer repair technician. He called me a couple of years later to thank me for firing him. He had turned his "play" into "pay," and became a happy CEO of SELF.

You may not be as lucky as this young man, and your dream search may require more searching, but seeds from your childhood or earlier experiences could provide seeds of hope in finding the dream that will make you happier. Dreams come in all sizes, shapes, and speeds, so keep an open "head" as you search your heart.


Technology puts your dream search at your fingertips, and it can literally span the globe. You can conduct your dream search, for example, using cable TV, learning about things you never dreamed of. Ever since CNN succeeded at 24/7 news programming, the cable services have a specialty channel for nearly everything under the sun. There are 24-hour news, sports, weather, cartoons, shopping, cooking, history, science and nature, science and technology, the arts, documentaries, home improvement, automotive, aviation, animals, travel, music videos, and the latest from my cable service, digital music channels. They even have digital music channels for types of music I have never heard of, such as Tejano, Folklorica, and Boleros. I must be behind the times. My next project might be a 24-hour CEO of SELF cable network.


You can also conduct your dream search using the Internet. Chat rooms and listservs on the Internet even allow you to talk with people you do not know about subjects you might have in common. Warning: If there's a chat room for unhappy people, stay away from it. If you do not have access to the Internet, go to a library. Most of them now provide Internet access, and they still have thousands of books on everything.


In fact, a dream search can start in your heart, your head, from TV or radio, from an article in a newspaper or magazine, on the Internet, on your job, in a conversation, gazing at the stars, or in a dream. The key, however, is persistence. A very familiar and famous song has a passage that may say it best, "Climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream."

If you want an excuse for not being happier, you can find one. CEOs do not look for excuses. They look for dreams and the "happiness zone."


The Happiness Zone


Happiness is a zone. The objective is to be and stay in the happiness zone as much as possible.

Unhappiness is also a zone, which can be created by a multitude of factors, such as the loss of a loved one, seeing a loved one who is unhappy, or just habit. My two-year old granddaughter, Celena, is a typical, happy child with a very happy personality. If she is unhappy about something other than being hungry or some other physical discomfort, it rips my heart out. And, as you would expect, "Pa-Pa" wants to fix it to make her happy.


There is also a middle zone called "not happy-not unhappy." My executive assistant, Sibby, pointed this out to me one day after trying to explain to her daughter that there are times in life when you are in the middle zone, no matter how much you try to be in the happiness zone. You're not unhappy. You're just not happy at that moment.


She's right! That's when I started to realize, even more so than before, that happiness and leadership are "joined at the hip." Just as a CEO has to constantly work at sustaining success, you have to constantly work at staying in the happiness zone. Athletes can get in a zone. They don't get in that zone in every game or tournament, but it happens. I remember watching Michael Jordan play basketball in a televised game one day. As the commentators would say, he was "on fire." He just seemed to sink every shot he made. After one particularly unbelievable shot, Michael, passing in front of the camera, just shrugged his shoulders as if to say even he was in disbelief that that last shot had gone in. Michael was in the zone. He knew he was in the zone. An athlete is in the zone when exceptional conscious ability and exceptional subconscious execution come together.


A CEO of SELF is in the happiness zone when dreams and goals come together, and the CEO is in the right position to succeed. Staying in your happiness zone or getting out of an unhappy zone is a leadership challenge. People in the happiness zone most of the time are there because they work at it. If they slip into the middle or unhappiness zone, they make no excuses and waste no time before they take charge and lead themselves back into the happiness zone as CEO of SELF. This is the same challenge a CEO has when a business is trying to sustain its success, or is in trouble. In either case, the CEO removes identified barriers to self-motivation, works on the right problems, and inspires himself.


The Million-Dollar J.O.B.

Most people need a job to support themselves and their families, and if they are really successful, they may even have enough left over to satisfy some of their desires beyond the basics. A job also gives you something to do, which itself is a key component of happiness.


But not everyone is happy with the job they have. Some people love their job. Others like their job. And still others hate their job.


If you love your job, congratulations. You have a "million-dollar job," even if you don't earn a lot of money. Income alone does not make you love your job. You think of your "J.O.B." as "Just Outstanding and Better" everyday, instead of "Just Ordinary and Boring." For you, it's not a job, it's a j-ah-ah-b!

Some people who "like" their job think they'd love it if it suddenly paid a million dollars a year. Not necessarily. People with actual million-dollar a year jobs have walked away from them, primarily because they, as CEO of SELF, did not love what they were doing, and in fact were either unhappy doing it, or actually hated the job itself. Granted, they had probably saved enough money to walk away, but they did walk away in order to be happier, and, given the stress reduction, probably added years to their lives.


If you like your job, ask yourself what could make you love it, and then turn it into a j-ah-ah-b!M If there is something within your control, why not do it? You are, after all, the CEO of SELF.

When I graduated from high school, I was able to get a summer job working as a laborer for a housing project. They assigned me to a "Mr. Rogers," to help him dig out a section of the concrete floor in one of the buildings using a jackhammer. I had never used a jackhammer before, but it didn't look too difficult and, after he gave me a brief lesson, he put me on the jackhammer, and kept me on it all day. When I got home that night, I was too tired to eat and my head was ringing from the noise. I finally ate dinner and went to bed, so I could work with "Mr. Rogers" again the next day. After that experience, I came to one big conclusion in my life: I am the CEO of SELF and I will finish college even if it kills me! I hated that job.


People who hate their job are constantly stressed, which is not healthy. Circumstances may prevent you from just walking away, but you can look for ways to reduce some of the stress. If the problem is a boss or a colleague, then maybe a "heart to heart" talk might help you at least coexist. If you tried that and it did not work, you should already be working on a plan to get out of there. (If the work itself is the problem, then you need the plan anyway.)


Another common circumstance is the amount of time invested in the job, which may place you too close to retirement to leave now. In that case, your dream is retirement. So focus on the dream rather than the "potholes."


In trying to make your job less ordinary and more interesting, another option is to focus on the "cans" and not the "cannots." Some bosses think their job is to tell people what they can and cannot do, and then spend more time on the "cannots," which makes people afraid to make a mistake. But you can choose to focus on the "cans," which would positively affect your attitude, and possibly the attitude of others around you. When you choose to focus on the "cans," you are also making the choice to exceed expectations, rather than just meet them.


Return with me again to my first Burger King restaurant. When the District Manager told me that I was being given the responsibility to manage the restaurant (although I thought of it as being CEO of the restaurant), I asked him to explain his expectations of me. "Just increase the sales and the profits," he said. When I asked if could change any of the menu prices, he said I could not. I asked if I could spend some discretionary marketing dollars. He said nope. I asked if I could eliminate the Parmesan sandwich from the menu, since we only sold two a month. He again said no. Everything I asked about was a big fat "cannot."


As I started to take charge of the restaurant, I started to think about one thing he did not put in the "cannot" category. He did not say I could not change the attitude of everybody in the restaurant. I had remembered from "Burger Boot Camp" at Burger King University (yes, there is one) how much they emphasized telling the cashiers to smile, to get customers to smile, in order to make them feel like coming back. I noticed a lot of my cashiers were not smiling either, and so a lot of the customers were not smiling. This is when I created the BEAMER program, which taught people (mostly teenagers) how to make people smile.


You look people in the eye and smile, and they will smile back.

Unless someone is among the walking dead, it works every time.

When I took over as manager of the restaurant, its end-of-year sales projection was about $800,000. After three months of the BEAMER program, the District Manager (Mr. "Cannots") revised the projection upwards to one million dollars, since the sales trend had moved up noticeably. (I still had the Parmesan sandwich on the menu.)


"Work" is a big part of what we do in life to live and be happy. Most primary "bread winners" in a household will work about forty-five years during their lifetime before "retirement." You may not always be able to choose that dream job or control your circumstances, which can get you stuck in a job, but you can choose to be CEO of your attitude in every job you have.


A million-dollar attitude can change a job into a j-ah-ah-b -- one that is Just Outstanding and Better everyday!


The Other Question

Dr. Mays reminds us that, "We make our living by what we get, but we make our life by what we give." Everyone must not only search for their dreams and happiness, but for what gives their life meaning. As pointed out earlier, Reiss's value-based happiness is a sense that our lives have meaning and fulfill some larger purpose, and that there is no limit to how meaningful our lives can be. The more we give, the more our lives have meaning.


Some people find life's meaning by dedicating themselves to helping others meet basic needs, such as Mother Teresa, who was admired throughout the world for always putting the needs of those most in need over her own desires or comfort. Or, take my friend Joe Edmonson, whose trampoline accident left him a quadriplegic. He and his wife Jean started a youth outreach center in Omaha, Nebraska to give kids from economically challenged homes a sense of belonging and purpose when the home was fatherless, or motherless or sometimes both. After his accident, Joe focused on his "cans" instead of his "cannots."


Some spouses are the unsung heroes and heroines of successful people, who give a lot to life and are also able to sustain a happy and functional family. Most successful CEOs have a strong and supportive Vice-Chairman, who adds meaning to their success and their life.


Still others find life's meaning by creating wealth and resources that assist other people through charitable organizations they establish. Warren Buffet, for example, says he will leave his multi-billions to a foundation, which will work for the public and social good. I know Warren. And I know he believes that making money should help make people's lives better.


Yes, we all lead fast and busy lives, and life is getting faster and faster, and busier and busier. But as Emerson says in his poem,

"To leave the world a bit better,
Whether by a healthy child or a garden patch...
To know that even one life has breathed easier
Because you have lived,
his is to have succeeded!"

What are you giving back?

That's the "other question."