I was at a conference a few months ago. After we discussed the state of the industry and other earth-moving topics, things suddenly got real and we were talking about our dreams and aspirations.

It was fascinating to see that dreams fall into two categories:

  • The achievable ones: A promotion or two. A bigger house. Comfortable life.
  • The big ones: Found a company. Work and live overseas. Start something that changes the world. Stop world hunger.

In our youth, we tend to focus on the big dreams: Astronaut. President. Curing cancer. The older we get, those dreams tend to disappear and we move on to the achievable goals: 5% pay increase. A trip to Europe. A new car.

We need to dream big until the last breath we take.

It’s important to take care of the fundamentals: Pay your bills, feed your family, stay healthy, build a nest egg – the no-brainer stuff. And, I’m not advocating to quit your job and start touring as a rock musician at the age of 56.

  • Mary Wesley wrote her first novel at 70.
  • Joseph Conrad didn’t speak English until he was 20 and published his first novel when he was 37.
  • Michael Haneke directed his first movie when he was 47.
  • Japanese dancer Kazuo Ohno performed his first recital at age 43.

Age shouldn’t determine the size of your dreams. Your imagination should.

Brands need to dream bigger.

Typically, brands desire yearly growth of 3-5%. You improve efficiencies (1%), improve the marketing mix (1%) and increase the price incrementally (1%). Task done. Rinse and repeat next year. And the year after.

Why not ask for 15% growth? An audacious goal like that will change your company. It will change everything you do because you can’t focus on incremental innovations. You need to focus on disruptive innovations. Apple didn’t make the phone better, they change the idea of a phone. Zipcar is not only a great service, it changes the idea of car ownership.

Dreaming big gives you sufficient space for innovation and disruption.

How to start dreaming big.

I would have never left a comfortable job in German to move my whole life to Los Angeles without the support of friends. They told me I could make it. I would have never started a business with the moral support of my wife. She told me that I could make it.

If you see somebody with a special talent, written “bright future” on their forehead: Tell them they have the right to dream bigger. When your client talks about 3% growth, tell them they have the right to dream bigger. And, when you lament the loss of your big dreams: Give yourself the right to dream big again.