Practical steps for making your dreams come true

Posted by Amy Nelmes Bissett, Stuff on 11 July 2018
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Walt Disney once said, "If you can dream it, you can do it." And he did. He transformed his dream of being a cartoonist into a multi-million dollar company, winning 21 Oscars and building a legacy as one of the world's greatest storytellers.

But the journey was hardly a smooth one. The trajectory from dream to reality rarely is. Disney dropped out of school at 16, he worked as an ambulance driver for years and when his dream was finally within grabbing distance, he was smacked with bankruptcy.

Nearly everyone has their own personal dream. They come in varying shapes and flavours. It's the thing we ponder as we go through the repetition of our daily life. 

Some of the best ideas in the world crumble at the first obstacle, and others seem to have a meteoric rise to unprecedented success. It's this uncertainty that stops many of us chasing our dreams.

In 2017, 65,930 Kiwis decided to turn their dream into an enterprise. The same year, 57,500 enterprises also ceased operating. If the odds feel against you, it's because they actually are,

But the world is punctuated by success stories. J K Rowling was rejected by 12 different publishers for a wee book she wrote in an Edinburgh cafe. But when one took notice, she went from being a jobless mum to a best-selling author with $400 million in the bank.

And while there's no hard and fast formula, there are a few golden rules.

Don't overthink your dream

Qiujing Wong is the CEO for Borderless, a boutique company that creates videos, ads and documentaries, as well as marketing campaigns and strategies for NGOs, charities and government agencies here in New Zealand.

Hers is an ideas business, working with clients on the most engaging way to tell a story. But she says the one lesson she's learnt over the years is not to find solutions to problems that haven't even arisen yet.

"I would rather recommend to people that if you have enough to get going, get going and take it from there," says Qiujing. "If you make a little mistake or a blip comes along, then fix it as you go because when you are responding to real life problems, rather than imaginary ones in your head."

She adds, "Some of the most fabulous projects in the world have never been started and this is the reason why."

Hard work is the metric of success

Marissa Mayer was once called the "the hardest working CEO in Silicon Valley, bar none." She worked 130-hour weeks while at Google, pulling an all-nighter at least once a week and would often be found sleeping in her office. "These companies don't just happen." Mayer once admitted. "They happen because of hard work."

And it's this thinking that is echoed by Oprah Winfrey, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and tennis pro sisters Venus and Serena Williams, to name a few. If you want it, you work for it and you work hard.

It's not always an easy ride

Chasing one's dream is very rarely a smooth journey and almost every successful person will have their own tale of adversity - but also, how it was beneficial for their resilience.  When Walt Disney finally became a filmmaker, he failed to initially make enough money so had to file for bankruptcy. It ended up being a minor bump in the road to his eventual success.

Jasmine Jenke was awarded an AMP Scholarship for Humans of South Auckland, a website that raises the profiles of everyday Kiwis in the area. It was an alternative way to support people with mental health issues.

It was a dream born from the death of one of her students when she was teaching at Papatoetoe High School and today, the Facebook group for Humans of South Auckland has 28,000 followers.

"I was really moved that life was so tough for many young people," Jasmine says. "Everything you read in the 'big' media about South Auckland is so depressing. I was a media studies teacher so I decided to become the media."

Keep an eye on your values

When Qiujing was awarded an AMP Scholarship, she suddenly had more funds to push towards global storytelling for Borderless.

She and her business partner and husband Dean Easterbrook travelled to Kenya to make A Grandmother's Tribe, a documentary about groups of grandmothers raising children orphaned by Aids. It helped raise funds which were redistributed back to these women.

And in 2011, the business had the capability to expand. "Boutique for us was an intentional approach," says the mum-of-two from Auckland.

"It was really because, if I am being selfishly honest, Dean and I started Borderless because we love what we do and we really believe we can do some cool things.

"We want to stay close enough to the action. We want to be part of the story. We don't want to just sit in the director's chair and collect the cheque at the end of the month. We were never overly motivated by money."

Enable yourself to thrive

Sylvie Moreau is the president of professional beauty at Coty with a portfolio of $US1.8 billion, with Wella and GHD just a couple of the brands she overlooks. Her advice has always been simple - surround yourself with a capable team and give your dreams the best environment to grow into something tangible.

"I think you lead successfully in this current age by building a team. If your team is good, your business is good," she said recently.

It's something that Jasmine Jenke fully supports. She says it is important to surround yourself with people who clearly see your passion and vision.

"My biggest advice is to gather cheerleaders who believe in you and support your idea," she tells.  "Work hard and be grateful for every opportunity. Don't be unrealistic with your expectations and celebrate small victories."

*Applications for AMP Scholarships are now open. Go to