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Realizing Your Childhood Dreams – What Now?

September 28, 2010

Realizing Your Childhood Dreams – What Now?

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote something about how the only way to find true happiness is through the fulfillment of childhood dreams.”

— Source uncertain

This quote has really resonated with me at this stage of my life – how about you?

My childhood dreams seemed to revolve around the tension between my genuine and easily accepted faith in Christ and my desire to be successful in the television business – I never considered another career choice. In high school, I played a self-invented form of “Fantasy Finance” by picking a hypothetical investment portfolio from the newspaper and following its stock prices to see how it turned out. I did the same exercise as assignments at The University of Texas and in the Owner Managed Program at Harvard Business School.

All of this crystallized when, at age 34, twelve years after I began my business career in television, I wrote down my six directions (actually goals) for life. I have pretty much stuck to that plan which had two family goals, two personal development goals, and two money goals.

The two money goals described the accumulation of a specific net worth and its deployment, if I were successful, into entrepreneurial projects to advance and expand God’s kingdom on earth. My previous writing describes how this all turned out in some detail so I won’t repeat that here. The tensions got more or less resolved by sticking to my plan for the following 37 years – long obedience in the same direction.

With “childhood dreams” now realized, I seem to be at a new turning point. I’m not sure what it means, but it seems a lot like a new beginning. I have accomplished, not without some bumps in the road, the dreams of my first childhood which concentrated first on success with money and marriage and then on using my first half skills to do my best to fulfill a sense of calling from God. But even the 24-year “significance” stage was fairly material – pretty much about measurable results and performance in a new sphere – building an organization to help leaders accelerate their impact in building churches and helping people in midlife (Halftimers) find their own path to significance.
Life III – Finishing Well

The true worth of a man is measured by the objects he pursues.

— Marcus Aurelius

The conventional answer to the question: “What happens now when you are lucky enough to fulfill your childhood dreams is: Retirement.” That was the Industrial Age blueprint – the golf course and the grandchildren. Looking in my Oxford Thesaurus, I find these words as synonyms for Retirement: “give up work, pack it in, call it quits, go away, retreat, withdraw, pull back, disengage.”

Ugh! Not for me. I am wired for, addicted to, and called to a set of “works prepared beforehand for you to walk in” to use the language of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. My search now is to find the expression of that divinely mandated mission that is season-appropriate for what I now call Life III: From Success to Significance to Finishing Well. In 1991 at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, Peter Drucker, arguably the best mentor since Aristotle coached Alexander, told me, “Your mission is to work on transforming the latent energy in American Christianity into active energy.” Right now, I am in another season of transition that comes to people when they either fulfill their childhood dreams or abandon them. Either way the solution to this dilemma is to come up with a new dream appropriate to this season (Life III) of life. What exactly is this new paradigm, this new role in life? Scott Peck, in his book, The Road Less Traveled, still an important book, called this unsettling in-between metamorphosis “the tunnel of chaos.” For me, it is more about questions leading to hunches, than one that yields hard-edged answers.

Here are my hunches so far:

  1. To use Psychiatrist Carl Jung’s Warrior ——> King ——> Sage progression. All my instincts run toward the Sage role – that is what I went to Peter Drucker for and that is what people are coming to me for now. *See The Archives on my website,, for “What Peter Drucker does for me as a Mentor.
  2. In Life III, the new dream is more instinctive, more about perception than reason, more spirit driven, more an affair of the heart.
  3. For one thing, I am drawn toward younger generations; today’s younger people have more energy, more need to do something meaningful, more idealism but fewer stories to draw on. Their lives are before them. What I have to exchange is a dense web of experience stored up in my unconscious. What they have to exchange is idealism, energy and a natural sense of how to use technology to access information and to extend their reach. (“Where do you want to go today?”) It is a synergistic integration of two different types of knowledge.

Sooo, at the moment, I am learning what I can about 20/30-Somethings. I am the student. They are the instructors. For example, here are a few clips from an op-ed by 25-year old Elizabeth Suggs, in Saturday’s Dallas Morning News, titled, “How Millennials Measure Greed:”

“Greed is … different.

“Life experiences are the currency we choose. In 1987, I was 3 years old, and greed was good. Gordon Gecko said so in the film Wall Street. How we dressed said so in Dallas. And Madonna had been saying so in “Material Girl” since 1985.

“Now it’s 2010, I’m 25, and things aren’t like that anymore. Greed is different.

“This generation is just as interested in status – it’s just that our currency is experience. We measure status in trips to Europe, the ability to play musical instruments, interesting-looking Facebook albums …

“We all spend time acquiring experiences and becoming unbearably quirky, and the collective resume of all these experiences is how we evaluate each other’s lives.

“This generation knows greed very well. We just know it in a different form.”

So What about You?

  1. Are you drawn toward retirement?
  2. If not, when will Life II (Significance) or Life III (Finishing Well) begin for you and what will be its object?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2010 3:34 PM

    Bob, your “hunches” are always good. You keep a step two ahead of most of us in your reflections.
    For me, I adopted from Ted Enstrom the motto “Peak at 80” and decided long ago that the Bible knew nothing of retirement. So to fit in with a culture that mistakenly looks forward to that stage of life, I decided that I am in re-firement. At age 69, these two concepts keep me looking up and out, learning as fast as I can, giving as much of my time, talent and treasure as I can, finding younger people to mentor in areas of experience God has allowed me to accumulate, and invest in a few projects that will outlive my alloted time. Your musings are among the things I look forward to reading to evaluate the journey.

    • graham pitt permalink
      October 20, 2010 7:44 AM

      Bob & Bob,
      I like the idea of peak at 80. I help people do what I don’t believe in, “retirement planning.” The oly person I read about in the Bible who retired was in Jesus’s parable of the prosperous farmer who was going to build bigger barns to store his abundant crops. Interestingly that he was called a fool, not because he was prosperous, but because he wasn’t sharing his abundance with others.

      I had the privilge of meeting Sir John Templeton about 10 years ago.
      It was in Nassau, Bahamas on a Friday afternoon in his office. He was there in his coat and tie, he had just sold Templeton funds to Franklin for about $400 million and he was 85 years old. I asked him why he was in his office at 85 on a Friday afternoon, certainly not for the money. He replied with a twinkle in his eyes, “I believe God has given me a gift and I believe he intends me to use it until the day I die.” He said he had put a large portion of the sale in a charitable trust and got to come to work and hear and meet people doing great things around the world and decide which projects he wanted to participate in. No retirement there. Another friend has shared with me that our goal in life should be to “die empty”. Discover our gifts, cultivate and develop them and then spend the rest of our lives giving them away, especially to the next generation. When we have emptied ourselves, it will be time to go receive our eternal reward. Glad I found your blog. My desire is to finish well.

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