Dreaming Large Thought Exercises



In Junior High, I dreamed of being in the NBA. I was probably the shortest kid in the entire school but that didn’t stop me from dreaming large.

I carried my basketball with me everywhere I went. I even practiced dribbling while in the bathroom. I showed up on the court every day and improved very quickly. I remember going from last picked always to first picked 80% of the time within 3 months.

This dream faded early on in my teenage years. The societal pressure of “choosing something practical” drowned my vision.

This same scenario played itself out in college when I shyed away from pursuing an English degree.

After College, I was fortunate to land a gig with a very reputable company. My friends were all inspired by accomplishments, touting me as “one of the most successful people they knew.” Even my dad was proud. This was so hard to believe given his dream of me being a doctor.

Despite this, I felt really uneasy. I was postponing the single most important thing for my excitement — revisiting my life trajectory.

Based on everyone’s positive feedback though, it seemed that working at a corporation means I “made it.” Even though I was working 12-14 hours a day with 80% of those hours spent in counter-productive, life-sucking activities like political jockeying, agenda-less meetings and work-place gossip. According to everyone around me, this is just what earning a living looks like.

Dreaming Large Thought Exercises

This societal pressure was like a rip tide pulling me from my dreams and there were no lifeguards in sight. Over the past year and a half, I’m grateful to have stumbled onto books that have helped me re-orient my life trajectory, including  “As a Man Thinketh,” “Think and Grow Rich,” and “The Four Hour Work Week”. These books provided me with life-changing thought exercises. Here are some of my favorite ones:

  • If I had a million dollars in the bank..
    • What would I want to have? At first, I judged myself as ‘materialistic’ and shyed away from denoting all the things I wanted. But lying to myself only caused me anxiety. After being honest with myself and writing everything down, it was refreshing to see that I don’t really want many things. And better yet, the things I wanted weren’t as expensive as I thought they would be.
    • What would I want to be? This was so easy to answer that it was quickly overwhelming. In a matter of minutes, I wrote down more than 10 things I wanted to be including more patient, fluent in JavaScript, fluent in Arabic and the best physical shape of my life.
    • What would I want to do? Similar to the being scenario, answering this question was also overwhelming. Having it on paper is the first step though.
  • When am I the most excited? I was glad to see that many things made me excited in life. I tried to find the 1-2 core patterns that existed amongst all of them. In my case this was learning and sharing.
  • What are my strengths? For most of my life, I worked on my weaknesses as I wanted to be more well-rounded. However, I found that working on my strengths makes life a lot more exciting.
  • What communities do I enjoy being a part of? Reflecting on the events I’ve attended, the subreddits I’m a part of and the articles I read helped me get started with this question.
  • What am I scared of? This one is tough to chew but it’s super critical. I truly believe in that age old adage that you should do what you’re afraid to do. When I think about the times I’ve grown the most spiritually and intellectually, it’s when I faced my fears head on.

At first, these exercises felt counter-intuitive. “How could answering questions so massive help me be more productive and excited?” I’m hardly as productive and excited as I want to be now and my goals are a lot more practical” I’d tell myself.

However, after working through these exercises, I found that similar to my daily attendance on the basketball court as a kid, I’ve become a lot more excited about life. I see a more consistent, daily commitment towards achieving what I want out of life. Thus far, I’ve seen these results:

  • A business venture
  • A product (launching in the next month)
  • Increased adaptability as measured by greater per hour task output
  • Increased patience as measured by a daily commitment to meditation

In a subsequent post, I will dive into the execution strategies I formulated out of the answers to these questions.

Have you answered these questions for yourself? I’d love to hear your experiences as a result of that! Also, feel free to share other questions you’d add to the list.

Author: Husam

Husam Machlovi has pitched to, and developed relationships with, top Fortune 100 companies. He's designed digital experiences that have generated millions in revenue. At his company, With Pulp, he leads Product Strategy & Design where he crafts product stories and interfaces that people love.

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