December 6 is a historic day for dreamers. On this day in 1877, Thomas Edison recited "Mary Had a Little Lamb" into his phonograph invention and made the world's first recording of a human voice.
Edison, as we know, made many of his dreams come true. And we all have benefitted from his persistence.
Dreams start out as little ideas that start to take shape even before we know it. There's a mountain of research about "lucid dreaming," a fascinating concept dealing with sleepers who are aware that they are dreaming and can even control their dreams. I can't say I've mastered this technique, but think of the possibilities!
So, for those of us who rely on our conscious surroundings, I recommend that you nurture your dreams by staying open to the opportunities that await. Consider how the following story could have ended far differently if its subject had let others dampen his dreams.
In his book "The Man Who Listens to Horses," famed horse trainer Monty Roberts tells about the time one of his teachers in high school assigned a paper about life goals. The teacher was interested only in practical goals -- not fantasies about going to Hollywood to become a movie star, and the like. But young Monty had a serious dream. The son of a horse trainer, he longed to own a thoroughbred racehorse facility. Monty turned in a detailed plan to achieve his dream.
The teacher returned his paper with a failing grade. "It's a wild, unattainable dream," he told the teen. "I know your family and background; it would not be possible." He insisted that Monty rewrite the paper.
The next day, after talking with his mother, Monty returned his original paper to the teacher. He included a note saying he believed in his plan and the teacher shouldn't limit his aspirations. The teacher didn't respond at the time, but Monty got an A in the course.
Monty ultimately achieved his dream through hard work and determination. Many years later, he received a call from the teacher, who wanted to arrange a tour of Monty's stables for his church group.
After the tour, the teacher told the group about the term paper and the note Monty had written. "There was a time when I told Monty that this was unattainable," he said. "Now we've all had a good look around, and seen how he proved me wrong." His student, he said, had taught him "the most valuable lesson I ever learned."
Don't give up on your dreams! And don't allow others to discourage you. Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice, but make sure you choose carefully whose counsel you seek. As I often say, believe in yourself, even when no one else does. If you don't try, how will you ever succeed?
In 1782, Robert Shurtleff joined the Continental Army. He marched and fought with the men of the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment in the Revolutionary War.
He was a model soldier. During one battle, Shurtleff sustained a bullet wound to his leg that he tended himself before marching back into action. Word of Shurtleff's courage and camaraderie spread among the troops. The soldiers had the utmost respect for him, though they nicknamed him "Molly" because of his smooth, hairless face. Soon he was tagged to become the assistant to a high-ranking officer.
But in 1783, a deadly fever swept through many of the Army's camps. Shurtleff took ill, and that's when his true identity was discovered: Shurtleff was really Deborah Sampson.
Sampson had spent much of her life as an indentured servant and longed for adventure. The Army seemed to offer the ideal solution as well as the opportunity to serve her country. She just had to hide the fact that she was a woman!
Once her identity was known, the Army was obliged to release her from duty -- women weren't allowed to serve. But the Army stepped up and awarded Sampson an honorable discharge and a military pension for her year in service.
After she married and raised a family, Sampson was ready for another adventure. She dusted off her old Army uniform and began touring the country, speaking about her experiences as a frontline soldier in the Revolutionary War -- and maybe encouraging someone else to take a risk and follow a dream.
Mackay's Moral: Better to chase a dream than to be pursued by regrets.
(Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.)