Dream Big and Dream Fierce


In life and in work, we need to aim high and we need to work hard to these goals. Even the best disappoint others occasionally. Failures and missteps are part of the process of learning. Others will forgive in time. However on any journey to a big goal, the toughest critic is most likely you. Don’t disappoint yourself. Be fierce in your own interests instead.

Dream Big and Dream Fierce

At the recent Logie awards, actress Miranda Tapsell spoke of her journey from a 17 year old Larrakia woman to winning awards in her chosen profession.  She called for more diversity in television because of its potential to inspire and unite us. Importantly, she also encouraged other young girls to “Dream big and dream fierce”. 

Dreaming big is important.  We have more potential than we know.  However, the latter part of that advice is well considered. Fierce pursuit of your goals is required for any form of success. Too many disappoint themselves by partial effort.

Stop Being Your Own Critic

Fierce pursuit of your dreams also demands that you stop the inner voices holding you back. Don’t let your own high expectations be a source of disappointment. You will be far more aware of your failings than others. Hold this in balance. Too many disappoint themselves by accepting the imposter syndrome that makes achievement feel unworthy.

Be Real

Success comes from being real in the world and improving every day. Big dreams aren’t achieved by dream boats. They are achieved by fierce agents of change.

Being real does not mean embracing others’ views of what are ‘realistic expectations’.  Fierce pursuit of your dreams means you must be real and engaged in the world. That means you need to have a real view of your status, your relationships and your capabilities. The need to understand these clearly is not because these are limits but because you must know what you need to change. Being real is the first step to learning, growing and getting where you want to go.

Being really also extends to accepting that there will be mistakes and challenges on your fierce journey to your goals.  Embrace these mistakes too as part of a real journey. Forgive yourself a lot and learn a little.

Stick to your values

The mistakes you will struggle to forgive are those where you don’t live up to your own expectations on how to behave. We all need a fierce focus on living to our values, especially when it is easy, attractive or convenient to take another path. Our influence comes from our actions and our integrity and we must fight to defend that against paths of convenience. 

Making the right decisions and saying the right things isn’t easy. Most of us aren’t perfect, but we need to have a fierce dedication to the values that make us who we are.  Big dreams are achieved through integrity.

Wherever your success journey is going, Miranda Tapsell’s advice is more succinctly and more elegantly than this explanation so as you go forward remember her words and share them with others:

“Dream big and dream fierce” 

Away or Towards

Success is not avoiding an outcome that you fear. Success is moving towards fulfilment of your purpose.

I caught myself this week defining success on a challenge as avoiding an outcome that I feared. I had tricked myself and hidden the fear in layers of other goals. I knew immediately that I needed to change the way I approached the challenge.  

Running away from a fear is no guide. If all you are doing is running away how will you get where you want to go?

This is a common enough approach to work. For many people, the measures of success have a strong avoidance flavour:

  • achieving their targets to avoid losing their job
  • making enough money to avoid financial difficulty
  • comfortable relationships to avoid loneliness and conflict
  • keeping up with peers to avoiding embarrassment
  • minimising risk to avoid failure

Avoidance is a poor guide to what to do. Targeting safety and security often creates the exact outcome that you feared. 

Avoidance is not particularly fulfilling. The absence of a risk having been realised still leaves the fear.

Having found the hidden fear, my challenge was to redefine success in terms of my purpose. When I know that I am moving towards my purpose I am more engaged. I know that I will have measurable progress somewhere that matters to me. All of a sudden the vicissitudes of the journey matter less.

Challenge your goals to ensure that they are really moving towards purpose. There are lots of places to escape fear, but you don’t want to be in most of them.

Look back at the sand behind you

Yesterday I asked a room of managers of Yammer networks in a Masterclass to work out loud. I asked them to share their biggest challenge and their biggest success. The challenges came out quickly. Successes were slower.

This experience is very common. Everyone has some form of success to report. However many need help to focus on what they have achieved.

We work so hard on shifting the sand in front of us. We know exactly how hard moving that sand will be. We know we lack the resources and time. Knowing our challenges is easy.

When we look back at the sand we have already shifted, we realise it is always this way. Work is tough but we get the job done. The obstacles are the work worth doing. Small wins accumulate. However we spend less time appreciating our achievements. We always gave forwards to the new sand.

Working out loud makes the work we are doing visible. It enables other to help us to appreciate what we have done. Importantly it gives us a record to review to appreciate our own achievements.

Take time each day to note one thing going well. Share that work. You will compile a better picture of the sand piling up behind you as you work

A Tasting Plate

Self-help books are full of the best practices of other people’s lives. We are each unique. Treat the example of others as less of a recipe and more of a tasting plate.

No Recipe

The world is full of advice on how to get the most out of life. Usually that advice is distilled from the example of other’s successes. However best practices are often highly contextual.

Each person has a different circumstances: temperament, upbringing, capabilities, commitments, relationships, goals and purposes. What works for one person as effective practice rarely works for everyone. This is one reason why self-help advice is often so maddeningly contradictory. There is no universal recipe for success. We would even struggle to agree what that means.

Tasting Plate

Treat best practices as a tasting plate. Try out those practices that appeal to you. Experiment to see what works. Do more of what works. Add your own twists. Recognise circumstances change. You may need new experiments from time to time.

Importantly, as a leader, recognise that your practices are not universal. Allow people the opportunity to experiment with working in the way that works best for them. That is the path to make the most of their potential.

What’s your experiment?

Yesterday a conversation about experimentation, inspired by the Responsive Organisation, prompted this reflection:

To grow in life and work we experiment

We like the comfort of plans, order and progress. We hope that our lives will deliver a straight-line path to our goals. We feel the pressure to be able to lay our actions to others in a plan with a high degree of certainty. This pressure is magnified in a work context where the expectation of  managers is often to demonstrate confidence, certainty and control.

Life is chaotic, uncertain, creative and constantly changing. Just like us.

The only way to manage that volatility is to experiment, to grow and to change a little bit at a time. If we don’t become more responsive, we wither:

  • Some people let the uncertainty overwhelm them. Paralysed by fear they stop and wait for some clarity. Success moves by them.  
  • Some people let the scale of the challenge overwhelm them. They are concerned that they they won’t finish. If you don’t start, you can’t grow the ability to solve for the scale.
  • Some people fear their own goals, worrying that they might be too daunting or not bold enough. Without confidence in a direction to start, they don’t start and miss the chance to shift to better goals as they learn more about the world and themselves.
  • Some people worry about being changed. They experience change is their external environment forces them to change and that’s rarely a path to success.

In every case, the alternative is to do something small one thing at a time, to experiment, to learn and to grow. My experience is that success follows those times that I took a chance.  I grow when I put myself in a place where I have to learn more to get the job done. I may not have known how it would end, often it ended up somewhere new and better, but the lessons of the experience will showed me what I needed to know & do next. You don’t need to be reckless, but take small actions to experiment with the water in the deep end.

It won’t be easy. Success never is. Success is rare and precious. Success is the reward for risk, learning and effort. Success comes when you respond better to the opportunities before you.

Start today

What experiment will you try today that takes you one step closer to your goals?

Ask obvious questions

Recently I have posted on the benefits of asking different questions for strategy and innovation.  We also need to ask the obvious questions too.

Most of the time we are so busy doing that we skip over the obvious questions.  We need to ask more questions about how we work better and how we interact better.  

Obvious? Yes.  Done? Rarely.

We are at a point where changes in the way we work are surfacing all around us.  To better leverage these new approaches, we need to question assumptions and approaches that we have inherited. We need to relentlessly reflect on improvements in how we work.

That means asking questions that seem to have obvious answers:

  • Why is this important?
  • Who is the customer?
  • What is the problem?
  • Who is doing this task? Who is not?
  • What are we not doing?
  • Who do we engage? How do we engage better?
  • How do we better organise ourselves?
  • What would make the process better?
  • How do we go faster?
  • How do we make decisions better?
  • How do we learn together?
  • What does success look like?

The list of potential obvious questions is long.  Make a habit of quickly reflecting on the key ones together. You will be surprised what changes in approach and new benefits surface when you push against business as usual.

Asking these questions enables people to maximise their human potential in the work ahead.



Success often isn’t complicated. It is just hard.

Why is it hard?

It requires relentless pursuit of improvement.

Many of us only have a passing interest in doing better. We like comfortable patterns and a minimum of stress and effort.  The quick hit that delivers a quick win appeals as a way to get there easily.  

Others might learn, but do they keep applying that learning to do better next time?

Success takes a huge and consistent learning effort (10,000 hours, anyone?). Learning, applying learnings and constantly moving forward is what creates the best chances of success.

What does a relentless pursuit of success take?

  • Know why you want to do better – purpose motivates effort and helps you set clear goals that take you where you want to go
  • Have a short term goal to achieve – achievements give focus and satisfaction
  • Do – practice matters most
  • Measure progress to your goal – measurement enables learning
  • Learn – take time to reflect on how to do more, better, different or less
  • Do more next time

Simple steps. A simple process to do once. Hard to do relentlessly.

Simple things become hard when they must be done over and over again, better and better each time.  

That relentless process of focused attention on learning and improvement is what drives the best performance.

At bats

Baseball has one thing right. Nobody expects a batter in baseball to get a hit every time.

Baseball tracks at bats and hitting percentages. Batter’s careers are determined by the percentage, not the individual hit. It is expected that the best bats will:
– work there way up through thousands of little league and minor league at bats
– have a slightly better hitting percentage
– swing and miss more than half the time.

Many people won’t start something unless it is a sure fire hit. Like baseball, life doesn’t work that way. You have to have the attempts to get a small percentage of hits. For most people, improving performance is not a matter of improving their strike rate, just making more attempts.

Importantly, the only way to improve either the strike rate or the number of successes is to try. If you strike out, try again. If you haven’t had a go for a while, step up and try.

Next time you are wondering where success comes from remember to step up to the plate.