Today we are talking about the power of your dreams. I finally got around to watching The Imitation Game this week. It’s the one about Alan Turing breaking the Enigma code in WWII. It’s a story I was already familiar with from my cognitive science background, and it was a really interesting movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend checking it out — Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley were both fantastic in their respective roles.
In the movie, there were two themes that really stood out for me with respect to the stuff that I do with my web site and the kind of coaching that I do: 1) the fact that being different doesn’t mean you can’t make your dreams happen or accomplish great things in life; and 2) dreams, in and of themselves, are powerful, powerful things.
It doesn’t matter if you’re different
So let’s look at these two themes, shall we? First off, I want you to know that no matter who you are, where you come from, or where you’re starting out in life – no matter what you’ve been through or what your story is, you can make your dreams come true for yourself. In reality, Alan Turing was an extraordinarily brilliant man. But he was also a gay man in 1930s England, a time when that was considered a criminal offence, and he likely spent his whole life thinking that there was something fundamentally wrong with him because of who he was.
This was a man who was living a life of secrets on so many levels, and I can’t even imagine what that must have been like. In the movie, he was also portrayed as someone who was also quite abrupt and difficult to work with or even relate to on a personal level. Historically, I’m not sure that was actually accurate, but it’s a movie – artistic license to push a point, I suppose.
In any case, in this movie, Turing was the ultimate outsider, the archetypical underdog. But none of that stopped him from believing in his own dreams and his ability to make them a reality. The key thing about Enigma was that the cipher changed daily, so even if they managed to decrypt anything at all on a particular day (which they hadn’t been able to), all their work was lost at each stroke of midnight when the encryption coding was reset by the Germans. Turing was trying to build a machine that would break the newly-generated codes quickly, every single morning.
When the people around him tried to put a stop to his project because he hadn’t been able to get his machine working yet, he found a way to bypass the brass and went straight to Winston Churchill to get his funding and approvals.
My father’s story
For a more relatable example that doesn’t involve war or massive things at stake, my father was so poor growing up that there were times when there was literally no food in the house. He was one of 6 kids being cared for by a divorced single mother in the 1940s and 1950s, which would have carried a substantial amount of stigma back then. He believed that the only way to break himself out of a never-ending cycle of poverty was to get a good education, but he knew that he would never be able to afford to go to university on his own. So he joined the army because they would pay his tuition – and as an added bonus, he would have a job with them after he graduated, in the field he had studied.
The point with these stories is that where there is a will, there is way. If something is really important to you, it doesn’t matter what your history is – there is a way for you to make it happen. You just have to look for it and be open to all the ways in which it could happen for you, rather than insisting that it happen in any specific, particular way.
It doesn’t matter if you’re different than everyone else. Just because you come from a less than perfect background, or just because you don’t fit the mold of what everyone else considers “normal”, doesn’t mean that you can’t build something incredible. As they said several times in the movie, “Sometimes it is the very people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”
You’ve always been different
Being different is actually a good thing — in order to turn a really big dream into reality, you actually have to be different. I’ve talked about this on the blog before, but if you have a dream that’s burning inside of you, then you’re already different, and you’ve most likely always been different.
Some people can let their dreams go, and they can still function. But not you – that dream of yours is so important that you can’t let it go. No matter how many people tell you it’s impossible or ridiculous, no matter how often you try to convince yourself that you’d be better off putting it aside and concentrating yourself on becoming what everyone else expects of you… you can’t do it. Every time you try, it hurts. It hurts too much to let it go.
There’s a reason for that. Your dream is meant to be. You’re supposed to make it happen. And sometimes, being perceived by the outside world as different or strange is just the price you have to pay to make that dream a reality. If you can see and feel and understand things that other people just don’t, they may never understand why the dream calls to you so strongly. And you can’t really expect the kind of support that you want from them when they just don’t get it.
The seedlings of reality…
Which brings us to the second theme – and that is the fact that dreams are powerful things. Remember that every single incredible achievement in this world started out as somebody’s dream. Somebody had the seed of dream growing in their heart. Somebody had to nurture that seedling – to feed it and water it and protect it from the negative elements of outside voices and opinion until it grew strong enough to protect itself.
Everyone who has ever built anything worthwhile has dealt with doubt and failure and fear and despair. They all, at one point or another, had people tell them to give up because it would never happen.
But the ones who succeeded in building their dreams never gave up, despite what everyone else said or whatever other people called them. They knew in their heart of hearts that they could do it, somehow. Their dreams – and their belief in their dreams – were stronger than anything that got thrown at them.
And that’s how great things are built. They start out as tiny sparks in somebody’s heart. They start out as dreams. And in order for those dreams to turn into something real, your belief in them has to be stronger than your doubts. When you can find that strength within you to keep working on what’s truly important to you, that’s when magical things start to happen. That’s when dreams start changing the world.
The power of your dreams
Alan Turing was different. No one really understood him – his ideas were so far ahead of his time, and he was fighting an uphill battle against the way things had always been done before. People thought his idea for building a machine that would crack Enigma was a waste of time and money, and that it would never work. But he believed in the power of his dreams — he knew — that his machine was the right way to approach the problem and persisted despite everything working against him.
In building his machine and breaking Enigma, historians believe that Turing and his team at Bletchley Park shortened the Second World War by at least two years and saved 14 million lives.
That’s how powerful a dream can be.
So never let anyone tell you that you’re not good enough, or that your dreams won’t work. Never let your background — or anything else that makes you different — make you believe that what you want most in life is impossible for you. If you know inside of you that you can make it happen, then hold onto that and keep working at it in any way that you can. Never underestimate the power of your dreams. And never underestimate the power of one person to change the world and make it better.
photo credits: pixabay.com cc (modified by me)