It costs nothing to dream and everything not to



By Lisa Sugarman


You know what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately? Go on, guess. Just take a shot…

Did any of you say dreams? Because if you did, you’d be right.

Now I don’t mean the kind we have every night between two and four a.m. when we’re smack in the middle of our REM cycle. I’m talking about dreams as in aspirations. You know, the stuff we romanticize about. The things we wish we could step outside of our day-to-day lives and fulfill. They’re the cloud-like ideas that float around in the back of our minds that we fantasize and daydream about. The only thing is, I feel like too few of us really ever get out there and make them come true.

Because, in all honesty, that’s what you have to do with dreams. You really just have to grab them, whatever they are, by the skin on the back of their little dream necks and physically pull them out of that obscure, dark place in the corner of your mind and manhandle them out of your head and into reality.

Now while I realize that involves work and commitment and time that not many of us have an excess of, I’m quite sure most dreams aren’t realized without some combination of the three. And that’s because the reality is, nothing worth anything comes easy. Including and especially dreams.

So aside from the lucky ducks that scratch the winning ticket or pick the winning numbers or buy the right amount of Publisher’s Clearing House magazine subscriptions, the rest of us usually have to make our dreams come true the hard way. And that almost always takes a healthy amount of sacrifice, dedication, and time.

Let me be the first to tell you, though, it is doable. The dreams-to-reality thing can be done. And it’s only because I actually got off my own ass recently and put my very own money where my mouth is, that I feel equipped to say all this.

But before I explain how, I want you to think about this quote for a second: It costs nothing to dream and everything not to.

I tend to think about this quote a lot. Probably a little too much. And I do that because the Rodney White canvas with that exact quote hangs on the wall directly over my desk and right above my laptop. So whenever I’m writing and I’m in between thoughts and my mind wanders (as it too often does), I usually end up staring at that painting hanging over me. And I guess that after staring at it for the better part of the last ten years, I finally took it seriously and decided to do more than just read it and reread it and reread it some more.

It was kind of like a Sir Isaac Newton moment, minus the apple. It suddenly just dawned on me that the reason why my ass had been so sore was because I’ve been sitting on it for way too long. Maybe you could say the canvas spoke to me. (Although that would sound almost as dumb as saying that snow days are caused by putting spoons in your freezer the night before a storm.) What I really think is that I just read the sign one too many times and realized that I needed to stop talking and start doing.

Because as far as I know, we only go around once in our little bodies and I just didn’t want to take the chance that I come back in my next life as a rope swing, armless and with no ability to type. If that happened, my dream would instantly be crushed, because you cannot write a book without extremities or a functioning brain.  And we all know that rope swings have neither.

And that brings me back to why I consider myself at least relatively qualified to talk to you about making dreams come true. It’s because I knew that no one was going to write the book that I’ve had in my head for me, and if I was ever going to take my shot, now was the time. To wait for the “right time” is nothing more than an excuse.

We all barely have enough time to manage the stuff we’ve already got on our plate, let alone add a side order of dreams. But since I’m realistic enough to know that we all manage to make time for the things we want to make time for, I knew that I really didn’t have any excuse whatsoever not to go for it.

I just couldn’t buy into that whole who-has-the-time thing. Not anymore. Not when there are so many other real people out there getting it done. People without time or money or support who are popping up all over the place impacting the world with their unique and beautiful dreams.

So why did I have to be any different? And that was the thing, I didn’t. And once I finally realized that everything changed. Once I realized that I was in control of the pace and the direction of my dream, I was empowered enough to take the first step. And here’s the interesting thing about dreams, once you take the first step toward reaching them, it inevitably leads to the second and the third and then before you know what happened you’re in a full-out sprint.

The other thing I’ve learned along the way is that it really doesn’t matter if you write the Great American Novel or go public with your technology brainchild or open the next hot franchise. Because at the end of the day, it really only matters that you did what you set out to do.

Look, when people started suggesting that I consider writing a book of my columns I was petrified to put myself out there out of nothing more than fear of failure. What if I couldn’t finish it? What if I couldn’t publish it? What if no one cared what I had to say? What if I embarrassed myself? And if I was feeling that way for so long, I’m pretty sure that that’s what holds most other people back from moving forward too.

So I made a choice. I decided that no matter the outcome or how long the trip took, I was sick of hearing myself talk about what I wanted to do. Because that’s all it was. Talk. And I couldn’t stomach it anymore. Not when I had my kids there watching me, hearing me tell them to always go for it. How could I tell anybody to go for anything when I wasn’t prepared to go for it myself?  I was cornered by my own advice; the very advice that I’ve raised my kids and supported my friends with. Damn you, logic.

Suffice it to say, I took the first step. And then all the steps that came after. And it was a process. A long one. A journey that stopped and started and stalled a thousand times. But like I truly believe, as long as you’re moving forward, no matter how slow you’re going, you eventually get to where you want to be. You just have to keep moving forward, that’s the key.

My book signing is tonight at the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore. And I’ve got pockmarks on my arms because I just keep pinching myself. But I’m not telling you this to drive bodies into the bookstore to buy books. You know me better than that. I’m telling you to give you concrete proof that I’m not just blowing sunshine about making dreams come true. It can happen. But you have to start by getting off your own ass. After that, there’s really nothing left to stop you.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead. Read and discuss all her columns at She is also the author of LIFE: It Is What It Is available on


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