“Go and chase your dreams” is a popular piece of advice heard in many toasts, workshops, and speeches. It is also reckless and disconnected with the reality of life.
We all aspire to be or do something extraordinary. We all want to make our own money, win a championship, or perform and live out an art. There is no shortage of dreams. There is however a lack of empathy when you fault someone for being unable to do what they are most passionate about.
Chasing your dreams is a privilege — one that many people don’t have or will ever be able to afford.
I jumped right into entrepreneurship after graduating from college. For the first year and a half, I made absolutely nothing. Zero. Nada. I had no steady income and I spent a better part of that time just trying to figure things out and discover what I’m good at. You know, typical millennial drama.
I was quite fortunate because my parents were very supportive. They kept the lights on, put food on the table, and even gave me a small allowance so that I could have some semblance of financial freedom. After a short struggle, I finally found success and now get to enjoy the perks and benefits of being my own boss. I will never take full credit though. Never.
My parents gave me financial support. My diploma with the fancy school gave me leverage in interviews and pitches. My network of friends and accomplished individuals gave me business opportunities. I won’t discount my effort because I know I put in the hard work. I do however recognize that my privilege made it easier for me to get to this point. My privilege gave me the safety net I needed to take the leap.
I get to live my dreams because I can afford to. I get to do what I am passionate about because I have the luxury of time. Not everyone is as lucky. I wish people understood that more.
Many people have mouths to feed and families to support. Many people don’t get to finish school. Many people make just enough to survive. How could you possibly expect them to do or afford anything else? There are many people who have big dreams but simply can’t drop everything to chase them. That’s not their fault. Nobody chooses to be stuck in such oppressive social systems.
Privilege goes beyond financial means. It’s also your educational background, your ethnicity, your experiences in life. I’m not saying that people with certain privileges always have it easy. I don’t mean to discredit accomplishments. I just wanted to point out that there are many paths to success. Some of us have less obstacles in our way than others. We all don’t have the same chances in life.
You don’t have to feel guilty about it. There is no wrong in having these advantages — especially if you were born with it, if it was given to you, or you worked hard to get it. The fault is in failing to recognize it and faulting others for falling behind simply because they don’t have it.
Ultimately, all of this means two things for you. First, check your damn privilege. Recognize its role in your success. You were given many advantages to help you get ahead in life. Keep putting in the work and stay humble. Second, seek to lift other people up. There is a ridiculously large amount of knowledge and wealth in the world. It is meant to be shared with others. You can make life easier for so many people simply by giving more than you’re asked to give.