Growing up, I was known among my siblings as “the different one”. My parents probably told me that a thousand times; not always with a positive connotation, mind you. I was fiercely independent, frequently boisterous, and eloquent enough to talk my way through most situations. The bottom line was that I knew what I wanted in life. In fact, I had dreamed of it for as long as I can remember and my quest for most of my growing years was to fill in the gap between where I was at the time and the realization of my dreams. Although there were many factors squarely out of my control, I was determined to do what was in my power to conjure the change I wanted in my life.
So when I was rejected by all 3 public universities I had applied to after high school, I determined to chart a new path rather than despair and wait another year. In a casual conversation with a friend about what to do next, I learned of an exclusive private university that had just been started by a former Microsoft employee in Ghana. He handed me the prospectus and I gasped when I saw the tuition. It was $5000 per year, which when converted, was approximately 50 million Cedis.
I immediately thought, “this is Ghana, how on earth could anybody afford this?” The fact that the fees were listed in US Dollars made it appear the more out of reach. Although my family lived relatively comfortably, I knew it would be impossible for my parents to afford it, especially since I had 2 other siblings ahead of me already in college. Once again, I was faced with a choice to give up and wait another year or to persevere in the face of daunting odds. I could not even bring myself to tell my parents about the new school.
It was at this point that I began to realize, that my dream needed to be bigger than my fears. My commitment to accomplishing my goal needed to transcend the very real obstacles in front of me. Instead of giving up, I decided to take control of what I could and let the chips fall where they may. I kept asking myself what would happen if my parents had a sudden windfall and I had not applied to the university? I knew very well that the chance of that happening was completely nil, but I visualized it anyway. After all, dreaming did not cost me a dime, so why cheat myself of it?
I completed the application, traveled to my high school to get a copy of my transcript, and submitted the application without telling anybody in my family. What was the worst that could happen? Nothing. Part of my reason for not telling anybody was because I knew nobody was as invested in my dream as I was. How could they possibly see a path to its achievement if they had not spent countless hours visualizing how it could be accomplished? How could they abstain from pointing out the clear and obvious obstacles in my way? I knew unequivocally that, to spectators, my dream would appear irrational, inconceivable, and a total waste of time and resources. So, I kept it to myself.
The truth however is, that is the very nature of a dream. If it were not irrational, or out of reach, it would not be worth dreaming about. It would not create warm fuzzy feelings in your heart as you think about it. If it did not challenge your understanding of the world as it is, then it would not be enough to motivate you to do the sometimes irrational things necessary to bring it to fruition.
After a few weeks, I received a call and was invited to come to the university. When I was handed a white envelope, I couldn’t help but let out a smile. I opened it slowly but intently. I pulled out the letter and began skimming through. It read something like this: “After careful consideration of your application, we are pleased to offer you admission to Ashesi University College.” In the letter, I was also offered a 10% scholarship. I was extremely elated but I knew getting admitted was just the beginning of the journey. The 10% scholarship was appreciated but definitely not enough to make a material difference in my circumstance.
I immediately went home and showed the letter to my mum, who to my utmost surprise did not dismiss my efforts or achievement. She congratulated me and even more surprising, said, “if you can get them to give you a 50% scholarship, then your dad and I will figure out how to pay the rest.” To cut a long story short, I went back to the university a few days later and successfully talked myself into a 50% scholarship, good for all 4 years.
For most people, this is probably where the story ends. Didn’t you hear yourself saying, “and he lived happily ever after.” Well, not me. This was just Phase 1 for me. My real dream was to receive my college education in America. For a kid whose family struggled to pay for a private college education in Ghana, that dream was quite ambitious. I will leave the details for another day.
Suffice it to say, I took the risk, abandoned my 4-year 50% scholarship after one year, and came to America. I met some great people who paved the way for me to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and subsequently an MBA from 2 American universities. You can imagine how I felt when I got the phone call after 6 grueling interviews, informing me that I got the job. It was my first job after graduating with my Bachelor’s degree. It was at Microsoft.
“Let your dream be bigger than your fears because your dreams are temporary simulations of your possible future and a perfect reflection of the size and scope of your potential. They give you a taste of what the end will be like even before you start on your way and are the basis of every succcessful life.”
There is real power in dreams. However, with every dream comes the reality of overcoming the obstacles necessary to achieve them. Those obstacles may appear daunting, insurmountable and absolutely terrifying. The actions you might be required to take to achieve your dream may appear irrational, inconceivable or even wasteful. But remember, dreaming is free.
Rather than limiting them, make them much bigger than your fears. Let them consume your waking hours and fuel your every move. Let them permeate your soul and emanate from you in a glow discernible by everyone that comes in contact with you. Release your dreams from the slavery of your mind and chart a path today to make them real.