When I was thirteen, I started joining him on the road as a tool hustler. Dad was an independent salesman who dreamed of building a million dollar business. During the long hours we spent driving the highways of the Midwest looking for prospects, we took turns visualizing life once he reached his million dollar goal. We knew it would happen (it did). We just didn’t know when (twenty years later).
Selling tools out of the back of a pickup is hard work. Sometimes people looked us up and down, sneered and walked away. Sometimes they accused us of being thieves who were trying to push “hot” products on them.
But we kept on going. We set a daily sales goal of $500 a day, which netted us around $150. And to ensure that our day got off to the right start, we decided that we couldn’t eat breakfast until we sold our first $100 worth of tools.
It was my idea.
“This way, we already have a fifth of our sales under our belt,” I explained. Dad readily agreed.
We didn’t always achieve our $500 daily sales goal. But most of the time we did. When we had enough money, we stayed at a cheap motel. When we didn’t, we slept in rest areas. And no matter how our day ended, we awoke the next morning ready to go.
Dad had these sayings, like “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Sometimes he would point to a big tree and remind me that it didn’t get there overnight. He said it took water, sunshine, and years to grow. His dream spirit was infectious. I decided I was going to be a writer. I started as a newspaper reporter at small community newspapers and quickly moved into a career as a freelance writer. I wrote for large newspapers and national magazines. I traveled to Africa to write about children devastated by war and disease for a relief organization. I started writing a book and realized being a published author was what I dreamed of most.
Then life interfered. I got married and my husband wanted to go to law school. We needed more money so I did what seemed responsible: I quit my dream and took a job at an advertising agency. I told myself it was just until he graduated and got on his feet. Then we bought a house and our two daughters came along. It didn’t seem practical to go back to my writing when marketing communications paid so much better. So I built a business around that instead, trying to shut out the ache in my gut.
Every once in a while, I received a nudging call from my dad. “How’s your prison sentence going? When are you going to finish that book of yours?”
In January, I turned forty-three and it finally hit me: another year had slipped away and I was no closer to reaching my dream. I couldn’t face being in the same place when I turned forty-four.
The amazing thing about giving yourself permission to pursue your dream is that you figure out how to make it happen. Writing my book became my first job. My client work became a means to an end. I finished the manuscript. I wrote a book proposal. I send out a query, and I found my agent.
I was happy for a day. Then reality set in. I still needed to revise and hone my book proposal. I needed to make additions to my manuscript. I needed to start building a platform. My daughters and husband needed me, and I still had my client work to do. How was I going to do it all?
That’s when my sister reminded me of another of my dad’s sayings: “By the mile it’s a trial, by the yard it’s hard, but by the inch, it’s a cinch.” It’s what I needed to head back to my computer and get working, and to share this story with any of you out there struggling to find time for your dream.
Turning dreams into reality is hard. It takes courage and self belief. It takes a good support system. Most of all, it takes constant, continued action. Don’t worry about all the reasons why you can’t pursue your dream. Don’t worry that it’s not happening fast enough. Just do it, one inch at a time.
Because as my dad always says: “You never know what you can accomplish as long as you keep on going. As soon as you quit, you have your answer.”
Ingrid Ricks recently finished her coming of age memoir, Hippie Boy, and is now honing her book proposal and making a few tweaks to the manuscript – one inch at a time. Her agent plans to shop it to publishers in September 2010.