The thing about dreams is that they always seem so big, so extreme that it would seem ludicrous to go after and sacrifice whatever it takes to get there.
We all dream, but we decide to inch towards our dreams while not moving too far away from our cushy lives to ensure we are within range to have a soft landing if there is a hurdle in the way of realising our dream. We end up spending a lot more time building these soft-landings than chasing after things we truly desire.
The result is mediocrity.
When you're trying to balance two opposite ends of the spectrum, you end up averaging out and not really excelling in either. This is the reason successful startups are the ones that start by shipping something to a very specific set of customers who are invariably small in number. They don't average out in the experience they offer their customers.
This is also the reason thousands of startups fall flat and die even though they seem very promising at the beginning. When you try to please a larger set of people early on, you average out the experience you offer to your customers and you fail to offer them a chance to find you remarkable.
If your dreams are at the other end of the spectrum when compared to your regular routine, you are doomed to a life of mediocrity. But if your regular routine is aligned with your dream, then you're in business.
The two schools of thought you read about quite often - 'follow your passion' and 'grit your teeth and work hard' - are both saying the same thing in the end. They are calling an alignment of how you live your life and your dreams. One asks you to throw everything and chase your dreams while the other asks you to focus on what you have until you eventually love it.
You can choose either, but don't make the mistake of trying to balance both. Unless you want to dive head first into mediocrity.
Here's Nilofer Merchant on dreams:
"So there's a saying, if someone really told you how hard it was to have a child, no one would ever do it. Every year or two, some article will say how expensive it is to have children. On the face of it, the number seems insurmountable. But I always think no one should ever look at things like that in aggregate. The same is true for a book, or any creative project. If you look at a blank page and think of the 85,000 words you have to write, you'd get overwhelmed. You can't look at it that way. The way you make your dreams come true? By making them come true."