Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. Robert Fulton had a dream. Henry Ford had a dream. America was built by dreamers. In the movies, the cop always wants to retire to a good fishing lake; the big-city newspaper reporter wants to pack it in and for a small-town newspaper. Dreams like this are part of the American folklore. The military used to sell the dream of retirement after 20 years. Join at 18, see the world and retire at 38.

There are many who have had dreams but have never gotten off their duffs and taken the action step to translate them into reality. How many people have claimed that they had thought of the Hula Hoop or the Pet Rock but just never quite got around to doing anything about it?

Dreams can be great motivators. They can be harmless, like betting a buck or two on the lottery, or they can be dangerously self-deluding. We all know salespeople who spend a lifetime chasing that million-dollar sale with the commission so large they could retire tomorrow–if they could just get over that last tiny hurdle.

Leo was that type of salesperson. He worked on one of those once-in-a-lifetime deals for months, and was so close to finalizing it he ordered a new Lexus LS and made a huge pledge to a charitable organization. All you sales people reading this know that the bigger the sale, the more that can go wrong with it. Something did go wrong, and Leo never closed the deal. Imagine his embarrassment when he had to back out of both his purchase and his pledge.

You should never, and I mean never, spend a commission until the check arrives.

Whatever the dream, whether it’s early retirement, your own business, or a second home, it’s a lot easier to achieve if you approach it as a long-term goal. Dreams are just dreams unless you have a plan. And since many dreams involve big bucks, you need a financial plan, not just a career plan.

Embrace risk, but do so wisely. It takes just as much intelligence and effort to hang on to your money as it does to make it work hard for you. 

Don’t put all your thought and energy into climbing the greasy pole and then taking a casual approach to the money you’re making. Too many people are smart about their careers and dumb about their money. And even career-smart people can ind that their jobs aren’t quite as secure as they thought they were.

Mackay’s Moral: A dream is just a dream. A goal is a dream with a deadline. 


About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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