What Would the World Be Like Without People Who Followed Their Dreams?

by WiseFool

If every human who ever existed had been prudent enough to follow the money, rather than their dreams, what kind of world would we live in?

This is something that's been on my mind a lot recently: whether we have to make a decision between earning a sensible income and pursuing our passions or dreams. Obviously, sometimes it's not a choice between the two. There are many people who earn not just a decent living, but a very handsome income from the thing that brings them the most joy.

However, there are many more for whom the road isn't that simple. My instant response to this is that we should never give up. If there's something you want badly, you shouldn't let anything stand in your way (at least not for long). Success, by what ever you define it, might be waiting just around the corner and if you give up (or just don't try), you'll never know how close you came.

More importantly though, if every single person that has ever resided on this rock we call home had chosen money over the love of whatever it is they adored, what a very, very poor world we'd live in.

How do You Measure Success?

How do you measure success?I guess, essentially, this is what it really comes down to. Do you consider success a certain level of income; the lifestyle or chattels that money can buy?

Of course, we all need money - unless we're going to live very rustically, but is luxury and abundance your only measure of success?

If it is, then the likelihood is that you shouldn't follow your passion, unless your passion is to be a stockbroker or a lawyer or a dentist.

I'm not saying that a life of luxury cannot be gained from following your passion; of course it can. However, the road to that success may be a long one that requires hard work and much more persistence than you might otherwise need. That lifestyle you crave might not be easy to attain - realistically, it may even be impossible.

Which is why we come back to how you personally define success. My guess would be that, for most of us, it's much simpler than lots of money and possessions. I'd say, our most significant measure of success is happiness. And in order to find happiness, we must do what makes us happy. Sometimes, what makes us happiest, isn't what brings in the big bucks.

If the happiness you crave is the 'big bucks' and your dreams aren't taking you there, then follow the money along another path.

However, if your passions and dreams don't revolve around money and they're the only things that make you happy, then stick with them! Keep following those goals, even if it means having to do other things on the side to pay the bills, because success will come to you - even if 'success' is nothing more than the knowledge that you lived a life pursuing that something that sets your soul on fire. 

Dreamers Shape the World

The fact of the matter is that is those people who dare to follow their dreams who have impacted our world the most profoundly. It's the writers, the artists, the musicians, the philosophers, the inventors  the poets - they are the ones who have shaped our modern societies.

They are also the people who give us motivation and inspiration to follow our own passions. So, I find myself wondering, what would the world be like without them? How much poorer would our lives be without those men and women who were brave (or just plain crazy) enough to ignore those who told them not to follow their dreams. 

What Would The World Be Like Without Art?

Art, for most artists, is (and certainly was) a world full of poverty. Most great artists were not appreciated in their lifetimes, and very few made any significant money. The one man who springs most to my mind is Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh only sold one painting, The Red Vineyard, in his lifetime; he lived some of his life as a peasant and could have, if money had been important to him, hung up his brushes and worked with his brother, Theo, in the art dealership business. Instead, Van Gogh stuck with what made him happiest: painting. And, thank goodness he did.

Vincent Van Gogh's 'Almond Branches in Bloom'
Almond Branches in Bloom, San Remy, c.1890
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Vincent Van Gogh's 'Starry Night'
Starry Night, c. 1889
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What Would The World Be Like Without Literature?

Emily BronteLiterature is, whether we realize it or not, a fundamental cornerstone of our society. It examines what it is to be human, it questions our morals and our systems of government. Aristotle believed the purpose of story-telling was not just to entertain, but to make us better people. 

So, what would the world be like without the likes of Emily Bronte, who struggled to find a publisher for Wuthering Heights and, during it's first print, was critically panned as vulgar. One reviewer from The Atlas wrote,

"Wuthering Heights is a strange, inartistic story. There are evidences in every chapter of a sort of rugged power—of unconscious strength—which the possessor seems never to think of turning to the best advantage. The general effect is inexpressibly painful. We know nothing in the whole range of our fictitious literature which presents such shocking pictures of the worst forms of humanity."

And then there's Sylvia Plath, who lived in the shadow of her significantly more commercially successful husband. Nevertheless, she kept writing and left us with a beautiful legacy of poetry.

What Would The World Be Like Without Music?

Pietro MascagniComposing music, like any dream, can result in almost global recognition, as it did for the likes of Mozart and Beethoven. But, more often than not, as with the rest of the arts, music comes from those struggling to earn enough to pay for their next meal.

Pietro Mascagni wrote operas, but only one of them was ever a smash hit - Cavalleria Rusticana. He spent the subsequent fifty five years trying to repeat that success, but nothing quite matched it.

Toward the end of his life in post-war Rome, legend has it that a penniless Mascagni would travel from one G.I. camp to the next, begging for money; telling the soldiers that he was the one who wrote the aforementioned opera. Even those who weren't familiar with the piece as a whole, were aware of the intermezzo from it - a little number that's still as beautiful today as it was then.

What Would The World Be Like Without People Who Dream of Changing it?

Harriet TubmanHarriet Tubman said, "Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."

And where would we be without women like Harriet? What kind of world would will be living in without the courage and passion of the Pankhurst girls, without Martin Luther King Jr., or Ghandi or Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela

These men and women didn't want fame or fortune. To them, success is and was something very different. We should be eternally grateful to people who were prepared to face danger, to be imprisoned and, in some case, killed in order to try and affect change in the world.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we can (or should) all choose such hefty battles. But whatever battle we pick, we should meet it head-on and never give up. Harriet Tubman was right, we're all much more powerful than most of us give ourselves credit for. It's not just that you can make a difference in the world, you will. You just have to decide what kind of difference that is.

For more inspiration...
Sensible, level-headed folk may tell you that following your dreams is a nonsense. But, just because the odds are stacked against you, doesn't mean it's impossible.
Updated: 03/03/2013, WiseFool
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kimbesa on 08/29/2017

I've put a lot of the finer things aside in recent years. Time to blow out the cobwebs. Thanks for writing this!

cmoneyspinner on 09/20/2013


WiseFool on 03/23/2013

Many thanks, Katie! I'm glad that you found the piece inspiring. I too love to gain motivation from people who have dared to dream.

Even those like Van Gogh, who didn't have a particularly happy life by all accounts, are heroes to me, because they've had a lasting impact on the world. One person really can do that, which is something, I think, we should all try to keep in mind.

katiem2 on 03/23/2013

What a fantastic and motivational piece for dreamers and wanna be dreamers or in other words people fulfilling their dreams and desires accomplishing their greatest dream goals.

Great examples I live to follow my dreams if and when they don't play out I nurture my dreams. It is by doing so my dreams evolve and adapt to new possibilities. A healthy dose of reality to change and awareness of the power dreams possess is how it works for me plus I ALWAYS study dreamers like those you've highlighted here to day to inspire and feed my dreams.

I love Love LOVE IT! :)K

WiseFool on 03/15/2013

Hello Ruby, thanks for your kind comment. And amen to not wanting to live in a world without all those wonderful people in our past.

RubyHelenRose on 03/15/2013

How wonderful. I really love the people you chose as examples for following our dreams. How inspiring they are, to let nothing stop them from doing what they loved. For many of us now, it is a balancing act. I wouldn't want to be in a world without them in my past.

WiseFool on 03/14/2013

Hello, Tolovaj. I couldn't agree more. No path in life can guarantee happiness, we can only live with as much passion and enthusiasm as we possess - and aim to have as few regrets as possible.

Tolovaj on 03/13/2013

World without dreamers would probably look like a machine with strict rules. Everything would be predictable and, well, boring. A dream is not a guarantee for happiness, but if you follow your dreams, your passion, in worst case you can say you tried.
Thanks for some inspiration:)

WiseFool on 03/13/2013

Thanks, Brenda! Long live the dreamers, I say.

BrendaReeves on 03/11/2013

Thank you for this article. I've been accused by family members of being a dreamer. I wouldn't have it any other way. Next time they say it, I'll show them this article.

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