Dreams Without Shells

“When I grow up I want to be a racecar driver!”

...said 6 year old me.

Then at 14 it was, “I want to play point guard for Duke University!”

Then at 17 it was, “I want to be a physical therapist!”

At 23 it became, “If I could just play music, that’d be a dream come true.”

Then I read something at 24 that challenged the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Since childhood, we always seem to have some idea of what we want to “be” when we’re older. The list of titles is endless and always includes some silly answers:

A racecar driver.
An NFL player.
A clown.
An astronaut (that’s a popular one. I think I wanted to be one at one point...then I discovered my fear of heights, and space is like...REALLY high).

The list goes on...

But as we age and grow older, that question never goes away.

What DO I want to be when I grow up?

Parents, father-figures and teachers alike all seem to expect you to have an answer, or at the very least have a direction. Or maybe I just expect them to expect that of me. Or a mix of both. 

Either way, the question still stands. What am I doing with my life? What direction am I headed in? If I’m headed in a direction, is it the “right” direction?

What I read at the age of 24 relieved an immense amount of pressure off my shoulders, and over time continues to relieve pressure. It has given me more clarity in my decision making. It has given me more peace in my current season of life.

I’m guessing you want to know what it was I read...well, I’ll tell you.


A man by the name of Gary Molander wrote a blog post titled, “Dreams Without Shells.” (at the time of this writing, his website isn’t working. Otherwise it’s garymo.com)

The concept of the post is this...

From a young age, we give titles, roles or “shells” to what our dreams are. As a kid, your dream may be to go space, so you naturally assume the shell of “astronaut.” 

But what if being an astronaut isn’t the only way to go to space? Maybe you’re a budding Elon Musk who’s going to create the next great space exploration vessel, or build a giant tube to get us from earth to Mars. (too far?)

The point is, we assume a certain shell when we talk about our dreams. 

Your dream could be, “I want to help people learn.” So you assume the shell of “teacher.”

Or maybe your dream is, “I want to take photos for a living.” So you assume the shell of “wedding photographer” (because that’s where the money is).

But what if we removed the shells from our dreams? What if we looked at our dreams as an opportunity to do something totally different?

Maybe your dream of helping people learn means you’re going to create an entirely new way of learning online with the help of digital tools, and you’re going to figure out how to export that to third world countries and transform the education industry. What if?

Maybe your dream of taking photos for a living lands you in war-torn countries, exposing the darkness and treachery that takes place and sharing stories of pain and sorrow, but also providing hope by motivating people to action on behalf of the voiceless. What if? 

Dreams without shells are worth chasing.

Dreams are transferrable between shells. But if we only aim for certain shells, we’re setting limits on what is possible. We’re automatically ruling out other options that could be infinitely more fulfilling and make much more of a difference.

For me? I’m a bridge builder. I love to bridge the gap between people and ideas, or people to people. 

My dream is to help people bridge the gap between their current reality and their desired reality. 

Whether that’s through writing, teaching classes, one-on-one coaching, online courses, etc. ...the avenues to fulfill that dream are abundant. 

Currently, I feel compelled to come alongside the creative community and help bring aid any way I can. Whether that’s improving relationships or giving productivity hacks, I want to help equip those solopreneurs who have their work already cut out for them. If I can make it easier for them (you) to achieve their dreams, I’m fulfilling my dream.

Maybe you’re not fulfilling your dreams simply because you’re trying to define it with a shell. But maybe, just maybe, you’re able to fulfill your dream right where you are.

So what about you? What is your dream? What shells have you allowed to limit your thinking and dreaming? Leave a comment and discuss.

Derek HarveyComment