How to Kill a Dream

“A Bit of Coloured Ribbon”

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was an astute observer of the human condition. One of the keys to his success, was the understanding that men who were properly motivated, would scale extraordinary heights, and willingly risk their very lives to complete the mission. His army achieved military success on scale not seen since Alexander the Great conquered the known world.


A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of coloured ribbon.

Recognition, and encouragement, will motivate any man to reach beyond his abilities and expertise, willing to risk life & limb…even failure, to achieve things that he has never achieved before.

When we are young, we have dreams of conquering the world in our chosen field. As time goes by, these dreams have a tendency to moderate. This is normal, and part of growing up. Living in reality is always preferable to living in a fantasy.

However, if I could share a random observation with young people who dream big, I would encourage you to nurture your dreams and ambitions. Be very careful about the environments to which you expose them.

But, most of all, if someone offers tangible encouragement, go out of your way to thank them.

The Four Reactions

It has been my experience that there are four different reactions you will typically get when sharing your dreams and plans with others.


  1. “Don’t know, Don’t care.” – This is far and away the most common. With seven billion people on the planet, most people don’t know you, and don’t care what you do with your life. After all, they have their own lives to lead, and dreams to pursue.
  2. “You’ll never make it, so don’t even try.” – This reaction is common amongst those who feel themselves a failure. Pity these people, and use their negativity as motivation to succeed.
  3. “You can do anything, if you put your mind to it.” – Mothers and Grandmothers are usually the ones who react this way. If so, be thankful. Like hugs, and fresh-baked cookie after you skin your knee, this attitude salves life’s little injuries.
  4. “It’s not going to work” – Unlike #2, this reaction inevitably comes from someone very close, whose opinion you value. Consequently, this lack of interest, is hardest to overcome psychologically.

How to Kill a Dream

When you hear “it’s not going to work,” “you’re under-capitalized,” “there’s not a market for that,” or “meh” (the unspecified expression of disinterest) from someone whom you hoped would be supportive… It is more than just a bit of a downer. It is a heart-crushing defeat that, with repetition, will drain your creativity, and leave you feeling hollow, empty, alone and beaten.

The Human Condition Continues

Each of us has goals and dreams. They are our deepest, most closely held feelings.

The natural defence against barren or hostile environments, is to erect a shield around that which is most vulnerable. Consequently, after a few hard lessons, we tend to keep our dreams and ambitions to ourselves. Which leads those around us to assume that we are aloof, detached, gruff, “grumpy,” or even anti-social.

A Fifth Reaction

As I said before, typically, you will encounter one of four reactions to your goals and ambitions.

However, once in a great while, perhaps a lifetime, you will meet someone who encourages your ideas, and your aspirations… who treats them as something with intrinsic value. If such a person ever enters your life, cherish that relationship, for they are more rare and precious than you can imagine. Their price is “far above rubies.”

My Father’s Love

My father was such a person. He was demanding, and hard on me. That is not to say he was ‘hard & unpleasant.’ On the contrary, Dad was a patient and understanding man, who never accepted less than my best. And when I tried to get away with a “lick and a promise,” he would make me do it again. Emphasizing all the while that it takes a lot less effort to do something right the first time.

But…when I had a goal, or an idea, he never once dismissed it as uninteresting, unrealistic, or impractical. Instead, he would give me his time. He would offer to help me “run the numbers,” in an attempt to try and find a way to make it work.

This is tangible encouragement. It has the very same effect as those “bits of coloured ribbon” for which a man will risk life and limb.

The Truth of the Matter

The truth is that most ideas are simply not practical. And most business plans are not feasible. However, when someone who is on your side, buys into your idea, and embarks upon that journey of market research, testing, and discovery with you…even if their level of expertise only allows them to be a sounding board… if you should discover that your idea is not feasible…it does not deter you from your quest to succeed.

On the contrary, this “buy in” encourages your creativity, feeds your inner drive to improve, and achieve better. It pushes you to work harder. All because someone believed in you enough to be interested.

What about your Father?

I am so very grateful and blessed to have had a dad like mine. He’s gone now. But I cherish his memory.

If you have a father, or know one who makes his children believe in themselves. Tell him thank you while you still can.

Dream Big!

Ron Jones
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