Dream Small

We were sitting on a plane flying on our honeymoon to Hawaii. I was a century of pages deep in a Malcolm Gladwell book when Jen nudged me on the shoulder. I thought she might be changing her guarantee of a Nigeria vs. Chile World Cup final when she pointed to a section of an article she was reading about this group of guys in Maui who grow, raise, and sell taro chips. The quote she was was pointing at went something like this: “We have been very successful with our business and have grown enough to expand our market. However, we are dreaming small, we are keeping our business under control, and providing very quality products to our customers.” Note: I think I wrote that “paraphrase” as if the guy was Asian, not Hawaiian. Go back and read it with an Asian accent in your head and try to not laugh.

Anyway, we aren’t here to dissect native dialects. The point is this: this guy passed up more money and greater glory because he’s always dreamed small. I could barely believe I was reading the words he was saying. It was borderline heretical to everything I’d ever been taught, everything I’d ever believed. Here was this Hawaiian farmer raising cane and spitting a blasphemous theory that flies in the face of the teachings of all the great leaders and wondrous inspirational figures we’ve ever known. The craziest part was that it kind of started making sense to me.

We have these friends who live in Perry, OK, population 5,230 (not including cows). They own and manage a cleverly named coffee shop and just started a church there. I haven’t discussed it with them in-depth but I don’t think they have any aspirations of taking down Starbucks VIA an Oklahoma-based-breakfast-serving-church-gathering coffee shop. And I think if you were to ask them that’s probably not what they want either.

I enjoy pretty simple things. I love to write. I like to throw the baseball. I enjoy books. I’m fascinated by small businesses. I’ve fallen for the state of Georgia. My life is not some grand melodrama played out on a bright stage in front of the whole world. I love my wife. I like to take trips. I want a dog. And I’ve started dreaming small. I’m beginning to understand that life is not meant to be lived boisterously. It’s meant to be lived by doing that one thing you were put on Earth to do, and to do it well.

I want to encourage those of you who have been so faithful in reading this blog. Stop dreaming dreams that would make Rupert Murdoch blush. Dream small and carry those dreams out. Dream well and perform masterfully. Be faithful with the one or two things God has imparted upon you that you do better than anyone else.

At my wedding I had a short conversation with my high school baseball coach about what he was up to, where he was working, how he was doing. Last I had heard he was employed at a corporate tree-trimming company. He stared at me after I asked him what he was doing as if I should already know: “I just took another head coaching job in Houston, Kyle. I was put on Earth to coach baseball so I guess that’s what I have to do.” There was a shade of sarcasm in his voice as if he was laughing on the inside at the very notion that he had even tried to have a different job. He could coach anywhere in the country, at any level. But he chooses high school because he dreams small, lest anyone scoff at the notion that his dreams not be adequate with the cultural norm. Never have I had so great a non-related influence on my life. He taught me the great devotions and the great enthusiasms. Because he dreamed small I learned to know both victory and defeat.

Dream on.

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I'm an aspiring freelance writer and blogger (which doesn't make a ton of sense when you think about it). I started a blog called Our Marriage Project and one about OSU called Pistols Firing. I love both of them, and I love my wife. And I love Kevin Durant, Explosions in the Sky, Tim Riggins, Blue Moon ale, Twitter, and the state of Georgia.

33 thoughts on “Dream Small”

  1. I totally disagree. I believe that small dreams are wonderful and ultimately more achievable, but I would never discourage someone from dreaming big. Those big dreams move the world forward. Big innovations and dreams can be just as valuable, even if you never get all the way to the goal the journey can be life changing. I'm pretty surprised you would actually say "stop dreaming dreams that would make Rupert Murdoch blush." I believe no one should ever be told to stop dreaming even if it seems unrealistic.

    1. Good, I'm glad you disagree. Finally some controversy on the MP blog, I love it! If you agree with Rachel and disagree with me continue to post below. This isn't a monologue, it's a conversation. It's a community.

      1. This is a supe rlate reply..

        I don't think its a matter of dreaming small or dreaming big, i believe that the farmer and Kyle's baseball coach are content. God calls us to always be content with our lifes not happy. Also dreaming big means committing big.

  2. My first reaction was the same as Rachel's. Christ died so that we could have an abundant life and he wants to bless us BEYOND our BIGGEST dreams. However, as I continued to read a new thought occured to me. I think that we can get so caught up in our BIG dreams that we fail to see that life can be and often is a series of little dreams that come true every single day. So what I'm taking from today's post is not to stop dreaming big (sorry Kyle, I have a hard time doing what I'm told :)), but to ALSO dream small and be blessed by dreams that do come true!!

    1. Hi Tracy,

      Yes, Christ died so that we might have life…this is true, as apart from reconciliation to the Father by the wrath-absorbing death and resurrection of Christ there is no life…but how are we defining "abundant life"? How are we defining "blessing us BEYOND our BIGGEST dreams"? Would this include being blessed in our finances, our body, and our relationships?

      1. I think that an abundant life would be a by-product of a life lived in joy which is much different than happiness. In my opinion, our joy is obtained through our relationship with our Heavenly Father while our happiness is wrapped up in our circumstances, making one eternal and one temperal.
        I just wanted to point out that we shouldn't limit ourselves to small dreams because God's dream/plan for our lives is much bigger and better than we could EVER dream for ourselves.
        (I feel that this truth applies to ALL areas of our life finances, body, relationships, etc.)
        That being said, the concept of "dreaming small" is a good reminder for me not to get so caught up in the BIG picture and how I feel about the way that it is or is not unfolding (which can get me focused on my 'happiness") that I miss the little blessings that God gives me every single day(which can refocus me on my relationship w/Christ/joy).

  3. This is crazy, Kyle, but I was fixing to post on almost the exact same thing! I do not view this post as telling me not to dream big, but I view it as telling me to keep my life simple; there is a HUGE difference. I've been reading "100 Ways to Simplify Your Life" by Joyce Meyer, and #37 is "Stop Doing Things You Don't Do Well". I loved it because I'm finally getting to a place in my life where I'm learning to do what God has made me to do and not trying to do the things He didn't plan for me. We're not supposed to "think outside of the box" in which God has placed us. It's when we start trying to do things on our own that we start finding and getting into trouble. So, dream big inside of your box where your obedience to God brings great blessing, but be wary of stepping outside of it to dream in a realm in which God did not intend for you to be.

    1. I completely agree. It's not the idea of "not" dreaming big or "just" dreaming small. It's about your calling from God. Sometimes we can lose focus of what we do well because we are so focused on the worldly view of dreaming big.

  4. Even small dreams can take a Big effort, Big sacrifice and a Big heart so I think both sides are right 🙂 I tend to have two year dreams…like "in two years I want to be doing _____"

  5. I suppose the inherent worth of dreaming big depends on the ends to which you aspire in your dreams.

    As for me, I have three dreams in life, in some particular order: get married, make babies, make disciples. The rest is gravy.

  6. I also think everyone's definitions of "big dreams" and "small dreams" might be different. I was "reminded" this weekend (had a sorority reunion of the pledge classes from the 90's) at dinner Friday night that I am "stuck in Stillwater." You know, small town, small salary, small life. But, this is my DREAM! Have a godly, loving, devoted husband, I have 3 babies (ok, kids), and I get to RAISE them up to be Christian leaders! To me – that is HUGE! I love living here! I love my husband! I love my job! I love my kids and the future is SO BRIGHT for them! So, while I was stung by this [insensitive] person's remarks, after I got over that, I remembered that this is my BIG DREAM – and I am living out in my small way – every day – for the glory of GOD!

  7. I read the first paragraphs a few times trying to understand it but it's not helping. What does this mean:

    Note: I think I wrote that “paraphrase” as if the guy was Asian, not Hawaiian. Go back and read it with an Asian accent in your head and try to not laugh.

    I don't understand the sentence or what was funny. Sorry, still trying to! My philosophy on dreams is simular. I have the big ones, I couldn't stop them if I wanted to. But I keep small ones and strive to reach them every single day, because achieving one small dream after another will lead to the big dreams. I could write a book on this so maybe I'll save my brand of kind of goal-talk for a blog post of my own someday.

  8. Jen……Kyle wants a dog! I'm laughing! I'm laughing out loud! I'm loving the idea of you with a dog! Shotzee agrees! Sorry, Kyle. After that one statement, you lost me. Dreaming BIG about dogs, i.e. Scooby-Doo, Lassy, Rin-Tin-Tin, Marley. *sigh*

      1. Buzzkill? You kidding? You came to the same conclusion as one of your favorite thinkers, from a completely different angle. Not a buzzkill. More like…do it again BEFORE him and you're a millionaire. It's an encouragement, really!

        1. Can I just say what a reduction to seek out sooneme who truly is aware of what theyre speaking about on the internet. You definitely know the best way to convey an issue to gentle and make it important. More folks must read this and understand this facet of the story. I cant believe youre no more fashionable since you definitely have the gift.

  9. A couple of things:

    1) According to the picture at the top of the blog, am I supposed to dream about oranges?

    2) "It was borderline heretical to everything I’d ever been taught, everything I’d ever believed. Here was this Hawaiian farmer raising cane and spitting a blasphemous theory that flies in the face of the teachings of all the great leaders and wondrous inspirational figures we’ve ever known."

    I don't know if the idea that all the great leaders and inspirational figures we've ever known would espouse a viewpoint that would contradict the one you read is true. I don't know, but I feel like if you asked a random group of strangers for the names of a few of these figures, the list would look something like "Jesus, Ghandi, MLK Jr." , none of which would say HAPPY = $$$. So while it's a viewpoint that might be pervasive in, say, business culture and it remains a subtle yet destructive message inherent in most of pop culture media, I don't know if I'd lump in the "inspirational figures"

    3) "I’m beginning to understand that life is not meant to be lived boisterously."

    Really? How exactly do you mean? Good 'ol M&W define the word "boisterous" as such:

    "marked by or expressive of exuberance and high spirits"

    So we're not to live a life marked by exuberance and high spirits?

    "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him"
    Colossians 3:16-17

    Just saying, sounds like a very exuberant kind of life to me. And while we're on it, we better not mention that "boisterous" thing to King David either…

    4) Big dreams vs. small dreams is a false dichotomy. You say the coach "dreams small" by staying in high school…dreams small compared to what? Who is defining the "big" dreams v. the "small" dreams?

    Your entry is a call to the glorification of "small dreams" but by calling them "small dreams" we're falling into a cultural trap and playing the same game they are. We're still using labels and definitions as set by the world, rather than reclaiming and redeeming the culture for the glory of God. Nowhere in the Bible do these ideas exist. Paul was a tent-maker, and King David was, you know, a King. One had nothing but the clothes (and wounds from severe lashings) on his back, and the other had quite a bit of political and monetary capital. But they were both counted righteous in their faith and service. One wrote a majority of the New Testament, and one was deemed "a man after God's own heart" (Also worth pointing out that one of them was known at THE Christian-Killer (think the Bear Jew in Inglorious Basterds, but instead of Nazi scalps it's Christian scalps) and one committed adultery with Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and sent her husband off to war to get killed…so….thank God for Grace!)

    "Dreams" is a silly word that we've all gotten accustomed to from too many Disney movies. "Follow your dreams, follow your heart!" This is a theology you'll find nowhere in the Scriptures. In fact the Scriptures will go on to say that the heart is deceitful above all things….Most everyone here knows this, but for those in Christ, your dreams are worthless little rabbit trails if their chief aim isn't to glorify God and lay down every good thing back down at the feet of the one by whom, through whom, and for whom all things are held together, King Jesus.

    Only one life
    'Twill soon be past
    Only what's done
    For Christ will last

    1. Kevin Porter for the win, ladies and gentlemen. You know, that last little poem is atop the kitchen window at John Piper's house.

      I detect a hint of Jonathan Edwards-ian thought processes in your comment. Well done, my friend. I am going to concur with your conclusion.

  10. I was going to write a blog post in response to this, but I'll just co-sign with what Kevin said. One, because I tend to agree. Two, because we share the same name and it's just easier that way. Three, I'm too lazy.

  11. I think you might have been better off writing about the economically sound decision making of the Hawaiian entrepreneurs. They understand steady growth and conservatism, unlike those crazy people at Crocs(I hate those shoes, probably because I don't have a four year old).

  12. I see where you were going with the "dream small" stuff, Kyle and I tend to agree. I think people spend way too much time and effort focusing on how to be the biggest and best rather than humbly working hard each day.

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