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Making your dreams come true: Effective dreamers rely on more than wishful thinking


July 22, 2010
By Paul Hogendoorn


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While some people seem to have the Midas touch when it comes to realizing their dreams, others aren’t as fortunate.

It’s true that sometimes the difference may be timing or luck, but more often than not, the difference is within the control of the dreamer. Here’s my formula for converting dreams to realities:

Dreams + Imagination = Possibilities
Possibilities + Determination = Probability
Probability + Planning = Realization 

It’s a formula I have followed nearly my whole life – in both business and personal arenas.

Everything starts with dreams. It doesn’t matter what company you are working for right now – a big one, a small one, a new one, or an old one, your own or somebody else’s – at some point, it was just somebody’s dream that was converted into a reality. Most companies continue to identify their dreams to keep all the stakeholders on the same page. It’s called "their vision".

Possibilities, or better put, opportunities, are a company’s biggest assets. Opportunities are what you need when facing life-threatening challenges, or when looking to grow a company beyond normal organic growth.

When things are going well and the order books are full, the tendency is to keep focusing on what’s working well. But when the order book starts to shrink, and the future starts to look a little dimmer, that’s when the company needs to draw from a healthy inventory of possibilities. Possibilities are created by applying imagination to the vision.

Converting a possibility into a probability takes determination and tenacity. Some might think that planning is the next big step but, actually, it’s determination. Nearly every new idea is met with resistance, skepticism, doubt and sometimes even opposition. All the planning in the world can’t plan away those things.

When it’s a new idea that no one else has thought of before, one common reaction is that if it was such a good idea, somebody would have already done it. Another reaction is that it can’t be done for the simple reason that nobody has found a way to do it. Some form of proof or base level of performance is needed, and that will take a determined effort. Think of it this way: if it was obvious and easy, others would already be doing it. Because they are not, though, indicates that it was neither obvious, nor easy. Thomas Edison reportedly failed a thousand times before finally perfecting the light bulb. Determination is the main ingredient required to convert the possibility into a probability.

Planning is also important. Planning provides a roadmap that keeps you from covering the same ground again and again, or from failing to stay the course. It provides an order and method by which to effectively apply your efforts. It is also the discipline that keeps you from blindly spending all of your resources, or from failing to convert your achievements into positive commercial gains. Because imagination and determination by themselves know no boundaries, good planning is needed to make sure you don’t go broke pursuing a dream you don’t achieve, or to make sure you profit properly from it if you do. 

Of the four ingredients listed, though, imagination and determination are the two most critical for companies today. The dreams are already captured by the company’s vision, and effective planning skills can be taught, learned, hired or acquired. But imagination and determination are the unquantifiable intangibles needed for success. They can’t be measured, inventoried, mandated, bought or sold. For imagination to be effective, it almost always requires determination. Imagination without determination seldom yields any positive results. Neither does sheer determination without any real imagination.

In today’s industrial and manufacturing world, most of the emphasis is on refining and improving the processes, protecting profitability (and even viability) in challenging times. It is a bottom line focus and considers the "realities" of the business – input costs, labour costs, competitive situations, and customer expectations. Growing the business however is a top line focus and considers the possibilities of the business – and possibilities are the result of imagination and dreams.

Many dreams do become realities, more often than we realize. The proof of this is all around us. All companies that were ever started, including the one you are working for, started simply as somebody’s dream.  With imagination, dreams become possibilities. With determination, possibilities become probabilities. And with good planning, probabilities can become realities.


Paul Hogendoorn is president of OES Inc. and a founding member and past chair of the London Region Manufacturing Council. He can be reached at phogendoorn@oes-inc.com.