You have heard about “chasing the dream,” but is it a fool’s errand in the end? In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray Zinn explores the downside of something that sounds good on the surface, and suggests and alternative.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things First podcast with Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley. Hello again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Hi Rob. Good to be with you today.
Rob Artigo: You have written that chasing a dream really means we are putting undue effort in pursuing something that is beyond our reach. Pursuing a dream is working diligently at something that is worthwhile and within the scope of our capabilities. So I think the word comparison there… As, again, you’re a writer, the word comparison there is the difference between chasing and pursuing, isn’t it?
Ray Zinn: Exactly. So when we chase something, it’s elusive. It’s something we can’t seem to get to. It’s out of our reach. Pursuing it is a active effort and trying to accomplish that which we want to do. So pursuing your dream as opposed to chasing your dream is what we’re talking about today.
Rob Artigo: I guess you can look at it another way. Kind of make me think of the difference between letting the dream lead you and you being proactive and really creating an environment with a plan where you can lead the dream or lead to the dream and be more protective.
Ray Zinn: That’s a good way to put it. Don’t let your dream lead you, you lead the dream, and that’s another good way as compared to chasing versus pursuing. Don’t let something be outside your reach or your ability, make sure it’s within your capability or you’re just going to be chasing it.
Rob Artigo: Don’t chase the dream of a couple of different examples, but I think in business, which is really a lot of what this show is about, looking at what we do as business operators, as entrepreneurs. We can be an entrepreneur who is obsessed with being reactionary, or you can be the person who plans, reacts when they have to and pivots when they have to, but that’s part of the process. So then you’re working it with it following the serpentine trail. If it’s too big and it’s out of your reach, it’s a good idea to come to terms with that. Elizabeth… Oh, from Theranos.
Ray Zinn: Elizabeth Holmes.
Rob Artigo: The Elizabeth Holmes. Elizabeth Holmes, I had a dream that was so far out of reach for her at the time that she had to manipulate the system to make it look like it wasn’t out of reach. And if you’re in a situation like that, you are most certainly chasing the dream and not pursuing it.
Ray Zinn: Well, there’s a song about elusive dreams. An elusive dream is one you can’t realize, it’s elusive. And that was what Elizabeth Holmes had was an elusive dream. It was not possible for her to do what she wanted to do, even though what she wanted to do was very admirable. It led her into doing it in a dishonest way because she become deceptive. When you’re elusive, you’re also deceptive. And deceptiveness was at the heart of her Theranos dream, as you would.
Rob Artigo: I enjoyed the early Indiana Jones movies and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the climax, the end of the movie, has this woman that Indiana Jones was working with dangling from a ledge in a crack from a cliff in a cave, and she’s reaching for the cup of Christ. It’s down there on a little ledge and she’s reaching for it and her hand is slipping away. Her hand is slipping away from Indiana and she’s saying, “I can reach it. I can reach it.” There’s all this death and destruction that’s already occurred up to that point, and here she is still trying to pursue that and reach the unattainable, whatever that is, everlasting life, whatever the promise was. “I can get it, I can get it, I can get it.” I have seen so many people in the business world waste all of their resources on something without realizing, one, by the time you get it done, it’s going to be outdated and worthless. Two, it’s not even necessary to do it except that you want to do it.
Ray Zinn: Well, again, we’re going back to what the elusive dream is. And so if your dream is elusive, avoid it. There’s no need to chase something that shouldn’t be pursued, as you would. Anyway, it’s all about action and chasing something versus pursuing it is at the heart of what we’re talking about in this podcast.
Rob Artigo: Do you think that it’s… I guess it’s not always easy to spot for some people if they’re chasing a dream instead of pursuing it, that they’re not being realistic about what they’re dealing with.
Ray Zinn: It becomes a passion. You let your passion overrule your intelligence or your logic. People who are sucked into pornography, as you would it, or pursuing the wrong thing, it leads us down the wrong track. So make sure whatever path you’re pursuing doesn’t lead you doing something illegal, illicit, but is beneficial. It’ll bring you to a point where the goal that you’re seeking is achievable.
Rob Artigo: Have you seen in your career, I’m sure you have, such an extensive career in Silicon Valley, that you have seen a person be successful, develop a great deal of wealth and then turn around and lose it all on something that was just a dream and they should have known better based on their previous experience? Maybe they were just lucky the first time.
Ray Zinn: Well, sure. I mean, you just cited one about Theranos. Those individuals who were pursued that one, that was not a possible dream. It was an impossible, that’s an elusive dream. So there are a lot of people who either through inheritance or some other way gain a lot of money and a lot of resources and then squander it because they’re letting the power of money overrule their intelligence or their ability to understand what’s honest and what’s good.
Rob Artigo: Francis Ford Coppola, the movie director, he has the Coppola Winery, which you may have heard about in Napa. I think it’s in Napa, pretty sure. I’ve never been there. But he bought the winery and this commercial thing environment, he invented some money in that because he wanted to ensure that his family had a business that would generate money for years to come when he goes out and makes his next movie and loses everything. So he was prepared to take risks on his art, and accepting the fact that there’s risk that goes along with that, that may be, compared to other industries, more risky because it has to make money and you can lose a lot of money in making movies.
So he decided, and I guess you could call it a passion and a hobby with a lot of money at risk, but he said, I’m willing to lose that to continue to pursue that, but I’m going to make sure we’re protected by doing something over here. I think there’s nothing wrong with taking a passion risk if you just start from the beginning saying, there’s a good chance I’m going to lose all this money doing this, but I don’t want to try. People should have fun in life.
Ray Zinn: Well, yeah, and I think Elon Musk has done that. Some of the things he’s done that worked out [inaudible]. Same with Steve Jobs. Anyway, they say the money is root of all evil, so make sure that whatever your money use is not for an evil reason. Again, focus on doing good, not on evil.
Rob Artigo: Yeah, I think it goes back to previous conversation we had about words you use being uplifting and wholesome. If your goal is to bring some light and goodness into the world when you’re pursuing these things, even if you fail, perhaps you’ve left a trail of something good behind you, which I think is, really, I think, the goal of human life anyway.
So this is a very fast growing podcast here at Tough Things First, so please go to your nearest podcast provider and rate this podcast. Give it your 5 stars or your 10 bags of popcorn or whatever it is that you use to rate your podcast, but let everyone know you’re listening along with them.
Also, check out Ray’s books, the Zen of Zinn 1, 2, and 3, and also of course, Tough Things First. It’s a great series of books, the Zen of Zinn, and of course the original Tough Things First is always worth getting. If you haven’t read it, please do. I look forward to the next time, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob.