In 1989, the late, great actor Robin Williams delivered an impactful message about the importance of "doing you" to a whole new generation through his role as English teacher John Keating in the film Dead Poet's Society. The now iconic movie scene has Keating stepping up on a desk and exhorting his prep school charges to "strive to find your own voice," to "break out...dare to strike out and find new ground." I remember being moved and inspired by the scene.
As a 29 year old, I identified with Keating's call to "make your lives extraordinary, boys." I felt at that time, having just moved from Arkansas to Southern California, that I was just starting my grand adventure, my life. He also said "words and ideas can change the world." I had earned my undergraduate degree eight years earlier in journalism, and believed this with every fiber in my being. My own career choice to write for a living, first as a marketeer and later as a public relations practitioner, happily fueled my thirst for knowledge and quest to share the ideas and inspiration of the great teachers, entrepreneurs, scientists, activists, and artists I have been lucky enough to know.
It's 30 years later, and I am happy to report that—although in my darkest times I may have doubted it—dreams don't have expiration dates.
If it's never too late to follow your dreams, how do you start? What is keeping you from "doing you?"
What do you dream about? How do you go about "doing your thing?" Despite pundits playing it off as a recent or millennial obsession, this idea of being true to yourself, pursuing your bliss, following your True North, living your best life, has been around for a long time. In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance," first published in 1841, is noted for his observation that it was not only okay to "do your thing," but that he encouraged it:
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, be