Whitney Johnson is the author of "Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream." She was highlighted as one of the Top thinkers on Talent at the biennial Thinkers50 ceremony in London.
Dreaming Made Simple: You left a highly successful Wall Street job. When did you know it was time to shift gears? Did you have doubts during the transition process, and what was your first step when you started your dream pursuit?
Whitney Johnson: The notion to leave had come to the fore a few times beforehand. I remember one of my friends having a great business idea, and I really wanted to leave, but I knew the timing wasn’t right. I think I really knew, though, in early 2005. I was contemplating leaving to pursue entrepreneurial ventures, and thought, no. But then I remember very clearly being on vacation with my husband, and I just said, "It’s time." It was really important to me to leave at the top of my game. I didn’t ever want to be accused of dialing it in. Within a few weeks, I gave notice. I haven’t really ever had doubts, but in retrospect, I was a bit impetuous. The first step in starting toward my current dream was simply to decompress. I probably had six months where I didn’t do much of anything other than to luxuriate in my new-found freedom. I think before we scale a new dream, we need to rest and regroup.
Dreaming Made Simple: How long did you have your Dare to Dream blog before you started the book process, and how did you start moving toward writing a book?
Whitney Johnson: I began blogging in late 2006.
I was frequently having conversations with women who were telling me they didn’t have a dream or didn’t know how to do a dream, and worse, didn’t believe it was their privilege to dream. I had to do something.
At the same time I knew that someday I wanted to write a book. I also knew that no one would publish something I’d written because I didn’t have a platform. A low barrier-to-entry solution was to start blogging. I blogged regularly for three years when Laurel Christensen at Time Out for Women asked me to write a book. I initially thought I could just regroup some blog posts and I’d have a book. Over the course of about seven months, a book gradually came together. I knew the first part needed to be about why we needed to dream, but I didn’t quite know where I would go after that.
Dreaming Made Simple: On Twitter, you shared the quote, "Sometimes good things fall apart, so better things can fall together. Like with my book!" you added. Could you elaborate on this experience?
Whitney Johnson: Three weeks before what was then Dare to Dream was supposed to go to print, the publisher I was working with decided not to publish the book, unless I would undergo a significant directional shift. I was devastated. After a few weeks, we agreed to amicably part ways. This was late 2010. Which meant that in March 2011 when the book was to have been published, I had barely signed on an agent, and was now sending the manuscript out to publishers. In the interim, I did tighten up the book considerably, down from a word count of 100k to 70k - I had time to ask for additional blurbs - to improve how I write and to be more prepared generally to put my book into others' hands. In the falling apart, better things have fallen together.
Dreaming Made Simple: What is it about the subject of dreams that makes you come alive?
Whitney Johnson: Hope. I struggle to be hopeful; I think many of us do. When I dream, and especially when I help others dream, hope smiles brightly before us - and I feel soul-satisfyingly happy.
Dreaming Made Simple: Who has been a dream coach or dream journey mentor in your life?
Whitney Johnson: In the archetypal Karate Kid-sense, I can think of one person - one of my college professors. That said, I think we need to revisit the mentoring equation, as I wrote here. There’s a tendency to want to find that one person, but I think we are better served to see mentors as people with whom we work for a finite period of time - and we learn and/or teach very specific things - like my learning from Laura Forte/DeWayne Shaw how to be a good equity analyst.
Dreaming Made Simple: What’s a big lesson you have learned in regard to pursuing dreams?
Whitney Johnson: Each experience that we have, the good and especially the things that happen to us that we don’t deserve, shapes our dreams. For example, one of my biggest dreams, which is to encourage others, came, I think, [because I didn’t hear enough] encouraging words as a child. I deserved that, and I long for that sometimes. Yet, without that, would I even have felt [compelled] to begin writing about dreams in the first place?