Kenji Claudio: The Creative Journey

Kenji Claudio is managing partner/director, executive producer at BYOB Bring Your Own Board Orange County TV series.

This week on Sam's Dream Blog, Kenji shares about following childhood passions, making your own opportunities and finding your team.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your professional dream? How did your dream originate? How has it evolved?

Kenji Claudio: My professional dream is to write and produce fun, compelling stories in film, television, any medium that allows for the story to be told and enjoyed. I was four years old when I watched Jim Carrey's "The Mask" and was in awe of how somebody got all of the intense car action scenes on camera – like, did somebody just happen to have a camera and press play when all of this happened? My childlike awe for film has stayed with me through the years.

I graduated, majoring in public relations and working in a comfy government job. Meanwhile, my friend was directing and producing a full-length feature film in Georgia. I asked him, “If I paid my way out there, would you let me work for you?” He took me under his wing. Eighteen-hour days, six days a week, pushed me to near-exhaustion, but I awoke every morning feeling like it was all worth it. That is when I knew that this is what I wanted to do, not just for a living, but for my career.

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Kenji Claudio: My most proud accomplishment is when I began producing, at the green age of 22, a full TV series worth of content on a shoestring budget with all my friends. I didn't really know what I was getting into when I called up my friends, asking them, “Hey, wanna make a TV show with me?”

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?

Kenji Claudio: Three years later and two seasons in, I look back, and I see how truly difficult producing a season of TV is. But my naiveté kept me going, not really knowing how hard it was until I finished doing it. Other producers go through hell producing TV shows, but I chose an easy format of television, shooting scripted reality that can be done in a way that can always be produced no matter where I am...because there is always a story to be told wherever you go.

SDB: What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Kenji Claudio: My advice to others is to find a group of friends/creators that love to do what you do. Go with them as a team into whatever idea/venture that you're all passionate about. The creative process is a journey, and you won't know where you land until you get there. In the end, I think about all the fun times I had and remember that failure is a very real thing that can happen at every turn if there is a diva in your squad.

Thanks for stopping by Sam’s Dream Blog!  Learn more about more about Kenji Claudio and Bring Your Own Board here

Questions are the Keys


“He who asks questions cannot avoid the answers.” - Cameroon Proverb That’s how Awaken the Giant Within author Tony Robbins opens his chapter entitled “Questions are the Answer,” and that’s a big reason why I started Sam’s Dream Blog. You and I might share the same longing to maximize potential.  Similarly, you too might be in the early stages of that success journey.  Of course, on any trip you need fuel and at least some idea of where you’re going, so I thought why not seek pointers from fellow explorers who have been at this a little longer than I.  Tony Robbins, for example.

Here are five of my favorite thoughts from the chapter:

1. “Our questions determine our thoughts.” What makes some people succeed, whereas other more accomplished people fall short?  Robbins realized, “It's not the events that shape my life that determine how I feel and act, but, rather, it's the way I interpret and evaluate my life experiences.”

2. “Questions determine everything we do in life.”   They are responsible for our action or our lack of action.  How many people never take action because they keep asking questions that create doubt? Robbins wonders.

3. “Questioning our limitations is what tears down the walls in life…” Robbins follows that statement with a quote from George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are, and say, ‘Why?’; I dream things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”  In other words, “Who says it can’t be done?”

4. Ask questions that support your goals. You are made to find answers to the questions you ask.  The key, then, is to ask questions that help you, rather than hurt you.  Walt Disney, for example, would not consider questions about possible failure.  Instead, he consistently asked how improvements could be made.

5. All human progress is preceded by new questions. If questions are what move you and me forward, what questions do we need to be asking?  Robbins makes the point that evaluation is simply asking and answering better questions, and questions guide our focus.  So where do you go from here?  It sounds like it depends on what questions we are willing to ask.

Thanks for reading!  Let me know your thoughts, and feel free to pose a question

D'Wayne Edwards Educates Emerging Designers

D'Wayne Edwards
D'Wayne Edwards

D’Wayne Edwards is the founder of PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy.  “PENSOLE’s ‘learn by doing’ curriculum teaches students the entire footwear design process.”

This week on Dreaming Made Simple, Edwards, one of the youngest design directors in Nike’s history and a man whose designs have sold more than $1 billion worldwide, shares about planting seeds, dreaming bigger, and about discovering your ‘why.’

Dreaming Made Simple: What is your professional dream, and how has it evolved?

D'Wayne Edwards: I’ve honestly achieved almost all of my professional goals. I am more focused on my goals as an educator, and the first one is to make you forget I ever designed shoes. Not that I want to discount my previous life, but if I can get people to talk to me as an educator, that means I am doing something right if it overshadows my past.

My new focus is not about designing the next great shoe but designing lives that will design the next great shoe.

I see myself as more of a farmer, planting seeds across the industry that will make the industry better than when I entered it. My dream is for PENSOLE to be the best academy in the world!

Dreaming Made Simple: You let go of your dream job at Brand Jordan for an uncertain future pursuing a new passion at PENSOLE.  What convinced you to set your former dream aside, and what has been the result?

D'Wayne Edwards: I have had several dreams and am proud to say I have accomplished several of them, but I never had just one. I set daily goals. Those goals are attached to dreams, and once I achieve one, I move onto my next one. Ironically, working at JORDAN was not a dream of mine because I was not dreaming big enough. Once I was blessed to work at JORDAN, that taught me to dream bigger. If a poor, African-American kid from Inglewood, who could not afford to go to college for design, still reached the top spot in the athletic industry, I realized, if I put my mind to it, I could achieve anything. So to me, why can't a kid with no college education start a school that does not exist, in an industry that is $68 billion...?

Dreaming Made Simple: How does someone keep dreams and passions alive, even when it’s not immediately possible to live them out?

D'Wayne Edwards: First, people need to discover what their dreams are.

Most people don't dream. Dreams are FREE, and there should be no limits on them.

As people we put limits on ourselves, and when we do that, we never discover or realize our full potential. Mark Twain has a quote that says "There are two important dates in our life: One, the day we were born; and two, the day we discover why." I did not discover why until I was in my late thirties. I thought it was to be a top footwear designer who designed for the greatest athletes in the world, for the best brand in the world. But I was wrong... It was to become a designer so I could help others reach the same level of success I was able to achieve, and then for them to help others the same way I helped them.

Most of the time the only thing keeping people from keeping their dreams alive is they don't know WHY they are living....

Thanks for stopping by Dreaming Made Simple!  Learn more about more about D'Wayne Edwards and PENSOLE here

Dick Traum Inspires to Find a Way

Dick Traum
Dick Traum

Dr. Dick Traum is the president and founder of Achilles International. Achilles International is a non-profit organization with members in 65 locations nationally and internationally. The “main objective is to bring hope, inspiration and the joys of achievement to people with disabilities.” Dick is an above-the-knee amputee with a successful computer applications company. Dick became the first amputee to run 26.2 miles.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your dream for Achilles International? How did your dream originate? How has the dream evolved over the years?

Dr. Dick Traum: At the beginning, my dream was to have a local running club. Currently, there are chapters in each major city in US, with hopes to expand internationally to 100 chapters in total. Additionally we want to expand Achilles Kids from 12,700 members in 14 states to 25,000, and we want to expand the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans to include older disabled veterans.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?

Dr. Dick Traum: Race directors are not yet ready to include large groups of people with disabilities.

SDB: What is something more able-bodied people miss when they relegate people with disabilities to merely being an “inspiration”?

Dr. Dick Traum: They do not realize that people with disabilities are more similar than different. Also, they are unnecessarily uncomfortable with them.

Thanks for stopping by Sam's Dream Blog!  Learn more about more about Dick Traum and Achilles International here

Book Review: "Silver to Gold"

Book Review: "Silver to Gold"

You know it is summer when people start talking about summer reads. Whether you need an excuse to stay inside or you need something to take to the beach, here is a book sure to encourage you on your dreaming journey!

Behold the Possibilities

This picture reminds me of the heartland. Few things make my soul come alive like the lush fields of Illinois.

Gazing across the horizon, it’s as if the possibilities are as limitless as the eye can see.  There’s nothing standing in the way, just wide open spaces to dream, explore and create. Look at all that green!  It might as well be freshly-grown dreams, planted some time ago.  Of course on that day gone by, there probably wasn’t much to see.  No matter.  Memories of springs gone by were sufficient.  Seeds sprouted before, and they would sprout again, to be sure.  And now?  A wide expanse of vibrant green life rewards expectation.

So what’s the point, you may ask.  First, plant today so you can reap when the time is right.  Do what you know to do, and confidently wait.  Second, ask yourself, “Where can I go to refresh myself?  When I’m lacking inspiration, how do I regain what is missing?”  For some, the answer could be traveling.  For others, it could be going to an art gallery or to a sporting event.  We all need a reset from time to time.

What is your reset?  What refreshes you?  Leave a comment below

Dreams: The Importance of Your Core Team


This past Saturday, I celebrated my birthday on the heels of graduation earlier in the week.  It was a blessing to be surrounded by some of my closest friends.  Of course it gave way to a time of reflection, and that is what I want to share with you in your pursuit of hopes and dreams.

Here are five reasons why you need a core team on your dream journey:

1. You need encouragement First, most of the people around me Saturday have played a prominent role throughout my last few years. There was not anyone at the dinner who I had just met recently. Nothing against making new friends; you need to continue making new friends to grow in knowledge and influence, but you also need friends who know you. You need people with whom you have history in order to have a broader context and perspective. You need friends who can tell you how much progress you have made and also what you need to do to arrive at the next destination in your journey.

2. You need consistency Along those lines, you need a consistent core. I remember the first celebration I had with this group three years ago. Again, my birthday falls when everything is in flux – graduation, Mother’s Day and so forth – May is one of the busiest months of the year, and there is no avoiding that fact. As a result, three years ago, I was more than a little bit worried that I would have to celebrate my birthday by my lonesome. Instead, this group, that would become my core, carved out an evening for me in their schedules. This year, I had no doubts. They would be there. My core team made time for me, and yours will make time for you.

3. You need vulnerability Now you may be asking, “How did you find this group of friends that you can count on?” I would suggest two keys. First, you have to consistently make time to pursue what you want. Significant friendships and accomplishments don’t just happen. Second, when you are making time for your inner circle, you need to choose to go beneath the surface. To be clear, the idea is not to be vulnerable with everyone, but with your core group, you need to share both your highs and your lows. That’s what builds trust. That’s what builds relationships.

4. You need momentum If you have made it this far, you are well on your way, and that’s the point – momentum. We have already established that building relationships takes time and effort. It wouldn’t make sense to keep stopping and starting the process, then, would it? Find your group to focus on, and don’t spread yourself too thin.

5. You need variety Finally, if you look at the above picture closely, you will notice that there appears to be a variety of personalities and ages. That is not entirely by accident. Different ages and personalities keep you on your toes. They help you to see points of view you might have missed. In particular, older people can offer wisdom about the road ahead. Younger people can remind you of ideas you might have forgotten.

Do you have a core team?  What’s one step you can do to build your friend group?

Patricia Kelly Offers Riders Reins to Their Dreams


Patricia Kelly is founder/president/CEO/ head riding instructor of Ebony Horsewomen, Inc., located in Hartford, Conn. Ebony Horsewomen is an organization “to empower youth toward successful lives through the use of equine-assisted-growth learning."   The CEO of the organization for the past 30 years, Mrs. Kelly is also a former United States Marine.

This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Kelly shares about the difference perspective makes, how your childhood can shape your dreams and how to know if you are pursuing the right dream.

Sam's Dream Blog: In the Hartford Courant, you were quoted as saying, “Urban children are denied so much. What we are trying to do is unlock the genius, the brilliance in children to live their best life. We want to unlock the caged heart so that they will dream, and dream big." What difference does it make to get someone out of his or her environment for a little while so that they can experience something like Ebony Horsewomen offers?

Patricia Kelly: The answer to that is perspective. When your perspective, based upon experiences and resources, is limited, your perspective of the world is limited. You tend to think that all that there is what you have been able to experience. Often, youth in the inner city are not afforded experiences and resources to grow their perspective. It’s important to broaden a child’s perspective so that they can get a more global picture of the world, rather than only what’s in their limited neighborhood.

SDB: You mentioned children.  What age group does Ebony Horsewomen serve?

Patricia Kelly: Five to 19, although we have one program that goes up to 28. That’s the mounted patrol, our park rangers. We have our own park rangers in Keeney Park, where we are located. Keeney Park is 693 acres. We do it as a courtesy.

What is it about Ebony Horsewomen that is able to unlock people in a unique way?

Patricia Kelly: There are a number of things. We are in the middle of a metropolitan area that has the largest city park in New England. Keeney Park was designed by Frederick Olmsted, the same guy who designed Central Park.

Within this park, we have the ability to introduce country life and settings, agriculture on several levels. We have farm land here that we grow crops on. Not only do we grow the crops, but once the crops have been harvested, we teach the kids how to prepare the food.  They cook the food, and they learn the nutrition. That’s one aspect.

The second thing is we use equine-assisted therapy. Many of our children have difficulties in school, and some in the community. Many of them are suffering despair and depression. The equine-assisted therapy allows them to receive therapy without the stigma. We use horses to bring them to some answers in their situation.

Then, of course, the experience of learning how to ride a horse is another level that has a couple of different benefits to it. It’s the physical benefit, the emotional benefit, and the benefit of focused concentration and the ability to execute instructions that you are given as you are being taught how to ride. Those kinds of things are transferable to schoolwork.

SDB: Is there a success story that comes to mind?

Patricia Kelly: We have been doing this for 31 years. There are hundreds of success stories [from alumni.] We have one young lady who is a civil rights attorney for the federal government in Washington, D.C.  We have teachers. We have one young woman who is at Harvard University right now on a full scholarship. We have nurses and teachers and principals and business owners.

SDB: What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

SDB: What about your passion?  How did Ebony Horsewomen come about?

Patricia Kelly: It’s a complicated story, but it started in childhood when I was introduced to my first horse from a Jewish neighbor.  It stuck.  It became an obsession for me, a passion for me.  When I got out of the Marine Corps, I settled in my spirit that this was something I was going to pursue.  I was going to flush it out a little bit more, if you will.  Upon my attempt to do that, it became crystal clear to me that this in fact was my passion to do.

Thanks for reading Sam’s Dream Blog! Learn more about Ebony Horsewomen here

Miller's Musings: Making Time to Dream

What inspires you?  What are your hopes and dreams?  Recently I had the privilege of traveling with a team to another country.  Again and again, while meeting businesspeople there, we felt compelled to ask those questions.  Furthermore, what is the effect of dreaming vs. not dreaming?  The people with whom we interacted were without question hard workers, but a number of them had yet to be awakened to their dreams and passions.  Or they had been silenced.

This led me to wonder, is it possible that working too hard is a problem?  Is it possible that an outcome of working too hard could be that you forget to dream because you are so busy doing?  Is that the way we are meant to live?  Perhaps the answers to those questions depend on the person and the situation.  Perhaps there are seasons to simply put one’s nose to the grindstone and work hard.

Personally, I find that getting away from routine and making space to ponder questions like these to be illuminating.  Repeatedly, when our team encouraged our international friends to dream, light bulb after light bulb went on for all of us.  It was as if they, as if we, all knew we were at these events in part to evaluate our lives.  Since we had given ourselves permission to explore possibilities, there was no better time to take advantage.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  It’s in pursuing your passions that you do your best and find the role you were designed to play.

Thanks for stopping by Sam's Dream Blog!  Have a great day, and check out the next entry on Tue., April 14

Jami Curl Shares Sweet Treats

Jami Curl
Jami Curl

Candymaker Jami Curl is founder of QUIN candy co. and was one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. She is the author of Candy Is Magic: Real Ingredients, Modern Recipes. Below she shares about creating a memorable product, putting yourself into your work and why finding your dream is akin to a unicorn sighting.

Dreaming Made Simple: On your web site, you write, “Jami Curl here. I’m a candy maker, a business owner and a hard worker.” What is the value of finding a dream or a passion to pour into through hard work?

Jami Curl: I have had plenty of jobs where the passion just wasn't there. For me, all of those jobs involved work other than being directly involved in food. Still though, no matter what the job is, I am a hard worker. I think what you put into what you're doing defines so much of a person. - I have generally never been one to half-ass anything, putting my whole self into everything I do all the time - That's just the Jami Curl way. I think I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who led by example.

Finding a dream, realizing that dream and then being afforded the opportunity to turn that dream into work is a little like finding a unicorn. I think if you are given that rare, rare chance and then squander it, how sad and devastating. You have to find value in what you're doing, period. Whether it's dreaming up candy flavors and figuring out ways to sell that candy, or clocking in to a desk job in a cubicle.

Dreaming Made Simple: I read in your interview in DINE X DESIGN where you talked about snacks creating memories.  What is it about candy that so captures our hearts?

Jami Curl: Food memories are REALLY strong memories for many people. I remember nearly every family vacation I took as a child, simply because of the food we ate or the meals we shared while traveling. Whether it's the snacks my mom would pack for road trips or the dinners we had under the stars on our beach vacations, I can almost taste that stuff, just thinking about it.

Candy has never been something that people eat and then feel bad about (unless you eat too much!) Generally, candy is eaten when we need a boost, when we are celebrating, when we are happy. I don’t know anyone without memories tied directly to candy, whether it's the candy dish at a beloved grandmother's house or the 10-cent candy picked up at the neighborhood corner store.

Dreaming Made Simple: What steps have you taken to get to where you are presently?

Jami Curl: I'd say my steps are kind of all over the place. I have a degree in English, and I also did half of my Masters in Public Administration but quit grad school to open a bakery. I have opened myself up to failure and have taken my successes lightly. I get out and meet people, doing food shows, attending workshops and conferences, and now hosting my own workshops. I teach classes and learn more about my craft by attempting to each others about it.

The biggest step of all is remaining open to opportunity because I never know when something totally amazing might pop up.

Dreaming Made Simple: How do you set your brand apart?

Jami Curl: For QUIN, I pour my entire self into what we do - everything from the types of candy that we make, to their names, to our look and feel - All of it is something I have either done myself or led the way. The important part is forming a team that understands that and supports it. I'm lucky enough to have a team that really understands the importance of our brand and then works to support it.

Dreaming Made Simple: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?  What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Jami Curl: Sometimes the dream is a total grind. Sometimes the work is so hard that it doesn't feel at all like a dream or a passion. The hours are the longest. Your social life takes a total beating. The lows are very low - but the highs! The highs are the highest, and there's nothing like looking at the work you've put into something and realizing how worth it was.

My advice would be to work hard and to remember that you're going to have days where it feels totally miserable to be you. Fight through it because it's worth it!

Learn more about Jami Curl and QUIN here

Whipsaw Co-Founder Dan Harden on Taking Risk and Facing Fear

Dan Harden, Whipsaw

Dan Harden, Whipsaw

Fast Company named designer Dan Harden one of its 2014’s 100 Most Creative People in business. This week, the co-founder and CEO of Whipsaw shares what to do with risk and fear and how to put your personality into your work.

Sam's Dream Blog: Designs must stand out. What is your advice in terms of taking risk and demonstrating passion in a productive way, rather than for the sake of taking risk for risk’s sake?

Dan Harden: First of all, some designs should not stand out. Some need to blend into an experience so the user can go about their business without something screaming at them. Most design problems can only be solved by taking risks. If the risky answer is right, it's more risky not to do it.

SDB: How do you advise putting personality into one’s work?

Dan Harden: Good design often exudes its own personality. That can come from either finding its internal essence and giving that essence a voice... or putting your own personality into a design. Putting your own personality into a design can work if your product needs attitude (like an aggressive boxing glove or a piece of fashion), but you have to be careful when doing that on a serious piece of equipment like an ultrasound scanner where function, safety, and usability trump personality.

SDB: What are traits to look for and to stay away from when assembling a team?

Dan Harden: We seek smart go-getters with tons of passion and talent; we avoid the opposite.

SDB: I have read that you advise getting rid of all fear.  How do you get rid of fear?

Dan Harden: Fear in context of creativity is not having the courage to try something different for fear of judgment or failure. Once you witness the success gained from creatively reaching, the fear simply vanishes.

Learn more about Dan Harden and Whipsaw here, and check back for the next Sam’s Dream Blog post on Tue., March 17

Sit up Straight for Vanessa Van Edwards on Sam's Dream Blog


Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and a behavioral investigator. Vanessa’s workshops and courses teach individuals how to succeed in business and life. She has been featured on NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the Today Show and USA Today.

This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Vanessa shares how to use pain points to your advantage, how to overcome nerves, and how good body language makes a big difference.

Sam's Dream Blog: From your bio on Udemy, you discovered your passion for teaching about body language from a former pain point of being a “recovered awkward person.”  How important are pain points in discovering one’s dreams or what makes that person come alive?

Vanessa Van Edwards: I think if you want to be successful, you have to be able to relate to your customers, readers, and team members. If you have pain points, you can literally feel their pain. This helps you address needs, be more relatable and tap into what truly inspires us. Pain is also a crazy good motivator. We will do anything to get our bodies and minds out of pain and this will push you better than any motivator.

SDB: Speaking of body language, how do you avoid giving off the wrong signals when you don’t want to be in a situation or when you are really nervous?

Vanessa Van Edwards: Power posing! Sometimes you can't help being nervous. But you can help your body’s response to nerves. When you expand your body--widen your arms, tilt your chin up and forehead back you power up your testosterone and this helps you feel good and perform well.

SDB: Can you give me an example of a before-and-after, so to speak, how improved body language made a big difference in a positive way?

Vanessa Van Edwards: I have a very specific example for you. I pitched a conference to be a speaker. They did not book me. That year I learned how to use my hands as trust indicators and to use the power of leaning (2 body language techniques). When I pitched again I got the gig! One lady on the committee said I was like a completely different person--but it was the exact same pitch.

Learn more about Vanessa Van Edwards and the Science of People here, and check back for the next Sam's Dream Blog post on Tue., March 3

Dreams: What “Shoes” Do You Need to Buy?


OK, Sam’s Dream Blog readers, I have a confession to make.  Normally I don’t care too much about fashion.  Don’t mistake me – I like to look nice, and I think looking good is important -  It’s just at this point in my life, being on the cutting edge of fashion or wearing certain brands is not paramount to me.  That is, with one exception.  I am particular about my running shoes.  I often go through several stores without finding a single pair that interests me.  Sometimes this produces a couple extra months of wear on my already smooth soles.  Thank goodness Nike usually saves the day, including in the case of my latest pair.  That Nike came through was not atypical; what was surprising, however, was that I purchased what I would consider a daring pair.

You can see from the picture how bright they are.  It is not inaccurate to call them eye-catching, because that has been their effect for me.  I get a handful of comments about them every week or so, whereas you could probably count the number of comments I have received about my previous shoes on both hands.  At first all the attention made me uneasy.  Then I started pondering what all the fuss was about.  It reminded me of Helen Keller’s quote on risk: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

To me, my blue shoes are a metaphor for dreaming and doing something with those dreams.  Going through life conservatively might keep you safe, but you won’t make much of an impression.  Isn’t significance what we all long for?  As author and entrepreneur Seth Godin said on his blog, “Hint: lots of random pokes in many different spots are unlikely to leave much of an impact. And hiding out is surely not going to work at all.”

What “shoes” do you need to buy?  Where have you blended instead of standing out like you were designed to do?  Leave a comment below, and check back for the next post on Tue., Feb. 17

Neil Blumenthal, of Warby Parker, on Doing What You Love and More

Neil Blumenthal
Neil Blumenthal

Neil Blumenthal is a co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, an eyewear designer that partners with non-profits to donate a pair of glasses for every pair sold.

This week on Dreaming Made Simple, Neil shares what led him to co-found Warby Parker, and about the importance of clarity and curiosity.

Dreaming Made Simple: What’s your professional dream? How did your dream originate?

Neil Blumenthal: My goal is to help people—over the last ten years, it’s been to help people see. After graduating from college, I interned at the International Crisis Group, where I quickly began to wonder if there were quicker ways to effect change than through policy. Through family friends I met Jordan Kassalow, an optometrist who founded a social enterprise called VisionSpring. I worked with VisionSpring to train women in developing countries to give eye exams and sell affordable glasses to members of their community. It was witnessing the impact of this simple intervention—getting glasses to people who had trouble working or learning without them—that planted the seeds for what would become Warby Parker.

Dreaming Made Simple: How do you define who you are and who you are not as a company?

Neil Blumenthal: It’s crucial to have a deep understanding of your organization’s reasons for being. We were methodical about building an identity from day one—coming up with a list of core values, defining what we wanted our company culture to be, thinking about long-term goals.

We also defined what our hierarchy of messaging would be—what we would focus on communicating to customers. There were (and still are) three messages: first, that Warby Parker glasses look amazing; second, that our glasses are affordable; and third, that for every pair purchased, we distribute a pair of glasses to someone in need.

Dreaming Made Simple: Tell about the importance of simplifying and how you do it.

Neil Blumenthal: Simplifying is important because it forces you to recognize what your priorities are. Tips: Be direct in communication. Try to respond to emails quickly so they don’t pile up. Smile. Say "thank you” often.

Dreaming Made Simple: You told Inc., “Discover what you love as fast as possible.” How does someone do that?

Neil Blumenthal: By being curious about the world, trying a million different things, pushing yourself to meet people from all walks of life and continually expanding your own horizons.

Learn more about Neil Blumenthal and Warby Parker here.

Dreams: Where to Start in 2015

It’s the first full week of the New Year.  If you are like I am, that realization can be overwhelming.  You have a blank canvas. You want to make every stroke count.  Above all, you yearn to churn out a masterpiece with your dreams. But how?  Where do you start?

Not long ago, one of my mentors talked about implementing change.  So many times, something sparks us to make a huge shift in our lives – We suddenly find ourselves with what Good to Great author Jim Collins calls a "Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal" – living a healthy lifestyle, for example - We identify about 153 things that need to happen before we reach the summit of that mountain.  And we want to be at the peak tomorrow.  We expect to be.

The first day we even do all 153 things to make our healthy lifestyle happen. So far, so good.  Day one, out of weeks and months, is in the book.  Then something happens.  The sun rises on day two, which is also a pretty good day, but not perfect like the first one.  We only accomplish 151 things on our list.  Five or six days in, if we are honest with ourselves, we can only check about half the boxes on the to-do list toward our Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.

Soon it gets to the point when we have all but forgotten about that larger-than-life goal.  Except we haven’t forgotten.  We haven’t forgotten because there was a reason we perked up and set the lifestyle goal in the first place.  Now, all we are left with is shame.  “It was a stupid goal anyway,” we say or “I was dumb to think I could do that,” we tell ourselves.

Fortunately for me and for you, my mentor offered a way to avoid this disappointment.  His solution for 2015?  Instead of a huge list of changes to be made, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do to show I am serious about change?”  Then do that one thing every day.

Simple enough, right?  Now, what are you going to do?

As Tony Robbins says in Awaken the Giant Within, “More than anything else, I believe it's our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny.”

Thanks for reading! Leave a comment below or share this with a friend. Check back for the next SDB post on Tue. Jan 20.

Irene Zola Helps Seniors Maintain Excellence in Later Years

Irene Zola
Irene Zola

Irene Zola is the New York City based Executive Director of Lifeforce in Later Years and Coordinator of Morningside Village volunteers. She helps connect seniors to the services they need at home or in the larger community. For her efforts, CNN selected her as a CNN Hero.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your dream for L-i-L-Y? How did your dream originate?

Irene Zola: LiLY's national mission is to increase the inclusion of older seniors into the life of the family, the community, the culture.  I would like to see us all spending even an hour each week with someone in their nineties or even older.  This would make a huge difference in the lives of those who ?as things stand?are too often neglected.  The dream began when I was taking care of my own 97-year-old mom, who was incapacitated and had to spend her last days in a nursing home.  There, some of the hundreds of people would call out, "help", "take me to my room", "get me out of here", "I have no one".  Most were quietly idling away the day in their wheelchairs with little encouragement and without the resources to get the help they needed.  It was an awakening as to how ?in modern times with families often living at great distances from oldest relatives?we are surely not honoring those who taught and encouraged us.  I wanted to change all of that.

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Irene Zola: Founding and helping to create Morningside Village, a volunteer-based elder-care program in Manhattan, has been very gratifying.  This signature program, where older seniors are served completely free of charge, is a model for communities across the land.  LiLY has also initiated a visibility campaign and Love an Elder Day, a day of celebration on October 1 during the week of the UN's International Day to Celebrate Older Persons.  I am very proud of this step toward changing the culture.  We hope nonagenarians and centurions will be celebrated on Oct. 1 and everyday!

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream?  What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Irene Zola: One obstacle to LiLY's work is that we are living in a youth-based culture and at a time when families are often far away.  Thus, the biggest obstacle has been money, of course!  With more money, we would be able to better nationalize Love an Elder Day through hiring employees, increasing partnerships and buying media. We could also do outreach to other communities, mentoring leaders to carry out the mission of integrating our elders into the lives of younger generations.

When founding Lifeforce in Later Years, I made of list of all the possible programs that might help to change the lives of older seniors for the better.  Then, I settled on the one that I was able to begin with the few resources at hand. I asked a local place of worship for a free meeting place;  I made a flyer inviting folks to a meeting, and printed it at home;  borrowed a collapsable table and folding chair; got a nice looking friend to come along, and went out to Broadway, handing out flyers and talking about my idea to strangers.  Having a friend along for support was important.  And, I was on my way!  I think the most important way to go forward for me was to collaborate, befriend, reach out, and talk it up.

Learn more about Irene Zola and LiLY here, and check back for the next Sam’s Dream Blog post on Tue., Dec. 23

Thankfulness: The Game-Changer


Typically, at Thanksgiving time, I post a reflection called "Thankfulness: The Game-Changer." As I reflected on a potential post, I wondered, "What has changed this year? Why has thankfulness been a game-changer in my life this year?" If there’s one truth that sticks out above the surface of life’s daily current, one thing that leads me to take a pause out of going with the flow, it’s this: I’m thankful I get to be in process. For most of us, our dream journey is not about dreaming it one night and doing it the next day. Well, occasionally it might be, but normally that means the dream is too small. Yes, dreams are about the long haul.

Maybe you can chalk it up to youthful exuberance. Maybe it’s simply a mark of dreamers, but for almost as long as I can remember, I have battled guilt, shame and doubt. I should be doing more, I should be more in pursuit of my dreams. As the founder of Sam’s Dream Blog, I should be doing big, earth-shaking stuff on a daily basis, right? Well, without meaning to get in the way of people who are accomplishing dream after dream right now, I am reminded of an insight I’ve heard a few times in this Facebook age: What you see on social media are people’s highlight reels. You don’t see the times when those same people are in the dark, waiting for the next movie to roll. The reality might be closer to what Will Leitch said on SDB: "There’s no point where you hit a finish line. That’s something I didn’t realize when I was 25 or 26. I always thought I’d hit a point where I made it. You never hit it."

Dreams, then, are often about the process of who you are becoming in pursuit of a goal. During that process, we encounter others who are on their dream journeys. We help and encourage them and vice versa. We learn that we are not meant to do this alone. No doubt you have gathered tools and wisdom along the way that are meant to be passed on to others, and they have tools meant for you. What’s more, we need people to ensure we have not lost focus. At one time, an idea leapt in you. What was it, and why did it matter to you?

Howard Thurman had this to say about the process of becoming: "Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."

So again, what’s your dream? What makes you come alive? What are you thankful on your dream journey?

Dreams: Sam's Dream Blog Celebrates 100 Inspirations

This is a big week on Sam’s Dream Blog!  Here at SDB, it’s celebration time for 100 posts.  Whether you have read every post, several posts, or maybe you are making your first visit, thank you.    

Here are some highlights from the first 100 posts. Follow the underlined links for the full interviews.

1. Writer Will Leitch graciously helped to kickstart SDB. First and foremost on the journey toward your dreams, Leitch says, "You have to be willing to go down with the ship. You can’t look for an escape hatch."

2. Now that you’re committed to your dream journey, per Will’s advice, Dallas Mavericks owner and business mogul Mark Cuban has this to say: "You have to determine whether or not you are willing to commit to working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week?"

3. While you’re at it, "Learn whatever you can from whoever is going to offer it. Every day you should be learning something new," San Francisco sous chef Adam Nichol says.

4. Of course, maybe your dream pursuit cannot be at the forefront of your life right now, due to other limitations for the time being.  Take heart in what leadership expert John Maxwell says: "When it comes to being an authority on a subject, spend one hour a day, five days a week, for five years. Earl Nightingale says that by doing that, you can become an expert on any subject?"

5. If all that sounds daunting, think back to your childhood, Harvard Business Review contributor and TEDx speaker Whitney Johnson says: "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?"

6.  "Exhaust all opportunities for growth," including volunteering, career expert Alexandra Levit says.

7.  Speaking of opportunities, "It’s important to know you want to do things the right way, no matter if it takes longer to accomplish. I guess it’s just being patient," Hollywood manager and producer Trevor Kaufman says.

8. Drybar’s Alli Webb has this to say about your dream pursuits: "It’s key to identify your target consumer and to make sure the need for your business really exists on a scale large enough to sustain the business for the long haul. Then execution is the next hurdle. Be prepared to work tirelessly to really nurture your idea."

9. Candy connoisseur and Sugarfina co-founder Rosie O’Neill keeps her advice about dreams short and sweet: "Try new things as often as possible, stick with what you like, and don’t waste your time with the things you don’t like? Life’s too short."

10. Finally, remember this advice from Estella’s Brilliant Bus inspiration, Estella Pyfrom:.. "Don’t shy away from your dreams. Don’t listen to negative people that say it’s not going to happen.  If you have a dream and you are willing to work for that to make it happen, it can happen."

If any of these comments particularly resonated with you, let me know below, and share with a friend!