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Being a Dreamer is...

Colin Stuckert

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.” 

Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

Wow. Just wow. I read this a few times before it hit me like a ton of bricks.

You see, I’ve always been a night owl. I struggled in high school because I would stay up too late playing computer games, which turned me into a sleep deprived zombie the next day at school. And to make matters worse, I already struggled in school because I didn’t give a shit—no one explained to me why I should—so being tired didn’t help the cause at all. Left off

After going to college for a couple years (because that’s what everyone else did) I started playing poker after seeing it on TV. I was hooked. The next three years of my life were spent studying, playing, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, and being “up”overall in the profession of poker. For those three years, I was a “grinder”—I played long hours, usually late, day in and day out. I was a “professional.”

It was a hard way to make an easy living, as the saying goes, and I knew I couldn’t sustain it forever. It was far too stressful to lose $10,000 in a single day. I don’t miss those ups and downs, not at all.

Playing poker professionally didn’t help my sleep habits at all… in fact, it reinforced them. My schedule became 4am to 12pm, while some days I’d sleep in to one or two pm. I made sure to always get my 8 hours in—still do—so it wasn’t like I was destroying my health or anything; I just went to bed late and woke up late. In the back of my head, I’ve known that I’ll one day have to “fix” my schedule, but I keep putting it off as something to do in the future.

Lately, I’ve been seeing research showing up in articles around the web about findings that night owls are smarter, on average, than their early bird counterparts. That makes me feel a little better about my sleep schedule, I guess. (Or this is just confirmation bias at play.)

For whatever reason, I like being up while the rest of the world (where I live) is asleep. I get inspired and motivated at night, usually after midnight. Plus, the idea of sleep sounds depressing; to think I have to stop reading, writing, plotting, planning and learning. It’s hard to force myself to stop and so I usually find myself staying up later and later.

I’ve read about some interesting research that suggests that workers are more productive when the weather is crappy outside verses when the weather is sunny. Weird, huh? They say it’s because the employees are distracted by what they could be doing outside and this hinders work. On the flip side, when the weather is crappy, employees are more productive. Obviously, this must be because there is no possibility from the outside to distract.

Personally, I have found this effect to be spot-on. It explains why I have trouble sticking myself in front of a computer—where I do 99% of my work—when the sun is out and the world is calling my name to get outside and live life. The flip side, of course, is at night nothing is open and so there is no prospect vying for my attention. Staying home and working is easy for me when the sun is down. Different strokes for different folks, neh?

Mr. Wilde’s quote above spoke to me more deeply than the fact that I’m a night owl. You see, I’ve always been what you would call a “dreamer.” I make big plans, and I work to accomplish them on a daily basis. Of course, as he suggests above, this does not come without cost. The life of the dreamer/entrepreneur/artist can be a lonely life, and being a night owl only furthers the amount of alone time one spends.

Most people make their living through a job, where they get to  interact with people in real life on a daily basis. The artist makes their living (or tries to) from the privacy of their home. Some of us do a bit of both. No one way is the “right” way, and each comes with its own price.

I value my solitude and alone time, but I also highly value time spent with other human beings. I thoroughly enjoy collaborating, debating, arguing, building and being around real people in real life, and so my ideal work environment is a mix of working with people in real life and working in solitude. 

In my first two businesses, I’ve been able to remove myself from being too much in person and find the mix of being a bit in person and a bit in solitude. But now I’m building a new company—Wild Foods—and so I’m back to a lot of work in solitude. It’s going to be some time before I can hire a team and work with people in real life. As with all things in life, this is just part of the process. When I think about this, I’m reminded that all things in life go through phases.

Sometimes we have abundance, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we get to do things we enjoy all the time, sometimes we rarely get to do things we like. Sometimes we are content and happy and have purpose, other items we are desperately searching for each.

Of course, such is life, and it’s all just a part of the process that is life. So I try to remind myself that I am working through a “tough patch” in life, and this fuels me to keep going. The best way out is though, as it is so often said.

What about you? Are you working through a tough period in your life? Maybe you are experiencing abundance, maybe you aren’t. In either case, I implore you to recognize and appreciate your situation for what it is in the grand scheme of things. You are probably in a phase one way or another. Remind yourself that your abidance will not last, nor will your lack of abundance. Remember that the only thing that is certain is change. 

By recognizing the natural phases of life, you will be better prepared for your situation when you transition into or out of them. Instead of fretting when are entering an inevitable difficult phase, you can embrace it because you know that it is the necessary step you must take before getting to a more desirable phase. Instead of trying to fight it, the way most people do, you can do your best to make it the best you can. And this is, after all, the only real thing you can do: accept things as they come. When you try to fight change, you not only fail to prevent that change, but you often make it worse and harder than it needs to be. You cannot fight change; it is an inevitable part of life that we all go through. Instead, try to be like water, as Bruce Lee suggests, and “be the cup.” Surf the wave instead of trying to build a wall. You’ll get far better results, trust me.

As you experience change in your life, expect it to go from better to worse, from worse to better, from great to amazing, from amazing to terrible, and just about every other possible variation. Ride the wave the best you can.

The better you understand the natural phases of life, the better prepared you will be to live well in your best and worst situations.

Yours in Health and Life,

-Colin Stuckert