Tips For The Unrelenting Creative: Everyone Needs A Dream Crusher!

Hi everyone,


This week, I’m writing to you from sunny Utah, where I’m spending some time in the National Parks with my family. It’s a much needed break and I hope that all of you are able to take a bit of time to explore this beautiful planet in the near future. Getting out for a road trip is one of my all-time favorite activities and our current trip inspired me to write this week’s newsletter.


I hope you enjoy the post.


Everyone Needs A Dream Crusher!


I’m a dreamer at heart. I remember one spring during my undergraduate degree, I realized that I had about a month between the end of school and the time when my summer work and musical activities began. As a classical musician, my summers were usually spent receiving additional training at festivals in beautiful parts of the country, often at a financial cost to me. While most of my friends were busy landing summer jobs to offset the cost of school and summer festivals, in my mind, this was a perfect time to pack up my ‘88 Chevy Nova and explore all of the great things America had to offer. Four weeks on the road with no agenda, no responsibility, just time to reflect and explore, it was a dreamer’s dream come true. I mused about the trip for a couple of days and then, right before finals, I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to join me.


After she stopped laughing, her first question to me was “How much money do you have in the bank?”


“About $200 dollars.” I said, wondering why she would ask such an absurd question.


“Aaaand, how many tanks of gas will that fill before you run out of money?” with an obvious eye roll.


After figuring out that $200 dollars would only get me to St. Louis from the East Coast, I quickly abandoned that idea and instead started my summer cobbling together some short-term jobs before I started training at the summer music festival.


My girlfriend at the time is now my wife and over the years, she has often (affectionately) been called a “Dream Crusher.” I need this check in my life because, at my core, I would love nothing more than to throw caution to the wind and pursue the things in which I am most passionate. I love to muse about the world and what it could be. On the flip side, this has, at times, led to an unrealistic understanding of what the consequences might be if I proceed down a particular path.


For example, that seemingly inconsequential trip across the US during my college years is something countless college students have done for generations. Would I remember that trip to this day? Absolutely. Would part of that memory be because that trip ultimately would have resulted in extensive charges on my credit card? Also yes.


My abandoned trip across the country was a reality check and it helped me start to understand this simple truth: For every career and life decision made, a lever is pulled that creates a domino effect for other decisions down the road. So often I would separate my “career” decisions from my “life” decisions without realizing how absolutely connected they were. For example, if I had decided to put my trip across the country on credit cards, I would have been paying off that debt for at least a year and would not have been able to make strategic investments in my education as an artist. The decision to abandon my trip wasn’t just a quality of life decision, it ultimately gave me more flexibility to make decisions that would benefit my career.


There are a few things fascinating to me about this story upon reflection:


  1. If I wasn’t with my girlfriend, would I have gone? Probably. Clearly, she has had a huge impact on my decisions over the years, which has helped me make better life and career choices.

    Having a significant other or thought partner in your career and life brings balance and perspective to your decisions.
  2. Regardless of a significant other being the voice of reason, I know that many people would have been completely fine taking on the risk, throwing caution to the wind and embarking upon that trip across the country. Not worrying about money, they would have just figured it out as they went along.

    It is also important to understand the type of risk you are willing to take on in order to live a fulfilling life. 
  3. There are still others that would have figured out how to balance their road trip aspirations with the reality of the situation, perhaps by working for the first two months of the summer before taking that road trip so they had a bit of money in the bank to get them through the summer.

    Having a plan for how you will achieve your career and life aspirations is key to your success.

What would you have done? Do you have someone who is the voice of reason in this decision? Are you the “Dream Crusher?”


Here are a few questions I ask myself when I’m confronted with a life decision (with or without a Dream Crusher guiding me).


  1. Will the decision help me achieve my big goals? Having solid long-term goals has always helped me make smarter short-term decisions. Today, I would never dream of going on a road trip without careful planning because I have big-picture goals like saving for retirement on my mind.

    Tip: When in doubt, let your long-term goals be your guide to short-term decisions.
  2. Will the decision cost me money? You are allowed to spend money…if you have the money to spend.

    Tip: Putting anything on a credit card or pulling money from savings to make a purchase may bring short-term happiness, but in the long run it may take away your ability to tackle bigger goals down the road.
  3. Will the decision help bring me joy? Joy and happiness are very important to me so if I make a decision to spend a little extra money or time on something that I know will make me happy, I look for ways to cut back time and money in other areas. 

    Tip: Life is short and you need to make certain you’re happy. If money or time is being spent in pursuit of that joy, something else needs to be sacrificed. It’s all about balance.


Things I Loved

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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