5. The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly (2007)

Some time ago, Eric, our CTO, told me I should read this book. At first, it might take you by surprise to know that it is a work of fiction, more or less, though it is not a “novel” by any stretch. Rather, Matthew Kelly sets the story out as a parable that he invites business leader to consider, as well as a question he refers back to on numerous occasions: “What’s your dream?”

His supposition is almost painfully simple: employees are driven by dreams. Management, too. In fact, everyone has a dream, or more, that is the guiding force in their lives. And the program he sets out in a fictional janitorial company is simple: that a company should make it its business to help its employees realize their dreams. The way to do this is to establish an actual position, the “dream manager.”

Dreams, Kelly asserts, are the main motivation for people. And a job must be something that will help them achieve it. The problem is manifold; for one the job itself (janitorial, say) does not allow for it explicitly or, as is often the case, people simply don’t know how to implement their dreams—if they even know what they are.

“What sets people apart?” one of his characters muses. “People are unique in that they have the ability to imagine a more abundant future, to hope for that future, and to take proactive steps to create that future. This is the process of proactive dreaming. Isn’t that the story of all great individuals, families, teams, corporations, and nations?”

Didactic writing, to be certain. Yet the book does stir the reader to considering, as Kelly says, that people are first and foremost people.

To begin, Kelly instructs us, write down your dreams. One hundred of them, say. This may be, as I’ve found, a struggle, but even a list of twenty or so is a start. Which ones are achievable in perhaps the next six months? Next, you have to plan for these dreams, and for many of us the finances are the hardest part. People, Kelly asserts, don’t necessarily know how to save. Or to plan.

The book’s end is a step-by-step program for you, individually, and by extension your family, your company, everything. The first “truth” is that we all need a dream manager—and if we think about it, we’ll see that our lives have been filled with such people—coaches, grandparents, teachers. The second truth is that we, too, are dream managers for others: our children, our students, our colleagues.

It all starts by buying yourself, or even making, your own Dream Book. List your dreams. Date them. And date them again when you achieve them. In this act, repeated again and again, Matthew Kelly insists that you’ll begin to, as Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.” You will live the life you have imagined.

In an upcoming installment, I want to look at the question of motivation further by looking at the guidebook to “Total Motivation,” Primed to Perform.

Thanks for reading,
Sean Hill