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How to Dream

Join globally renowned author and Columbia Business School professor Dr. Sheena Iyengar as she explains how to approach your dreams with a new perspective. Learn to reflect on what you long to accomplish and what stands in your way.

For several years, I authored a weekly column for the Nikkei, Japan’s equivalent of The Wall Street Journal or The Financial Times. The title of the series was “Omoshiroku Ikiru,” which translates as something like “Living a Fun and Interesting Life.” It was a little bit about business (GLOBIS), a little bit about technology, and a little bit about leadership, but mostly I covered far more personal matters. I talked about how my wife and I are raising our five boys, my hobbies and interests, and the efforts I’m making to give something back to my hometown of Mito, Ibaraki.

These are rather unconventional topics for a business newspaper, but the articles were widely read and shared by everyone from stay-at-home moms to corporate CEOs. Why? Because business advice can be found anywhere. But finding rules to live by when balancing work obligations is a little tougher.

So when the time came to write my 83rd and final column, I decided that the best way to sign off would be to sum up my inspirational life lessons in three easy rules to live by.

How to Dream

Join globally renowned author and Columbia Business School professor Dr. Sheena Iyengar as she explains how to approach your dreams with a new perspective. Learn to reflect on what you long to accomplish and what stands in your way.

#1 Stay curious.

If you want inspirational life lessons, the first is easy: Stay curious throughout your life. My friend and mentor, Alan Patricof, offers this among his ten tips for venture capital success, as well.

Why is curiosity a rule to live by?

Trying new activities and learning new things will broaden your perspective and make your existence much more fun. I know this from experience.

When I hit forty, I decided to change my lifestyle completely. I took up the game of Go, became a keen mountain hiker, and engaged in new sports like competitive swimming and snowboarding. These were things I’d never tried before, but found I was curious about.

A rich life should not follow a linear continuum. Don’t be afraid to make abrupt, even complete changes of direction from time to time. Get out of your comfort zone. Take big risks. Have an open mind, and you’ll find it leads you to a happier life.

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#2 Enjoy friendships and family.

Surround yourself with people—not just the ones you know. Meeting new people and building the bonds of love and friendship are two things that make life more interesting and enjoyable. Join forces with people you meet. They’ll help you to achieve things you could never do on your own.

The more people you know and spend time with, the more possibilities open up in front of you. That’s an important life lesson, to say the least.

It certainly was for my company, GLOBIS. Our growth has been driven by meeting and building deep relationships with all sorts of stakeholders: shareholders, customers, mentors, and employees.

At the same time, I take my relationship with my family more seriously than anything else on earth. Raising five kids while running a business is tough, so I cut back on things like corporate entertaining and golf. The joy I get from being with my boys has always been the most precious thing in my life.

#3 Be grateful for what you’ve got.

Taru o shiru” is an old Buddhist saying in Japan. Loosely translated, it means, “Be aware that you have enough” or “be satisfied with your lot in life.” Many of us want to believe that “never settle” is the ultimate rule to live by, but it’s really important to be happy with what you’ve got. You can still be ambitious with a glass-half-full view of life. 

Being in good health makes me happy. So does sitting around the dining table with my family. Or sleeping in a mountain hut among other climbers, all packed together like sardines. Or even enjoying a simple glass of water when I’m thirsty. There are intense positive feelings you can get from the little things.

If you learn to be grateful for the ordinary, the sense of satisfaction you get from life will deepen immeasurably. The real joy of life is right there in front of you, nestled among all your little everyday experiences.

Rules to Live By

The most inspirational life lessons are the ones that help you achieve your dreams and bring you peace of mind. You only live your life once.

Stay curious. Get the most out of your friends and family. Be content with what you have.

If you follow these three simple rules, then every day of your life—and every minute of every day—will be fun and interesting. I can guarantee these rules to live by. They’ve taken me far!

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