Do You Have Cheerleaders or Dream Stealers Around You?


For those of you that haven’t seen Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris yet, here’s one big reason to see it: this movie isn’t really about Paris, although that’s the setting for the story. It’s really about one person’s search for his true passion.

The lead character, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), and his girlfriend Ines (Rachel McAdam), find themselves in the City of Light as they tag along with the latter’s parents who are in Paris for business. Currently, Gil works as a very successful Hollywood screenwriter. However, he is not completely happy with this. His visit to Paris awakens a deep-seated yearning and he begins to seriously consider going back to his roots as a writer of serious prose.

Gil toys with the idea of moving to Paris to work full time on a novel he’s been writing on the side. Ines isn’t too thrilled with the idea and does her best to dissuade him. In fact, she shares her disapproval of Gil’s decision with her mother. She agrees that it is an unwise choice, in light of his successful career as a Hollywood writer. Furthermore, Ines doubts Gil’s abilities as a credible novelist and is openly critical of his efforts. Near the end of the story, Gil eyes slowly open to the fact that he has the wrong player on his “team”.

It’s a fascinating story about the eventual realization that not everything that we see on the surface is as it seems. Paris is more than just the city of the free-spirited writers and artists from the 1920s that Gil romanticizes.  Ines is not quite the faithful and supportive fiancé that Gil thinks her to be. The antiques seller that he meets in the flea market is no ordinary girl.  And as for Gil, he is more than an assembly line writer and empty dreamer. He does, in fact, hold a lot of promise as a novelist and is prepared to bet on his dreams.

For many of us, though, that promise can never materialize unless we’ve got the right amount of support behind us. For me, my successful design career might have gotten stalled (or never materialized, even) had not my parents given their silent assent, bought me a thick Winter coat and a plane ticket to get my new design career started in Europe, and called everyone they knew who had friends or relatives in Italy just to make sure that I had people to turn to in case I found myself in dire straits.

Fortunately, my close friends or former teachers did not offer any resistance or discouragement. All they did was to wish me luck. For many people that is all that’s needed for them to go forward.

It is more difficult when you’re emotionally and financially tied down and have a partner and/or children who question your decision to pursue further studies or to work on a job that can help catapult you to fame and fortune, but will take you away from them for some time. Pursuing your dreams is a lot easier when the people that you care about simply offer you encouragement and wish you Godspeed.

There is oftentimes a huge cost in order for anyone to be successful in their chosen pursuit, and you need to ask yourself two things:

  1. Am I willing to pay the price to attain my dreams?
  2. Are the people that I care for understanding enough to let me go so that I can do what I need to do to be happy and successful?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no” then perhaps now is not the right time, or you’re not ready to do whatever it takes. Or perhaps you need to find somebody else on your team, or maybe you need to look to different people to cheer you on and support your cause to give you the strength and the will to carry on.  If you can’t count on your loved ones, then you need to find:

  • A mastermind group who you can share your challenges with and who can advise you on the best course of action for your dreams
  • One or two mentors who can share their wisdom and experience with you and give you their honest opinion free from any bias or self-interest.

What experiences have you had with cheerleaders and dream stealers?  I would be interested to hear your responses in the comments below.

Photo by Jeffrey Beall

37 thoughts on “Do You Have Cheerleaders or Dream Stealers Around You?”

  1. Yes George, be aware of the dream stealers. These people tend to live in a box so to speak, they are rather conventional types who never question the norm. In other words they are boring and predictable with their lives.

    I keep my distance from dream stealers and naysayers because I don’t want their pessimism rubbing off on me.

    1. Like Justin I too avoid the dream stealers also known as life suckers. For the most part I would be better off if the dream stealers / life suckers would remain disinterested – which includes my internal dream stealer.

      I also do not keep many cheerleaders nearby for false praise is worse than dream stealers. With cheerleaders, quality is far better than quantity in my world.

      Minor advice and suggestions can improve my potential far greater than the whole hearted back slapping signs of encouragement.

      1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this John. Well-meaning cheerleaders are also out there and they sometimes provide encouragement (even when they shouldn’t or really mean it) be just to be polite. I find these types more tolerable than the dream-stealers. I think it’s best to just go full steam-ahead regardless what people say or think.

    2. Great advice, Justin. Not everyone shares our enthusiasm, passion or vision. They’re tethered to their “safe” existence and don’t want to step out of their comfort zones. Sometimes, they’re afraid that if we really succeed, then we may even leave them behind. I guess it’s self-preservation on one hand and a lack of understanding on the other. It’s certainly a tricky situation. And it’s best to avoid these types, as you pointed out.

  2. I have to agree with Justin. I have had some dream stealers in my time and I’ve learned at great lesson behind it. At first I don’t think you notice right away but after a while you catch on. I also try to stay away from the negative. It’s hard because these could be dear friends that you’ve had for years but you always have to think of your well being. Great Article by the way!

    1. Glad you liked the article, Michelle. Some of the worst dream-stealers are friends, relatives and life partners. Some of it’s due to envy, a bit has to do with not fully understanding that we’d like to do what makes us happy and the rest is just fear of being left behind. A little patience and understanding with these people go a long way as we can’t always just walk away from these people who we may have known for a long time. If we really believe in our dreams and are prepared to bet on them, it really doesn’t matter what other people say.

      1. Hi George,

        I do agree and it is especially hard to ignore the dream stealers if they are your family. Currently, I am in this situation and it has pushed me down quite a bit although I am usually not listening. My parents don’t understand my way of life and instead of telling me to just try it out and see they tell me all the reason why I shouldn’t. I had this for most of my big decisions in life and usually could ignore it but this time I just wish they could encourage me. Thank God for my brother and friends that are their taking on that job. Although it easy to say to not surround yourself with dream stealers it is not that easy if it is your family. Great article thanks for sharing!

        1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and frustrations, Wencke. I think many parents (ir not most) are like that. They don’t mean to be dream-stealers and they do have good intentions. The problem is that they don’t always know what’s best for us. When I was picking a university and college major, my own parents were very opinionated and pretty much derailed my original plans. It takes guts to stick up for what you believe in. Prayers (if you’re spiritual) also help as well as the encouragement of friends who do see your vision. They’ll help you stick with your guns. Being doubted by the very people that we’re counting on for support is one way that we can prove to everyone – including ourselves – that we’re really serious about what we want..When you’re pursuing your own dreams, you can’t be wishy-washy or give up too soon. People do want to see you succeed. You just have to show them that you’re really determined to do whatever it takes in order for them to stop being doubters.

    2. I, too, have had my fair share of dream stealers in my life and I agree with what you’re saying, you can learn some very valuable lessons from them. The dream stealers in your life are the ones who will never be noticed until you’re on a downward spiral; they will certainly make their presence known then. They will feed on negative events in your life and will never acknowledge that anything positive has ever happened in your life.

      The reason behind this is because they live off of the negativity that surrounds this world today. No one needs to have these dream stealers in their lives though. Surround yourself with those who will celebrate your successes and achievements, and will also pick you up when life knocks you down.

      1. Life was challenging enough for me that I didn’t need dream stealers to make me fall from my high horse at certain points in my life. I merely had “silent” people around me. They didn’t say anything good or bad. They just watched to see if I would succeed or not. I was quite thankful that they didn’t say anything as I didn’t want to burn bridges with people that didn’t support my cause.

        As you get older, you realize that people have a lot of fear and can’t relate to what we’re trying to do, especially if they’ve never done it before themselves. That’s why they say the things that they say – they’re merely projecting their own lack of confidence in their ability to overcome challenging situations that we’ve chosen to undertake. Sometimes, though, they’re just plain envious and want to keep us down to their level. After all, if we succeeded they’re thinking that we might just leave them behind and not bother to still be friends with them.

        So perhaps it is good to have one or two dream stealers to keep us down to Earth, and twenty or more cheer leaders around to keep us all focused on reaching for the stars.

  3. Hi George, I saw this film recently and loved it. I love Paris and I love Woody Allen so it was a dream film for me in more ways than one. We all know naysayers, and as Michelle says they are sometimes those closest to us. We have to find a way to wear virtual armour when around these types. Following our dream is hard enough without an anchor around our ankle. Super post, thanks. :)

    1. Paris is amazing, isn’t it? Many people fall in love with it and either resolve to come back or move there for good. It’s a lot different, though, to live someplace and visit it as a tourist. We’re always looking at these types of places with rose-colored glasses. ‘Barcelona’ was another excellent piece of film-making by Woody Allen (and also another great city to visit for its food and architecture). I liked your your expression “virtual armour”. Dream-stealers can be indeed be like anchors weighing us down. They’re such a burden to carry. But we do need to press ahead, nevertheless and make our dreams happen (which is tough enough in itself) regardless of any negativity that we hear. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Stuart.

  4. my family is just a bunch of unavoidable dream-stealers !! that’s really depressing cuz the ones who r supposed to help & encourage u don’t do that .. how to handle them without hurting them ??

    1. You don’t… you only try and control your own response. Telling them what you’re trying to achieve is mostly a fruitless exercise. Every time they say something to pour cold water on your dreams, just smile and shrug your shoulders. And then go do what you’ve set out to do. They’ll change their tune once they see how serious and focused you truly are on getting what you want and especially once they see your success. Unfortunately, you have to prove them wrong first before they change their minds about what you’re doing. Just be patient and understanding with them as people don’t tend change overnight, especially if they’ve held to their limiting beliefs all their lives. Good luck, Marie, and thanks for sharing your challenges.

  5. Firstly – that’s a great movie! Secondly, this is an excellent post. There is no gain without risk. I agree that some of the worst dream stealers are those who should have your best interests at heart. In a lot of cases it’s pure jealousy. It takes a lot to take the less beaten path – but often it’s the smartest choice. In any event, it’s the path that will teach you the most. Doing the things the same way you’ve always done them isn’t going to get you different results. You have to switch up your way of thinking!

    1. I’ve already seen MIDNIGHT IN PARIS thrice. Woody Allen really outdid himself this time. It’s really ironic that the ones we rely on are also the ones that try and take our dreams away, usually out of genuine “concern”. With other people, I find that it sometimes is jealousy (and a scarcity mentality) that drives them to discourage us from pursuing our dreams. Going down the road less travel is the obvious – but tougher – choice in life. And people purposely avoid this road and go the “safe” route instead. Sometimes we can even be our own dream-stealers and simply plop down our comfortable couch or home office chair at the end of our work day as we fritter out precious time away instead of working on our dreams. Only a few people are willing to pay the price, unfortunately, or even willing to switch their thinking. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Steve.

  6. Hi George,

    Loved that movie – living the dream and the risk that it comes with. Perfect example is my daughter that is a literary fiction writer – she has spent the last 6 years of her life writing her novel and now in the hands of a famous author. We don’t know what will happen but her persistence, tenacity and determination to write this novel and her faith in knowing that one day it will make it and not small but BIG is what is so refreshing. Her story will be an amazing one and I have been her cheerleader!

    Thanks for the reminder,

    1. Thanks again for stopping by to share your thoughts, Nancy. I’m thrilled to know that your daughter is on the brink of fame and fortune. She’s lucky to have you as her cheerleader. Your story about your daughter reminds me of Jack Canfield’s story about his thought process in making CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL as big success. As they were finishing CHICKEN SOUP, he and his writing partner Mark Victor Hansen would always tell people that they were not just “writing a book” but “writing a best-selling book”. It’s amazing how they made that statement come to life. As they say “thoughts are things”. Here’s to the success of your daughter’s book and your continued happiness as you live your dream.

    1. It’s tough isn’t it, when the people you trust and love the most are the ones who impose their own notions of “what’s best”? They don’t mean any harm, really. They’re just telling you what they feel is the right thing to do based on their own limited (sometimes) experience. At times, there’s no one who can understand us except ourselves, although we can find friends who do get our vision. Try and see if you can find someone older (a friend’s parent or boss at work) who gets where you’re coming from. The biggest reason Robert Kiyosaki became wealthy is that he had his friend’s father to model his own success from (check out the book RICH DAD POOR DAD). If he only looked to his own parents, he wouldn’t be the big famous author or speaker that he is right now. Your own cheerleaders are out there. You just need to connect with – or find – them. Good luck Chazz and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Hi George,

    Another excellent post. Having the right support is one of the key factors for success. I am currently reading Keith Ferrazzi’s book “Who’s got your back” and building relationships with people who have your best interest in mind and are not afraid to tell you the truth will change your life. I just recently joined a telephone mastermind group and will be looking to form a local one myself. I read your post on how to choose a mastermind group and I think you are spot on with your description of great members. I was wondering if you had any advice for finding these people.

    1. You’re certainly on the right track, Robert. Having a mastermind group enables us to advance in our profession or business by leaps and bounds as we’re leaning on other older and wiser people who’ve been there and done that. Good luck with forming your new mastermind group. My suggestion for finding potential members is to scour the usual places: chambers of commerce, boards of trade, industry associations, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. And don’t forget to ask your peers to recommend their own mentors (i.e. company owners and CEOs) to you. Before long, you’ll have more than enough candidates to choose from. Shortlist 40 to 50 candidates and then whittle it down to a dozen and you’ll end up with a quality group.

      Here’s one other thing to keep in mind though, when you approach older people find out how much time they have to devote to meeting regularly. You’ll be surprised at how many people there are in your town who’ve made a fortune while they’re still relatively young (e.g. I’m talking people in their late 40s and early 50s). They’ve got not just money, but more importantly, time on their hands and they’re ready to give back to the community at this stage in their lives. If that means helping out your group and inspiring the next generation of leaders, they’ll do it.

      Hope this helps. Enjoy your weekend, Robert.

      1. Great tips George. I am going to make better use of my network to find possible members for my group.

        I hope your weekend is going well. Keep the valuable posts coming.

        1. Thanks for the kind words, Robert. You’re definitely on your way. You’re certainly doing all the right steps to build your brand. It just takes a matter of time. You enjoy the rest of yours, too, Robert.

  8. i think i am surrounded by more dream sealers than cheer leaders
    i am doing my best to keep them from putting me down
    thanks for the post : )

    1. I understand your situation, Farouk. Just keep on connecting with positive people (there’s lots of them too). They’ll help move you towards your dreams and goals. It’s definitely a good reason to regularly meet with like minded people who understand and support your vision. You’ll forget about the dream-stealers once you have more movers and shakers around you

  9. Sometimes it is hard to recognise the dream stealers. They can be well intentioned and yet they live their lives from a place of fear. Fear can rub off and trigger our own fears which tends to make us wobble. And when we wobble we are not on solid ground.

    1. I think the answer lies in being aware of our thoughts. If we acknowledge them first, question them second and then decide to change them third if we need to – well keep ourselves grounded.

      1. You’re definitely on to something, Stuart. Most of us simply default to our set routines as soon as we wake up. I don’t think people reflect often enough to decide whether the direction their going is the one they’ve charted for themselves and whether the efforts they’re expending are contributing to their overall vision. That’s why several wise gurus say that we should wake up 30 – 60 minutes earlier each day just to be alone with our thoughts (via meditation, for example) and allow ourselves to reconnect with our vision. And then it becomes easier to choose and even replace our thoughts the more we get to know ourselves – and our desires – much better.

    2. That’s so true Carole. Often these dream stealers aren’t aware that they’re doing what they’re doing. And we allow them to steal our dreams because we trust them so much and think that they’re just giving us good advice, so we allow them to influence our desires. You’re also right that fear can be contagious. That’s why we should surround ourselves with enablers and possibility thinkers so that we can strengthen our resolve and move past our fears and reach for our dreams.

  10. I loved this and I can’t wait to see the movie.
    I am living with a dream stealer its aweful, constantly miserable.
    I’m doing well with having cheerleaders but my dream stealer is also a
    Cheerleader crusher.
    I know ineed tho push through and be true to myself
    Even though its being labled as selfish. I want my boys to know
    That you can enjoy your life especially if you are passionate about something

    1. Thank you for sharing your challenges, Michelle. So you’ve got not only a dream-stealer but a cheerleader crusher around you, eh…. and also being labeled “selfish” on top of this. Wow, that’s tough. How do you ever manage? Hats off to you for being able to withstand all the negativity. Most people wouldn’t last and would’ve simply walked away from their own dream-stealers. However, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes we just have to pray for patience, strength and the will to never lose faith in ourselves or in our dreams. Because once our dreams die, then that’s almost like the end of life itself. We simply exist but we’re like the walking dead. Faith really is the answer. Don’t stop believing in your dreams, Michelle, and never stop pursuing them. As they say “if there’s a will, there’s a way”. And you do have to be an example to your boys and need to keep reaching for the stars if only to inspire them to do the same. Here’s something I wrote about how to “Have Your Cake and Eat it Too” – – I hope it helps.

  11. After some more consideration, maybe it’s a good thing to have both dream stealers and cheerleaders in your life. You need the dream stealers to show you that you deserve more out of your life than you would normally give yourself credit for, and you need the cheerleaders in your life to help you through it. Everyone deserves to be happy, and everyone deserves to fall at the same time; it’s just better to remember who knocked you down and who helped you up. Once you realize the difference between those people, you’ll realize if you need dream stealers or cheerleaders in your life more.

    1. This is certainly a very balanced response, Jaimie. What’s good about having dream stealers is that they help separate the empty daydreamers from the ones who are deadly really serious about pursuing their goals (which are simply dreams with deadlines). Once you put an obstacle in front of a wishful thinkier, they’ll find a million excuses to explain why they failed. With the serious ones, they’ll try and find at various ways around the obstacle. So dream stealers can actually harden the resolve of some people while it can also cause the less-than-determined ones to stop dead in their tracks. Cheerleaders may also give us a false sense of confidence in an enterprise which might be inherently flawed, while dream stealers can help expose those flaws. Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts.

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