What’s Stopping You From Travelling, Writing, Running a Bookstore?

“You are so lucky to travel like the way you do.”

“I have always wanted to open a bookstore with a café like yours.”

“I have been planning to write a book/s for a long time.”

I hear statements like the above all the time – from strangers, acquaintances and friends who know about my life (so far). Reading this, a tiny flicker in your mind might prompt a similar sentiment. They did in my case, many times over. And this is where the difference makes itself known.

There have been many before me who travelled, wrote, and set up community spaces like Kunzum. Their stories trigger currents in my mind. What did I do? I made a choice – to pursue each of these.

Not a week passes when I don’t meet someone desirous of going down an unconventional path. They express it in words, but rattle off a litany of excuses before I have even finished speaking words of encouragement. I can’t quit my job, I don’t have the capital, I will do it after a few years, I don’t have the time, I don’t have the requisite skills, I need a partner to do it with, I am too old for it now, I am too young to be doing this, I will have to convince my parents / partner, I will as soon as children are off to college, I am a man with responsibilities, I am a woman with responsibilities, and so on. In any such conversation, I can predict reactions with uncanny accuracy. I could be a soothsayer (and then some would say they too have been considering being one themselves)!

Experience has enabled me to master the art of navigating such ‘cocktails talk’. I carry a bunch of cue cards, and I take one out appropriate for the situation. Here’s how I deal them:

One: I keep smiling as the other person ruminates aloud. It ends there because there was never an intention for any follow-up.

Two: Of course you should pursue these desires, I say with genuine enthusiasm. If I can do it, anyone can. I was not born with any exceptional gifts or advantages. The other person suddenly realize they need a refill, and wander off in the direction of the bar.

Three: When #two gets into the excuses mode, I try to look sombre but can’t help grinning knowing the initial ambition is petering out. I am the one who seeks a refill, but am often prodded for tips on making the desire a reality. I share a few, authentically even if tentatively knowing I will cause eyes to droop and brain to go fuzzy. I speak slow knowing the other person will abruptly end the ‘seminar’, promising to resume it soon. [Words like soon, nice, beautiful, and great don’t actually convey anything. Right?]

Four: There are times when people sound earnest, and seek directions to the starting point. Here, take them. Write the first chapter of your book and send it to me. Intern in a bookstore to understand the working of one. Buy a notepad and hit the road. What happens? I don’t wait for them at the starting line, because they are unlikely to show up. If they do, my sincere good lucks are with them.

Five: I get serious, and tell them how I did it. It started with a shift in my thinking. Followed by a conscious effort. To go back to journalism school at thirty one, working as a junior reporter in newspapers, sitting down to write books, packing my car and heading out, making the leap to set up my stores. I was not, and never will be, perfect at any of them. I stay in a student mode, always keen and willing to learn. I don’t allow praise to cause a bloat at the top. I stay true and in love with what I do. I think hard, I work harder. The ride is not always smooth, but I don’t allow despondencies and disappointments to derail me. I don’t make excuses, and I don’t offer justifications. I float in a happy state of mind, and do not suffer frivolous talk. It is vital for me to maintain high enthusiasm levels. I refuse to be judged by the conditioning of others, nor measured by their metrics of success.

Yes, I am a dreamer. But a pragmatist too. I know things will not happen on their own, but they can if I think in a certain way, and apply myself with diligence.

What’s stopping you from pursuing your dreams? I don’t need the answer; you do.