When Should You Put One Dream Aside to Follow Another?

Note from Caleb: Today’s post is from Aiste Lei, who previously wrote about her road to freedom. Today she writes about how sometimes you need to put one dream aside to follow another even bigger dream. As a child, student and a young photographer I had no idea I would ever be running a café. What?? Since starting and graduating from university and deciding to pursue photography as a full-time career I had a zillion business ideas in my head, was inspired by many independent businesses, global entrepreneurs, and success models but I did not craft plans of opening a café.

“Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” – Steve Jobs

You need to trust in the intelligent flow of life.

People that know me know how much hard work, effort, time, mind training, money, and discipline I have invested in making my photography dream come true. I literally surrendered my life to it: serious 9-5 career prospects, any social life, and ridiculously early Sunday mornings wheeling heavy photography equipment from one location to another while assisting one of my photography mentors.

I made it a constant focus and it drove me from a random flower-snapping girl into a published & agency signed photographer. In my head, there must have been something damn important to direct my drive, motivation, and hard-work elsewhere.

Life is full of surprises. Even a tiny, seemingly random thought can produce powerful ripples and change the course of life. As a student I once had a thought that it would be good for me to work in a local authority. Later on, I got a ‘random’ job offer and spent 3 years working for a local authority. You ask and you shall receive.

Dream - Pocket Changed (photo by Aiste Lei)

One creative funding idea that jumped out of my head lead me to being presented with an opportunity to co-run an independent café/restaurant, open a gallery in the very centre of town, and use the project as a blank canvas for my creativity to flow.

I tend to say ‘no’ to projects that are tempting but not part of my life’s journey. This time however, it was a personal invitation for creative expansion. A call to make the very best I have ever made. It was an appeal to do something bigger, more creative, and challenging than I ever attempted to do. It was an opportunity for me to live by example and build up an enterprise not based on big money and rich background but build solely on creativity, resourcefulness, innovation, attention to detail and community spirit.

What Drives You?

One of the main driving forces behind everything I do in society – be it photography, writing, or my past projects – is to empower the entrepreneurial spirit in people to live our own authentic dreams based on good will, creativity, and cooperation. It is about showing that being true to yourself, doing what you love, and being entrepreneurial and successful is possible; it is about inspiring others to ‘go for it’, collaborate, create communities, help each other, exchange skills and resources to make each others’ dreams come true here and now.

I sat down and had a good think. I knew I had to let go of my photography career. I knew that I would have to dive in and no one knows where I would be with my photography & creative direction once I dive out. A gallery owner?  A café manager? Would my photography get stronger, more mature and authentic as a result? Would I lose focus and drive? Would I be able to focus more on the creative work I am inspired to do? Would I lose my industry connections that I made so far? Would I make them stronger as a result of having a constant presence in central London? How would running a gallery contribute to my photography career? Would my fellow industry friends find my move ungrounded?

Then I thought: “Let’s face it: running a café and a gallery is like having a baby. It is a serious, long-term commitment that requires constant love, care, attention and patience. Would I be able to be a photographer and have a baby? Hell yes!” It will ALL be different and I don’t know how, but yes.

Constant Expansion

Life is about expansion. Love is about expansion. For God-sakes, the whole universe is constantly expanding. Accepting the call for more expansion for me is the call for more life, more love, more experience and more flow. I have no idea where this is going to take me, how my photography will look like, how my life will look like and parts of me are sheepishly frightened by such massive changes.

The only constant in the universe is change and with that thought I welcome the new changes in my life, I trust that my environment and people will support me in my new ventures and I trust that my photography will be the best it has ever been. I do not necessarily have the “Hows” yet, but I have the “Whys”. As Steve Jobs said: dots only connect in retrospect. You have to trust in something.

What do you trust in?

Aiste Lei co-runs Wild Food Café, 14 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden in London, England. You can find out more about her and her photography (like the one above) at AisteLei.com.