Your dreams are scaring people, and what you can do about it

Are you a dreamer?

My family and I recently went on a family vacation to Branson, Mo. It was a blast and we had a great time. Of course, you can’t visit Branson without going to Silver Dollar City. We even got one of those old fashioned tin family photos. They upped their roller coaster game since the last time I was there (25 years ago). And that is where things got a little scary for the little man – my five year old.


The ride “Fire in the Hole” was an absolute must once we got to the park. As we entered the gates I declared that it would be the first ride of the day. It has a very sentimental place in my heart because the last time I was there I remember my brother and I riding it over and over again – having a wonderful time. It just reminded me of a long ago family vacation that was everything family vacations are supposed to be.

I wanted my kids to share that experience so I talked about the ride several times during our road trip from Yukon, OK to Branson, Mo (five and a half hour drive). I even got them to echo the yell “fire in the hole!!!” which happens at the end of the ride. In a way only a dad can, I appropriately raised their expectations for this ride. It was going to be the best thing ever.

And there we stood outside the ride, ready to get in line. My daughter was so excited…but the little man seemed distressed. No – he was flat out scared. Unlike most roller coasters he was familiar with – ones that he could clearly see – this one was in a building. He couldn’t see the track.

Combine this with the fact of me painting a wonderful picture of the ride – a mostly dark building dimly lit by burning buildings with a sharp drop at the end…and the yell “fire in the hole!!!” (I am a terrible parent).

Let me use the right term here: he freaked out. In my excitement to communicate the experience, I unwittingly scared him. The more I pushed him to get in line, the harder he fought. I failed to provide him practical information about the ride that he cared about.

Trust me, this terrifying sounding thing will be great

Little man’s reaction is applicable to life and work. This isn’t to say your co-workers are like little five year old kids. People usually won’t scream and yell and refuse to physically get off the floor during a meeting.

However, we all can dig our heels in and refuse to go along with a corporate initiative – especially when we don’t understand the why or how of it.

We all use different tactics, either subtle or direct, to resist something that scares us – especially in the workplace.

Fire in the hole!!!

Are you a dreamer? Do you see a yet-to-be-but-can-be-obtained possibility for your team? Do you passionately communicate an “imagine if we could…” idea? If so, that is awesome! The world needs people who can take a larger view of things. We call that dream a vision – and great leaders cast a vision that inspires people to follow.

But if you aren’t careful you can scare the living daylights out of some people. Not because you have obtained some higher plane of knowledge and you are oh so special. No, the simple truth is people think differently.

When someone hears your vision, several thoughts can go through their head. Maybe these even ring a bell:

  • How did you come up with this idea?
  • Why do you think that will work?
  • How are you even going to do that?
  • Is that even possible?
  • What do you need from me?
  • What’s in it for me?

If they don’t get answers to these questions, that is when people get scared – and resistant. The vision may sound so big, so daunting, it becomes impossible. It can even sound threatening and kingdom building. If that is happening, it is up to you to fix this. Don’t blame them! You didn’t bring them along.

Bring people with you

Here are some practical steps to share your vision without scaring people:

  1. Stop– You are excited about the new idea, awesome! But don’t randomly share it with just anyone who will listen before you are ready. Stop. Your vision is important, treat it that way. You have some work to do.
  2. Write it down – Write the vision down, fully fleshed out, and as detailed as you can make it. This may only take a few minutes, but it can also take months. The goal is to be able to explain your vision as clearly and succinctly as possible. Writing it down will force you to put it into words.
  3. Explain your thought process – Once you have the vision fully written down, ask yourself “How did I come to this conclusion?”. I find this to be the most difficult part because I often think about things all the time and don’t always care how I arrived at the conclusion. In my mind, I made it – so why revisit? But if you want people to follow a vision, you have to show them how you reached your destination. Write down your thought process; starting with what initially made you start thinking about the vision. Words like “therefore” help explain your conclusions.
  4. Define Next Actions – You have written down the vision and you know the thought process that got you there. Now, ask yourself “what is the absolute next step to bring this to reality?”. Write down that step. Keep asking until you have a list of steps to bring the vision to reality. The further away you go from today, the more high level the steps should become. Don’t stress about the distant ones, but make sure you nail the first three. This provides the actions people need to see so the vision won’t be vague and appear insurmountable.
  5. Find the flaws – No vision is perfect or without challenges – don’t shy away from this. People understand and will respect you more if you proactively point them out. It shows you are not blinded by your vision and are handling things realistically. Look at your vision, your thought process, and your action steps. Think about what challenges it will face. Find someone you trust, share it with them, and get their perspective. You should be able to find at least two or three.
  6. WIIFM – What’s in it for me? Be able to answer that question for your target audience. This may take some conversation with people to truly understand what they want and how your vision can help.
  7. Share it – Now comes the pay off, and the fun part, of sharing your vision. Use this simple structure:
    • State the vision in a clear and succinct way.
    • Explain how you came to the conclusion. A tip is to start the explanation by saying “This was my thought process…” and then take them on the journey.
    • Share the WIIFM
    • Point out two or three challenges, then state how they will be overcome.
    • Share the first three “Next Action” steps. Just enough to make the path clear, but not too much to seem overwhelming.
  8. Let it simmer – People need time to think about your vision – so give it to them! Remember, you have been thinking about it much longer than anyone else. You can’t expect them to jump to where you are right away.

Back to Silver Dollar City

Following those steps, this is how I should have told the little man about “Fire in the Hole”.

Before we go into Silver Dollar City…

“Hey buddy, I had a great time when I was last here at Silver Dollar City – some of the best memories. I want you to have those with us (vision)! When I was young, I came here and rode a fun ride, I really think you will enjoy it too because you are my little man (explaining thought process). You get to go really fast and water splashes on you (WIIFM). The ride is called Fire in the Hole, and it is a little different from the other rides you have ridden. It is in a big house so you can’t see everything, but don’t worry – I will be there the whole time (pointing out challenges and how we will overcome them). So we are going to go into the park, find the ride, and get in line (next three actions).”

Then we walk, at his pace, into the park to find the ride.

Let me know what you think, have you ever scared someone with a dream?




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