For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jonathan Mead, he blogs at Illuminated Mind and is a regular writer at the insanely popular Zen Habits. In his own words, “My purpose here is to explore the uncommon side of things that is often overlooked by the typical, mainstream approach. Illuminated Mind is about finding freedom from what we’ve been conditioned to think will make us happy.”
Jonathan is a thinker and a questioner in the best sense of the word…one who is neither content with the status quo nor content to accept what anyone tells him at face value. One of my most cherished theology profs once told me, “For every one book you buy that you know you’ll agree with, buy at least two that you know you will challenge you.” For me, Jonathan Mead is one of those fellows who is both immensely enjoyable to read and simultaneously guaranteed to challenge. Though we share fundamentally different worldviews, as far as I can tell, I love to read his writings and use his ideas as a springboard from which to do my part and shake up the status quo from time-to-time (my boss might read ‘time-to-time’ as ‘always’…but that’s a matter of perspective, I guess!). With those thoughts in mind, I naturally jumped at the chance to read and review his recent ebook, Reclaim Your Dreams: An Uncommon Guide to Living on Your Own Terms.
Though he never comes right out and says it, Jonathon Mead is a classic existentialist, interested in challenging authority and the status quo; following his dreams wherever they might take him; and in general, ‘suck[ing] out all the marrow of life.” Thoreau, Whitman, Emerson, and Kierkegaard would be proud of their faithful disciple. While that might put off some of the regular readers of this blog, since Dead Poet’s Society is one of my favorite movies of all time…the former existentialist in me got really excited over this book and agrees wholeheartedly with many of Jonathan’s points, even if I don’t presently agree with all the finer points of his philosophy. For example, some might be uncomfortable with his unashamed questioning of authority, but there certainly is nothing wrong, in principle, with a genuine, humble quest for the truth and desire to find a better way of doing things. If we find out that those we question are right, great. If not, we continue our search, being careful not to disregard the answers we’re given just because they clash with our personal desires.
If I could sum up the point of this book in two short thoughts it would be–your life/job/vocation doesn’t have to look like society tells you it should…define your dreams and go for them! In an age when so many are trapped in the pursuit of productivity and the culture of the cubicle, Jonathan rightly recognizes that much of life’s joy is found in the journey. As he writes, “Too often we let the fear of the unknown keep us from taking action, so we follow the herd where things are comfortable and predictable.”
Many of Jonathan’s frustrations will be all too familiar for those in corporate America, which largely seems immovably fixed in its ways and its culture of “the way we’ve always done it.” Instead of being lemmings blindly following those who have gone before us, he challenges us to define our dreams, our purpose, our values and then relentlessly pursue them…all the while passionately enjoying the journey and not simply focusing on the goal at the end of the road. In order to break free of the routine, Jonathan provides a multitude of practical exercises designed to get readers to think beyond any self-imposed limits, walk through the process of understanding / defining our dreams, and making those dreams reality. His writing is not some divorced-from-reality motivational work, however, he is clear that living out your dreams is both risky business and hard work–both of which are instrumental in avoiding lives of “quiet desperation.”
In short, whether or not one subscribes to the philosophical worldview embraced by Mead, there are many gems in this ebook that can be put to good use by anyone seeking to clarify and then follow his or her dreams. It is, to use his own words “a permission slip to be ridiculous…[and] an invitation to dream.” Check it out here on Illuminated Mind.