Hopes and Dreams

We get these ideas in our heads, what we want for ourselves, what we want our lives to look like. The bold ones act on their dreams.

But once you cross that line from dreaming to acting, things change. They move from the ethereal to the real, complete with new priorities, changed daily regimens and habits and financial implications. In other words, reality.

So in that newly ordered world, the work begins, there’s stuff to do. It’s almost like you say goodbye to your old life. It’s still in your past, but you’re not working on it anymore. You’re committed to the new life.

There are ups and downs and disappointments. There is the relentlessness of the work. But the lure of the prize at the end of the day keeps the fires burning.

In the beginning you almost never think about failure because you knew the risks from the beginning and you judged them worthy of accepting. So you keep going and you don’t look back. You keep looking forward.

Somewhere in there, the evidence starts to accumulate that maybe you’ve made a mistake. You add it all up, take an assessment and decide again. Mostly you decide to keep going. It is, after all, driven by the dream and its rewards.

Sometimes new evidence comes that gets you in a repetitive mode of deciding. When you start thinking this way, the evidence is generally trending from good to bad.

And if that keeps up, in time you find yourself on the brink: do I go on or do I quit?

Tom Gillis, today’s co-leader at the Waste Management Phoenix Open played at the TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona, has just such a story…and how it worked out for him. I never heard of him before, but he made $1.2 million last year, finished 74th in the FedExCup and 118th in the world. It was his first good year on Tour and came because he finished 5th on the Nationwide Tour in 2009. His story is filled with the hopes and dreams we all have that have finally been rewarded for his commitment, faith and patience. Here’s the pertinent part of his post-round interview today:

Q. I was asking you before, it wasn’t that long ago you were thinking about not playing anymore. Is it kind of amazing to look back now where you were and where you are?
TOM GILLIS: Well, it was close. It’s as close as I’ve ever been in ’07. I just didn’t have any status anywhere in the world, and I’ve played all over the world, I’ve played in Europe and played in Asia and all that. So I was just — I think I was probably 38 years old or 39 years old, whatever. I was pretty much at a crossroads.
I’m glad I stuck with it, definitely. I had some health issues with a bad left wrist and got that sorted out. Dr. Grant in Baltimore did surgery on my hand and I didn’t have any pain. So it just slowly came together. You just start thinking maybe it’s destiny, and now the goal is that we want to win out here. After we win once we want to win more and more and more and all that. I’d like to at least get into contention and get the first one out of the way.

Q. I talked to your wife a little bit about it, she said she kind of left it up [to you at] that point, supported you if you wanted to stay. Was that around the time you were having kids, too?
TOM GILLIS: We were in between our first and our second there.

Q. What kind of made you go to the side of sticking around? Were you starting to just feel like you had unfinished business?
TOM GILLIS: Well, it was more we lived in Detroit at the time, and it just was tough times up there. There just wasn’t really any work first of all. There wasn’t a whole lot going on. There wasn’t a lot of options to be honest with you. Once you started looking around, it was pretty lean.
One of the bigger concerns I had was that I always wanted to leave the game with something, whether it was money or whatever, and I had a little bit of money, not a bunch, but I had enough for two kids to go to college, and I had no confidence. You know, I was not — I didn’t want to lose that money.
And then I had a guy that backed me when I was in Europe, and he said, let’s do it again. We’ll go about it the same way we did last time, and I started thinking, well, I’m willing to do that, but I knew it was going to be a full commitment with no status; it was going to be Gateway [developmental] Tour in Florida, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, especially with a family.
And then it all worked out. I hooked up with Jeff Leishman, who’s my coach, in the spring of ’07 in Florida, and I think with his direction, he’s probably the most vital — apart from a professional standpoint, he’s been the key. I had great support from Jenny and my family. So yeah, I mean, I’m excited. It’s funny, when you’re involved, right now in the thick of things week in and week out, I don’t think about it a whole lot. I think at some time in my life I’ll look back and say, wow, that was close.
But I get the question quite a bit. I try not to go there. I don’t know why, I just don’t want to go back and think about it a whole lot. It wasn’t a great time in my life so I just try to think about winning and stuff like that.

Q. Sorry to bring it up.
TOM GILLIS: No, it’s fine. It is what it is, but I don’t feel it. I can’t feel it like I did then. You probably put up a little wall or a shield. It brings fear. I don’t want to go there. I just want to think about being out here full-time.

It remains to be seen how Gillis will do the rest of the week, but the fact that he made $1.2 million last year and can’t feel his old life anymore probably means that his transformation is finally complete.

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