Reflections On My Talk: Leaving Your Dream

Karen Korellis Reuther

The iconic round red carpet sat before an immense fish tank setting the stage for “Changing Currents”, TEDxBerkleeValencia held at the Oceanogràfic in the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, Spain. My connection to the theme was immediate. My journey has been one of changes, and understanding why I chose to respond to changing currents in the way I had in light of many challenges I decided to dive into the deep end to share my story!

In my TEDx talk “Leaving Your Dream“, I challenge the popular phrase “love it or leave it”. I propose that “love it AND leave it” is a better approach, one where you act not react. One of my favorite quotes from Arianna Huffington“…you have to do what you dream of doing even while you’re afraid,” just might include leaving your dream. After all, can one dream last us an entire lifetime, an entire career? I suggest that leaving dreams should be a lifelong journey and something we encourage in ourselves and in others.

Standing on the iconic red carpet

Standing on the iconic red carpet

I believe that we have a number of dreams along the way, and having the confidence to explore, dive deep and leave has been key for me. Perhaps you are waiting for that “one dream” to bubble up, when in fact I think it is a series of dreams that build your picture. My dream buckets have always been entrepreneurship, design and giving back. I recommend taking a step back and and asking yourself:

  • What drives you?
  • What is it you can’t wait to do everyday?
  • What is it you don’t like doing?
  • Where do you feel the best?

These are your dreams… for now! And then currents change. This is when it gets tough, this is when you’re ready to “love it AND leave it”.

Like many people, I am challenged with change. Really challenged. Whether it be going from class to class in grade school, going away to college or changing jobs and cities – I never wanted to leave home, and I still don’t! I get attached deeply, and have loved most places where I’ve landed. From my hometown of Hammond, Indiana, to Boston, Munich, and Oregon–each of these places, not to mention the companies I have worked for, have been home. Whether it was leaving my first dream job as an industrial designer, where I received my first design patent, and was entrusted at a young age to design computer hardware in an era where systems were migrating from large isolated rooms to every desktop and then every home. Or the next position where I worked for a dream manager, a person who was my coach and my champion, and taught me what to expect from leaders. I’ve always had to push myself out the door.

I was a first generation college student, and self-guided when it came to decisions on majors, jobs and career path. My dad was a great man, and led by example with messages of entrepreneurship, trust and faith. This combination of rigor and instinct is really what has guided and continues to guide me today.

The challenge was never greater as when I worked for a hot brand, one of the hottest! Just the mention of its name was enough to open most doors. Follow that by an amazing role that was a reflection of my passion and my experience. As global creative director at NIKE, I led the creative vision and implementation of design strategies from product creation to merchandising across footwear, apparel and equipment, including an industry-leading organization and process that leveraged the power and emotion of trend, color and materials across all product groups. I had found my dream job – a design-centric brand, located in a beautiful corner of the world, innovative, fast-paced and driven by incredibly talented people. After twelve years, I asked myself “Is this still your dream?”. The answer was NO. So what happens when you’re finished with the dream job, at a dream brand, with dream resources?

In my case, you leave your dream. I had to fire myself.

After watching my TEDx talk a good friend of mine made the connection to John Lennon’s song, “Watching the Wheels”. After all, didn’t John leave the ultimate dream job? He left the BEATLES!

People say I’m crazy, doing what I’m doing
Well, they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin
When I say that I’m okay, well, they look at me kinda strange
“Surely, you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game”

People say I’m lazy, dreaming my life away
Well, they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall
“Don’t you miss the big time, boy. You’re no longer on the ball”
 John Lennon, “Watching the Wheels”

Embrace changing currents, welcome them, and set your course. It will feel bumpy but this kind of bumpy is good! This kind of bumpy will connect you to your strengths and your abilities. It’s this strength that will take you forward into your next chapter – professional or personal, with clarity, energy and vision.  Most importantly it will give you confidence in your own power.

When you “love it AND leave it” you move yourself!

Standing with my feet planted on the red carpet, a constantly changing scene behind me I added another picture onto my still growing wall of dreams.