Are You Living The Dream or Chasing It?


I cracked a big dopey smile while in my almost free Business Class Finnair seat last week. (I’ve caught myself doing this often in the past 8 months.)

Heading back to my birthplace (Wroclaw, Poland), it hit me again that I’m living my dreams. I wrote down the question “Are you living the dream or chasing it?” in my notebook and reflected on that for an hour while dozing off to sleep.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, wiser (ha!), or what it is exactly, but I love my life. Which is interesting, because growing up my only goal in life was to own lots of sweet shit and have lots of money.

So I chased the dream.

When I “chased the dream” and acquired a BMW, a bunch of guitars, a big screen TV, a 2,500 sq foot home (WTF, I’m single!), and all the other trappings of the “good life” I was depressed.

I was 24 and should have been living it up.

But I was horribly depressed.

Hard for anybody to understand unless they’ve been there depressed. What I mean is, it wasn’t just a week or two of feeling sad.

It was years of “just get it over with and end it” darkness.

When I finally started getting down to what I really wanted in life (some time in late 2007/early 2008) I began to see the light. It was a slow, but beautiful, process.

No matter where you are in life, you can make steps towards living your dreams right now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. Today.

First Step: How Stop Chasing The Dream

I’m a “do it or don’t” type of person. I know almost anything can be broken down into black/white, good/bad, right/wrong, easy/difficult.

If somebody were to ask me how to stop chasing the dream, I would give them the following series of tests. These tests are about getting back to basics.

They seemingly have nothing to do with dreams, but I promise they will force you to focus on what’s important.

When you’re focused on what’s important you’re no longer chasing dreams.

This test is difficult. If living your dreams instead of chasing them is worth anything to you that won’t matter.

But you’re free to quit right now. If you read on and don’t actually follow through on the test you’re just wasting your time.

Test #1: Cancel Cable TV and don’t watch free TV

Life Lesson #76: Stop watching so much TV.

Unless your dream is to be a screenwriter TV is getting in the way of you living your dreams. Why? Too many reasons to list, but the strongest is that watching TV conditions you, in a mostly subtle way, to want.

I’m not referring to the advertising (although that doesn’t help matters), but the actual content. It’s poison.

That includes the “news.” Watching the news seems to make people feel cultured. That’s bullshit. The news is a waste of your time and you’re getting nothing of value from it. Except maybe fodder for depressing “watercooler” arguments.

Any important news you really need to know you will hear about somehow, someway, while you’re living your dreams.

If you need more reasons to stop watching TV check out Joshua Becker’s “Ten Reasons to Watch Less Television.”

Test #2: Stop eating out


If you’re interested in a healthy lifestyle (for yourself, the planet, the future) you’ll cut out meat and dairy, but that’s not what this is about.

This is about living the dream. And living the dream means you respect yourself.

Eating fast food is disrespectful to your mind and body.

Whatever you want to eat, prepare it yourself.

– No pre-mixed sauces

– No preservative-laden microwaveable shit-boxes

– No frozen dinners

– No store bought soda pop or booze

Eat whatever you want, but prepare it yourself. Want cookies? Bake them. Want potato chips? Fry them. (It’s not healthy, but you’ll appreciate and savor them more than fast food fries.) Want an extravagant 7 course meal? Make it.

The point of this test is to be mindful of what you’re fueling your body with. I’m willing to bet 99% of Western Civilation can’t pass this test. Be that 1%.

You’ll be thrilled with how good you feel when you fuel your body with nutrients instead of garbage.

Test #3: Read.

Books. (Life Lesson #25: Successful people read books.)

Every day.

Ridiculously Extraordinary People are in a constant search for knowledge.

I have a strong feeling that if you’re in the 1% that passes Test #2 you already read books. If you don’t, it might be something to consider. :)

It doesn’t matter what kind of books. Choose subjects that interest you. And every once in a while choose subjects you know nothing about. New languages. New cultures. New sciences. New people.

Some of my favorite books are autobiographies. Even autobiographies of people I’m not particularly interested in. I love learning other people’s life stories, especially when it’s directly from their mouths.

Second Step: How To Live The Dream

Before you can ever get to the point of living your dreams you have to stop chasing dreams. Get back to basics as in Step One and don’t worry if you’re not ready for this step yet.

The Honest Truth About Dreams

I didn’t mean to lead you on, but the truth is I can’t tell you exactly how to live your dreams. They’re yours. And that’s an important point. Don’t let anybody force their dreams for you onto you. Nobody knows what’s best for you. Not your Parents, not your friends, not your teachers, and not me.

If you’re unhappy in any way with your life the first thing you have to realize is that nothing will change overnight. It’s a process. I don’t know how long it will be for you, but just know that progress may be slow. It may take years like it did for me. Accept that. Take action.

No matter how difficult it is, remember this: the dream, your dream, is attainable.

A Great Example of Someone Living The Dream

Somebody who I know is living the dream is Benny Lewis. You’ve probably seen me mention him quite a few times in the past couple months. Benny has been traveling the world for 7 years and learning lots of new languages (7 and counting!). Hence his moniker The Irish Polyglot. I have the utmost respect for what Benny is doing with his goal to help bring language learning to the masses by making it accessible and fun. I spoke to him on Skype for about 30 minutes a couple weeks ago and the passion that comes across in his writing I could also hear in his voice.

Benny is releasing his 7 years-in-the-making Language Hacking Guide today. I had a chance to read a pre-release copy and I’m excited to start using Benny’s language hacking methods to help me learn Polish better. If you’re at all interested in learning languages, without stuffy high school or University home work assignments, I highly recommend you check out the Language Hacking Guide here.


  1. nice post once again Karol.

    i think it also has alot to do with how motivated you are to find out what is making you happy ^^

    • Thanks Henk. That’s a good point. If you want to be happy it’s something you have to actively pursue. If you don’t have motivation to pursue it you will never attain it.

  2. Well, well, it is hilarious how I can see myself in your post again, Karol…

    @stop chasing: I did so, 2 and half years back. when I was so depressed, despite living in Dubai, wearing designer clothes, eating out at 5 start hotels and buying stuff anytime I wanted. I have left Dubai and returned to my homeland, and that was the time when my purpose has started to awaken.

    @start living a dream: it will be 2 years since my epiphany moment. i don’t watch TV. I do eat only home made food. I do spend time with my family. And most importantly I am blessed that I can ship my art and inspire others to live their dream, too

    Simply focus on WOW and HOW will follow;-)

    You are doing a great job, Karol. Thank you for that!

  3. When I was in college all I wanted was a career and to buy a house by the time I was 25. Done and done. Now I’m finding myself more and more discontent sitting in an office every day. So I’ve decided I want to become a circus performer. It’s going to take a year or two of training, but I’m working out every day and take lessons once a week, so I’m inching toward my goal. I’m keeping my cable TV though ;) It’s great to keep me occupied when I’m stretching for hours at a time.

    • Hey Sarah,

      That’s a situation most of us get caught up in because our “role models” force feed it to us from an early age. Parents and teachers do a great job of brain washing us into believing a certain career and a house is happiness. It’s tough to break away from. Kudos to you for getting on track to breaking free! :)


  4. Test #2 and test #3 : done. =)
    I dunno why TV gets such a bad rep all the time though. With all media (including books), I think it’s how you take it in that matters, not necessarily what you take in. It’s possible to find people who’ve learned much from watching House, Mythbusters, or any number of tv shows. So really, if you look to actively think, critique and learn while watching, it’ll be a great experience.

    It’s possible to find people who travel a lot and read a lot, but somehow haven’t managed to learn all that much anyway. I’m not implying this about you personally though =D You know I’m a fan!

    Great post, as always!

    • Don’t worry Vanessa, I have thick skin. Even if you were to personally attack me, we’d still be cool. ;)

      The reason TV gets a bad rap is simple: it’s a time suck and it breeds a culture of dangerous consumerism. (By dangerous I mean, going into debt type consumerism, not buying food and clothes and whatnot.)

      I find it hard to believe that too many of the people watching Mythbusters or Discovery Channel or House (I’ve seen it, and it’s good enough, but learn from it? nah) have enriched their lives in any way. Which is fine. Society needs people who don’t want to enrich their lives. I’m writing from a standpoint of achieving great things. It’s near impossible while being stuck in front of the TV. Think about how many more songs you could write, or how many musicians/producers/etc you could connect with in that extra 30 minutes (or more) per day. :)

      And I’m definitely not saying that people who travel and read a lot are better. I’m just saying, when we’re seeking knowledge instead of watching TV, we’ll most likely accomplish greater things. :)

      • Thick skin or no, I can’t see a reason why I’d do that =) Unless we were at a kickboxing sparring session or summink (don’t mess with me, I know yoga) =D

        I get what you’re saying, I think I do. But there’s a difference between watching a TV program where all you do is hazily wonder if you should buy the handphone the character uses while you tuck in to a big bag of chips, vs. appreciating the storytelling and intricacies of psychological character nuances expressed in the writing, the acting, the score/soundtrack or directing, and being inspired by it. Yes, even by House (it receives accolades for a reason, after all) =D (Discovery Channel and it’s ilk, as a tool for learning basics about aspects of astronomy, theoretical physics and the histories of far away countries which I then have the foundation to keep learning about online is awesome! So yeah, it does enrich my life, and in exactly the way I want, too.)

        In the first, you are wasting your time, and learning nothing but consumeristy badness. In the latter, you are appreciating a creative effort from a group of intelligent people (assuming you’ve not gone and forced yourself to watch something you find stupid, good is of course subjective), and being inspired in turn. I wouldn’t begrudge the 30 mins. I’m not in a hurry to get somewhere.

        Hey, but I’m just saying what I think. I respect your opinion (or I wouldn’t be one of your loyal readers). As you say, nobody knows what’s best for me. If I know I personally gain from what I do, and enjoy it, then I should keep doing it, no? …I’ll go face the corner now, sensei… =D

        • As I mentioned to Bobby, I’m not a snob about TV. Although I don’t watch TV, I do catch a certain show when I happen upon it (usually at somebody’s house, sometimes online, although not worth the trouble figuring that out overseas). And I see your point. If somebody is watching TV consciously as you are, it may be a different story than the way most people watch TV, as you mentioned. The fact of the matter is, TV is designed to brainwash us, and it does a helluva a good job. I’m not immune, which is why I don’t watch. :) (Before I cancelled cable in 2006 I probably watched Food Network for 8 hours/day.)

          Thanks for your insight Vanessa!

  5. I’ll agree with most of it. Except for the food part. I love food and I love eating out. Living in NYC is very different that Podunk KY. There’s no TGI Fridays or Applebees. That shit should be illegal. Also Ive been know to fly to a different country just to eat their cuisine (Anthony bourdain is my hero!)

    rock on \m/

    .: Adam

    • Originally this article stated the tests as “for 30 days” but I changed it. Anyway, the food part is an exercise in simplicity and enjoying the process of preparing and eating food. It’s about knowing exactly what we’re fueling our bodies with. That said, I’m not a snob about this. While in India and Thailand I ate out pretty much every day. I couldn’t cook Indian/Thai that good if I tried. And I did try. :)

  6. Karol,

    This is pretty interesting. I got rid of my cable subscription when I moved into this apartment, but I watch TV online. As far as the food prep goes, you’re right on that its’ hard to do, but I’m guessing there are many rewards. I had a classmate from business school tell me the other day “oh, I don’t read books.” I was so tempted to write a post called “Why I think people who don’t read books are morons.” But, I resisted. It amazes me that people who are supposedly eager to rise in their careers and have graduate degrees don’t read. Just writing this makes me feel like hitting somebody, but to each their own.

    As far as nobody knowing what’s best for you, I couldn’t agree more. I have for years bought into the idea of a life that looks good on paper. It was only when I finally abandoned this idea that things really started to come together for me and I’ve found myself happier and healthier than I’ve ever been.

  7. Hey Karol,

    I may not comment much, though I read all your blog posts.

    I’d like to hear how you do your vegan lifestyle while traveling, if you cook at times, eat out or whatever.

    #1 is good, does Hulu count as free TV 3 shows a week? Probably :).

    #2 preparing almost all my food is delicious, I love having it this way. Have you tried the Organic Food Bar? They have a vegan one, I ordered some to try while on the road.

    #3 books are the best! I still have some books for your to-read list to read and re-read. I have scientific advertising right now. I’ve been focusing too much on Eben Pagans videos, though he does have some great stuff and book recommendations to. What do you do about books while you travel? Order off of an international site and send them off/sell them or do you have someone send you some books.

    • Hey Bobby,

      Hulu does count as free TV, but I’m not a snob about this. Again, it’s an exercise. I do watch TV sometimes. (rarely) And I also watch one show whenever I happen upon a new episode: It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Besides the fact that the writing is great, the story of the creators is very inspiring. What I’m getting at is that it seems in the homes of most of Western Civilization TV is the focal point. That’s sad.

      Yes, the Organic Food Bar is good (I think all of them are vegan actually). If you read my original light packing list you’ll see I packed the Organic Raw Food Bar to Australia. I actually found them at a health food store in Australia as well for $5 each! (yes, I bought 2)

      I am looking for somewhere other than this blog (such as a big travel blog) to publish my “how to travel as a vegan” article.

      Books: you may have missed my updated light packing list. I travel with a Kindle now. :)


      • I’ll check out It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, I’ve been cutting out toxic people and toxic music, and I think anything inspiring is awesome.

        Cool, glad I know we can find Organic Raw Food Bar’s overseas! I’ll super consider the Kindle, I would love to have books with me without carrying this extra 20lbs of non fiction books!

        Thanks Karol.

  8. Hi Karol – just gotta say this a great post. I’m paraphrasing someone wiser than myself, but ‘why sit on the couch and watch other people live out their dreams (the actors, not the characters) when you can be doing just that with your own dreams’.

    It’s amazing how many people use the ‘it’s survivor night’ excuse to not do something in the real world…

        • I actually bought a veg book (Kuchnia Wegetarianska; Vegetarian Kitchen) here yesterday! Now to go through it, figure out what’s what (I don’t know Polish names for most spices), and make some stuff. That said, this isn’t a recipe blog so I don’t think I’ll ever post anything here. Maybe on a Saturday, or maybe on YouTube. :)

  9. When it comes to motivation, blogs are one of the best motivators for me, yours included. :)

    I was thinking about one thing: are you going to write anything about Poland as a place/country/people? Your point of view would be very interesting for me (and others probably too) as it’s your birthplace but at the same time (I assume) it’s foreign and you have experience as a traveler.

    • Hi Pawel,

      Thanks man!

      I don’t really write destination pieces, but I will most likely mention things here and there on the Sweet Shit Saturdays or when it’s relevant within a post.

      Wroclaw isn’t completely foreign to me. I was here 4 years ago for a couple weeks (and another time 17 years ago (!) for a month). The rest of Poland is pretty foreign to me and I plan on exploring a bit of it when it warms up. But my main goal is to explore my birthplace, which is also where my Parents and most of my family were raised. I went to the Noc Muzea (I actually don’t know if that was the official name) Saturday and went to the city museum, which is where my grandma used to work. It’s fascinating learning about the history of the city. This comment went on a huge tangent … :)

      If there is something you’re particularly interested in getting my perspective on feel free to ask away. :)


  10. I can see #1 being valuable and remember when you did so. Still blows my mind, but it is the most intriguing of the three to me. I won’t cancel, at this time, but will limit my viewing during these NBA playoffs:-) I will follow up on my progress.

    I’ve just about cut down on all fast food, since my running started a few months ago, but I do like the fine dining. Food/Fine Dining to me is the experience and exposure to different things that I perhaps wouldn’t venture to cook myself.

    #3…well I have never found much joy in the written word, besides all the Jordan books I read as a youngster, anything to do with sports, and the occasional blog;-) I think it’s my anti-schooling outlook:-) I just never have enjoyed all the fluff (I think someone wrote about this…haha) I must plod through to get to the point in any book. In the end, if it’s self help (kinda hate those) it really comes down to taking action. The best part of your blog to me is the constant call to action. Your life is making you smile because of your movement. Yes that movement is defined and not just aimless wandering, so maybe books gave you the backing. I think you did, but maybe it was books.

    I waffle because I can see both sides. Perhaps I want to be inspired to read. I kinda wish I wanted a Kindle, or wanted to use my wife’s. There is no doubt that reading and success has sooooome correlation. I mean, I know successful people that read…like yourself. I also know a lot of passive readers who do nothing but READ.

    Ok…going nowhere with this…but thanks for posting and for getting me to at least think about reading:-)

    Off to the courts I go. Yes, launch time has been delayed but not scrubbed:-)

    PS: Diggy/PP has a mixtape!

    • I completely forgot about the NBA Playoffs, but just went on about an hour ago and watched some post game Magic/Celtics vids. I gotta check out that Diggy/PP mixtape. :)

      Fine dining is a different experience than McDonald’s. :) And again, I’m not being a snob, because I do eat out. The point is to pay attention to what we eat, and not mindlessly snack, or eat convenience “foods” simply because they’re convenient. There’s no denying it’s poison. It’s weird, because I was raised on a lot of junk food (daily frozen pizzas in elementary school, for example) and now it doesn’t interest me at all. (Although, as you know, I have had a “drink 3 liters of Dr Pepper” for breakfast experiment once or twice. haha) When I go grocery shopping now there is no interest in the junk food aisle, whereas it used to be a focal point.

      As far as reading: while there are some really successful people who don’t read (Gary Vaynerchuk, I believe, publicly stated he doesn’t really read books), this is uncommon. It’s about more than just reading for reading’s sake. It’s about an unending desire to seek knowledge. Most of our collective knowledge is synthesized into print form as opposed to other media.

      Thanks for posting man! Looking forward to the launch. :)

  11. ¡Hola Karol!
    Another excellent post. I have already made the first step (1, 2 & 3 for a couple of years) and will be soon be making the second (a big, scary leap in my current situation). I told the only person whose opinion/feelings really mean something to me today and they support me 100% :o) – I was worried about how they would react but it’s all good.
    Sorry to be a bit cryptic but thanks for the inspiration and keep up the good work.


  12. Great blueprint on life.

    My wife and I have cut out TV and spend a lot of time and energy on eating healthy, home cooked meals. I still like meat on occasion but we don’t eat the factory farm garbage.

    Reading is also a big thing for us. It is amazing how much learning is available if we are willing to put in the time. These are definitely amazing times. Hard work and focus can make any dream a reality.

    • “It is amazing how much learning is available if we are willing to put in the time.” – That’s what it’s about. It’s not about the act of reading. It’s about quenching the thirst for knowledge.

  13. Love the tests…quite honestly – I don’t know that I could pass any of them…but have come close to all of them when I lived in Vietnam…probably because all of the distractions of America weren’t available.
    You’re right – the journey can be long for some and short for others…mine seems a bit long – but am determined to get there!

    • Thanks Sherry. Yeah, there are a lot of distractions in the US, but it’s very easy to get rid of them. Canceling cable is a great way to start. ;)

      Have fun on your journey! :)

  14. hmm, i dont know about television.

    some times comedy shows can be a great distraction, and sometimes educational/wildlife programs are fun. but to be honest, a game of sports with your friends and seeing some real nature is way more awesome ofcourse.

    if you watch television,you should ask yourself the following. am i watching this because really like this, or because it became a habit/obsession?

    you need to think what really makes you happy. do you really like staring at that monkey on the screen, or do you rather go there and feed it yourself?;)

    just my thoughts


  15. Great post. I think that the real thing behind chasing our dreams is the pursuit of happiness. Dreams are what we consider the end point, the ultimate goal. We tend to think that once we put our dreams into reality we are automatically happy and have a great life. But the truth is that happiness is something we have to search for within us, not in the external world. … Just a thought ;)

    • When we focus on a dream we don’t see what surrounds us, and when finally we reach the destination we forgot how it is to focus on surrounding, accustomed to focusing on dream. This way we dismiss the achievement and search for a new dream.

      Solution lies in middle – use dream as a compass, sth you check occasionally to find direction when confused. Concentrate fully on the surroundings, including your sensations and gut feelings. Be in the moment and the entire journey will be a grand adventure in itself – a dream-journey.

  16. Just found your website. Really enjoying it so far. I’ve taken a month off grad school for medical reasons and, apart from focusing on my health, I’m also going to be thinking about what I REALLY want to be doing when I graduate. Thanks for your post here, it’s challenging and helpful. Becky.

    • Thanks Becky! Sorry you had to take a month off for medical reasons, but great that you’re spending the time wisely. :)

  17. in the end happiness is all between the ears ofcourse…with the right attitude you can handle everything. still, there are always more favored spots/people where you seem to be enjoying slightly more;)

  18. Hi Karol,

    Thanks a lot for that blog post. I have cancelled TV almost ten years ago – no regrets. I read tons of books but I belong to the 1% not cooking all meals for myself (at least I am a vegetarian for 15 years now ;-). I quit my job last year to work for my own and pursue my dreams BUT… I am lost in depression, helpless to find a way out and pursue my dreams which I have lost as well. Have you suffered such a period yourself? How did you get out?

    Thanks a lot for your help + nice stay in Poland!!!!

    • Thanks for commenting Casimir …

      Hmm, I’m not sure how to add to what I already stated. I got back to basics, and figured out what I wanted out of life. I stopped chasing dreams, and started living them. :) It may be a slow process for you, but it’s all possible.


  19. Thank you. I really enjoyed this article. It did a good job of explaining to me thoughts and ideas that I already had stewing in my head. Now if I could just do it.

  20. Hi Karol

    I am from Slovenia (not Slovakia) :)
    I am 35 and didn’t have any health problems since high school. But last week I had two strong epileptic seizures and am still waiting for diagnosis. My personal opinion is that it was caused by overburning myself with work, drinking, women,..
    After 3 days in hospital I went to the general store and by the counter I saw some books. I bought one titled “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari ” written by Robin Sharma. It is littered with powerful life lessons that teach us how to abandon consumerism in order to embrace destiny, live life to the full and discover joy :

    – Chinese character for `crisis’ is composed of two sub-characters: one that spells `danger’ and another that spells `opportunity’. There are no mistakes in life, only lessons. There is no such a thing as a negative experience, only opportunities to grow, learn and advance along the road of self mastery. From struggle, comes strength. Even pain can be a wonderful teacher.

    – Saying that you don’t have time to improve your thoughts and your life is like saying that you don’t have time to stop for gas because you are too busy driving. Eventually it will catch up with you. 80% of the results you achieve in your life come from only 20% of the activities that occupy your time.

    – Confucius said “Good people strengthen themselves ceaselessly”. Only a human being can step outside of himself and analyze what he is doing right and what he is doing wrong. Then set about making immediate improvements.

    – If you live every day as if it was your last, your life will take on a magical quality.You sow a thought, you reap an action. Reap an action, sow a habit, Sow a habit, you reap a character. Sow your character, you reap your destiny.

    I think that the universe is trying to tell me something :) I already bought your “How to live anywhere” and am following your blog, Steve Pavlina, Chris Guillebeau, Jonathan Volk, Jonathan Mead,……. I have made arrangements to quit my job by october and live Ridiculously Extraordinary Freedom. No more chasing The Dream but living it : )

    Lep Pozdrav

    • Hey Damir,

      Wow, thank you so much for that detailed response. Sorry to hear about your seizures, but it really seems like you have a strong will to succeed in a new lifestyle. I hope you take action and tell us about how you changed the world! :)


  21. Yes. Hell yes.
    Even though I’m not willing to give up some of the things on the list, it’s simply because I’m not there yet. I completely understand and agree to the reasoning, it’s just the part of my that’s not extraordinary yet. And I accept that.

    I am loving the blog so far. Keep writing.

  22. This is great info!!! I lived without cable in college and it was the best thing ever, u find out a lot about yourself and what you want in life and how to get it. The only thing I didn’t do was read, never been a reader but I like to speak to people and pick their brains. I will read a lot more now and find out on my own rather than inquire, because I understand people are different and go through different things. All in all, good REAL info!

  23. Hi Karol,
    I found your blog tonight and I’m really enjoying reading through the posts. You can practice Polish with me if you are ever in London (I was born in Poland too). Keep up the good work ;)

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