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The reality of big dreams

In a recent sit-down with Today’s Hoda Kotb, comedian and actress Mindy Kaling, who stars in the film A Wrinkle in Time, was celebrating all the great things in her life from her new movie career to the birth of her first child.  It was a joyful interview until she said the words that stopped me cold: "If you dream big, you can get whatever you want."

Sure.  On Television.

Television is all about fantasy:  Parents who always say the right things.  Jobs that require little actual work.  Problems that are solved in sixty minutes.  People who always look fabulous and never have to go to the bathroom.  Even reality contestants who suddenly enjoy fame and fortune for no reason at all.

Hollywood is the culmination of big dreams.  And there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big.  Most people encourage it.  Unfortunately, sharing your optimism because you’re one of the .0001% that made it big, can be dangerous – even deadly – for the 99.9999% that don’t.

A recent shooting spree occurred at YouTube headquarters in California.  It was perpetuated by an independent female video producer who had her own YouTube channel.  According to her family, Nasim Najafi Aghdam lashed out because she was no longer being paid by YouTube’s advertisers.

Why?  Recently, the online video giant had faced questions from its mainstream advertisers who found their ads on channels that espoused racist and extremist views.  Obviously, they did not want to be connected to such hate speech.

In response, YouTube made a policy change.  The company removed the monetization of any channel that promoted a “strong” viewpoint, regardless of the topic.  Ironically, Aghdam’s channel – which spoke passionately about veganism and animal rights – was one of them.

She had a strong work ethic, was highly principled, and believed in the almighty American Dream.  She’d bought whole-heartedly into the “If you build it, someone will pay” line of thought.

But instead of getting “whatever [she] wanted” as Kaling had promised, Aghdam lost her income source.  And then her life.

Of course, shooting up the business responsible isn’t exactly a normal and healthy reaction to not being able to pay your bills.  Clearly, there were other underlying issues.

But given the current behavioural trend for disgruntled Americans, Aghdam’s actions aren’t completely unusual.  There’s an entire generation of quick fix, instant gratification, charge-it-on-my-credit-card-and-pay-later junkies who are not prepared for a dream-crushing reality.

That’s not to suggest the Mindy Kaling didn’t have to work hard and sacrifice to reap the major rewards she currently enjoys.  In fact, she’ll likely write a book in the next year about the road to her success.

But for every one Mindy, there are ten thousand Nasims.  And they will need a Plan B.

So Mindy, if you’re reading this (of course you are), congratulations on your accomplishments.  Now repeat after me, “If you dream big, be prepared for reality when you wake up.”

Oh, and “Eat a good breakfast.”