Our Town: Dreaming the big dream

Dr Tom Ferraro
How does a child learn to dream big? (Photo by Tom Ferraro)

Don Quixote, written long ago, was a tale about a lonely, slightly deranged and irritable middle aged man living in the village of La Mancha.

He gets inspired by reading tales of chivalry, loses touch with reality, turns himself into a knight-errant and embarks on a journey to find adventure with the help of his old horse Rocinante and his friend Sancho Panza.

This book is on the short list of greatest novels ever written and the idea to dream the impossible dream is kept alive by this novel.
A dream is something that gives purpose to a life and you will not be surprised to know that there are many out there still dreaming the big dream and I had a chance to see a few thousand dreamers this past weekend at the Nassau Coliseum.

I was one of the exhibitors at this year’s Tennis Expo put together by David Sickman at the opening of this year’s New York Tennis Open.

As a sport psychologist I was asked to be a panelist in the afternoon to talk about “Taking your game to the next level.”

During the Q&A a tall woman in the audience introduced herself as a recently retired professional basketball player who had just started to take up tennis this year.

Her question was asked to fellow panelist Lisa Dodson who was herself an ex-tennis star. She asked “I have just taken up tennis this year and I’ve have been told I am pretty good already. I wanted to know what I should do to become a professional tennis player.”

Now that’s what I call an audacious question. Lisa responded in a supportive and appropriate manner and then I chimed in by saying “You remind me to the great amateur golfer Walter Travis who took up golf at age 36 and won the U.S. amateur just four years later.”
Listening one audience member ask a bold question is not enough to produce much insight but then the panel was joined by Dudi Sela, the Israeli tennis star who has played in the Olympics, the Davis Cup and has reached 29th in the world ranking on tour.

Dudi is not physically imposing being only 5’9” and 144 lbs.

He talked about his upbringing but what stood out to me was that his brother who was 13 years older was also a tennis star that had risen to top 200 in the world.

Dudi was asked about the secret to his success and he commented that you have to believe in yourself and then it struck me.

I was in front of two athletes, first the retired basketball player and then the tennis star and they had one thing in common. They had a legacy which allowed them to be true believers and to embrace a big dream.

The ex-basketball player had her legacy of being an accomplished ball player and so she was able to dream another big dream of being a tennis pro. Dudi’s legacy was in knowing that his brother was a tennis pro so why not him too.
I think this is exactly how a dream is born. It comes from a belief in oneself and one’s history and this history makes it real and palpable.

But a dream can evaporate under the enormous challenges one faces as one tries to rise above the field.
David Feldman has done wonderful research on the raising of a prodigy and one thing he has pointed out is how a family’s legacy is a part of the process.

If a father is a doctor, the son or daughter will believe they can do it too. There are obviously many other factors in the making of a star but legacy, belief and family history is one key element.
The family you see pictured above is Bryan Pendrick and his son Chase.

I met them during my Sunday morning workout at the John Ondrush Golf Academy. Father working out and son following in dad’s footsteps.

When I asked the son how he knew his dad was a very good golfer he said to me “Oh I always look at the nice trophies he has in his office. They look good and some have his name on the bottom.”

That is exactly how a legacy is transmitted from parent to child. Pictures and trophies and stories about a parent’s triumphs get absorbed by their offspring.

That is how self-belief and dreaming a big dream starts.
The wonderful film Lalaland demonstrates this theme of dreaming big. The girl in the film is played by Emma Stone and the story is how she follows her big dream to become an actress by observing how her aunt had followed her dream to live in Paris.
And the moral of my story is that you ought to determine your own family legacy and its triumphs and that within this you may find your dreams.
There is so much press recently about DNA testing which shows folks are really interested in their past.

But DSNA testing will not reveal your families triumphs. They are found in the stories and the achievements that are shared during each holiday.

Maybe it was a brother’s success on tour or a mother who gets a doctorate or a grandfather who won a bronze medal in the Olympics back in 1936.

Maybe it’s in your own past like woman who was once a pro ball player and now dreams of tennis stardom.

Life’s journey is hard and living up to your dream is even harder to use the pride in your family legacy as your talisman. In life, we all need a purpose and what’s a better purpose to have then to fulfill your wildest dream.

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