This past weekend I learned how to dream big (realistically) from a 23-year-old stranger.
I was at Complex Con, a festival of sorts that meshes art, design, music, pop culture and innovation. I was standing in line at will-call, waiting to snag my ticket, when my homies and I nearly ran smack-dab into someone else named Cole (except a much much more famous Cole).
If my friend Auston hadn’t said, “That’s Cole Bennett” in a voice that sounded like a teenage girl randomly stumbling into the arms of Justin Bieber at a convenience store, I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue the dude was somebody.
He was a good-looking friendly-faced white guy sporting joggers and Birkenstocks that looked like he could have easily been a millennial hipster youth pastor that stumbled into the wrong building.
In reality, we were starring at one of the most influential people in music.
For those of you who don’t know, Cole Bennett is a 23-year-old Chicago-based videographer and director that has worked with artists like Kanye West, Juice WRLD and Lil Pump to breathe life into music videos that garner millions and millions of views.
He is undeniably the most famous videographer in existence and has built a cult following both in Chicago and across the world.
His work is so compelling and so widely-followed that he has changed the narrative between musician and director.
Once upon a time, directors had their big breaks when they worked with a noteworthy musician. In Cole’s world, musicians have their big breaks if they can land a video with him.
That’s power — power that Cole has leveraged to launch Lyrical Lemonade, a mini-empire of sorts that quadruples as an events business, a media outlet, a production house and a beverage distributor.
In a recent interview with Complex Magazine, Cole reflected on his journey as a creative and the mini-hats that he wears…
“I want to make everything… I’m working on so many things outside of music videos because I don’t want to limit myself. I look to people like Steve Jobs, Rick Rubin, and Walt Disney. I look to artists like Tyler, the Creator and Kanye, who never limited themselves, always wanted to go above and beyond, and really try to change the world. They always do new things and try new things, and they never put a ceiling to themselves.”
Cole Bennett is a dreamer, which I respect the fuck out of. However, I think for the vast majority of people, his success is challenging to relate to, feeling both out of reach and perhaps even impossible.
In the interview I just mentioned, Cole shared that he turned down $30,000,000 from someone interested in buying Lyrical Lemonade because he wanted to keep it independent. He wanted to maintain control over his dream.
I love that. But, few can relate to building a $30,000,000 empire at the age of 23.
However, I think when you break down Cole’s success, suddenly dreaming big becomes realistic.
Or, at least I think so.
A thoughtful, realistic approach to dreaming big.
The reason people sound like jackasses when they say they want to be an actress or a rap artist or an entrepreneur is because they’re approaching their dreams too broadly, too ambiguously.
While Walt Disney died an entrepreneur, animator, voice actor, film producer and the pioneer of American animation… he began with a very focused pursuit.
He made a shitty little cartoon about a mouse called Steamboat Willie in 1928…
That’s right, the media titan that is today worth $130 billion all began with a black and white cartoon about a mouse captaining a steamboat.
Unfortunately, when young people hear names like Disney, Rockefeller, Jobs and Winfrey… they assume that these massive successes happened overnight and that these folks achieved their big dreams by doing “everything” from the jump.
Or, in the words of our friend Cole Bennett…
“I want to make everything”.
I think this is where the vast majority of folks really fuck up when dreaming big — not in the dreaming big part but in being wildly unrealistic about both the steps and focus required to eventually reach those big dreams
Walt Disney started as a newspaper artist.
Oprah Winfrey started as a television host in Baltimore.
John D. Rockefeller started as a bookkeeper
Steve Jobs started as a video game designer.
Cole Bennett started as a videographer.
While Cole is now in a position where he can make everything, he would have never found himself in that position if he hadn’t first mastered a very specific craft.
I discuss this in great detail in an article I put out a little while back called Why you should stay in your lane.
How this applies to you.
You reading this right now have big dreams (which I applaud you for having).
You might dream to be a designer whose garments are worn by the rich and the famous.
You might dream to be a physical therapist so damn good that professional athletes hire you to work with them in the off-season.
You might dream to be a creative director with an agency trusted by the top brands in the world.
You might dream to be a musician that sells out venues all around the United States.
No matter what your big boisterous dream is, you have to start somewhere and I think that somewhere is what I just mentioned… a dedicated, consistent focus on a very specific craft.
Or, in other words, becoming the best at (fill in the blank).
When you approach your big dreams from a focus it changes your perception — they go from being a shot in the dark to something within reach, something realistic.
I think, in so many ways, that’s what we are all up against here — perception.
Cole Bennett didn’t begin by building a $30,000,000 empire, he began by road tripping to Chicago every weekend to capture the budding hip-hop scene with video camera.
He got good. Damn good.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Most of you who read my work regularly know that I am a writer and that I love writing. But, few of you know about my “big dreams”.
I feel I’d be remiss writing an article on how to dream big if I’m not willing to share how I am dreaming big and approaching these dreams realistically…
So, here it goes.
One day, I will be the greatest creative writer alive.
Massive brands like Nike and Off-White will hire me to sling ink for them.
I will write children’s books, poetry books and business books (that don’t suck ass to read).
I will produce award-winning spoken word albums on vinyl. I will create a chocolate fortune cookie brand with fortunes that are inspiring to read (this is coming semi-soon, stay tuned).
And, I will collaborate with musicians as a songwriter.
But, first, I have to pay the fucking bills and I have to get “good” before I can become “the greatest”. And for me, that will happen by building Honey Copy one word at a time as a copywriter.
But, as always, I digress.
By Cole Schafer.
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