The Art of Reverse-Engineering: What does the dream look like?

I have a dream. We all do. I personally dream about living a meaningful life and to me right now that means getting to meet and help as many people as I can. It also includes being able to travel, afford a nice place to live and have time to read and learn as much as I want. Your dreams might overlap with mine and they might not. What matters is that they mean a lot to you and me. Now that’s obvious so what’s up?

The Situation

Well in May I graduated from college and for the first time in my entire life I realized that I didn’t have well defined goals to follow. During my formative years my “dreams” were put on hold so that I could pursue my “goals” which were to get good grades, go to a good university and land a great job after graduation. Although this might sound like a waste of time, I think that my time in college gave me the necessary room to explore and grow. However, now that it’s time to act.

“Reverse engineering, also called back engineering, is the process by which a man-made object is deconstructed to reveal its designs, architecture, or to extract knowledge from the object”

The Realization

I quickly realized that one of the best ways to fulfill your dream is to do figure out where you want to work and then work backwards from there. Reverse-Engineering your dreams if you will. If you follow Gary Vaynerchuk you might have heard talk about this concept as well. For those of you who might not be familiar w/ Gary’s work he’s a social media influencer and an early investor in a couple of them. Although I have a lot of respect for Gary and his ideas, I had to go beyond the idea of reverse-engineering my dream and dig deeper. So I did.

The Execution

Dreams are better if they can be quantifiable. We know that. However, it’s not easy when we have lofty goals that can be summarized as I want to “leave a meaningful life helping people.” So this is what I did:

  1. Set Goalpost **(that’s measurable)**→ Example: Financial Independence by 30 – Investments of $x,xxx,xxx.xx by 2026.
  2. Define Milestones → Example: By year 3 I will have $x,xxx,xxx.xx invested and by year 5 $x,xxx,xxx.xx.
  3. Focus Attention on TodayExample: What is one small thing that I can do every day to reach my goal → Work 30 minutes on side business and/or invest 20% of my income.
  4. Forget about it…

I realized that obsessing over this model is counterproductive because so many variables come into play that it’s impossible (imo) to have a linear path to accomplishing your goals. Income is a particularly good example because it is very unlikely that you will be able to earn/save exactly the amount you need every single month/year. Therefore, this mental model serves more as a compass than a map. It’s flexible enough that it allows me to course correct whenever necessary and re-reverse engineer depending on how my objectives change (and they already have!).

The Takeaway

Realizations without execution are nothing. Sometimes we gain these insights by learning from others, reading, or even our own experiences but if we fail to act on those insights we have fallen short of our true potential. Reverse-Engineering your dreams is just an example of one of those insights. Now it’s time to execute.