Shedding Light on Winter Dreams

Paul Levesque Posted by Paul Levesque.

Paul Levesque has been an international management consultant for over thirty years. He is the author of five books and countless articles.


Shedding Light on Winter Dreams

Alexandre Normand, Creative Commons

Rob Walpole felt that the waterfront area in his Canadian hometown of Owen Sound (near Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay) was lacking a “certain something,” especially during the cold, dark winter evenings. He believed something should be done to draw people into the downtown area, to help dispel the winter doldrums.

A metal worker by trade, Rob approached the city council with an offer to build a series of displays to be installed in parkland near the river-displays decorated with festive colored lights. The city expressed little enthusiasm for the idea, but gave him permission to proceed on his own initiative.

Encouraged by his wife and his mother, Rob first built a miniature storybook train locomotive. This was followed by a half-scale model of a biplane, complete with Snoopy in the cockpit. Gratified to see how local families were attracted to the displays, Rob continued to build more.

“You’d walk along the riverbank on a blustery [wintry] day,” recalls city councilor Ann Kelly, “and you’d think, -What do I see, on the horizon?’ It looked like a shape. That would be Rob, all by himself, out in the blizzard, setting up the displays.” Before long, Rob’s labor of love began to attract support from local businesses and volunteers, and continued to expand.

Today, Owen Sound’s Festival of Northern Lights extends along several city blocks, and incorporates strings of lights totaling over eight miles in length. The festival attracts daily busloads of tourists from other communities in the region.

In 2002 the city formally bestowed special Dreamcrafter awards on Rob and Marie-and in the process officially made Owen Sound Canada’s first Dreamcrafting Community. The city now makes annual awards to individuals who have similarly made a difference in their community.

For Rob, the real reward has been seeing the effect of his fantasyland of lights on young people. “I just get such a kick out of watching these kids,” he says. “You go down there tonight, and you see these parents walk along hand in hand with their kids, they’re laughing, and Dad’s carrying them… and I know that’s things they’ll remember. I know that’s what I remember. And that’s just so great.”

Anyone can experience the same great feeling, of course. Colored lights are not the only way to add color and light to our communities, our workplaces, our lives. Achieving any kind of big dream will be rewarding. It’s a process that involves a number of key elements:

Aspiration-We begin by making the initial decision to do something that matters to us, igniting a sense of mission about it within ourselves.

Motivation-We must pause and celebrate key milestones along the way, to intensify and maintain our resolve over the long term.

Inclusion-We’ve got to get others involved, and share the glory, to make our dream feel like their dream too.

Even if what we choose to do seems small and trivial, these things have a way of growing. The feeling has a way of spreading.

“It’s the feel-good feeling,” as Marie describes it. “[The feeling] that you’ve done something that other people are getting so much enjoyment out of. It’s been fun. It’s really been fun. You’re never too old to have a dream.”

Paul Levesque is author (with Art McNeil) of Dreamcrafting:The Art of Dreaming Big, The Science of Making It Happen (Berrett-Koehler, 2003).