8. The Difference between a Big Dream and The Big Dream, “The Fortress Fallacy.”

The highlights and notes are derived from Section III: Chapter 8 of the Book, The Heart to Start, by David Kadavy.

Let’s give ourselves the Permission to Begin and Finish:

The Opening quote:

To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act

Anatole France

There is a difference between The Big Dream and a big dream

The definition of “The Fortress Fallacy“:

“When we set out to do something, we naturally picture something big and grand, even if we have no experience at all.”


“…if we imagine that we will build a giant fortress when we’ve never laid a single brick in our lives… one of two things happens:

  1. Either ****we do nothing more than fantasize,***** and never start, or
  2. *****we do start, but we lead ourselves into burnout.*****”


1. The Artist’s Siren: Fantasizing

This next passages will hurts, but I grew from it, and hope you will too. The next two sections will Refer to the List above:

“When we fantasize about the fortress in our mind, we can actually get pleasure out of it. This becomes a source of procrastination. If we believe we’re going to make a grand masterpiece, we can justify not starting. Our egos will fool us into thinking that we need to do more research, or that we just need to carve out a few months of free time to rent a cabin in the woods. Meanwhile, we live inside the dangerous joy of our daydreams.

2. Everyone Sleeps: The Burnout Warning

When we charge head first toward building the fortress, we burn ourselves out. We may be inspired and energized for a few minutes, a few hours, or maybe even a week, but we quickly realize how far we are from achieving the vision in our mind. We’ve started once, but we’ll never start again.

The book he is referring to in the next passage is one he attempted to write 10 years old.

“This is exactly what happened when I sat down to write that book. Other than writing that had been assigned for school work, I had never tried to write something. By trying to write an entire book, I not only set myself up for an impossible goal, I also punished myself for trying to write.

The Result of the Burnout:

I learned to associate writing with failure.”

The Result of Fantasizing:

“As a result, it would be fifteen years before I would ever try to write something voluntarily again. Instead, I resorted to fantasizing about what I might do if only I had enough time to do something big.”

The next section is an example of an individual who beat the Fortress Fallacy; he acted, didn’t fantasize, and paced himself, didn’t burn himself out

From Drawing Behind Business Cards to Illustrating an Entire Book

“Hugh MacLeod was able to overcome the Fortress Fallacy. He was working in advertising in Chicago in 1997, and after work, he’d go to a cafe and sketch in his notebook. One day, he forgot his notebook. All he had was business cards, so he started sketching on the backs of them.

As it turned out, business cards were the perfect medium for Hugh. He soon moved to New York, and since he was living out of a suitcase and walking around town, the business cards were little pieces of art, the perfect size for Hugh to carry around with him.”

Sketching on business cards made creating his art more manageable for Hugh. He told me on Love Your Work, “I could do the business-card thing outside of my job, without it bleeding into my existence, whereas if you’re a sculptor, that takes over your life.”

“Hugh eventually started sharing his business-card cartoons online, and they took off. Under the brand Gapingvoid, Hugh has grown beyond business cards. He’s done custom artwork for companies such as HP, Microsoft, and Volkswagen, his artwork is hanging in more than 5,000 companies around the world, and he’s illustrated an entire book for Seth Godin.”

Be careful of the Double Edge Sword, your Dream

“Even though I made the mistake of trying to build a fortress when I was ten, I eventually stopped fantasizing and started again. I did it by accepting that I wasn’t going to achieve the vision in my mind right away. Back when I was staring in the mirror so much, one day I finally took action. I had been inspired by great blogs that were popping up around the Internet, but I had been too intimidated. I imagined building a blog just as sophisticated. I finally overcame the Fortress Fallacy and started with a simple blog post on Blogger. That led to another blog post, then another, then another. It wasn’t until later that I started hosting on my own server and redesigned my blog. Six years later, I was writing a whole book.”

“Dreaming beyond your abilities can be a valuable motivator.”


To overcome the Fortress Fallacy, all you have to do is recognize that you tend to dream beyond your current abilities. Don’t let your own dream intimidate you into not starting, or lead you into burnout when you do start.

Instead… let your dream be a guide.”

How to conquer the Fortress Fallacy:

Dream of a feature film, but start with a short film. Instead of building a fortress, start with a cottage.

Sometimes we also exaggerate how much time we need in order to get started.”

Next Chapter: 9. Inflating The Investbook:

I hope these highlights and notes are helping you as much as they have saved my life.

With Love and Sincerity,

Jose Michael Rubio

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