Dare Dream Do. The 40:20 Vision of Whitney Johnson

Whitney Johnson, is the author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When you Dare to Dream. Her belief is that we can each achieve greater happiness when focusing both on our dreams and on other people in our lives.

In her twenties, while in the process of helping her husband achieve his dream (getting his PhD at Columbia), she got a secretarial job on Wall Street and went on to discover her first dream. Feeling “invisible” as a sales assistant on Wall Street, and wanting more, drove her to pursue a dream of becoming an investment banker.  Fifteen years later when she left Wall Street as a double-ranked Institutional Investor analyst, she found out there were women out there who couldn’t see their dreams. And along came her next dream.  The first dream was more outcome based, obtaining the brass ring; the second was more discovery-driven, finding harmony between doing for the self and doing for others.

Ultimately these two came together as she found her way back to the business world, co-founding Rose Park Advisors with Clay Christensen, the father of Disruptive Innovation, and his son Matt Christensen, and writing Dare Dream Do.

The book is an inspirational yet practical guide that encourages all women to discover their dreams. Dare Dream Do incorporates real women’s stories as case studies in a framework on how to “dare to do” your dreams. In her book, Johnson first dares women to consider disrupting their life. Then she encourages us to dream about our possibilities. Lastly she teaches us how to do… to execute our dreams.

Join NEXT for Women along with 40:20 Vision and Chic CEO for a fireside chat with Whitney tonight at 9pm EST. You can register here for the free webinar  and get started on how to find your dream.

Go here to check out my post on The Daily Muse about how Whitney found her path from secretary to “investor in stocks, people and dreams.” Read on for some more advice from Whitney. I had so much fun interviewing her I couldn’t fit it all into one post!

On fear…

“I always want to say don’t be afraid. But we can’t avoid fear. And perhaps the fear is important.  Your fear, actually, may be a signaling to you the direction in which you need to go.”

On being a “late bloomer”…

“I started college when I was 18 but I took one year to work to raise money for school. At 21, I took another 2 years off to serve a mission for my church. I was 27 when I moved to NYC with my husband and had a secretarial job for 3 years. So my professional career actually didn’t start until I was 30. It was tremendously discouraging at times because when I finally got into an investment banking analyst program at 30 I was ten years older than all of my peers. To me, that meant ten years behind. But once I figured out what I wanted to do, my trajectory was very steep and fast. Over time, I met and surpassed some of my peers because I was so driven.

I would convey to 20-somethings that it’s never over. Even if you start later, you have time to discover your way and figure things out. So many 29 year olds come to me and say, “I’m 29. What am I do to do? And then I tell them my story and they realize it’s not over yet.”


On regrets…

“I think that when we get into regrets we’re somehow discounting the fact that we made the best decision that we could at the time…and that we could trust ourselves to make a good decision. Having said that, I think there is a duality. As women we think, “I have to be a perfect homemaker or I have to be a perfect careerist.” and we can’t quite live with the messiness of trying to do both.  As a consequence, many women choose one or the other.”

On attending to the self…

“As women we care about our careers but we also quite often care about getting married or having children. All those things are competing dreams. In our perfect world we do try to do both in some form or fashion. But even if we’re full-on mothering, we have to find something that we do that is really wonderful for us. We have to attend to the self, whether that’s starting a side business or running marathons, whatever it is.”

On attending to others…

“Likewise, if we’re full-on career, we need to find a way to attend to others. If you’re married and have children, it’s easy to do. If you’re not a mother or not married, you have to work a bit harder to make this happen.  It’s nonetheless worth the effort because I think we’re only really happy when we’re doing both. We lose an important piece of ourselves when we only do one or the other. That for me is sort of critical point with the whole idea of “dare to dream” is that it’s “both/and”.

I’ve found that for women, some of our best dreams come as a consequence or in the process of our attending to others. Like in my case, I went to New York for my husband but look at the dream that came out of it for me as I attended to his dream. I could go on. I think most people will find that.”

On finding the balance…

“I get out of kilter when it veers too much one way or the other. I know the pendulum is swinging too far toward “attending to others” when I start to feel the gauge on my “resent-o-meter” go up. That’s the signal for me to re-evaluate.

I know the pendulum has gone too far toward “attending to the self” when I start getting narcissistic or obsessive about myself. When it’s all “me, me, me.” When I’m too focused on what’s happening with the “this and that” of my life and I’m not attending to simple things like asking my husband how his day was or sitting down and talking to my kids.”

On learning from men…

“Men can be very focused with outcome and goals but when you hear many women’s stories, they don’t know exactly why they’re doing something when they’re doing it, but they end up defining it as they go along.

But I think we can learn a lot from the men in our lives, our husbands in particular. While women are generally, process-oriented, men tend to be more outcome-focused.  Just as we can learn from men how to be more outcome-focused, men can learn from women how to do process better.”

On what she learned from spending two years at a missionary in Uruguay during college:

 “First of all, by the time I started working, I was ready to work. I wasn’t wishing for anything… I was ready to go.  Secondly, it was two years when it was not about me. I was living in a foreign country. I was learning to how to convey a message in a foreign language.  It gave me unique perspective because I was working with the poorest people in Latin America, which was in direct contrast to my time as an equity analyst, when I interacted with the world’s wealthiest.  Further, living in another culture with another language teaches you to translate things. I think so much of our life is about translating worlds or finding friction points and being able to translate between the two and I think I’m good at that.”


Thank you Whitney for your perspective and a platform to dream!

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