Cefn Fforest is a town you never heard of, clinging to the outer edge of another town you never heard of, on an island surrounded by the cold, watery graveyard of the north Atlantic. A place where hope goes to die.

Jan lived here. Or, more accurately, existed here. By day she worked a dead-end job at the town grocery, cleaning floors, stocking shelves, working the register. By night she tended bar at a local pub, pulling pints for locals to lubricate the small talk that tries vainly to fill the deep emptiness in patrons’ souls, the emptiness where dreams used to live. To call it a bleak world would not be an overstatement.

Then one day, a day like so many other equally empty days, Jan overhears just a bit of conversation from some men drinking at a table in the bar. And the hard, blackened wick of the candle that burned out long ago in her past, flickers back to life. A tiny, tentative flame. But it flickers. And she feels it. When the person she overheard comes up to the bar for a refill, she asks, “So you know something about that?” And he answers, “A little.” And the flame steadies itself. In the coming years the hope that ignited in her heart will feed a dream that grows into a small fire, first sheltered, then shared until it spreads from neighbor to neighbor writing the town you never heard of into the history books.

Dreams can do that. Change our lives and the lives of a few, and sometimes millions, of other people in ways big and small. Last year more than four million Americans filed applications to start a new business. Four million dreams. Four million flickering candles hoping to light a new future for who knows how many.

Starting a new business is only one way our dreams come alive. New Year’s resolutions are another. And spontaneous choices we make throughout our lives, no matter the calendar date, are countless. We desperately need these dreams — and their dreamers. They fill our lives with hope, joy, energy, and excitement. They create our better tomorrows.

Johannes Guttenberg had a dream of movable type and made the printed word available to the masses. Wilbur and Orville Wright watched as a toy their father gave them sailed through the air without falling, transformed their bicycle shop into “first flight” — and began our journey to commercial air travel. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs had a dream that turned basic electronic components into the plastic-encased miracles of communication we carry in our pockets or work from on our laps. Three dreams from dreamers who connected the entire world verbally, physically, and instantly. Countless others have turned dreams into life-altering realities and countless others will continue to do so.

But just like fire, dreams can have a dark side. According to the Small Business Administration, in the first two years, 30% of all new businesses will fail. By five years, 50% will have failed. And by 10 years, fully 70% will have failed. And those New Year’s dreams? Most are abandoned by mid-February. By year’s end, 80% are gone.

The impact of these failures range from disappointment to bankruptcy. Like fire itself, an initial flicker of hope can ignite a fire that lights our way, warms our homes, and cooks our meals. Or it can burn the town down.

Jan’s dream, nurtured over a decade, brought light, warmth, and sustenance to 4,000 souls — in a town you never heard of.

Sooner or later we all sense that initial flicker, a dream so small, so fragile, it’s like a candle in the wind. We can nurture and feed it for the good it might bring — or let it blow out because we fear either our impending failure or its destructive power. One thing is certain: if we let fear extinguish that flame, we will never know how much good we might have accomplished. Conversely, if we hold on too long, the flame could engulf both us and all around us. In the words of the Gambler, “You have to know when to hold ’em; and know when to fold ’em.” You have to know when the dream is working — and when it’s time to find another. Inspiration is to courage what failure is to acceptance.

Jan’s dream led to a book, two movies, and a fascinating backstory on Google.

If you are feeling that first flicker of a dream igniting and you would like a large dose of inspiration with a side of caution, watch the movie “Dream Horse.” Jan’s story. Cefn Fforest’s story. True story — where the power of one person’s dream wrote a whole town into the history books. Available On Demand; 113 Minutes. Popcorn optional, Kleenex recommended. Google the backstory only after watching.

You’re welcome. Keep dreaming.

When a race horse dies, we bury the head for his intelligences, the heart for his spirit, and the hooves for his speed. The rest we cremate.Docent at Churchill Downs

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