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The Power of Living for Your Daydream

Celebrated music photographer, Rob Shanahan, shares how pushing past fear to let go of the status quo and follow your big dreams can take you to places you never imagined.

Music photographer, Rob Shanahan, shares how pushing past fear and living for your daydream can take you places you never imagined.

As children, we have big dreams about what we want to be when we “grow up.” Astronauts, ballet dancers, rock stars. Then we turn 18, the magic age when we are all supposed to just suddenly know how to become what we always dreamed we were meant to be. 

My dreams started coming into focus at age 10, when all I wanted to do was play my drums. I excelled at it because I loved it and practiced every day. I won some awards with my high school band and accolades from my community, so drumming just seemed like my purpose. 

But then I started taking pictures with my family’s Pentax camera. Now I had two passions, and they completely consumed me. I had to figure out a way to do both, forever. It was my daydream.

My sensible father had other plans. He thought I should have something “to fall back on” and offered to pay for college if I stayed on the dean’s list, which I did. After four years of working on my “plan B” at Minnesota State (accounting/finance, what?), I finally had enough and just wanted to get back to my daydream. So, I packed up a van with my drums, the family Pentax camera, and my 18-year-old brother, and left small-town Minnesota for the bright lights of Los Angeles. We arrived four days later with less than $300 in our pockets. I was 22 years old and didn’t know a soul in Los Angeles. It was time to overcome my fears and just go for it. I was in Hollywood, where magic happens, and finally living my daydream! It was my chance to become who I was meant to be. 

What unfolded was beyond my wildest imagination. I embarked on a journey that was the fuel for my rocket-ship launch of self-discovery and creative productivity. I started collaborating with and photographing my musical heroes — the very musicians on the posters that hung on my bedroom walls back in Minnesota. And that was just the tip of the iceberg for things to come.

This journey gave me an all-access pass to the music world, and I found myself working closely with the world’s most celebrated musicians — a rare opportunity to study and learn from an incredible pool of talented people. 

While photographing these legends and getting as close to their soul as they allow, I absorb as much as possible and incorporate their positive habits and fearless thinking into my life. 

Along the way I’ve also played drums with some of my favorite musicians, like Billy Squier, Ringo Starr, and Charlie Watts, and I continue to perform and study with some of the greatest teachers. The best part? I have photographed and become friends with almost all the world’s top drummers. It’s been an enlightening and soul-enriching journey — one once imagined by my 12-year-old self. 

We only get one life, so make it a good one. Dream big. Figure out what it is you need to do to get there. Imagine it. Live it. Be patient and do the work. If it doesn’t scare you, your dream might not be big enough! 

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