(This is a guest post from Matt Ham.)

I started playing guitar at 15 after seeing one of my teammates casually strum chords on the back of an activity bus going to a baseball game.

Through college, I played in a worship band for a few organizations.

A hobby became a passion.

In those settings, I played in front of crowds, loving every minute.

On the scale of my ultimate guitar experiences, however, one event stands alone.

After college, I became a young professional with a private real estate firm in Florida. To celebrate a grand opening success, our company hosted a private party for some 50 employees and their families. They set up lighted tents along the intracoastal waterway and prepared grand food and flare.

As I walked up that evening, it reminded me of a movie setting; something dreams were made of.

“Is there a band playing?” I asked.

One of my co-workers and friends, Scott, said, “Edwin McCain is playing, you know, the guy who sings ‘I’ll Be?”

“Know him?! Are you serious?”

I had first seen Edwin open for Hootie and the Blowfish when I was 14. Since that time, I’d consumed everything he put out, and spent countless college hours learning his chord progressions and songs. I even rang in the New Year with him on two separate occasions at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Until that night, I had seen him in venues with thousands of fans around me. In this more intimate setting, his playing took on a more organic feel. It was awesome.

Then came the most amazing thing. After a short set break, Edwin spoke the following into his microphone:

“Where’s Matt Ham?” He put his hand over his eyes, peering into the crowd.

I started turning circles, looking for another Matt Ham.

Scott was standing beside me and said, “Go ahead dude,” as he nudged me with his elbow. He then admitted to approaching Edwin before the night began and orchestrating the whole thing.

As I stepped on stage, I went over and shook Edwin’s hand as he took off his guitar and gave it to me, saying “What do you want to play?”

“You’re asking me? Let’s play one of your songs, what about ‘3 am;’ you haven’t played that yet.”

“You know it?” he questioned.

“I’ll try,” I answered, smiling as I began strumming the first chord.

The moment was surreal for me – in every sense of the word.

During a particular part of the song there’s a slight break in the chord progression where Edwin hits a vocal riff. I had practiced the lead-in and the break numerous times before. As that moment came, Edwin cut his eyes to me as if saying, “Are you ready?”

I was.

I had been dreaming about that moment for years.

Moments like that and music like that have always been something I’ve cared about. There’s one specific lyric in that song that means a lot to me. The song ‘3 am’ opens and closes with the same lyric, one that particularly grabs me:

“It’s 3 am and I’m awake but my heart’s still dreaming.”

Jon’s written a number of times that dreams aren’t worth pursuing if they aren’t keeping you awake.

It isn’t hustling unless you’re sacrificing sleep to get it.

We know that’s the kind of passion that it’s going to take, but dreams don’t start on stage.

Dreams start over conversations on the back of an activity bus. Dreams start early in the morning when you don’t want to wake up. Dreams start when you’re fingers hurt from practicing so much.

When you’re called on stage and asked, “Are you ready?” It’s too late then.

You’ve got to be ready to respond to that call at any time.

So dream big, but start defining your life today to be consistent with those dreams.

When that call comes, you’ll be ready.

You’ve been dreaming about it for years.

(To see more great stuff from Matt, visit his site.)