I often joke that it takes years to become an overnight success. But it starts with a dream. My dream was to own a ­factory. I wasn't even sure what kind of product I'd make, or exactly where it would be. But I pictured myself walking the factory floor, talking to workers. The pile of broken-down machines I bought might have looked more like a nightmare at the time. But dreams come true — with a lot of wide-awake work.

Here are my ABCs for reaching your dreams.

A is for attitude. It is absolutely essential that you have a positive mental attitude in every aspect of life.

B is for believe in yourself, even when no one else does. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't accomplish your goals.

C is for creativity. Your dream might not even be original. You can start with an existing idea, product or service, and then use your innovative skills to take it to a new level.

D is for determination, what keeps us hammering away. Determined people possess the stamina and courage to pursue their ambitions despite criticism, ridicule or unfavorable circumstances.

E is for enthusiasm. You should be so pumped about your dream that you won't take no for an answer.

F is for focus. Don't let distractions and interruptions undermine your focus. Keep your eye on the prize.

G is for goal. Goals give you more than a reason to get up in the morning; they are an incentive to keep you going all day.

H is for hard work. You might lose some sleep achieving your dreams, but rest assured, it will be worth it.

I is for imagination. As you explore possibilities, give your mind some space to wander to new territory.

J is for just do it! Ideas don't work unless you do.

K is for keep dreaming. Oftentimes, one idea will lead to another and then another. Watch your dreams grow.

L is for learn everything that is important to you. Take classes, find mentors, search online — there's a world of information available just waiting for you.

M is for mentors. Connect with successful people, even if they are not in your chosen field. Pick their brains and find out how they achieved their dreams.

N is for no. Know when to say no and recognize the need to try a different approach.

O is for open mind. Consider options that could improve your ideas, and make adjustments as needed.

P is for perfection. In your dreams, your concept is perfect. Work out the kinks, shake out the wrinkles and keep trying until you can't do any better.

Q is for question. If you ask the right questions, not only will you get good information, you will get it quickly and tailored to your needs.

R is for results. As I often say, dreams don't pay off on effort; they pay off on results. Your dream may take some time to achieve, but until you produce results, it's still just a dream.

S is for strategy. A strategy connects where you are and where you want to go. Do something every day that puts you a step closer to achieving your dream.

T is for tenacity. Take control of your own destiny. It helps to have a little bulldog in you in order to get things done.

U is for unique. Lots of people may have the same dream as you, but you are unique in your ability, desire and knowledge.

V is for visualize your dreams. If seeing is believing, visualizing is achieving.

W is for what's next. When you have realized your dream, start dreaming again.

X is for experience. Use your own experience to generate ideas and solutions.

Y is for YOUR dreams. Make sure you are not chasing someone else's dreams.

Z is for ZZZs — a great place to start dreaming.

Mackay's Moral: May all your dreams come true.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.