How to Build an Empire


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I won’t lie. I’m a proud mama. I think my husband and I have done a pretty good job, so far, of raising our 13 year old to believe she can do just about anything she sets her mind to do. But even I wasn’t fully prepared for the conversation we had the other night and what I learned from her.

Earlier that evening, my husband and I met a gentleman who is involved with the Turtle Survival Alliance. {click here to learn more about the organization and what they do}. Our daughter has been crazy about turtles ever since we witnessed the release of several sea turtles back into the wild after being rehabilitated at our aquarium’s sea turtle hospital {SC Aquarium}. We have spent time at the sea turtle hospital to learn more about them and she has raised money for the sea turtle hospital by having friends make donations in lieu of birthday gifts for her. We were excited to hear more about the Turtle Survival Alliance with the hopes there may be ways for our daughter to volunteer at the organization.

Later that evening we shared with our daughter what we learned and her eyes got as bright as I’ve ever seen them. She has long talked about wanting to be a vet someday but never really connected that to her love of sea turtles. She has always thought cats and dogs, not exotics or even the possibility of working at a zoo until we had this conversation. Then her mind and her mouth started going 100 miles per hour.

She was like, “then I could work at The Animal Kingdom at Disney World AND I could become a world famous expert AND conduct earthshattering research AND become a popular speaker at conferences and on TV AND write books AND have my own TV show. I could build an empire! Not, in a world-domination, mean ruler kind of way, but in an expert kind of way. I’m going to need some notebooks! Can we go get some tomorrow so that I can get started?”

I want to share the takeaways I learned from her during this conversation.

  1. When you dream, don’t be afraid to dream BIG!

She didn’t stop at wanting to be a vet. She let the dream go all the way to empire building. She didn’t limit her greatness in her dream. She didn’t question what was reasonable or achievable. In her mind, there is no reason why she can’t achieve her empire. The only limits we have are the ones we place on ourselves. If your dream isn’t big and audacious and a little scary, then you aren’t dreaming big enough.

2. Share the dream with people.

When you have a dream, learn to verbalize what it looks like and then share it with people who are going to be supportive. Putting it out there shows that you are committed to the dream. After my daughter and I discussed her dream in the kitchen, she ran to share it with her dad. Then she shared it with some of our friends while we were at their house over the weekend. Verbalizing it makes it more real and it becomes more integrated with your being.

3. Create a written plan.

After verbalizing her dream with me and her father, she immediately starting coming up with the steps she would need to take to make this happen. We definitely needed to go get notebooks and a filing system. She needed to research what it means to be an exotic animal vet/zoologist, education requirements, best schools to attend, organizations where she can volunteer, research projects she can get involved with, get good grades, apply to the right schools, graduate, internships, etc. The list is huge and overwhelming when looked at in its entirety. However, when she looks at it as a step by step process, she feels it’s totally achievable. She has already marked several of the items off the list (we purchased notebooks and a filing system, she has begun her research on the profession) which means she is already steps closer to reaching her dream.

4. Give purpose to your actions.

Ok, so she’s 13 and she has a long way to go before this dream comes to fruition. But she has given purpose to the actions she takes today. She realized (and shared this with me) that science class will now have more meaning because it will teach her to do experiments and how to conduct research. That math will help her with the analysis of this future research. How English class will help her become a better writer for her articles and books. And, how humanities will help her understand world cultures and interactions between people, the environment, and the animals. She was able to link how what she does today impacts her dream. This gives her purpose and makes things she originally found boring or mundane much more exciting, worthwhile, and enjoyable. This feeds the drive.

It was interesting watching her go through this process and the epiphanies that happened during that hour long conversation. I work with women through similar processes and watch as they begin to give themselves permission to dream big. It takes time. Usually because we don’t think we deserve big dreams, think we aren’t capable of achieving our big dreams, or are worried we’ll inconvenience the people in our lives because of our big dreams. But watching it take place in a 13 year old was magical. She’s still free enough at this age to refuse to self-impose limits. I don’t know how long the desire to fulfill this specific dream will last but I hope and pray she never loses her ability to dream big…and to build empires.


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