New Year’s resolutions, though well-intended, often don’t get you to where you want to go. Why? Because just “resolving” to achieve a certain goal doesn’t yet show you how to accomplish them. Without a clear roadmap, unexpected obstacles, negative self-talk, and daily distractions can easily get you off your path to success.
This book summary article offers a practical 12-week boot camp to kickstart your success. From defining your dream to building a supportive network and acquiring needed skills, Teneshia Jackson Warner shows you how to push yourself to achieve mastery.
Are you ready to start that company, found a nonprofit, or transform your hobby into a worthwhile side gig? As founder and CEO of the multimillion-dollar multicultural marketing firm EGAMI, Teneshia Jackson Warner learned how to turn dreams into realities. She developed a practical 12-week boot camp to kickstart your success. The Big Stretch integrates stories, exercises, and training to push you to take radical steps toward your goals. Get ready for what might be the most productive 90 days of your career.
- Week 1: Examine who you are as a dreamer.
- Week 2: Create a “90-day Stretch Plan” by dreaming vividly – don’t worry yet about how you’ll make the dream a reality.
- Week 3: Prepare your mind for the Stretch with a “dream detox.”
- Week 4: Discover the purpose of your life and your dream.
- Week 5: Realize the possibilities for your dream and how it can serve other people.
- Week 6: Build supportive external and internal networks.
- Week 7: Dare to pursue your dream now.
- Week 8: Instead of working your way up in a new field, “go in through the roof.”
- Week 9: Find new ways to push yourself as you achieve mastery.
- Week 10: Ensure your dream is profitable and responsible.
- Week 11: Unveil your inner Dream Warrior – patient, prepared, persistent and perceptive.
- Week 12: Strive for the Mega Dream.
Week 1: Examine who you are as a dreamer.
After inspiring more than 100,000 attendees at her Dream Project conferences, Teneshia Jackson Warner created a 12-week boot camp – “The Stretch” – to push professionals to achieve their dreams. Whether you hope to found a company, develop an app or create a nonprofit, The Stretch guides you through four phases to transform your life over 90 days:
- “Dream”: Envision your dream, keeping in mind potential obstacles.
- “Design”: Realize your unique purpose, and pinpoint the mentors, colleagues, and team you’ll need to fulfill it.
- “Dare”: Take radical steps to push through rejections and insecurity.
- “Do”: Make your dream a reality, and dream even bigger.
“Big dreams require unreasonable, radical action to catapult you from where you are to where you want to be.”
Your approach will vary depending on your “Dreamer” profile, which may be one or a combination of the following:
- “The Careerpreneur”: You hope to bring your entrepreneurial spirit to your corporate position. You like structure and should seek work that invigorates you and employers who embrace the initiative.
- “The Make-It-Happen Dreamer”: You want to create your dream on your own terms. You have a high-risk tolerance and are flexible.
- “The Hobby Dreamer”: You want to cultivate your hobbies while keeping your day job. You like stability and pursue your passion for joy, not money.
- “The CEO Dreamer”: You’re an experienced professional ready to leap into entrepreneurship after climbing the corporate ladder. Use existing mentors, skill sets, and time to plan your exit.
- “The Activist Dreamer”: You’d love to confront social injustice, possibly with volunteer labor and a bare-bones budget. Prioritize purpose over income to track down a principled workplace or start a nonprofit.
Week 2: Create a “90-day Stretch Plan” by dreaming vividly – don’t worry yet about how you’ll make the dream a reality.
Give your vision time and imagination to grow. Picture your life a year after achieving your dream – and how you might feel if nothing changes. This “One-Year Dream Projection” will guide you in creating your “90-Day Stretch Plan,” which pinpoints an attainable goal to achieve in 12 weeks.
“Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.”
Break your larger goal into weekly to-dos. You’re more likely to reach your goal if you speak about it, so share your One-Year Dream Projection and Stretch Plan with three people.
Week 3: Prepare your mind for the Stretch with a “dream detox.”
Before you can begin to pursue your dream, you must prepare, mentally, physically, and spiritually for the effort ahead. Confront time-wasting habits and negative self-talk to focus on your dream. Take an hour you’d normally spend watching Netflix and, instead, listen to a business podcast, enjoy time in nature, or engage in meditation or prayer.
“Regardless of how scary, disruptive and unnerving an interruption can be, such moments are a necessary entry way to real change.”
Care for your body. Physical activity boosts concentration, improves memory, decreases stress, and helps you get more done. Pick one day per week to dedicate to your dream, and brainstorm ways to streamline rote tasks, such as paying for grocery delivery or hiring a house cleaner.
Week 4: Discover the purpose of your life and your dream.
Enter the Design phase, in which you draw the blueprint for your dream as “Chief Dream Architect.” Feel free to dream imperfectly, and revise as you go. A clear purpose guides the development of your ideas, teams, and investments, and sustains you as problems arise.
“What matters isn’t the ‘what’ of an endeavor but the ‘so what,’ which refers to all those wonderful things made possible by the existence of your Dream.”
Use words like “serve,” “build,” and “create” to write a brief purpose statement for your dream. The statement should reflect your values and explain the effect you wish to have on others. Create a specific mission statement for your current project.
Week 5: Realize the possibilities for your dream and how it can serve other people.
Ask potential clients what you can do for them. The author, for example, took advantage of the lack of diversity she saw within the marketing sector to offer multicultural campaigns to Fortune 100 clients. Don’t copy your competitors; use your unique skills and approach. Be brave. Act now.
“When an injustice or world problem tugs at your heart and you find yourself saying, ‘Somebody should do something about this!’ that somebody is you.”
List ways to solve “dream irritants,” as well as resources and partnerships that could help you achieve your goal. Create three profiles for the specific people you’ll serve, including their ages, locations, occupations, hopes, and fears. Spell out what makes your dream one-of-a-kind and relevant, and the things that qualify you to lead such an effort. Gain a better understanding of what makes you and your dream different from others by examining the products or services of three of your main competitors. Consider how they market what they do or sell and how they stand out from the crowd.
Week 6: Build supportive external and internal networks.
Ally with potential colleagues, mentors, and partners, keeping the following in mind:
- The more you give, the more you’ll gain.
- All relationships are important. A connection you make today could help you in pursuit of a future dream. Don’t fear sharing your elevator pitch with important people. Start the conversation by saying, “I’ve been working on an idea that I think will (insert fabulous outcome for their venture here). Do you have 60 seconds to hear about it?” Respond graciously to refusals, and your listeners may change their minds.
- Include industry leaders in your network. Harlem’s Fashion Row creator Brandice Daniel, for example, recruited a high-profile board member after sending coffee invitations, sometimes with flowers or cupcakes, to clothing designers, suppliers, bloggers, and journalists.
Cultivate a well-rounded circle of mentors, and study the TED Talks, interviews, and books of people you admire.
“If you’re serious about scaling and growing your company, moving into an executive position or developing a grassroots nonprofit organization, your dream will require more bodies, more brainpower, more capital, more structure and more imagination than you alone can bring to the table.”
Foster a diverse team that embodies your ideal culture, and embrace healthy turnover as you grow. Write your plans in pencil, so you can erase them as needed. Describe the top five qualities of your ideal mentor and five leaders in your field. Arrange an in-person meetup with three to five contacts, aiming for 10 new connections per month. Ask your network about people they know who they believe might also help you. You may find you are only “six degrees of separation” away from an industry mogul.
Week 7: Dare to pursue your dream now.
Your plan is solid, and it’s time to Dare – to make bold moves to move your dream forward. Make several “big asks” this week. You’ll grow braver with practice.
“Sometimes you have to just take that deep breath and go for it, make that pitch, ask that Big Ask, walk right into that event, grab that microphone.”
Perfect your pitch with tips from Techturized co-founder Candace Mitchell, including:
- When pitching to investors, keep the description of your business model and the value you deliver down to one to five minutes. Be prepared to field questions about your finances, team, and market.
- Share a compelling and personal story – and focus on concrete solutions.
- Project confidence, and flaunt your industry knowledge.
Enlist four “Dream Champions” to reflect your doubts to you as you talk about opportunities you’re exploring. Refute “100 nos” by the end of the week. Pick one challenge that makes you uncomfortable, such as addressing a larger audience or meeting senior executives at a cocktail dinner.
Week 8: Instead of working your way up in a new field, “go in through the roof.”
Gain expertise by apprenticing, partnering, interning, working, or volunteering with experts in your desired industry. A Hobby Dreamer could study under an experienced interior designer, or an Activist Dreamer could volunteer with a women’s rights leader. “Dream Extreme” whether relocating to a new city, quitting your job, or founding your own company. Do what scares you. Learn from your mistakes.
“One of the fastest ways to go in through the roof is to find the gap in the industry or service you want to work with.”
List five approaches that break convention, such as gifting your work to potential clients. Sign up for workshops, design business cards, and promote special offers on social media. Schedule meetings with a handful of organizations or people with whom you would like to work.
Week 9: Find new ways to push yourself as you achieve mastery.
Sometimes dreams expire. When you become too ingrained in your routine or your work no longer challenges you, it’s time to push yourself to try something new. The thought of doing so might scare you, however. You may dread losing stability if you do something different. Some said CEO Dreamer DeVon Franklin, for example, “committed career suicide” when he left his job of six years at Overbrook Entertainment after not gaining promotion. He went on to achieve the same executive position he wanted at another company on his first day of unemployment.
“The biggest thief of an extraordinary life is a great life.”
Examine if you’re feeling challenged by and excited about the following elements in your career:
You may want to get out of bed 20 minutes early to spark your creativity through exercise, prayer, or meditation, catch up on trends by reading magazines like Inc. or Forbes or take on temporary staff or interns to energize your venture.
Develop a three- to five-year plan for growing your dream. Daydream about the possibilities and create a vision board or screen saver to remind you of your ideas. Do you want to own a bed-and-breakfast? Visit several. With just three weeks remaining, chart out three “bold moves” you’ll take towards your Stretch goals.
Week 10: Ensure your dream is profitable and responsible.
Execute your dream for the long term. Excellence comes from persistence.
“Do something every day to push the Dream forward, even it’s an action that seems somewhat insignificant in the big picture.”
Using your Risk Tolerance Assessment from Week 1, weigh your responsibilities against the opportunities you hope to pursue.
Keep close tabs on company finances and accounting. Hire an ethical accountant, invest in comprehensive insurance plans and intellectual property protections. Consider your exit strategy for your dream. Do you plan to sell your business or pass it on to family members to continue?
Week 11: Unveil your inner Dream Warrior – patient, prepared, persistent and perceptive.
Start a “Surrender Jar”: At the end of each day, write down the worries or obstacles troubling you, and place them in the jar. At the end of The Stretch, revisit those pieces of paper so you can see your progress. Consider how you’d respond if your greatest fears came true and write “25 reasons you should not give up.” Track the time you spend on physical, mental, and spiritual health, career, entertainment, family, and household tasks.
Week 12: Strive for the Mega Dream.
Dream bigger – especially if you’re in a holding pattern. The author thought she had failed when she barely registered 400 attendees at an event in 2016. Instead of giving up, she followed a long-shot suggestion to partner with world-renowned Bishop T.D. Jakes. Later, 100,000 Dreamers attended three days of inspirational panels as a part of a collaboration between the Dream Project and Jakes’ Megafest event.
About the Authors
Founder and CEO of EGAMI Group Teneshia Jackson Warner also founded The Dream Project to empower prospective entrepreneurs.