I was freaking terrified. TER. RI. FIED. What in the world had just happened? I had gone to meet with a professor about what had happened to the TEDx organization and event I had attended 2 years ago. He told me they had all graduated. Oh, and because I was the one person who asked about them, I somehow became the lucky person who was now the new director of TEDxSamfordU.

Um, hello? Say what?!?

I may have been a University Fellow and had a bit of event planning experience, but I felt like the least qualified person to do this.

Now, let me do some quick backtracking here for a second.

During freshman year, I had attended a TEDxSamfordU conference. Live speakers, video replays, the whole “TEDx shindig.” Yet there were only around 30 people in the audience – and probably at least ¼ of them were the event planners.

There was no event my sophomore year, and nobody noticed – except me.

I knew what TEDxSamfordU could be. I had watched tons of TED talks in high school and knew the brand and the potential that it held.

I imagined a room full of people, right here at Samford University, listening raptly as speakers stood on a big, red circle and gave life-changing talks that transformed the minds of dozens of students.

Yet here I was, an insecure soon-to-be college junior with no idea how to make that happen.

Let me be clear. I was starting from scratch. I didn’t have any of the paperwork or account log-in information from the previous TEDx directors who had all graduated at the end of my freshman year, leaving behind no successors or sustainability plans. Nothing.

Friends, what do you do when you are building a dream from scratch? How do you possibly begin?

STEP 1: Take your dream or vision and turn it into a set of goals.

My vision was a TEDx conference. But I had to figure out what that practically looked like. Here were some of the goals I set: 100 people in the audience. 6 speakers. 1 conference. The timeline? By the end of the year.

See how that’s much more specific than a “standing-room only TEDx conference”?

STEP 2: Take those big goals and break them down into a set of steps.

Now, I’m not talking about 100 individual steps. I’m talking 3-7 bigger steps. Now why not 100 small steps compared to a couple big steps? Imagine you’re running a 100-mile race. That requires a lot of endurance, right? Suppose that on this race, there were no mile-markers. You just knew that eventually, you were going to finish… if you were lucky. It would be really easy to lose motivation. However, if you break that 100-mile race into 5 20-mile chunks, you now have mile markers to mark your progress and you get the opportunity to celebrate the win of passing each major mile marker. Being able to “chunk” the race into manageable bite-sized pieces makes the entire journey feel less overwhelming, keeping you from losing motivation on the run.

For me, the big goal was the TEDx conference. The steps to get there were…

  • Create a leadership team.
  • Get all the paperwork done & submitted to get us a TEDx license.
  • Curate speakers.
  • Prepare for the event (logistics).
  • Market the event.
  • Host the event.

Now, I’ll be real with you, sometimes you may tackle multiple steps at once. That’s great – as long as you don’t let that become overwhelming for you.

STEP 3: Take action. Do the next right thing.

Sometimes this looks like breaking down those steps into even smaller steps. Other times, it looks like just taking action – even if it’s small, even if it’s messy. A lot of the time, you may not know what those smaller steps look like. I certainly didn’t. I just did what I saw was the next right thing that moved the needle a little closer to the goalpost. I did the research on how to get a TEDx license. I sent an email to the old TEDx director. I filled out a form online. One small step at a time.

Can I be brutally honest with you? During my junior year, I worked my butt off to make a TEDx conference happen. There were more obstacles I had to overcome and hoops to jump through than I ever imagined. But you know what?

In March, right after Spring Break, we had a TEDx conference.

80+ people in attendance.

6 speakers (I think?).

1 TEDx conference.

During my senior year, I increased the vision and magnified the goals. This time, I knew most of the steps my team and I needed to take to achieve our goals and vision. The result? We had 150+ people in the audience and standing room only at our conference.

You guys! The dreams and visions you have for your life are not meant to simply be dreams. They are actually achievable if you know how to go about them in the right way. Dream big. Turn it into measurable, achievable goals. Break those goals down into smaller steps. Then take action by doing the next right thing.

It’s just that simple.