Take former corporate executive Mary Lou Quinlan, who took time off in 1998 to ponder what she really wanted to do.

She put up a folding screen in her home office and tacked index cards on which she’d written her goals at the top of each panel.

What was she looking for? She wanted her own business, she wanted to be a paid public speaker, she wanted to write books, and she wanted to be on television.

For the next few months, she brainstormed with friends, clipped news articles, showed up at conferences, and shook hands.

In 1999, she launched Just Ask a Woman, a marketing company, and has since written several books, delivered hundreds of lectures, and judged the TV competition American Inventor.

“I didn’t do everything from day one,” she says. “But the picture was there 12 years ago.” Here’s how to turn your own dreams into big-time success.”

1. Be persistent

1. Be persistent
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“People who are successful know themselves, and that means knowing what their talents are, knowing their ambition and their capacity for work,” says Quinlan.

Fear of failure? Big thinkers know nothing about it. Stubbornness? Big thinkers know a lot about that.

“You’re going to stumble; you’re going to run out of money; people are going to try to talk you out of what you want to do,” says Quinlan.

“And you have to be willing to push through.”

2. Tell the world

2. Tell the world

“Write down your goals, then say them out loud to yourself and to anyone else who’ll listen. That makes it harder to back out,” says Quinlan.

“Making it public also increases the chances that you’ll find other people who can help you make your big idea a big reality.”

3. Prepare to be uncomfortable

3. Prepare to be uncomfortable

“High achievers think they can do anything. No matter what task you put in front of them, the response is, “How hard can this be?”

They assume they can climb Everest when they’ve never even gone on a hike.

“I don’t think I ever thought twice about failing,” says Quinlan.

Nevertheless, she adds, “you have to be humble enough to know what kind of help you need, to get where you want to go.

“When I joined a writers group, I had already run an ad agency, but here I was, sitting around a table with people who had successfully published books. It was like being in first grade again.”

4. Know when to listen

4. Know when to listen
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“When you have a big idea, 99 percent of the people you encounter will tell you why it’s a bad one,” says Victoria R. Brown, founder of bigthink.com, a global ideas forum.

Sometimes it is a bad idea. The trick, says Quinlan, is to “know the difference between those who are jealous of your drive and those who wish you well and truly want to help by pointing out the pitfalls.”

“Mostly, people are just throwing their own fears on you,” says Quinlan.

“Immunise yourself against naysayers by doing your homework. See who else has succeeded in your area of interest. What did they learn along the way? Do you yearn to be an entrepreneur?”

“Before you invest a lot of time or money, make sure that the product or service you have in mind isn’t already on the market.”

“Then, once you’re sure your big idea is also a great one, roll up your sleeves and get to work.”

Big Ideas, Big Returns

Big Ideas, Big Returns

These three big thinkers went from a “eureka!” moment to changing the world.

1. Starting a revolution:

After seeing her friend gunned down by the security forces of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz posted a video of herself on Facebook imploring her countrymen to protest against the government.

It went viral, and thousands came to Tahrir Square. Mahfouz’s vlog was the spark that lit the Egyptian revolution.

2. Saving the planet

2. Saving the planet

The artificial trees created by geophysicist Klaus Lackner, which resemble giant fly swatters, absorb carbon from emissions sources such as vehicles and residences.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers estimated that a forest of 100,000 such trees could mop up half the United Kingdom’s carbon emissions, making the forest thousands of times more effective than its natural counterparts.

3. Feeding the hungry

3. Feeding the hungry

In 2009, Rhode Island entrepreneur Navyn Salem got tired of news stories about childhood hunger and malnutrition around the world always ending the same way – with the problem getting worse instead of better.

Believing the challenge could be met by applying business strategies, she established Edesia, a nonprofit company, to mass-produce a nut paste that can stop malnutrition in young children.

She hired 16 employees, many of them refugees, and within one year, she’d received a $2 million federal grant to produce more than 660,000 pounds of the food supplement, enough for more than 100,000 children.

All content taken from Life: The Reader’s Digest Version.

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