How to Get Started on Turning Your Idea Into a Reality
Right now I'm deep into my annual winter hibernation that seems to hit in January. Like all I want to do is watch Netflix, drink hot tea, and make plans from my warm cozy couch nest. At the same time I'm putting a lot of creative energy into projects for work. It's all about that balance and all those plans are falling into place.
One of those creative work projects that's "in the works" feels really big and overwhelming. Like I know that putting time and energy into it will pay off in the long run but there is just SO much to do.
What's giving me confidence to make those plans and to execute them is that I've made big things happen before. A few weeks ago I mentioned that I was spending a weekend down in Virginia. It was for the ten year reunion for my sorority at my undergraduate...the sorority I founded.
Why I started a sorority in college
Let's back up a bit here and share my story. I talked about my college experience here before and how I came to found a local sorority/fraternity on my college campus in a post about how anything is possible but here's a refresher:
It was my sophomore year and I realized I hated my college. I was far from home, stuck without a car in a suburb of D.C. I wasn't just physically stuck, but mentally and emotionally stuck, too. I struggled to make friends that I actually connected with beyond going out or working in study groups. I often felt left out of other friendships where I was trying my hardest to make a connection. I joined special programs, clubs, and attended every event advertised and put myself out there as much as I could, introvert in me be damned.
There were so many times when I wanted to leave because it felt like nothing would ever change. But I am stubborn. I didn't want to give up.
I grew up being told that anyone can make a change. So I set out to change things on my college campus, not only for myself but for all the other women on campus who felt like friendship, connection, and authenticity was missing. I landed on the idea of a sorority after seeing several of my friends at other campuses join up.
Believe me, I was well-aware of the reputation, pitfalls, and stigmas that starting a sorority would entail. I'd heard the whole "buying your friends" thing over and over. But I knew deep down that, with the right people, we could create a community that was inclusive, supportive, and fun.
Now it's been ten years. And I drove down to Virginia to celebrate the milestone with nearly 100 women. All these women who came together because I sketched up and cobbled together an idea in a pink notebook on a dorm room bed. All together there are over 200 people, current and past, who are a part of this and I am confident that I'll be able to watch it grow over the next ten years.
Here are the things you need to know to make it happen
As big and great as it is now, it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. The biggest part of turning your idea into a reality is getting started. It can seem overwhelming; anything that's going to grow has a lot going into it! When I was sitting with some of the younger members of our sorority, it made me think about how anyone can take an idea and make it into a reality, with the right amount of work and drive.
First, do your research.
Like I said, I knew what people thought of sororities before I started one. I researched and read as much as possible about the positives and the problems. I also learned what other similar colleges had and how they benefited from it. It helped me decide what to do differently. Armed with an understanding of Greek organizations, I was able to speak knowledgeably about why my campus needed one. Knowing more about my college's history, I was able to settle on the idea of calling it a fraternity, which would make it open to everyone and did not violate the university's policies of inclusion.
You need a support system.
What you need more than knowledge and drive is a strong support system. Nothing worth having comes easily and there will be a lot of stumbling blocks along the way. What makes all the difference is having people who believe in you. I was so nervous to tell my best friend that I wanted to start a sorority because, you know, it was a sorority. But one of the best moments in the journey was telling my best friend who immediately replied, "Let's do this!" And the whole reason it continues is because every year there are more people who say, "Let's do this!" Without my support system, none of it would be possible.
Grow a thick skin.
No matter how knowledgeable you are and how many people are by your side, there will always be someone who tries to bring you down. It's incredibly frustrating and difficult to explain your idea with passion and expertise only to have someone basically laugh in your face. It will happen and it will happen more than once. But if you truly want this, grow a thick skin and stay true to yourself. Not everyone will believe in what you're doing but you can do it without them, believe me.
Know that your vision is more important than you.
This piece of advice sounds pretty counter intuitive but hear me out. If you're doing something for other people, like starting a community, you have to put yourself behind your vision. Anything that's going to make an impact can't be about you. Find your reason why, figure out who you're serving, and push that to the forefront. You're an amazing person but you should never be the focal point of your vision. Unless you're a #influencer, then this post probably isn't for you.
And finally, be prepared to make sacrifices in order to grow.
One of the hardest part of starting the sorority was realizing that I wasn't ever going to experience it the same way as the women who joined. I got the satisfaction of seeing it grow but I also sacrificed a lot of time to emailing, paperwork, planning, and being a leader. Just know that the sacrifices you make will pay off in the long run when you see something huge come out of that little idea.
Turning an idea into a reality is the best kind of work. Going back to my alma mater now is an absolute joy because I have something amazing to go back to. Every year there's someone new to connect with, who believes in supporting others, making a difference, and just being a good friend. There's nothing like the feeling of seeing your vision out in the world being everything you hoped and more. And the best part of working your butt off is who you get to share it with.