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Dare to Dream Speech for Soroptimist International Scholarships

Jill Miller at podium
Jill speaking for the Soroptimist International's Dare to Dream Awards Presentation

On Saturday, February 18th, I spoke for the Soroptimist International of Wichita, Kansas, for their "Live Your Dream" awards luncheon at Crestview Country Club. These awards provide educational grants to women who are the primary source of financial support for their families and are enrolled in a vocational or undergraduate degree program. The theme of the program was Dare to Dream.


Dare to Dream

Thank you, Soroptomists, for having me here to celebrate these three incredible women, Maria, Alexus, and Melody.

Today we celebrate your daring to dream of a better life for yourself and your family by pursuing more education. You should be proud of yourselves for all you’ve accomplished to make it here today. After all, you are receiving this award because you have proven that you have the motivation and desire to achieve your dreams. Huzzah!

And with this award comes the real work of realizing your dream. But, if that feels daunting, remember this. Beyond the financial help, this award symbolizes something bigger. It symbolizes a belief in you that you are determined to make your dreams a reality. We all believe in you. Huzzah!

We also understand that life can be messy and that making big dreams happen is not always easy. It will take a lot of hard work and stubbornness to keep going when everything in you wants to give up and get a good night’s sleep. And we know that no matter what, you will make the best choices when it comes to your future and the future of your family.

To realize any dream is challenging, but that’s what makes it fun.

As I was getting ready to talk to you today, I realized that I have been in the business of helping people make their dreams come true for a long time. As a consultant for the past 25 years, I’ve helped many entrepreneurs realize their dreams of owning a business.

By teaching Entrepreneurship in the Art at Wichita State University for ten years, I’ve worked to help students realize their dreams of a career in the arts is possible and important.

My work with the Finishing School for Modern Women and Badass Women of Wichita Alliance is to help women achieve their dreams of living a fulfilled, meaningful life.

I’ve made my own dreams come true too. I’ve started three businesses. Last year, I published a book, and I’ve become a world champion plate spinner. Not really, but sometimes it feels like it.

I’ve seen the joys and darkness that come with reaching for something bigger. As a student at the university of aspirational achievement, through thorough research, I’ve developed the Five Ps of Pursuing Your Passion for Practically Anything.

1. Prepare.

This is first because it’s the most important.

Take some time to visualize what you really want. Write about it, create art about it, make a vision board, or however you’d like to make your dreams tangible. Just thinking about it isn’t enough. To make it real, you have to get it out of your head.

The more complete a picture you have in mind, the closer you’ll get to what you actually crave, not a cheap imitation.

Once you know what you want, break it into baby steps and set milestone goals for moving your dream into reality. Not just any goals. Make them S.M.A.R.T. goals. (Specific, Measurable, Relevant, Time-Bound) This way of setting goals works better than any I’ve seen.

On the first day of class at WSU, when students think they’re getting their syllabus and than running out, we set SMART goals for what they want to accomplish during the semester. Then, I follow up on their final to check their progress toward their goal. They’re always amazed at the difference it makes to follow this format, even those who have typically set goals.

Now that you know what you want and how you’ll get there, start sharing your plans for the future with people who may support you. When friends ask, “what are you up to,” you have something exciting to talk about rather than small talk.

If you need help with something, start telling people what you’re looking for. It’s amazing what will pop up. For example, when I started the Finishing School for Modern Women, I wanted to do a class on body positivity, but the person I wanted to teach it wasn’t around anymore to help.

I was at an art opening, talking to a friend about how sad I was I didn't have someone to teach that class with me. She told me not to worry and that it would all work out. Less than 15 minutes later, another friend walked up and said to me out of the blue that she wanted to work together on a class about feeling more comfortable in our skin.

People talk about manifesting things, and I’m not sure if that works, but I know we create self-fulfilling prophecies. Whether we realize it or not, when we focus on what we want, our minds start noticing more patterns and possibilities. Our brains subconsciously help move us closer to making our dreams come true.

2. Own your Power.

I started the Finishing School for Modern Women to help women own their power, and by that, I mean helping them realize the confidence to know they can achieve anything, the boldness to make their dreams come true, and the love for themselves to understand their worthiness.

To achieve great things, you must believe in yourself, even when others question your sanity. Look back over the hard times you’ve been through, and you’ll realize that you’ve come through other challenges wiser than before. You can do anything.

People will want to help you and give you advice, but remember that everyone has their own bias that affects the advice they’ll provide. For example, if someone is afraid of taking risks, they will tell you not to take risks. If someone doesn’t value life-long learning, they will tell you you’re wasting time.

Even when people have your best interests at heart, it’s much easier to criticize and tell others what to do than do it yourself.

But because you’ve already done the first P – prepare, you know where you’re going and how you’ll get there. I’m not saying not to listen to advice. Just take it with a grain of salt. This is your life, and you’re the only one that knows what’s right for you. Think about what’s helpful and throw away the rest.

Whether you start by putting a toe in or diving into the deep end, eventually, you have to get wet. We talk ourselves out of things by thinking about them too much and questioning ourselves. Instead, take control and get started. I like to think of new projects as an experiment. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t, but we’ll never know unless we try.

3. Play well with others.

You can’t do this alone. None of us can. By our nature, humans crave community. When we unite, we’re stronger, make more progress, and heal our hearts to have the fortitude to keep going. We hold each other up. This is what the Badass Women of Wichita Alliance does.

Even though you have many responsibilities at home, take time to explore opportunities that come with higher education. Join student professional groups. Go to campus events, like art shows and plays, and bring your family. Get to know other students and join in or put together study groups. I graduated from college when I was 40, and many people I connected with in school have been great resources for each other since.

Make connections with your teachers. You would not believe how many letters of recommendation I write for students every semester. Last year I found myself in an interview with the FBI, giving a recommendation for a student that wants to be a forensic accountant. Let your teachers know if you’re struggling, and they’ll help you. Don’t just disappear or stick your head in the sand if you get behind.

Get to know the resources available to you to make your academic pursuits easier. Upward Bound is an organization on campus that helps college students who are the first in their family to go for higher education. There's student health and mental health help when you need it. Look into what's available to you and take advantage of these resources meant to help you graduate.

Most importantly, remember that every day is an ethical dilemma, and you must live with your actions. Everything always comes up eventually. I’ve watched enough soap operas to know that even if you don't remember that the characters switched their babies at birth 20 years ago, it will come out eventually.

4. Stay present.

Don’t fret over what happened or didn’t happen in the past. Unless you have a crystal ball, you don’t know what will happen in the future. Instead, focus your thoughts on what is happening right now, in the moment, and do your best. Some of the best advice my father has ever given me is, "All we can do is the best we can do, and that's all we can do."

Slow down and stay aware of how you’re progressing to be on the lookout for new opportunities. Getting where you want to go takes time and practice. So don’t get ahead of yourself.

Because you’ve done the hard work of preparation, you’ve attached a timeline to your goals by setting smart goals. When writing my book, I took out a paper calendar and plotted the milestones I had to achieve to get the book published by October. I was starting in February, so it seemed possible. If I hadn’t done this, I would have stressed myself out with deadlines that were too strict or would have put things off until the last minute.

I am super impatient and want everything to happen fast, so I must be gentle with myself. Unfortunately, not everything will work out 100% all the time, and I have to let go of perfectionist tendencies to live with myself – and for others to live with me!

I’m working on surrendering my worries about things I can’t control, which isn’t easy. I’m experimenting with imagining a cloud that goes poof, transmitting my worries in a golden swirly cloud to the Divine, and writing them down and burning them. I know I get more in life with palms open than gripping the end of my rope with white knuckles.

5. Persist.

Anytime you decide to go for something big, roadblocks will jump in your way. You will be tested, and you will question if you really want to achieve your lofty dream. This is how we know that we are genuinely committed to making our dream a reality and are prepared for the long haul.

I used to tell people that if they weren’t afraid of starting a business, they should be afraid. Now I want to go back and slap myself for that advice. It’s much more complicated than that.

But hear this. No matter how determined you are, there are times when you simply can’t or should not persist. If a situation becomes toxic, you must remove yourself, even when it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done.

Change your trajectory if you decide that path you thought you wanted isn’t the right one.

I have a small and sassy friend who worked in the medical field for a long time and needed a significant career change. She decided to go to school to become an electric lineman, climbing the big poles with a heavy utility belt and fixing high-voltage lines for a living. It took less than a month before she decided it absolutely was not for her. Now, she has a career she enjoys.

Know when it’s time to quit and move on to something else. There is no shame in trying something else. Sometimes better paths open up when exploring the one you’re on. Don’t miss opportunities by being too close to the forest to see the trees.

No one says you have to do anything forever, either. There’s amazing power in creating your own changes rather than having them thrust upon you.

You’ll have to ignore the haters. When people see someone doing well, trying to live their best life, there will be people, sometimes the ones you expect the least, who are not supportive – sometimes to your face and sometimes behind your back.

Your shield and sword are the vision you set for yourself while preparing for this battle. Whether you stay on the same path or pivot, remain steadfast to the vision you set for yourself.

Set boundaries to show the world you value yourself by letting people know how you want to be treated. Persist in making the decisions that take you closer to your goals rather than using your time and energy to fulfill someone else’s.

Maria, Alexus, and Melody, we believe you can achieve your goals, and our community is here to support you. The five Ps of Pursuing Your Passion for Practically Anything will help guide you.

Remember these tips:

1. Prepare.

2. Own Your power.

3. Play well with others.

4. Stay present.

5. Persist.

Will this be on your final? Yes, it will!

Thank you so much for having me here today and allowing me to share my thoughts.

Congratulations, award winners, for this achievement. Congratulations to the Soroptimists for choosing well.

Remember. You are worthy of greatness. Now go out there and astound us.

Soroptomist banner and members with Headmistress Jill
Jill with Soroptomists at a Badass event in 2022

Did you know I've published a book? Learn more about it here!


Because We’re Never Finished

The Finishing School for Modern Women, located in Wichita, Kansas, offers classes to help women find their authentic selves, not because we need finishing, but because we’re never finished. We bring together women of all ages to learn from experts and each other how to claim our power in business, finance, communication, and life.

To learn more about what we do: for our classes and free social membership.

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