What a pleasure and privilege it was having the opportunity to coach top entrepreneurs from around the world – China, Russia, the U.S., Mexico, Saudi Arabia – at the EO Leadership Academy last week.

Our session on public speaking – how to step up and consciously improve our ability to positively impact people through communication – was wrapped up with a celebratory dinner at Lincoln’s Cottage.

When I arrived at the cottage in NW Washington DC, the sun was setting on this life-size sculpture of Lincoln and the horse he rode in on 🙂

This is where Lincoln came to get away from it all.

Lincoln needed space to think. Space, as colleague Jonathan Fields says, to “let his brain breathe.”

The first thing you notice when you walk into this reverent place is how sparsely furnished it is.

Each room has a table, a couch or a couple chairs, and maybe one or two things on the wall. There is a complete absence of visual clutter.

Aaahhh . . . you can almost feel your mind peeking out and celebrating because it’s safe to come out and play.

There’s not a hundred thinks (yes, that was intended) clamoring for your attention. You’re free to steep yourself in a world of your forward-thinking imagination.

It was here that Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation.

Here that he was able to center himself and see into the future. Here that he was able to access the clarity to compose a visionary “rising tide that raises all boats” document that has impacted millions and endured for decades.

I purposely arrived early so I could steep myself in this sacred place for an hour.

I sat on a couch that Lincoln had sat on, got out my pen and paper, (I’m old fashioned that way), and let the thoughts come.

What wanted to be said?

I immersed myself in the legacy of that place and let the words flow out of my mind so fast my fingers could hardly keep up.

What wanted to be said was that Lincoln came from humble beginnings. You’re probably familiar with his roller coaster life – the ups and downs of his many successes and failures. Self-educated. Poor “prairie lawyer.” Lost elections. Death of a son. A divided nation.

Yet he did not let that deter him.

There were many nay-sayers – yet he remained true to his vision and put his thoughts to paper, thereby materializing them so they could change the course of history.

Lincoln didn’t ask, “Who am I?” He didn’t chastise himself for thinking “big” and back off his vision because he was afraid of getting “too big for his britches.”

Or, maybe he did.

Maybe he did have dark nights of the soul where he wondered what hubris caused him to think he could create a sweeping proclamation that would chart the course of our country.

The point is, Lincoln persevered through the desert of his vision.

Even when no one supported this, even when people were telling him he was “crazy,” he had the courage of his convictions and took responsibility for putting his thoughts out in the world – in written and spoken form – so they could become a transcending reality.

What does this have to do with you?

Do you have a vision of how your world – or the world – could be better?

Are you giving yourself space to think?

Are you giving your brain time to breathe?

Are you sequestering yourself in a place that has an absence of verbal and visual clutter so your mind can come out and play?

Are you putting your thoughts to paper so you’re giving form to the ephemeral and your concepts are becoming concrete?

Are you plagued by dark nights of the soul?

Do you wonder “Who am I?” to have such a big dream?

Do you back down from your vision because it seems too grandiose?

Are there nay-sayers saying you’re crazy – that this will never work?

Do you genuinely believe your process, project, product or program has the potential to help people?

Do you understand that thinking, writing, speaking and acting “big” comes from service, not arrogance?

As Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, so eloquently says, “Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way.

It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we move toward that dream.

It’s at this point most people give up.

It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst, just before the palm trees appear on the horizon.’”

Are you in the desert of your dream?

If so, remind yourself that, from the beginning of humankind, advances have been made by the people who dare to think, write, speak and act big. People from “humble beginnings” who dare to dream how things can be better.

Your palm trees may be just beyond the horizon. They’re waiting for you to replace fear with faith.

Center yourself in your vision.

Have the courage of your convictions.

Get your dream out of your head (where it helps no one) and into the world (where it has the chance to help someone or everyone).

You serve no one by playing small. Pay it forward for all.