For award-winning multicultural marketing expert, author and entrepreneur Teneshia Jackson Warner, quitting was never an option. She knows what it takes to turn a dream into a reality— imagination, hard work, commitment, passion, persistence and, above all else, a daring spirit.

“Daring is about doing it despite having being scared,” she says. “In big dares that I made, it’s not that the nerves weren’t there or the anxiety wasn’t there, but there was a desire to move toward the dream that was greater than the anxiety, greater than the fear.”

She’s the first to tell you that dreaming is not for the faint of heart.

“Dreamers are tough,” Warner attests. “There’s a whole side of [dreaming] that’s about commitment and a willingness to not quit on your journey no matter how difficult it gets.”

She’s on a dream journey  

Sixteen years ago, Warner left her cushy, well-paying corporate job—walking away from society’s expectations—to discover her true passion and purpose. She set out on her dream journey, going after what she wanted, and she hasn’t stopped since.

One of her most valuable lessons: Make the big ask.

Pushing her fears aside, Warner landed her first major opportunity when she approached a business entertainment mogul asking if she could work for him for no fee in exchange for the opportunity to learn from him. The bold move proved to be pivotal for her career, landing her the opportunity to start learning about multicultural marketing and the entertainment industry.

“Was I scared to make that ask? Absolutely. But why not?” she asks, pointing out that there’s a direct correlation between how much you’re willing to dare and how high your dreams can go.

Today, Warner is the founder, CEO and chief creative officer of EGAMI Group, a leading marketing and communications firm in Manhattan helping Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies reach multicultural audiences across the nation.

The purpose-driven entrepreneur is also the founder and CEO of The Dream Project, an empowerment initiative created seven years ago to provide inspirational and informative support to aspiring entrepreneurs—helping them turn their ideas and concepts into profitable business ventures.

Uniting the next generation of dreamers

Since inception, the project’s platform has curated an impressive list of business moguls, influencers and celebrity speakers (dubbed “iconic dreamers”) to share their success stories and blueprint, and it has engaged with 180,000 dreamers from across the nation. Over the years, the project has featured more than 200 iconic dreamers, including  “Shark Tank” investor Daymond John, NBA legend/entrepreneur Magic Johnson and Rent the Runway co-founder Jennifer Fleiss, among other notable leaders.

“After interviewing 200 iconic dreamers over seven years, although they were 200 different people, there were some uniform universal truths that they all lived by,” she says, explaining that she was inspired to put those key learnings and blueprint into a book format in order to serve others.

Warner is now on a mission to inspire as many dreamers as possible to have the courage to move beyond their comfort zones and put their visions into action in her new book “The Big Stretch: 90 Days to Expand Your Dreams, Crush Your Goals, and Create Your Own Success” (McGraw-Hill Education, 2019). In it, she provides readers with the inspiration, tools and resources to achieve their dreams.

Dedicated to the dreamer

From a young age, Warner has been fascinated with the story behind the dreamer—intrigued by how the people in her life chose their profession and passion. “I can remember being in first grade and almost interviewing my teacher,” she recalls, laughing at the memory. “I asked her, ‘Why did you choose to be a teacher? When did you know you were supposed to be a teacher?’”

A lifelong dreamer herself, she dedicated her book to the dreamer. So we asked what being a dreamer meant to her.

“I think we are all dreamers. The fact that we are human beings, one of the things that connects us all is our ability to imagine. I think that’s a superpower. Anyone who has an imagination that can bring into their mind something that does not exist is a dreamer,” Warner says. “You also have to have the ability to take it from the imagination into a reality. That’s what I mean when I say dreamer.”

Dreaming beyond limitations

She points out that we are born dreamers with the freedom to imagine with childlike wonder when we’re young, but we often slowly start putting limitations on what’s possible as we grow up. Whether it’s being repeatedly told “no” as a child or that our ideas aren’t good, it slowly influences how freely we allow ourselves to imagine.

“All those things indirectly start to shape or put limits on how big we allow ourselves to dream, so if you’re not careful, you’re almost allowing society and, in some cases, family members to put a limit on your dream without you being conscious that that’s what’s happening,” she says.

In “The Big Stretch,” she encourages readers to do some soul-searching, asking them to think about what it is that they truly want, a big component of the “create your own success” component of the book.

“Is this dream your dream? Or society’s dream?” she asks. “Because we want to make sure that the success you’re striving toward is meaningful, but most important, it’s your authentic truth of what you want to do—not what society is saying but what it is that you truly want to achieve.”

Imagining in full color

One of the key learnings shared by many of the iconic dreamers Warner interviewed was just how important it is to give yourself the time and freedom to imagine without limitations—or knowing how it’ll be done—a phase in the book she calls “dreaming in color.”

In a society that highly values productivity, setting aside the time in our busy schedules to harness our imagination is not something most of us prioritize. But, as Warner points out, that’s where the next big idea lies.

Steve Jobs, for example, was known for taking his daily walks, and Jay-Z plays mind games with his rhymes to increase his creativity. “And so it’s a trait of these really, really creative people. They’re not just having these big ideas, they’re giving themselves the space and time to imagine,” she explains.

An iconic dreamer herself, Warner also knows that you have to change the way you allow ideas to flow, and suspend the belief that you need to know how your dreams will become reality.

“It’s almost like we’re catering to what ideas can come in our mind based on what we know is possible through the lens of our resources. But that’s not what imagination is about,” Warner says. “You’re supposed to think beyond what you know. And so you really have to harness that muscle, making sure you’re allowing yourself to imagine without knowing the how.”

The new year and goal setting

A proponent of setting goals and visions, when it comes to the new year, Teneshia Jackson Warner is all in.

“I approach the new year like new beginnings,” she says, noting that she believes new chances are one of God’s most beautiful gifts. “We get new chances built in to every day. And then if you miss it in every day, then you get a new chance in a month; you get a new chance in a quarter. And if you miss all those, then guess what? He gives you a another chance at the beginning of every year.”

That said, she approaches New Year’s resolutions in the same way she encourages her readers to approach their dreams in her book “The Big Stretch.”

“You need to set a goal in one or two areas of your life. Don’t try to do it all at one time,” Warner says. “You [also] need to make sure it’s tangible and measurable so you have accountability inside of it, and you need to celebrate the success. And you need to be willing to do the work toward the goal, or it really will just remain an idea or resolution.”