How to Build an Empire

By Leo Babauta

There are times when I see the successful businesses that other people are building and I instantly want to create that kind of success for myself.

I want to build an empire. I want to create a startup. I want to make a successful podcast, YouTube channel, live conference – whatever success someone else has created, I want too.

I can instantly imagine this success happening, and it feels exciting. I feel accomplished. The fantasy of an empire is in my head, and I want it!

So I start planning this new empire: what will it look like? What kind of team would I build? What is our manifesto, our core values, our story? How do I thrill and delight and excite my community?

This is the curse of seeing others’ success. You grab on to the fantasy, and you want it. Then doubt creeps in about whether you can achieve it, and you either give up because you don’t think you’re worthy, or you push through the uncertainty towards the fantasy of someone else’s success.

Luckily I’ve done this enough times that I know the pattern well. And so I breathe, and become more conscious about what I’m deciding to spend my time on.

I ask myself:

What is driving this fantasy? Where did it come from?

If I’m inspired by someone else’s success, is it out of jealousy?

Do I know what their success actually looks like, behind the scenes, or am I only seeing the good bits? Is this person really as thrilled and content as I might think, or is that only in my imagination?

Am I imagining the beginning part, where I start a new awesome project, and everything is fun and exciting? What about the middle part, where things look bleak and doubt makes you want to quit, and everything is hard?

Will I be any better off after creating this success, or will I really feel the same? Will this give me fulfillment, or is it just an ego boost? Are the people who’ve built empires really happy, or are they filled with fears, doubt, anxiety?

Is this really my mission, or am I letting myself get sidetracked because I have doubts about my mission, or because things are hard?

Where do I get happiness from? Is it from success? Or is happiness available to me right now, for the dear price of letting go of my fantasy and seeing what’s already here?

And so I breathe, and I let go.

How do you build an empire? You let go of the fantasy, and focus on your true mission in life. And if you don’t know what your mission is, then that’s your mission … figuring it out.

How do you build an empire? By serving. By connecting with others and caring. By helping others build their empires. By seeing that the empire that really matters is already here, in this moment, in your heart, in the goodness all around you, in the goodness in others. This empire cannot be taken away, will never crumble, and will fulfill you.

You build an empire by letting go of everything that doesn’t matter, of the fantasies, and seeing what’s here now. And then acting out of love.