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Tererai Trent

Awaken to Your Full Potential and Achieve the Impossible

"I realized the pathway I was going through was silencing me.”

I’ve learned that greatness can come from anywhere, everywhere, or anyone. It all starts with a dream, a vision. Of course one of the secrets is never giving up, but the biggest one is that it needs to be yours.

You need to know that your goals are your goals, not something pushed on you by someone else.

No matter where you are in your life, or what obstacles appear in your way, you can achieve it. I believe this now more than ever after sitting down with our most recent guest, Tererai Trent.

Tererai was born in Zimbabwe, was forced into marriage as a child, and even gave birth to 4 children by the time she was 18. She came from a place where education wasn’t an opportunity given to women.

Tererai ended up pushing through so many obstacles and now has a PhD – and that’s just the beginning of her incredible accomplishments.

"I am not a victim. I am part of the solution.”  

Tererai was named by Oprah as her “All-Time Favorite Guest” and received a $1.5 million donation to rebuild her childhood elementary school in recognition of her tenacity and never-give-up attitude. With the firm belief that education is the pathway out of poverty and a desire to give back to her community, she founded Tererai Trent International.

Eleven schools are being built in Zimbabwe and education has been improved for over 5,000 children so far. And this is only the beginning.

Today, Dr. Trent is invited to speak all over the world, to share her remarkable story and the valuable lessons she has learned along the way. She just came out with a new book all about empowering women to awaken to their full potential (she is the poster child of this). Her favorite motto is “Tinogona,” meaning, “It is achievable!”

Discover all of that and much more, on Episode 596.

“It’s about how our personal goals are tied to the greater good that is the secret to our success.”  

Some Questions I Ask:

  • What interested you in agriculture? (16:15)
  • What made you bring your 5 children and your abusive husband to America? (17:20)
  • What was it like when you met the same woman who inspired you 14 years later? (26:26)
  • Do boys have more access to education around the world? (36:10)
  • What’s your message to girls from privileged and non-privileged parts of the world? (40:36)
  • How can anyone make an impact in the world? (42:43)
  • What is available for a woman who is not sexually happy with herself? (46:05)
  • What advice do you have for men to support the women in their lives? (48:15)
  • What’s your vision now? Have you planted new dreams? (50:00)

In this episode, you will learn:

  • What it’s like to be a young mother in Zimbabwe (and mother of 4 by 18) (7:43)
  • The struggles of raising kids in while going to school (21:18)
  • The thoughts that helped Tererai find her greatness (23:12)
  • How Tererai funded her dreams (30:09)
  • How writing down her dreams helped her achieve them (37:28)
  • The ways women have been silenced (44:40)
  • A ritual someone can do to rekindle the fire within themselves (47:18)
  • What makes Tererai whole (54:32)
  • Plus much more…

Show Notes:

Connect with
Tererai Trent

Transcript of this Episode

Lewis Howes:              This is episode number 596 with who Oprah calls is her favourite guest of all time: Tererai Trent.

Welcome to The School of Greatness. My name is Lewis Howes, former pro-athlete turned lifestyle entrepreneur and each week we bring you an inspiring person or message to help you discover how to unlock your inner greatness. Thanks for spending some time with me today. Now, let the class begin.

Marilyn Ferguson said that, “Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.”

We have a very special guest on today. Her name is Tererai Trent and she was born to a cattle-herding family in a village in Zimbabwe, who against all odds, achieved her dream of attaining a PhD in America. Today she continues to fulfil her sacred purpose by serving her community through Tererai Trent International, an organisation which provides universal access to quality education, while empowering rural communities.

Hailed by Oprah Winfrey as her all time favourite guest, Tererai is also an internationally acclaimed voice for education and for women’s empowerment. She has also built schools for girls in Zimbabwe, with funding from Oprah.

The Awakened Woman: Remembering And Reigniting Our Sacred Dreams, is her accessible, intimate and evocative guide that teaches nine essential lessons to encourage all women to re-examine their dreams and uncover the power hidden within them. Power that can recreate our world for the better.

And in this episode we talk about how the Earth is so connected to who we are. That’s right, the Earth, and why it’s important to bury your dreams and your intentions in the Earth. Also, what happens when women are given permission to own their erotic power. Interesting conversation about that. And where our greatness in life actually comes from. How to fill our greatest hunger in life, when we feel the sense of hunger, how do we fill it. And the power of visualisation, to manifest our dreams.

Again, I think you’re going to love this one. Oprah called her, her all-time favourite guest. Make sure to screenshot and share it out there right now, on social media, on Instagram, tag me @LewisHowes. Make sure to connect with Tererai Trent as well. And tag anyone that you know who might want to be inspired to awaken the dreams within in them.

And I want to give a shout out to the Fan of the Week! This week is Taylor Galagos, who said, “I found The School of Greatness six months ago. I love it! I listen all the time. It has really helped me stoke the fire inside me in terms of my life goals and aspirations. The interviews are amazing! The people are talented, driven and experienced. What’s the best though, is that Lewis works from a space of humility, presence, love and respect. And with that he gets the best out of people.

“Through Lewis, we get to connect with the movers and shakers of our generation. Also, I just got The Millionaire Morning booklet and have been using it as a workbook. I’m not even all the way through it, and I’m already experiencing big shifts in my mindset and in my business. It’s a great reprogramming tool and I really feel that it can be beneficial to just about everyone. Thank you, Lewis.”

So, Taylor Galagos, thank you so much for the kind thoughts and kind remarks about everything on the podcast. It means a lot to me. And if you guys want a chance to be shouted out as a Fan of the Week, then head out to iTunes and check for The School of Greatness, and leave us a review there, or right on your podcast app. It’s really easy to go to your podcast app and just look for The School of Greatness and then leave a review right there.

And Taylor mentioned The Millionaire Morning. If you guys don’t have The Millionaire Morning yet. We almost have ten thousand copies out into the world. Over 75 countries in distribution, now, of The Millionaire Morning. Make sure to go to themillionairemorning.com. It’s absolutely free, all you do is pay for the shipping and handling cost. We ship it out all over the world, and get a copy. If you’ve been waiting for this, it’s only a forty page guide, power packed of information on how to optimise your morning routine, to help you earn more money that day.

So, if you’re looking to make more money, today, or you want to learn strategies from some of the wealthiest people in the world, and how I learned, from being broke on my sister’s couch ten years ago, how to apply certain strategies in my morning routine, that have helped me build seven figure businesses, then go right now, to themillionairemorning.com. All you do is pay for shipping and handling, we ship all over the world. Check it out right now, themillionairemorning.com.

And also, Instagram is all the craze right now. Everyone wants to know how we are building our Instagram page so fast and how we are using it to generate so many different results in our business. We’re selling a lot of different programs and products through Instagram marketing. And yet, when you go to my personal Instagram page, you never actually see me posting on my page to buy anything.

And it’s been extremely effective. So many people have asked how we’re doing it. We have a free training, all you need to do is go to lewishowes.com/ig and you can register for a time, for one of our Instagram trainings. Tens of thousands of people have gone through this free training, and I highly recommend checking it out. Again, it’s all about how to grow your audience, increase engagement, and generate sales through Instagram, lewishowes.com/ig, to register for the free training, lewishowes.com/ig to register for this one hour training. Go check it out right now, lewishowes.com/ig.

Alright, guys. I hope you are excited about this interview! Again, Tererai Trent, Oprah Winfrey’s all-time favourite guest. I hope you enjoy it! And now, let me introduce to you the one, the only Tererai Trent.

Welcome back, everyone, to The School of Greatness Podcast. We have Dr. Tererai Trent in the house. Thank you so much for being here.

Tererai Trent:               Thank you for having me, thank you.

Lewis Howes:               I’m very excited! You have a book out called, The Awakened Woman: Remembering and Reigniting Our Sacred Dreams. It just came out recently around the launch of my book. Make sure you guys pick it up. I’m excited to have you in here because we tried to have you on a couple of months ago, when you were going to be in town for a little bit. We had to reschedule, now you’re here. Oprah says that you’re her favourite guest of all time on the Oprah Show, so I’m curious to see why.

And I’m excited to learn more about your story, and really why you wanted to write about this book. And you’ve been talking about female empowerment for many years now, right? Essentialy since you were a young woman growing up in Zimbabwe. You lost sight of your dreams, is that right?

Tererai Trent:               Yes. That’s so right. I lost sight of my dreams. I always talk about, I come from this long line of generations of women. Women who had been married very young before they could define the life they wanted for themselves. My great-grandmother became the sixth wife to my [great-]grandpa and it was a polygamous union. So, she was given off as a young girl, to my great-grandpa.

My grandmother would follow the same pathway and became the fifth wife, married off when she was very young. My own mother would also follow the same pathway, and here I come, before I was eighteen years of age, I was already a mother of four. And one of the babies died as an infant, because I failed to produce enough milk to feed the child. I was a child myself.

And I realised, the pathway that I was going through, was silencing me, and it silenced me. I was also exchanged for a cow, the same way…

Lewis Howes:               For a cow?

Tererai Trent:               Yes, the same way it’s practiced in my culture. But I wanted education so badly. I wanted education. I was born in Rhodesia, before the country became Zimbabwe, and I was born during the war, the war that shaped everything about me, everything about the gender inequalities, and poverty in my community. And I realised at an early age that, gosh, I didn’t like this life.

But I didn’t know how best to change that life. Because growing up in the rural areas, where you have no electricity, no running water, no role models, what can you envision? But then we gained our independence and we became Zimbabwe. And when we gained independence, this woman from America came to my village. I didn’t know her name, later I learned her name is Jo Luck.

She found me with other women, sitting in a circle. And she asked me one fundamental question: “What are your dreams?” I looked at her, and I am thinking, “Me? Poor, black woman, I’m supposed to dream?” I kept quiet. The other women talked about their hopes for educating their own children, they talked about the dreams for having food security at household level and I was quiet.

She turned around and you’d see there’s a photo of her. She turned around and she looked at me and she said, “Young woman, why are you quiet? What are your dreams?” And I’m not sure, maybe it was the way she looked at me. Maybe it was they way she kept on nudging me. When I opened my mouth, I became a chatterbox.

Lewis Howes:               You couldn’t stop.

Tererai Trent:               I couldn’t stop. I said, “I want to go to America. I want to have another graduate. I want to have a masters. I want to have a PhD.” There was silence, because the other women knew I did not have a high school diploma. I was also expecting my fifth child.

Lewis Howes:               And you were eighteen at the time? Or nineteen?

Tererai Trent:               Yes. And this woman, she looked at me and she said, “Tererai, if you believe in your dreams, they are achieveable.” And she used one word tinogona, in my language it means, it is achievable. And I’m thinking, “How can she say that? I have no high school diploma. I live in an abusive relationship. I’m expecting my fifth child.”

I ran to my mother, and I said, “Mother, I met this woman. She made me believe I can achieve my dreams.” And that was music to my mother. My mother turned around and said, “Tererai, if you truly believe in what this stranger had said to you,” and by the way, we were just a newly independent country, we never had any white people coming in, foreigners coming in, and we had lived an oppressive racial system where the white community were not good to the black community. And there is an American woman, rubbing shoulders with me and asking me this.

So, I believed her. And my mother said, “If you truly believe in what she said, and you achieve these dreams, not only are you defining who you are, as a woman, but you are defining every life that comes out of your womb and generations to come.” And I am thinking, “What does that even mean?”

So my mother said, “Write down your dreams, and bury them.” The same way we bury the umbilical cord. The birth cord. I come from a culture where, when a child is born, they snip the umbilical cord of the child and they take the mother’s old dress, they wrap the umbilical cord and bury it deep down under the ground, with the belief that when this child grows, wherever they go, whatever happens in their life, they umbilical cord, the buried umbilical cord will always remind this person of their birthplace.

So my mother said, “Write down your dreams and bury them. Wherever you go, whatever happens in your life, despite the abuse in your life, despite the challenges, those dreams will always remind you of their importance.” So it would take me eight years from the day I buried my dreams, to achieve my G.E.D.

And I always talk about eight years of failing, because that time we were still under the British system of education, where you would, because I was already an older woman, so I would go through correspondence, and I would write my classes and through correspondence, try to get the next tuition that I needed. And go to the post office, mail those results to a place called Cambridge, in Britain, wait three, six months for that brown envelope to come, go to the post office and I open that brown envelope, and I realise, I have a U, which is a failure, “Ungraded”. And I have an F.

And I would try to find money to repeat those classes again, and it would take me another two years to do that and write the exams and send them to this place called Cambridge. The brown envelope comes back and I open that brown envelope, and I realise I have a D, and I have a U. Find more money and write again up until I achieved my G.E.D. Eight years.

And then I found myself at Oklahoma State University. Ja. And I did my undergraduate in agriculture, and then I did my masters in plant pathology, which is the same field as agriculture, but now you’re looking at the diseases that affect agricultural crops.

Lewis Howes:               Oh. What interested you in that? Those studies?

Tererai Trent:               I remember I talk about burying my dreams under the ground. I believe in rituals, and this book is full of rituals. The Earth is sacred to my people in my community. We survive from the Earth. Whatever we dress is from the Earth, whatever we do, we go back to the Earth. When we are born, we bury our umbilical cord in the Earth. When we die, we go back to the Earth. And so, I knew, coming to America, I wanted to do agriculture, because it’s part of who we are.

So, after I completed my masters, it was terrible, because I had brought with me my five children, and my abusive husband.

Lewis Howes:               You brought them.

Tererai Trent:               Yes. I did. I did.

Lewis Howes:               And they were all enrolled in your vision to go to the United States to do undergrad and they said they will go with you?

Tererai Trent:               So, when I wrote down my dreams, when my mother said, “Write down your dreams,” initially I had four dreams. To come to America, to have an undergraduate, to have a masters, and a PhD. And I was ready to go and bury those dreams. When my mother said, “Your dreams will have greater meaning when they are tied to the betterment of your community.” And I had no idea what my mother was talking about. And I said, “What does that mean?”

My mother was a very quiet woman, and she said, “Your dreams will have greater meaning when they  are tied to the betterment of your community.” So, I ended up writing my fifth dream: When I’m done, I want to come back and improve the lives of women and girls in my community. And I knew in those moments, that I had a moral obligation, a sacred obligation, not only to educate myself, but to educate my own children and to come back with the gift of education to my own people.

So, I had to make sure I bring my children. Also, I didn’t want to leave my children behind, and especially the girls, because I knew, if I do so, they will end up also following the same pathway. You know, I always talk about the relay, you know, this sport where you have four. The track and they are  running and they are holding a stick, the baton.

So, I knew, through the stories from my grandmother and my mother, that my great-grandmother was born holding this baton. She was born in this relay. And I call that the relay of poverty, and I call that the baton of illiteracy, the baton of early marriage. So, as my great-grandmother is running in that race, she is holding that baton, she is running so fast, she hands that baton of poverty to my grandmother.

My grandmother grabs that baton of poverty, the baton of illiteracy, the baton of early marriage. She runs so fast with that baton. She hands it over to my mother. My mother grabs that baton of poverty, that baton of illiteracy. She runs with that baton and she hands it over to me. I never wanted that baton. It was not my race, it was not my relay.

But something happened. Even though I accepted that baton, I had children when I was young, married young. Jo Luck, when she came, she came at that point in my life, at my lowest point in my life. When I had children before they could be married. So, coming to America was a no-brainer for me to bring my own children.

But anyway, after they arrived, my children, I realised that America was a difficult place to live. I was an older student, an international student, no access to scholarships. I used to work three, four jobs to be able to feed the children and pay for my own tuition. And one day I saw all my kids, when they were brushing their teeth, their gums were bleeding, and I realised that they were missing fruit and vegetables.

Back home, in Africa, fruits and vegetables are everywhere. In America…

Lewis Howes:               Nowhere! Especially in Oklahoma, right? It’s processed foods and packaged foods.

Tererai Trent:               I guess I ended up feeding the children with french fries and burgers and it affected them, so I had to go to the university and beg the university, and I said, “You know, I have a dream. I want to achieve this education. But I need help with the kids, so the Vice President, Dr. Ron Peters said, “You know, we can get you to a local store and sometimes they leave fruit and vegetables that are going bad at the end of the day. They may throw them away. I hope you don’t mind taking those and wash them and feed your children.”

Well, the store manager says, “In this country, if we give you these fruit and vegetables that are going bad, and you feed your children, and if something happens, you might end up suing us.” And I said, no, I have no money to sue anyone. I really need the fruit and vegetables.”

And I guess the store manager saw that I was almost in tears, and he said, “Okay, here’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to make sure that we put the fruit and vegetables in a cardboard box, and we place that cardboard box near the trash can. Four o’clock, make sure you come and pick it up. If you don’t, you’ll find your fruits and vegetables into the trash can.”

And I used to take eighteen hours of course work. Three, four jobs, taking care of five kids. Ninety-nine percent of the time. I was late to that trash can, and I would find the fruit and vegetables into the trash can. And I would retrieve the fruit and vegetables, wash them and feed my children, and ask myself, who am I even to complain that my own children are eating from the trash can, when I know there are thousands, if not millions, of children, out of Africa and in many developing countries who are are eating from trash cans that no-one washes.

At least the American trash can is washed. Who am I even to complain that I live in Oklahoma and I’m living in a trailer house where we don’t have electricity, and when it’s summer time, it’s so hot, we can’t stand it. But who am I, even to complain when I know, in Oklahoma, and even in the United States there are so many women who are living on the streets, homeless, and they have no shelter. Those thoughts grounded me, and those thoughts gave me a platform to know my greatness in this life.

So, I graduated with my masters and I thought, well, there’s something about poverty. I want to find a job to help the kids, and then I can do my PhD. So, I applied for a job.

Lewis Howes:               In Oklahoma?

Tererai Trent:               I just went online, and I applied a job.

Lewis Howes:               But you were living in Oklahoma?

Tererai Trent:               I was living in Oklahoma, and I got accepted by Heifer International, and Heifer is in Arkansas, literally. So, I went to work. One day I was walking and I met this woman and she said, “I know you.” And I’m thinking, “I think I do.” And she said, “Are you not from Zimbabwe?” and I said, “Ja!” and I said, “O, ja! I remember!”

We had met some fourteen years back and that’s the woman who told me, “If you believe in your dreams, they are achievable.”

Lewis Howes:               No way! The woman who came, the white woman who came? In Arkansas?

Tererai Trent:               Ja. And that woman, that time, she was a program officer and I had no idea. Now she is the president and CEO of Heifer International.

Lewis Howes:               The company you’re working with now?

Tererai Trent:               And I always talk about the universe, is always conniving for our success and she said, “I know your dreams. You want to have a PhD.”

Lewis Howes:               Wow! What was that like, when you came across her?

Tererai Trent:               I couldn’t believe it.

Lewis Howes:               Could you tell her the story right then? Or, she remembered?

Tererai Trent:               She remembered, she remembered the story.

Lewis Howes:               She was like, “I’m the one who told you that… So many years ago.”

Tererai Trent:               Ja, ja! She remembered the story. For me, I had like, well it happened, I met this woman and I wrote down my dreams. But could I remember the woman’s face? No.

Lewis Howes:               But she remembered?

Tererai Trent:               She remembered. Without her I don’t think I would have remembered, she remembered. And to top it off, there was a small magazine, with my photo, with her sitting, and I’m thinking, “What are the odds?” Burying our dreams. It’s a ritual that I talk about in this book. I think when you want something so badly, when you have a vision to change your life, whatever you write down, it becomes ingrained in your thoughts and whatever is ingrained in your thoughts, it can be manifested. Because you mind and your thoughts and your being and your feelings, are thinking about that goal, that vision.

So, my first trip back home, I went to that place where I had buried my dreams, dug them up, checked going to America, checked undergraduate, checked masters, reburied those dreams. Came back to the United States, enrolled myself at Western Michigan University, and achieved my PhD in Evaluations. And it had taken me almost twenty years from the day I buried my dreams to the day I then achieved my PhD, and I remember walking to that podium where there were these professors wearing their big gowns and hats and I’m looking and I’m saying, “I’m going to get that paper.”

And I felt like a lawyer who had rested her case with the world, and my closing argument was, “If we give education opportunities to those who are turned down and marginalised by the social ills of our times, they can achieve their dreams. And if we give education opportunities to women and girls, it is the best investment any country, any nation, any individual and any community can do. Because we need to make sure that we educate our women and girls.”

We have 62 million girls in the world, in the whole world, who are being denied the right to education. So we have a moral obligation to make sure that we access universal education to everybody, making sure that women also have the opportunity for an education. So now I have my PhD, and you’d think I’m happy.

And I go home and I’m thinking, “Dear mother, why did you make me write that fifth dream?” To give back to the community, because when my mother said, “Your dreams will have greater meaning when they are tied to the betterment of your community,” I ended up writing the fifth dream, “When I’m done, I want to come back and improve the lives of women and girls,” and I buried those dreams. Maybe I was just trying to please my mother, I don’t know.

So, I’m thinking, “What can I do to fulfil that fifth dream?” I had no money, I had nothing. And I remember, Jo Luck, when she came to the village and when she found me in that circle, she used the word tinogona, it is achievable. And I said, “I’m going to design my Tee-shirts, and I’m going to write tinogona and I’m going to have “it is achievable”. I’m going to sell these Tee-shirts and I’m going to make more money. I’m going to go back home, like a giant, and build schools.”

But guess what? I only sold twenty Tee-shirts.

Lewis Howes:               It’s a lot harder to sell shirts, isn’t it?

Tererai Trent:               And mostly to my friends, my American friends. I didn’t know what to do, up until I got a phone call. The most memorable phone call of my life. A call from Oprah Winfrey. And she donated 1.5 million dollars towards that fifth dream that I call the sacred dream. All along, my mother, she knew that it’s not about our personal goals in life. It’s not about those personal financial goals, it’s not about the degrees, none of that, but it is about how our personal goals and how our financial goals are tied to the greater good. That’s the secret to our success.

If I had not written down that fifth goal, I don’t think I would be sitting here with you, I don’t think I would be invited to speak all over the world, I don’t think I would be addressing the United Nations to talk about the importance of education, I don’t think none of that would have happened. Our greatness in life, it comes from recognising that I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am.

I also, in this book, talk about the hunger or the passion or the desire that we have in our lives, and I think, in many ways, I defied the odds and I defied everything that my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother had gone through, because I had hunger. And there are two kinds of hungers in our lives. There is the little hunger. The little hunger is all about immediate gratification, I want it now. How many Facebook likes do I have?

Lewis Howes:               How many book sales?

Tererai Trent:               How many book sales. How many friends, yes. But the great hunger, the greatest of all hungers, is hunger for a meaningful life in our lives. Ultimately, as human beings, we become bitter when we lead a life without meaning, because that’s what gives us our greatness. So, I realise, well, now we have funding, today we have eleven schools, going on, benefiting more than six thousand girls and boys going through our education system.

Lewis Howes:               Amazing! And these are campuses, you were mentioning before, not small schools.

Tererai Trent:               No, they are not small schools. We range from, the smallest school would have about four hundred kids, and the largest school, which is the school I attended when I was young, has become one of the largest schools in the whole district, if not the country. We have about nineteen hundred kids going through that school.

Because of the success that we have had, many parents, they want to bring their kids to our schools. And I met these old men holding their eight-year-old girls and say, “Tererai, can she be just like you?” And I realised in those moments that not only have we managed to provide quality education to the poorest of the poor, but we have also managed to help the communities to transform themselves to understand the importance and value girls’ education. That’s all. That’s what makes me happy.

Lewis Howes:               Yeah. And you said 62 million girls are without education, or denied education?

Tererai Trent:               Yes, denied.

Lewis Howes:               What does that mean? They’re not allowed to go to school, or they don’t have access to it? What does that mean?

Tererai Trent:               Everything. They don’t have access to school. They are being denied because of the…

Lewis Howes:               They have kids early, or they’re told that they not… yeah.

Tererai Trent:               Yes. Like, I talk about, in my region in Africa, every day we have thirty-nine girls that get married before they turn the age of eighteen. Those girls should be sitting in classrooms. Those girls should be engineers, those girls should be dreaming whatever life they want, but because of the policies, at times, that we have and because lack of funding, we have neglected girls.

Lewis Howes:               What about boys around the world? Do you know the statistics around young boys? Are they, or do they have more access to education?

Tererai Trent:               Boys are more likely to have access to education. But, there are also boys that are being forced into wars, civil wars, that have no access to education. That’s why, for me, I’m not only talking about access to education for boys only, I talk about universal access. I want boys and girls to have equal opportunities.

But we know that the playing field is not level and that’s why I’m giving heads up to more girls, to make sure that, when I go to these communities, I want to ask the fundamental question to each girl, “What are your dreams? How best can we help you to excel?”

Lewis Howes:               That’s a great question to ask. I believe that without dreams, we are living a sub-par life. If we don’t have a dream to at least think about and just be on the path. It doesn’t actually, in my mind, matter if I achieve all of them, but to have them. To be able to go for it, is powerful.

Tererai Trent:               Yes, it gives you hope, you want to jump, because you know you have something that you can see in your future. You know, when I wrote down my dreams, I would go to this place where I had buried them, and I would sit there and visualise what life would be like. In those moments, I would go deep and look at myself getting into that aeroplane, to America.

I had never been in an aeroplane, and I didn’t even know what it looks like, but I knew it was something that would go up in the sky. Sit in that aeroplane, and visualise myself carrying a bag, at a campus and going to school and taking my classes. And then visualise myself getting that degree that says now I have an undergraduate, now I have a masters. I would visualise myself. And then visualise myself after I am done, what life would be like.

Those things helped me, grounded me, to have that mental image of what life would be like. So I want every girl, every woman, every boy, every man, to have mental images of the life that they envision, the life that was meant for them. Not the life that someone else is defining.

Lewis Howes:               Not where someone is trying to pass a baton to them, yeah.

Tererai Trent:               Exactly, exactly, ja, ja.

Lewis Howes:               What would you say is the greatest lesson you learned about yourself during those twenty years of planting the seed of the dream into finalising the fourth dream of the doctorate degree? What was the greatest lesson, for you?

Tererai Trent:               You know, that’s a great question, because many also ask me the same question, but they say, “Gosh, you must be very lucky to have achieved all these things. What did you learn in the process?” I am not lucky. No. There is nothing called lucky. I had opportunities, so the lesson for me is: opportunities.

If we give opportunities, lay it there for everyone to have access to their passion, access to whatever they want. It’s easy. It’s not like I was the smartest person, no I wasn’t, there were other women I know who were smarter than I am, but I had an opportunity. And that’s why, when I finished my school, when I started working on the schools, I wanted to give opportunities to the children, so they can have access to a life, a better life, that they deserve.

Lewis Howes:               Yeah. What’s your message to women and young girls growing up now, who maybe life in privilege in the United States, or maybe don’t live in privilege in other countries, developing countries? Is the message the same to both sets of girls and women, or is it different, based on their environment?

Tererai Trent:               I would say, which I write so much in my book: My mother would talk about the invisible ladder, that we are all climbing this invisible ladder. Some people are on the top rung and that could be, maybe a western woman, I don’t know. Some people are still on the lower rung. So we have a moral obligation to make sure that those who are on that top rung, they look down and pull their sisters. So, we all climb together. And I say this silencing of one woman is our silencing.

So when we see another woman being silenced, whether they are in Cambodia where you work, or whether they are in Africa, or they are here in America, we also need to help that woman. Because the awakening of women, it is the awakening of the whole world, and it is our healing. You know, native Americans, they have taught us one thing that I have learned and I admire so much, humankind has not woven the web of life. We are one thread within it. Whatever we do to this web, we do it to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things are connected. Our very survival in the United States, is connected to the survival of women in Cambodia, in India, in Africa.

Lewis Howes:               When there are so many people who maybe are on the lower part of the ladder in the world, what’s your recommendation for someone who maybe does want to make an impact, when you’ve built a massive impact in your country, you’ve built eleven schools but there’s so many more people to lift up and you’re only one person. What is someone’s approach to how they can help serve, whether it be, everyone in every other country or when there’s stuff in their own family that they’re dealing with?

Tererai Trent:               We all need to be awakened as women and form these collective circles of women to help other women. And when I wrote this book and I was thinking about, “What about if all women rise together and realise, these statistics that we all know, the 62 million and more girls that are being denied their right to education? What about women realise that we have 700 million women today married, today, who were married or had babies before they were eighteen, 700 million.

Of those 700 million women, surely enough there are many who are still on the bottom rung, and there are many who were denied the right to their erotic power.

Lewis Howes:               Erotic power. What do you mean?

Tererai Trent:               Chapter five.

Lewis Howes:               Tell me more.

Tererai Trent:               So, I write about the power of our sensuality as women. Many women maybe denied that power because sex is such a taboo subject. So when I talk about the silencing of women, women were silenced through sexual abuse, through these many things, and we hear it even in America. The greatest country where women are being silenced through sex.

But women who are happy in their partnership, who are happy with their sex life, or are happy being loved, it’s not only about the physical sex that I’m talking about, but just being happy. Having somebody who looks at you and say, “You matter. I love you. You are the best thing.” Having that feeling is part of our awakening.

So, as sisters, as we go into these circles of awakening ourselves and awakening other women so that we don’t get to see the silencing of women, then we can also tackle on those issues, so women can be happy with who they are, happy with their own bodies. That’s what I recognise in my life as part of awakening. A woman who is sexually satisfied, a woman who is happy with her own sensuality, is a woman who can sit in a boardroom and make decisions.

Lewis Howes:               And a woman who isn’t sexually satisfied, or happy with herself, what is not available for them?

Tererai Trent:               We need to help them. We really need to bring that consciousness to all women.

Lewis Howes:               Do you think they’re limited in their abilities to achieve their dreams if they are not sexually satisfied?

Tererai Trent:               Yes. There’s a connection between achieving your dreams and your happiness in life with who you are. And sensuality, as I said, is not only about the physical sex, but also being in a loving relationship.

Lewis Howes:               Of course. So what’s your recommendation for women who don’t feel like they have a loving relationship and they don’t feel comfortable with their sexuality?

Tererai Trent:               Read my book.

Lewis Howes:               Yes, of course!

Tererai Trent:               No, I truly encourage the women to find help, because there is help out there. To find their voice, to help define themselves by finding their own voices, knowing their own bodies, knowing what makes them happy.

Lewis Howes:               Is there a specific ritual that you recommend, that anyone listening or watching right now could do, or something small, or to start to rekindle that fire within themselves, that wouldn’t require someone else to support them with?

Tererai Trent:               Ja, you know, sometimes it requires others to support them. Back home I do these circles of women where we all sit together in an intimate circle, and we talk about these issues, and one of the questions that I always ask is, “What breaks you heart? What really breaks your heart?”

Lewis Howes:               What’s the most common response?

Tererai Trent:               It all depends. If we are talking about the great hunger, what breaks your heart? Some people they talk about, “I really want to help with the issues that are happening in my community.” Some people they talk about the oppression of women and they want to be part of that. Some people they talk about the abuse of animals and they want to help in that area. Some people they talk about, “I’m not happy in my own life and it breaks my heart. And I’m afraid that this unhappiness, it will overflow to my own children, and why are you not happy?” And it could be they are not happy because they live in an abusive relationship and it’s because they are not being allowed to dream big. And there are so many things that makes women unhappy, or individuals unhappy.

Lewis Howes:               What advice would you have for men who are listening? Because our audience is about 50/50 men and women, what advice for men on how they can support the women in their lives, their mothers, sisters, daughters, partners, all the women in our lives, what can men do better?

Tererai Trent:               You know, there are many men who are so good, who really understand these issues, and I call these my soul brothers. The men who are there for women. And as you see with the silencing of women in America, there are some men who are standing up and say, “This is just wrong.”

So, I encourage men to bring their voices out, to fight these social injustices, to make sure that we live in a world, a loving world, a world that they would want to see their own baby girls growing, living and excelling, and being the mistresses and the masters of their own destiny.

Lewis Howes:               I like that, yeah. What’s the vision now, moving forward? You’ve come back to fulfil the fifth dream, you’re building schools, you’re empowering women, you’re cultivating them to awaken their sacred dreams, and you’re making a big impact. What’s the vision now? Have you planted new dreams?

Tererai Trent:               You know, I get that all the time. I’m tired of writing and burying dreams deep down under the soil, under the ground. I’m burying my dreams in your heart. So whoever I’m talking to, I’m burying my dreams in their hearts.

Lewis Howes:               Yeah. What’s something that’s a non-negotiable for you, every single day, and every single year?

Tererai Trent:               Being silenced.

Lewis Howes:               Not being silenced?

Tererai Trent:               No, not being silenced. Because when I share my story many come to the conclusion that maybe I’m a victim, and I always say, “No, I’m not a victim, I am part of the solution.” And I have learned to define myself, I’m the mistress and master of my own destiny, and I am refusing to let the past define who I am, and I’m also refusing to let the current challenges in my pathway become the narratives that shape my future.

I defied the rules of my father, I defied the norms of my culture, and I refused to keep silent about societal expectations that marginalise women and girls, to be submissive at the expense of their dignity, and I’ll never be silent. So, that’s non-negotiable.

Lewis Howes:               That’s powerful.

Tererai Trent:               Thank you.

Lewis Howes:               And, do you believe, if someone doesn’t have access to university, or maybe it’s just, they still want education, but they can’t come to America, for whatever reason, how do they get education, or what’s the best education they should be getting?

Tererai Trent:               So, when I talk about getting a PhD or these degrees, I’m not saying everybody should have that. I’m saying, “Find your passion. Find your great hunger.” If education is your great hunger, go for it. There are many ways that we can define education. It could be skills that you do with your hands. It could be other things that you could do and coming to America is not the only thing that people should think about.

Lewis Howes:               Right, that was just your dream.

Tererai Trent:               That was my dream. We have universities in our own countries. Let’s go there, let’s do the best that we can, otherwise, if we all say, “Oh, I want to follow the same dreams and go to America, and if it’s not your passion, you are just living someone else’s passion, and you will never be happy.

Lewis Howes:               That’s powerful. I want to make sure people go get the book, The Awakened Woman: Remembering and Reigniting Our Sacred Dreams. You guys hear me talking about dreams all the time. For me, as a young boy growing up in a small town in Ohio, I had education, but I was dyslexic and it was very challenging for me to read and write and comprehend the information I was receiving, so I never felt good enough to be able to really excel in education.

So I learned sports and other things that became my form of education and my teachers were different teachers. But I always believed in dreams, and, for me, I always held on to those, very strong and loose at the same time, and I was just constant and persistent in pursuing them and that brought me a lot of joy in that pursuit. And so, for me, it’s always sad for me when people don’t have a dream, or when they just have no clue how to discover the dream.

So I know there’s some rituals and other things in here, to help ignite those dreams and light the fire to get the juices going. What’s a question people don’t ask you, that you wish they would ask you?

Tererai Trent:               What makes you happy?

Lewis Howes:               What makes you happy?  What is it then?

Tererai Trent:               I always want to say, happiness is temporary, but wholeness is permanent. So, the question should not be, “What makes me happy?”

Lewis Howes:               What makes you whole?

Tererai Trent:               What makes me whole?

Lewis Howes:               What is that?

Tererai Trent:               What makes me whole, is when I manage to live the Native American mantra that we are all connected, we are on a sacred journey, and realising that I’m part of that journey, it makes me whole. I may wake up sad, but I’m still whole. And when I’m whole I am me, and I’m happy. Ja.

Lewis Howes:               That’s great. And what’s the thing you’re most proud of that maybe most people aren’t aware about you? You know, Oprah, favourite guest, building schools in your country and all these things, the NAACP award for outstanding literary work, all these things that people know about, what’s the thing people don’t know about that you’re most proud of?

Tererai Trent:               My mother.

Lewis Howes:               What about her?

Tererai Trent:               My mother was my greatest mentor, despite the fact that she was poor herself, not educated herself, she saw something in me that I didn’t see. She wanted me to excel. She wanted me to live this dream, and I’m living the dream.

Lewis Howes:               And what’s the greatest lesson she taught you?

Tererai Trent:               Your dreams will have greater meaning when they’re tied to the betterment of others.

Lewis Howes:               That’s powerful. And the greatest lesson your father?

Tererai Trent:               When you feel sad, just sing.

Lewis Howes:               You sing a lot?

Tererai Trent:               I do.

Lewis Howes:               Do you sing when you’re happy too, hopefully? So it’s not always sad.

Tererai Trent:               Yes. No, my father would say, when you feel sad, you are overwhelmed or you are too happy to express these feelings, these emotions, just sing. So it wasn’t only about being sad.

Lewis Howes:               Yeah, that’s great. I’ve got a couple of questions left for you. This one is called, The Three Truths. The Three Truths. So, imagine that this is the last day for you, many years from now, many, many years. It’s the last day for you, and you’ve achieved every dream and you’ve helped inspire the world and you’ve done everything you said you’ve wanted to do and you feel whole, complete, you’ve awakened the dreams in millions of women around the world, you’ve done it. It’s all happened, right?

And you’ve written books, and spoken all over the world, like you already have been, but for whatever reason, all of the information you’ve put out into the world is erased. So there’s no access to your information and books, or videos, it’s gone. Just the memory of you, right? Hypothetical. But you’ve got a piece of paper and a pen, and you’ve got to write down three things you know to be true, about your life experiences, or three lessons that you would share with the world, and this is all people would have of your work.

What would you say are your three truths?

Tererai Trent:               One: Forgiveness. Without forgiveness we cannot be at peace with ourselves, we give more power to those who hurt us, and we can’t do that. That’s one, that’s the truth for me. Forgiveness.

The second on is oneness. Our oneness as a people, our ubuntu, which is the same, the essence of our humanity. I am because we are, since we are, therefore I am.

And the third one is peace in the world. We need peace. Because, without peace, then we live in a world that subjects more women and children to suffering. So those, for me, are the truth, but also principles that guide my life.

Lewis Howes:               Powerful. I want to acknowledge you for a moment, for your incredible contribution to humanity. You have defied so many odds, from where you come from, to create such abundance and wealth. Not just financially, for women and men, but spiritual wealth. And the opportunity for people to unlock something greater within themselves. I just want to acknowledge you for being a great example of what is possible, no matter where you come from, what you’ve been through, who’s treated you poorly, or pushed you down, you’ve risen up and created incredible results in the world, and you’re an inspiration to so many people. So, I want to acknowledge you for that.

Tererai Trent:               Thank you, thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Lewis Howes:               Yeah, of course, of course. Again, I want people to get the book, The Awakened Woman, make sure to check it out. Where do you like to spend time online? Is there a website for you, or social media where you spend the most time online? Or you team?

Tererai Trent:               Yes, my Facebook, on my Facebook you can go to Tererai Trent, and my twitter feed is @TereraiTrent. I think that’s it?

Lewis Howes:               Okay, that’s perfect. And tereraitrent.com? Or no?

Tererai Trent:               Yeah, for my website it’s www.tererai.org.

Lewis Howes:               Okay, perfect, perfect, awesome. We’ll make sure to go there, follow you and get the book and I have one final question, and that is: What’s your definition of greatness?

Tererai Trent:               What defines greatness for me is my ability to recognise the fact that I am part of something that is bigger than I am. Just waking up every day, recognising that fact and knowing that I am here on Earth for a purpose. When I know that, then I see my greatness in this world. Because if I don’t see that, then I’m leading, or I’m being led by my little hungers, and I want to be led by my great hungers. It is that which breaks my heart that makes me recognise that I am part of the solution, and I am part of what is also needed. I have a place in the world, because I am.

Lewis Howes:               Thank you so much for coming on, I really appreciate it. Thank you, it’s powerful.

Tererai Trent:               Thank you for having me.

Lewis Howes:               And there you have it, my friends. If you feel more awakened to reach your full potential and achieve the impossible, then let me know, over at Instagram, @LewisHowes, leave a response on one of my recent posts. Over on Twitter, make sure to tweet this. All of the show notes, all of the tweets, quotes, the things that she said that were powerful are over at lewishowes.com/596, so you can go there, you can see the full resources, from the show notes everything we talked about, all the links, the videos, the quotes that you can pull from this and tweet out, it’s all at lewishowes.com/596. Make sure to check it out, her book is over there, all the information about her book as well, as I’m sure she’d appreciate you picking up a copy as well.

I hope you guys enjoyed this one, and let me know, again, what you think. I’m always curious to know your thoughts. Take a screenshot of this, post it on Instagram Stories, tag me, @LewisHowes. I like to screenshot a lot of your pages over there and then I repost them on my Instagram Story, so go ahead and do that right now. And if you write a good one, then I’ll probably reshare it. But make sure to check that out.

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Again, I hope you enjoyed this one, and as Marilyn Ferguson said, “Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.”

You have an incredible opportunity, I don’t care where you live, what you’ve been through, that challenges you’re going through right now, the things you’ve done in the past that have set you up for a place of feeling stuck or confined in this particular moment. Tererai Trent is an incredible example of what is possible. Where she’s come from, the situation she was in, and how she followed her dreams, pursued it, and made them come true.

You have the potential to exceed the seeming impossible. If you fully commit to your dreams. If you fully commit to your intentions, and pursue your dreams with 100% passion, no matter what, doing whatever it takes. You’ve got this, I’ve got your back, we’re all in this together.

And you know what time it is: It’s time to go out there and do something great!

Music Credits:

Music Credit:

Escape by Hang Over

We Were Infinite by Inukshuk

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