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A Lesson from Rockefeller


Today was one of those days.  I had a lot that I wanted to accomplish and I was productive to a point, but then I got hung up and couldn’t work on the projects I wanted to work on, which resulted in frustration and wanting to chuck my sewing machine out the window and eat large amounts of dark chocolate.  I didn’t do either, but I felt like it.  I work well under pressure, but sometimes the busy-balance is just right and then something else is piled on top and I want to crawl into a hole.  Today wasn’t a bad day, but it was just one of those days.  I know tomorrow will be better.

Due to the frustrations experienced, I don’t have anything new and exciting to share.  As I was sitting at my laptop, staring at the screen, writing something, deleting it and rewriting it, I remembered a post I started writing a couple of weeks ago, when I was so inspired that my fingers could hardly keep up with the words formed in my head.  I don’t know why I abandoned it, but I think it was meant for today.


So, you may think that a lesson from Rockefeller would be about making and managing large amounts of money, but it’s not.  It’s about dreaming big.

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching National Parks, a beautiful documentary by Ken Burns.  It makes you want to pack up your family in a Ford Fairmont station wagon and set out to explore some of the most breathtaking places in our country.  I love how Ken Burns tells larger stories of history by using smaller stories of individuals who somehow played a part.  One of those small stories in National Parks was about a man named Horace Albright, who had a big dream.  He wanted to make the Grand Tetons and surrounding valley a part of Yellow Stone National Park.  He plugged away at making that dream happen, but kept hitting roadblocks and dead ends.

Horace Albright

One day, he had an opportunity to share his dream with a private investor with enough money to make it happen – John D. Rockefeller Jr.   He took Rockefeller and his wife through the valley and told them about his dream as they watched the sunset over a beautiful view.

John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Nothing happened during that meeting, but a few months later, Rockefeller asked Albright to visit him with details of making the Tetons a part of the park.  At that meeting, Albright shared a modest proposal with cost estimates on purchasing only some of the land he had talked about when sharing his dream a few months earlier.  Rockefeller stopped him.  He was only interested in an “ideal project”, Albright’s entire dream.

Rockefeller bought over 30,000 acres of land based on Albright’s revised proposal and two years later, Congress created Grand Teton National Park.

 Horace Albright speaks at dedication of Grand Teton National Park, 1929

(Albright at the dedication of Grand Teton National Park.)

I was so moved by this story and challenged as well.  I think Albright thought the way a lot of us do.  I have this huge dream, but I need to scale it back if I’m going to be realistic.  Somewhere along the way,”realistic” and “big dreams” became opposites.  I don’t know why or when that happened, but it’s a real bummer to big dreamers and I think it’s an unspoken rule that keeps us from reaching and working towards what we really want.  We’ll settle for a shadow of our real dream, because that seems more realistic.

This story, to me, was an awesome reminder to not do that!  I don’t know the exact words Rockefeller said to Albright, but in my imagination, I hear him saying, “Your dream was bigger than this.  Why doesn’t your plan match your dream?”

I could really relate to this, because I’m someone who has huge dreams when I’m quietly sitting alone, but when I actually put pen to paper, I get “realistic” and start explaining to myself why my dreams are silly and out of reach. I’m not saying you’re not dreaming big enough or you’re not following your dream or you need to go steamroll everyone who isn’t 100% on board with your dreams.

All I’m saying is that this little piece of history challenged me.  And I hope it challenges you as well.


If you like this post, you might enjoy A Lesson from the Dust Bowl.

All of the photos shared in this post are from

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  1. I loved this story and it was just what I needed for today. Today felt like spinning my wheels and getting nowhere! Thanks for inspiration!

  2. Thanks for sharing that story. Today was one of those days when I had decided to scale back on my dream. After reading this I realized that I need to keep my goal on the dream and not shrink back.

  3. YUP……… it. Must be something in the air…..good for everyone today. Heard a few people in the shop comment on it. thanks, as always, M

  4. Cherylmaiorano says:

    So beautiful…I’ve been an interior designer for over 20 years working for a firm where I was at the top. Replaced slowly by younger talent… My ambitions are bigger and I am more courageous with my dreams. The large challenges aren’t so big, and the risks are more manageable. As an over 50 woman, my dreams are now more realistic and I’m rarely intimidated. The obstacles I am faced with do not slow me down, just the amout of energy I want to put into a project. I believe that as a woman, after 50, we can do anything. Cheers ladies!

  5. Marian, your blog and posts are becoming a regular part of my day. Enjoy so much the sharing of how-to, talent, growing as a person, and just so much common sense in today’s world. I work in Finance, so DIY projects are my creative outlet. Thank you! Sheila

  6. MaryS says:

    What a beautiful story about a dream come true. Makes me think sometimes its better to let go and let God…. Usually works out just fine that way.

  7. Very inspiring, thank you so much for sharing.

  8. Marion, this post really touched me. I started a new blog three weeks ago and today I was looking at other blogs thinking that I dreamed too big. I’ve got so. much. to learn that I was getting overwhelmed and started thinking maybe I was wasting my time. But I love doing it and I’ve wanted to do it for a LONG time. Your words are definitely courage to keep going. Thank you!

    • I’m so glad this was an encouragement to you. It’s not just you…blogging feels like a waste of time for a while until you find your community and start seeing those numbers increase. just remember that everyone starts somewhere. It’s taken almost 4 years to grow my blog to where it is now and I still have so much to learn. :)

  9. A BIT OF TRIVIA. Did you know that Grand Tetons National Park is one of only two national parks that has privately owned land inside the park boundries. The other is Yosemite National Park.

  10. “Just because you don’t see the work completed, doesn’t mean you’re not free to take it up.”
    Remember Moses.

  11. you have no idea how badly i needed this today. im literally crying in my desk chair at my “real job”. thank you for the encouragement and for making me remember what my REAL dream was. im re-rockerfeller sizing it today.

  12. You have inspired me with words today; not paint! You always inspire me to paint. But today I am at the beginning stages of planning a total hard scraping of my backyard and my “ideal” backyard and my “realistic” backyard seem to be so different! Why do we always seem to do that to ourselves? But now I will look at my project with different eyes! Thank you so much!

  13. Ellen Johnson says:

    Marian, this same documentary (there’s like 7 episodes–all fabulous!) inspired my husband and I to dream of moving from Florida to Colorado three years ago. One year later we were living in Colorado Springs and exploring those beautiful mountains! You are right, dreaming big can actually enable those things to happen. If we hadn’t dreamed, we wouldn’t have been ready to go when the opportunity came! Dream on!

  14. Nanette Hill says:

    I grew up in the shadow of the Grand Tetons.. From the Idaho side they were literally in my back yard. I spent my growing up years hiking and camping on that land made possible by Mr. Albright. My friend held the world record for running the Grand Teton for 30 years. Everything about those mountains have taught me that ANYTHING is possible! This truely is an incredible place made possible by someone with a BIG beautiful dream. Thanks for sharing this post. and most of all.. Thank You for reminding us that we shouldn’t settle for anything less than a BIG Beautiful dream ourselves.

  15. Really, tears in my eyes as I am reading this. And, yes, BTW that documentary inspires awe. Thank you.

  16. I really enjoyed this encouraging post. Thanks!

  17. the realist in me just got a swift kick in the butt! thanks!

  18. Just what I need to read this morning. I am gong to keep dreaming big! I really need to see this documentary. Hope it is on Netflix.

  19. Thank you! This was very timely for me. I find myself constantly scaling back my dreams–realistic is an oft used word when it comes to my home and the projects I want. And lately I’ve been struggling with repetitive stress injury and can’t paint, sand, even fold laundry–all I can think about is how everything keeps scaling back to very small and immediate tasks.

  20. The blessing you have is to touch the heart and feelings of many people with your posts and your job!! some days you need a piece of History to keep dreaming and stand up and work….. Thanks Marian!

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