Everybody Has an Empire

This is an abbreviated version of the speech originally given at 10X Growth Con 2017 by my wife, Elena Cardone:

The definition of an empire is an extensive operation or sphere of activity controlled by one person or a group. It doesn’t say it was started by one person. An empire is never started with one person. Even if it’s not a king or a queen, there’s a whole lot that goes into an empire. The derivation of an empire means to command, to rule, to be willing to do whatever it takes. Everybody, right now, even you, whether you know it or not, has an empire.

What are you commanding? What are you the ruler of? My daughter Sabrina is 7-years old and everyone in my household knows that Sabrina is the queen of Shopkins. If you don’t know what Shopkins are, they’re these little toys. I don’t know what you do with them but Sabrina knows every single one. She is the ruler of them. If anyone gives my other daughter, Scarlett, a gift of a Shopkins, Scarlett just opens the gift, sees that it’s Shopkins, and hands it over to the queen. They are Queen Sabrina’s Shopkins.

With Shopkins, Sabrina’s willing to command. She’s willing to own the Shopkins universe and my other daughter Scarlett’s okay with that, so as a parent I don’t interfere because we’re like, “Hey, they’ve got it worked out. I’m not taking her empire away. She built it, she created it. Everyone knows their role and everyone seems happy with it.”

What does your empire look like?

Is your empire expanding? Because if it’s not expanding, it’s shrinking. Is it sanity or chaos? Affluence or poverty? What does your empire look like? Have you ever even thought about it?

It doesn’t matter how your empire looks, but in our relationship, Grant runs all the finances, all the business. We’re very clear on those roles. What do I do? I rule everything household: Kids, where they go to school and if they can have sugar, TV, every little detail. We have an immense amount of trust for one another. I know he knows what he’s doing with his world and his job, and he knows I know what I’m doing with my world and my job.

An example is when I hear Grant on the phone, and he’s talking to a lawyer about a real estate deal. It was a $60 or $100 million-dollar deal, it was a big deal. And the lawyer said, “I just don’t think this is a good deal for you.” And Grant says, “I’m not paying you to tell me what you think is a good deal. You’re a lawyer, you’re not buying deals. I’m buying deals. I’m paying you to structure the deal the way I want it structured. So I want you to do it like this.”

What is that? A king. I rule, I command. I’m not like Mr. Nice Guy, like, “Oh, maybe I should think about that and get confused and back peddle”…No, he made a decision, he went for it, and he put somebody who isn’t the king in his place so that he can stay and remain powerful. It takes guts to maintain an empire.

With an empire, it’s not about who’s outside of the court.

You know your enemies, you don’t have to be afraid of the enemies, you know them. Who you have to be afraid of is who you allow inside of the court. There’s the danger. The only reason why all these great empires failed is because they abandon their original, traditional values or their purpose or their mission of what they originally set out to do. Are you letting people just come into your empire and take a wee-wee in the courtyard? Is it a free-for-all? Can anyone just come in and start rumors and revolutions?

I used to let everyone in. Everyone could come in, do whatever they wanted inside the palace gates. No more. It cost me way too much time, energy, anxiety, worry, money. It’s not worth it. Who’s in? Who’s worthy to be in your group? Who guards the gate? You guard the gate. There’s a reason why the guillotine was at the center of the court.

Everybody in an empire knows their roles.

When you know your roles in the group, you don’t cross each other’s paths. You don’t have this power struggle. Grant and I aren’t having power struggles. I know what decisions I get to be the boss of. He knows which decisions he gets to be the boss of.

You also need to define the purpose of your empire. The purpose of our empire is to help people. That’s truly what we want. Yes, I want a plane. I want a bigger plane. I want to stay in nice places. I don’t like bugs. I don’t want to live in a hut. I want to be in a nice hotel that has nice-smelling lotion…but we want to help people.

What is the purpose of your empire?


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