A year ago I sat in the Going To Scale panel at the Women Entrepreneurs Festival and asked panelist Limor Fried, founder of Adafruit, how I, a creative, could best interact with a highly technical team. Her response still rings in my ears today. “Sometimes you just have to get in the cage and wrestle with engineers. Sometimes that is what it takes for them to respect you.” I was in the middle of negotiating an acquisition, and I very much wanted to make sure I had the right tools to not only make the transition smooth but the new team culture one that would foster creativity, respect and teamwork.
Fried’s advice as well as that of her co-panelists Alexis Juneja, cofounder of Curbed Network, and Emily Hickey, COO of Lolly Wolly Doodle, helped bolster my courage. I left WE3 a changed woman. I no longer saw myself as a fledgling, most likely unqualified entrepeneur but as a someone with a valuable set of skills and a vision worth pursuing. Drawing from the inspiration I found listening to the stories of my fellow attendees, I began to believe that it was really possible to see my vision to fruition. I went back home to what many of those I met in New York declared to be the middle of nowhere and threw myself wholeheartedly into building the right team, creating attainable but ambitious milestones and finding new investors to help us ready our national launch.
And because last year’s nuggets from WE3 sewed seeds of inspiration that carried me further than I thought possible, here are some of this year’s nuggets so that we can all be inspired to blow past the goals we set for ourselves. The following are the ideas that I’ll be carrying with me this year:
Sometimes we need to create a new narrative that is different from the current propaganda, the current conventional wisdom.
The thing about climbing the ladder of success is that it suggests that there is only one bottom place to start and one place to end on top; let’s think instead that there are several bottoms and several tops, and it is unique and different for each of us.
We are likely a lot more bold than we think we are. We make bold choices that we may not see as bold. Saying no to demands that drain us without any purpose is bold. Saying yes to opportunities that challenge us is bold. Not fearing failure is a type of boldness.
Don’t ask that the rules be changed for us. If we don’t want to play within the current rules, start a new game. That is the foundation of being an entrepreneur.
When we find ourselves hurt and devastated, see it as a lesson to be learned. Discover if you’ve dreamed too small or been decked by something in the middle of dreaming big. We often tell ourselves something that gets us off the hook for giving up on a dream. If you’ve been decked pursuing a dream, let yourself be scared to death and then promise yourself you’re going to be bold.
Make sure you invent a dream big enough for yourself. If you find yourself jealous or bored or unhappy, you probably need to dream bigger, think bigger. If you dream too small, you will eventually be unhappy.
When raising capital, it isn’t just about raising money. It is about finding the right partners that share your vision.
Investors are always going to want more proof before they invest. It is our job to figure out how to make sure they believe they are going to miss out on something big if they don’t invest in us now.
When we’re successful, people assume what we created was easy. It’s not. It’s painful. It’s difficult. It’s plain hard work. Don’t be afraid of what it will take to be successful.
Don’t aim for a life of balance. Strive for a wonderful life of imbalance. The only career that demands balance is a yoga instructor.
If you haven’t already encountered one, you will eventually have to deal with a bully. Don’t ignore them. It’s really important that you deal with bullies, or it will paralyze you.
Trust our intuition. We don’t have to wait or hesitate if we don’t have all our ducks in a row before we leap.
And the one that inspires me most to push myself to grow even more this year:
The paths we forge now will make it easier for the next generation of women entrepreneurs.