Recently this month, I was asked to deliver the keynote speech at Mountain Plains Business Education Association (M-PBEA) regional conference in Bismarck, ND
“Inspiring Tomorrow’s Legends” was the theme of the event. I took this challenge to heart, and came up with the three most important things I could teach the teachers of business and entrepreneurship. Things that could never be learned in a classroom setting, but have everything to do with success in business and life. This was very personal for me and I wanted others to have some practical as well as inspirational takeaways. Here’s what I had to say.
The following three C’s are traits I’ve developed, from the darkest times in my life that helped me be a better leader, make better decisions, and get better results. They’re part of what I coin “The Emotional Trifecta” of entrepreneurial success.
1. Courage comes from the heart
So, what about courage? Where does it come from? It might seem odd that someone who was labeled developmentally disabled as a child, attended a different school every year of my life up through high school would be delivering the keynote about Inspiring Tomorrow’s Legends. The implication being that I have become somewhat of a legend myself!
No one ever thought I’d amount to anything, so I didn’t either. It wasn’t until I was a Junior in High School and was called to the principal’s office that I began to think differently. Our school principle, Del Easton told me I would not graduate and that my life would never amount to anything if I couldn’t take this first step towards adulthood. He said, “I believe in you. I give you permission to prove me wrong.” And, so I did. I eventually went on to graduate with a 3.87 GPA at my Alma Matter, University Of Mary, ever grateful that someone stepped in to make me step up!
What I learned from that lesson was: I needed to believe in myself, and never give up. Once I did that, I felt differently, I developed courage to attempt BIG things. I’d prove myself wrong each time just as Del challenged me to. I learned years later that courage comes from the heart, and is only found once an individual identifies a purpose to drive them. Heart and purpose go hand in hand
Here some examples where courage has helped me and will make you a better entrepreneur:
It was hard for me to step out and attempt to make a difference through my work, as 98% of the products used to control mice were toxic. Today its 90%. Courage can change an industry.
Doing the right thing matters more than doing things right. It holds you accountable and makes you authentic and transparent in business – a trait that has served me well many times over.
An entrepreneur gets to experience a full spectrum of feelings – daily. I think it’s why 80% of millennials want to be entrepreneurs. It’s a thrill ride!
This happens organically as a business grows and gets more complex. Patents, processes, and stakeholder relationships all require their own kind of courage.
The most successful entrepreneurs have answered this deeper question of themselves, and applied it in their work to create profound social change.
Often times, physical courage is required for travel, arduous spells of long hours working, stressful situations, or any number of things that come up when starting a business. Sometimes, when you don’t have an ounce of energy left, you summon something from deep down to get you to the finish line. Winners don’t sleep till the job is done!
2. Curiosity kills the fear, not the cat
Curiosity is a trait that has been strongly correlated to success in business. The entrepreneurs who take an experimental approach to see what they can learn or do, have a greater chance of leading transformative change in markets, and building better cultures.
Curiosity Begs Bigger Questions –
When I was in Monaco at the World Entrepreneur of the Year Conference last year, I took these pictures and knew I’d find a way to share them. It seems so simple, but curiosity is so profound when it comes to success as human beings on this planet.
The evidence is there that curiosity correlates to intelligence, boosts achievement, and expands our empathy.
3. Confidence comes from community.
You become the sum of your five closest friends! Look around you, think about it and choose wisely if you want to achieve your true potential.
Many people ask how I went from being in special education to an award winning CEO, on the list of the fastest growing companies, and being recognized as an industry leader.
It all starts with finding people who believe in you, and support you. Even more than that, finding the few special people you most admire, and who have the character you want to emulate in your life. Character is born of courage, curiosity and rising out of the darkness. We all have dark areas in our life, fears that can keep us down. The most successful people have probably had to fight more demons than we can imagine, but you really do emerge from the struggle a better person, with a stronger determination.
For me, my special people were part of two amazing organizations – WPO [Women’s Presidents Organization] and EY Entrepreneurial Winning Woman. Every time I’m with the incredible women that became my community, I become a better version of myself, and they all say the same thing.
There’s some new research that concludes women who play college sports are 80% more likely to reach the C-suite. Sports builds confidence, through teamwork, mutual support, and digging ever deeper for the courage.
The thing about confidence is you can acquire it, even if you don’t start out with it – “fake it to you make it” is a good philosophy. The more you succeed, the more confident you become, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
People with confidence:
- Develop healthy, long-lasting friendships
- Perform well in school and sports
- Assume leadership roles
- Demonstrate persistence in and out of school
- Try new activities
- Resist negative peer-pressure.
Be a Visionary! Have a Purpose!
I encouraged everyone to take this simple test: Google your name and create your own word cloud. What does it say now, and what will it say in 5 years? Please share your comments, I’m curious.