"Myths are a waste of time. They prevent progression."
-- Barbra Streisand
"For an industry that's built on science, the technology world sure has its share of myths."
-- David Pogue
In my last post I wrote about five myths in entrepreneurship. How elevator pitches, negotiations, social media marketing, and launching one's service/product can inadvertently result in playing the adult version of True or False and Truth or Dare.
I'm continuously surprised by pervasive myths in any arena, but especially in entrepreneurship today where social and mobile technology, SEO, metrics, and virtual mentorship are yours for the taking, if you know where to look and whom to follow. Are these myths still believed because of our perceptions about the scarcity of women in technology or their lack of interest in it? Part of our attempts to join the branding movement and "get it right? A digital marketing strategy to push storytelling and speak "human"?
Whichever the case, I have learned that successful entrepreneurship involves mentorship (real, virtual, and reverse) which means learning the ropes; practically, psychologically, and creatively. That cannot be accomplished while subscribing to a mindset that promotes myths and make them go viral, like the #SochiProblems Twitter feed depicting journalists' takes and photos of behind the scenes at the 2014 Olympics.
Many tweets are true, tragically and humorously authentic like Stacy St. Clair's photo of "dangerous water". Some tweets have proven to be false, causing an understandable uproar, not to mention widespread worry re: security for our stoic American athletes and their families who stayed behind. Myths have a way of seeming authentic, even when they're not. It will be interesting to see how many myths about the fabulous figure skater duo Meryl Davis and Charlie White will get dispelled because their devoted, highly visible, and no-nonsense moms are front and center in Sochi, "keeping it real". Which brings me to the point of this post.
Women have historically had a hard time learning the lay of the land re: best practices re: launching a product/service; particularly when venture capital is needed. We've been getting mixed messages in the workplace for decades, a practice that has generated a glass ceiling and inaccurate assumptions that derail our attempts to start our own business. It's time to break through that ceiling and pursue entrepreneurship. It's time to ignore those cautionary tales, case studies, and whispered rumors, and relegate them to other myths in books, such as those about Percy Jackson, spun by the erudite and entertaining Rick Riordan. Here are 5 more myths I believe need to be discounted by women startup entrepreneurs in 2014:
1. Calm & quiet foster innovation.
I've actually been told that the route to disruptive innovation is punctuated with bouts of methodic, calm formulations so that innovation can surge. I've seen evidence to the contrary as an educator, where creativity emerges within the chaos and most likely as a result of discerning random patterns and positively exploiting them. I'm sure the 2014 Olympic athletes would agree; especially those in Sochi with interesting accommodations! I don't believe that tamping down adrenaline and fear make one more innovative. I know Alison Levine, the polar explorer who led the first team of American women up Mt. Everest knows this isn't true. "Fear is okay and helpful ―it's a normal human emotion. Complacency is what will kill you."
2. Failure defines you and stifles your potential.
Failure is part of the entrepreneurial process....until you finally succeed. When you do, you will better understand how your potential unfurled while you are were in the midst of experiencing that obstacle or setback. See what I mean by watching Lori Deschene's Ode to Failure. Take a look at Liberty Mutual's new ad campaign, #Rise, featuring Olympic Athletes who failed and staged their comebacks.
3. Success hinges on what you've amassed and achieved re: monetary gain and reputation.
Success today actually hinges on the level of balance you've achieved re: work/life and humanity/technology, and the value you subsequently provide for others. People today are interested in doing work that matters, that benefits the collective, and that crafts a self sustaining legacy, or they should be! We are all in need of rethinking what it means to be successful, sustainable, and in simpatico with others in our global neighborhood and digital avatar's tribe, not unlike James Cameron's hero Jake Sully did!
4. Blogging is just a social media marketing strategy to gain a monetized customer base and display the transparency of a company's culture.
Any autism specialist will tell you of the power of visual learning, and that the brain processes and retains visual stimuli faster than any of the other 4 senses; just ask Dr. Temple Grandin! As an entrepreneur I have learned the power of active virtual mentorship by seeking out specific books, online courses/webinars, and blogposts that fill in missing puzzle pieces and allow me to pay it forward by sharing them. Blogs in particular are an excellent way to provide both active virtual mentorship and thought leadership; both of which are highly sought after in today's psychologically and emotionally fragmented youth-worshipping culture that struggles to find meaning and reinvent the wheel. Blogging helps rewire the brain, one post at a time. It allows us to shift perspective and enhance creativity; two traits entrepreneurs need to hone. It allows us to humanize the increasing automated atmosphere of social media, and make it more social by giving a voice to the nameless, faceless individuals swimming in its endless ocean, especially women in leadership where the debate on explaining yourself or not rages on.
5. Entrepreneurship is for those who hate their jobs and are therefore pivoting their careers.
I hate to break it to you but people who succeed in entrepreneurship are doing so because they a) honed a skill set in their job to the point that they used it to solve a public problem which resulted in launching a particular service/product b) harnessed time and made it work for them by knowing when to stay still and when to launch. When to stay put and learn within their current job parameters (intrapraneur) and when to strike out on their own and freelance.
Creativity with numbers and analytics, passion, visually appealing decks and posts, and constant hawking of one's service/product only goes so far, as this man finds out in the adorable Vimeo clip Love in the Time of Advertising.
In the end, it is your hard work to learn skills and earn customer respect and loyalty by demonstrating the pursuit of purpose (not just profit) that make you a bona fide entrepreneur. It is solving a pain point on a grand scale, and letting your overall self belief override your belief of those pesky, pervasive myths, which will determine both your entrepreneurial trajectory and outcome.