"I believe your worst weakness can become your greatest single strength."
-- Barbara Corcoran
"Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things."
-- Peter Drucker
Entrepreneurship in the Digital Age is often misunderstood, and compared to its earlier incarnation from past eras. The truth is that it has many faces today, many of them women.
I often compare it to going on a planned hike and finding yourself navigating a minefield that is part green oasis (or mirage) and part quicksand. Its success is predicated on one's slow burning patience and persistence, quick thinking and analysis, and ability to harness time -- to either exploit an opportunity and/or creatively pivot one's trajectory. That's why staying current and diverse reading matters, so that a person can enhance one's inner landscape within to create innovation without. That's why books such as Austin Kleon's Show Your Work and Ready to Be a Thought Leader? by Denise Brosseau
are on my radar and recommended reading list.
Our proverbial sandbox has expanded, resulting in more complex, changing rules of conduct, raising more questions as we find our way in this iEra of oxymoronic plenty and paucity. We live in a culture increasingly dependent on technology yet still hungry for meaning, for human connection, and for social and educational reform. We live in a society increasingly globally connected physically thanks to technology, but fragmented emotionally because of its frequent misuse and resulting rift between haves and have-nots.
Every one of us has the potential for learning and growing, and becoming part of the solution, not the problem. This is true especially re: our continued struggle to balance humanity and technology, now playing out on the world's stage thanks to the Facebook acquisition of WhatsApp. The resulting conundrum for the economy and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond are creating a ripple effect. One that will be felt for a long time in all arenas -- technology, business, education, healthcare, and pop-culture.
I believe that it's time to redefine entrepreneurship and accountability to self. Entrepreneurs are not just purveyors of disruptive innovation. Their unique skill set, story, vision, mission, and transparency make them accountable to others in some ways more than the average business employee, even if they are bootstrapping. I believe that entrepreneurship today entails thought leadership, civic leadership, and meaningful leadership and mentorship that promotes purpose AND profit, real value, and human growth -- educational, social, economic, and psychological.
It is fortunate that part of the human learning experience means learning when to emulate, stay still, or change course. Our future depends on us collectively learning how to do this better, and how to collectively internalize the right lessons at the right time. It begins with more of us in entrepreneurship, especially women, setting examples and exemplifying the kind of leadership and emotional intelligence we are capable of, that help us ALL make better short term AND long term decisions that will positively affect us on many levels in the years to come.
That's why I wrote my book and have been blogging on specific topics on Tumblr and Wordpress. That's why I shared 10 entrepreneurial takeaways from it in my last post, and will do so again.
What I've Learned as a Female Entrepreneur:
1. Entrepreneurship is a state of mind but it CAN be taught.
It's a combination of nature and nurture, like doing needlepoint, something that used to be "a woman's domain". I compare entrepreneurship to a tapestry whose underbelly is a mass of discordant, jumbled threads that can appear a mess from up close. While we're in it, we can't see the pattern that emerges, our Story, and how it intersects with the Story of each and every person we meet along the way, allowing for increased opportunities for civic engagement and leadership for the greater good. Let the Story unfold at its own pace. Embrace the converging and diverging threads and the ebb and flow of this state of being. There is both architecture and artistry to successful entrepreneurship. That's what makes it so individualized and gives it its mystique, making it so much more than just a purveyor disruptive innovation and/or profit margins.
2. You CAN harness time and make it work for you!
"Waiting for the right time" is a myth! Time the trajectory of execution and expansion of your Mission. Have a system of checks and balances, using your own time management and instincts, economic forecasts, and advice from valued, proven mentors, about when to forge ahead and when to stay still. To put it another way, tweak your timing re: when to bootstrap, when to accept venture capital, when to trust your gut and take that leap of faith, and when to seek mentorship. Walk a tightrope between delegating and laser focus of the things you need to do, to do what you do.
3. Get educated.
Be both a student and teacher to others. Learn and achieve, in your chosen field. Specialize in your chosen field, and practice in that field, for as long as it takes, to establish proficiency and familiarity with best practices. Start small, and find opportunities to slowly branch out. Tie your knowledge to your business practices. Learn new things and new business practices -- online, in workshops, in books. Share what you have learned with others. Work to gain your credentials and "street cred" over time, and via networking, physically and digitally. Find a mentor, maybe a few.
4. Get seen. Build a figurative topiary i.e. a visually appealing execution of your digital avatar & your Plan and nurture it. By the way you:
• Communicate with prospective clients and seasoned ones who already know you
• Organize your paper trail; internal and external, for better time management
• Utilize technology/social media to create a visible digital footprint for your company
• Choose to accept or decline venture capital, and handle your bootstrapping adventures well; financially, mentally, and ethically
5. Seek out reverse mentorship opportunities and even barter for it at work. Especially out of your industry, comfort zone, and realm of experience. Diversify your learning experiences and your thinking. Surprising relationships and creative connections can ensue!
6. Trust your "gut" and heed your own "inner voice".
Learn when it's time to discard a mentor, in real time or online, and move on. Keep believing in yourself, your intuition, your educated guesses, and your mission. Stay the course.
7. Do not delegate/automate your social media posts right away.
An entrepreneur needs to know about the politics of the playground so to speak, i.e. niche markets, Theory of Mind (i.e. empathy and perspective), and the connection between the two. For example, people trying to connect with diverse people from diverse locations, or who are on the go and mobile tech savvy will be on Twitter. Those passionate about their photos are certainly ones you will want to target using social media tools like Pinterest. Demographics plays a huge role in marketing. Know your audience -- their favorite hangouts, in Real Time and online, and their foibles/likes/dislikes.
8. The pitfalls of perfectionism and multitasking are real, not urban legends!
Both can hinder your resiliency and productivity in the long run. Both can be counteracted by having a sense of humor about yourself and others, and about your situation. Female entrepreneurs are especially prone to engaging in both, much to the detriment of themselves and those around them. Stop the madness! Two Calls to Action: Laugh at yourself and Forgive yourself!
9. Think men are the only ones who are visual creatures? Think again.
Nurture your visual creativity and critical thinking by taking time to view architecture, art, Nature, and colors. Surprising patterns can help you scaffold your thought process and jumpstart your innovation. There's a good reason museums, smart phones, movies, YouTube, Flickr, and Pinterest are all so popular. Educators have long known (especially in the Autism community) what entrepreneurs and marketing folks are now advocating. Think of Dr. Temple Grandin who said her mind "is like Google images".
10. Take time to play. Be in touch with that inner child who still resides inside you. Recall the child you once were -- how you acted, how you viewed the world, how you treated yourself and others. View life through the deceptively simple and innately honest lens of childhood and you will find yourself experiencing a significant shift in how you think. About time. About being busy vs. being productive. About displaying your authentic self. About learning. About celebrating the mundane and the small rituals of life. About gratitude and grief. About feelings and your desire to express them. See the honest reaction of this little boy who cries when he hears this song.
Entrepreneurship, like any other vocation, is both a calling and an achievement of self actualization and synthesis of multiple intelligences working together to enhance productivity. The times are changing and we need to intellectually, ethically, and psychologically keep up with them so that we succeed, and redefine what that means accordingly.