Entrepreneur Evolution

 

Lessons from the Edge:

Lately I have been really thinking about what kind of business person I want to be. My son has made it into high school and is happily building his independence and does not need me around as much. As he grows I have more time and room in my life for my business. To date I have, it turns out, been a freelancer who moved into solopreneur. I have built businesses that are growing without me, so I have also been an entrepreneur.

For my next challenge: build a business that will run with or without me and that I stay and keep growing…

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In case you are confused – here are some definitions:

  • Freelancer: Get hired on a project basis for specific task.
  • Solopreneur: Freelancer with staff.
  • Entrepreneur: If you get hit by a bus your business will still happily chug along without you and/or your personality.

In the words of my favorite guru Seth Godin, “Freelancers get paid for their work. If you’re a freelance copywriter, you get paid when you work. Entrepreneurs use other people’s money to build a business bigger than themselves so that they can get paid when they sleep.”

To put it another way, “If you can create enough momentum in your business that you’ll still make money, regardless of what you do on a day-to-day basis, you are an entrepreneur. And a badass.” Entrepreneur Mag (It’s an interesting article if you are so inclined)

So, yes to build your business and revenue you can publish e-books on your expertise, give your personal accounts of success and failures and generate endless “Top 5” posts.. but in order to build something bigger than yourself and your personality you have to think bigger, more global, push further than just your social media nose.

  • What are you really passionate about? Narrow it down to a laser focus.

For me it’s creating situations and environments that enforce and promote connecting people and building community. That’s why I produce events.

  • What is the bigger issue you are addressing?

This one took some thinking and we decided it has to be a focus on advocacy with an eye towards all human rights organizations.

  • What human problem are you addressing?

When was the last time you went to a networking event and actually found a lasting connection AND had fun? Networking … just the word can send chills.

  • How are you disrupting the status quo?

For us it’s by bringing back the power of high quality hospitality, superior customer service for our clients as well as participants and treating every participant as an individual VIP.

Once you have YOUR answers to these, you will have a road map to your entrepreneurial business and true success.

Map.

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Diagnosis:

10433075_10152527244942049_7538247378482333601_nIt was 1980. I was just turning 8 years old. I could not read, write or do any arithmetic. No, I was not an orphan or growing up in the developing world … It was the Upper West Side of NYC and my parents are creative entertainment professionals – we had a nice middle class life.

My Montessori school teachers, sweet as they were, missed all the cues and I was very creative in my answers. Fooling them was easy. I would even sit in the “Reading Area” for the free periods and mimic all the other kids reading. I was not reading. I was looking at the pictures and gleaning the stories from the adventurous illustrations of Dick and Jane. Lucky for me there weren’t any math quizzes.

Enter 3rd grade.

This meant a new school and books without pictures. I was screwed.

There was a test called the ERB which was the key to a shiny new school, but the test was opaque. There were no pictures, just a mess of black symbols and a pretty pink slip with lots of bubbles on it. We were instructed to fill in the bubbles with our new #2 pencils. The prompter read some of the questions aloud. “Ms. Chapman please stand up. How do you spell People?” I was stunned. Everyone was looking at me. My palms went clammy. What should I say? .. the truth.. “Miss, I don’t know enough people to be able to spell them for you” and I sat down quickly feeling proud of myself until I saw her frowning face. That was not the answer. She thought I was being obstreperous. What she did not know is, I genuinely did not understand her question, I thought she wanted me to explain people to her. It was such a fancy test after all.

The real truth is I could not have spelled out the letters P-E-O-P-L-E with a gun to my head. I had only just learned to spell “Friday” and was still pretty pumped about it. Why couldn’t she have asked me about that?

My new school was torture. I did not understand the other kids and they did not understand me. My classes were opaque, confusing and frustrating. I kept hearing about my potential, intelligence, verbal skills and precociousness .. but I was failing badly. The adults faces would always go grey and sour when talking about my school performance.. I knew something was wrong. I knew something was wrong with me.

What came next was a wash of testing. My memory of this is like a photo montage in a movie.. There were hearing tests, vision tests, physicals, neurological tests and IQ tests with blocks. My parents did not inform me what all the fuss was about, so I went through thinking that maybe all kids got to do this. You know what?  I am not “retarded” or as we would say in today’s terms “On the spectrum”

A brand new diagnosis had emerged in mainstream called Dyslexia.

Here is the official definition:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

The short of it: trouble reading, writing and learning math. Other symptoms include having no sense of direction or time and trouble learning a foreign language. The upside? Creative out of the box thinking.

I often joke that English is not my first language, Dyslexia is, so learning a third like French, chemistry or math is really too much to ask.

Anyway, since it was so new, getting help was not easy or cheap. I was promptly asked to re-do third grade. A huge blow to my confidence and in my mind rendering anyone who ever commented on how smart I was as a liar and moron. What good was being smart? A cascade of tutors and therapists followed. I think at one time I had tutoring three times and therapy once a week. One of my tutors was in this really bad part of town (Chelsea in 1981 was not pretty) and her house smelled like cats.. Another would act books out with me using Smurfs, that if I completed my reading, I would get to keep. (Remind me to tell you the Othello story) I hated going to them, but without them and their infinite patience I would never had made it through school or found my way into Milan Kundera’s beautiful novels.

Eventually I got the hang of it and went on to Bennington College and The American University in Paris. Turns out doing school is building a series of habits, like everything else. Reading is still slow, math is for calculators and my fabulous book keeper.. writing requires drafts and thank god for Siri for everything else.

The biggest advantages Dyslexia gives you are profound coping mechanisms and solutions for everything in daily life. My son said to me the other day, “Mom, you are really good at this adult stuff.” I credit my Dyslexia, at least in part, for that and I am grateful.
#Dyslexia #DyslexiaAwarenessMonth #BenningtonCollege #Adulting #Education #LearningDisabled #Neurodiversity

Existential Morning

 

Finding your authentic self. That is the key to any happiness. Honoring it and being brave enough to live in that space is the ultimate goal. That could look like anything and if you are in that space then there is no comparison to celebrity or the Joneses that matters.

After the milestones and life’s to do list, what do you have left? The parties, birthdays, successful interviews, deaths, divorces, the 4441155157_3d7449b5c7_o-670x496whirlwind of updates and posts.. What are you left with? Trimmings don’t make the meal.

With infinite possibilities for direction and distraction comes infinite confusion, stress and anxiety. For the inner self the world was easier and a better place when it was small. People knew their futures and where they fit or not. Even if they chose to rebel against it, at least they had a boundary to push against.

This is the modern depression. This is the modern quest for self, true self, not a rented self.. The space that you find deep in your heart where you feel like you did before all the noise started pouring in. The “you have to be pretty”, “you have to be strong”, “you have to be rich”.. All those messages, not just from the world, but from your parents molding you in their own image. The self without labels.

Who am I? This existential quest is more acute now than ever. Couched as “your personal brand” can only come from really understanding who you are and why. Although the marketing lingo sounds trite and frivolous, the heart of it is important. If as a culture and species we are to thrive in this brave new noisy world, finding that inner compass is essential. Ownership of your identity and self is essential.

Every book on business development, marketing, and self help… any book written with an eye towards bettering the person reading it in the last ten years, has at least a chapter in this vein. It is clearly a need that is basic and pervasive. This is only going to increase as Millennials begin their searches after a lifetime of being lorded over by helicopter parenting.

I would have to say that since high school these have been the questions I have asked myself:

  • What am I good at?
  • What do I love to do?
  • What is important to me?

Lately I have started ask myself why.

  • Why is producing events so attractive to me?
  • Why do I love production so much?
  • Why is supporting advocacy and equality so important to me?

Unpacking the “Whats” is my current stage of self understanding. I have a pretty good idea of the things I am good at. Some of them are marketable, like my organizational skills, ability to listen and lead a team and some are not like cracking myself up or hanging out.

For a long time I just accepted what is and what was. Maybe it’s a result of being a child of a crazy household, having to just accept the state of things and go from there. It became habit not to look too closely or dig into why things were the way they were because ultimately it did not matter why.

Now, I want to understand how I got here and pull apart the details of why. It’s important to me as my son is getting ready to take flight and I get my life back to understand myself and how I can contribute to the world around me in a meaningful way. Building this new habit and “personal brand” will take some discipline and some courage.

“The authentic self is the soul made visible” Unknown

I am up for it.

 

Related questions that I ponder:

  • Will Millennials ever be able to find themselves having had their helicopter parents in their hair since birth?
  • What are the cultural ramifications of a generation that has no self ownership?
  • What role does religion and God play in the search for self and is the modern absents of those things contribute to the cultural existential crisis?

 

#PersonalBrand #SelfOwnership #Identity