Today’s post is the second in our summer guest post extravaganza. It’s from my friend and contract limitation-killer, Danielle LaPorte, the creator of WhiteHotTruth.com and The Fire Starter Sessions. You can also find her on Twitter @daniellelaporte
“You can’t change the world from the rear-view mirror.” – Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop
When I get a group of entrepreneurs together in a room we kick off with introductions, and here’s what I request of people:
When you introduce yourself, please give us:
- Your cocktail line. Describe what you do in just a sentence or two.
- One word that might describe your “brand”—don’t worry if nothing comes to mind, or if you’re compelled to throw out some strange word like velvet or spicy. Just go with it.
- Your current business challenge. It could be cash flow, life balance, writer’s block, or staffing—whatever.
- And here’s the catch: You can’t talk about your past. It doesn’t matter how many Masters Degrees you’ve earned, or how the economy walloped your sales last year. Focus on what you’re doing now, on who you are today.
Here’s why. (WARNING: instructive, but unsympathetic cynicism ahead.)
When I hear a business introduction that starts like this, I can predict that cash flow is stuck, or that work-life balance is way outta whack:
“I’m Jane. I have a widget company that I started eleven and a half years ago (fails to mention name of the actual company). Shortly after I started the business, which I used all of my savings to do (that’s what entrepreneurs do—you won’t get much sympathy from this crowd), I got divorced (sad, but irrelevant). That really affected my debt load.
I started with six staff and then cut back to two, and now I work more than I really want to (your choice). My widgets are the best on the market (this is quite possible, but it’s getting harder to believe), but I haven’t had time to get a great distributor (you haven’t made time)—it’s so hard to find good help, you know? (if you believe it is, then it is) I’ve worked with a number of distributors, but had to fire them because they didn’t really believe in the product.
So my challenge, I guess…is…distribution, which of course affects cash flow. So I guess my challenge is really cash flow.” (No kiddin’.)
No, sweet Jane, your challenge is that you’re stuck in the past and you’re chronically complaining about your present. It’s a drag.
Face forward. We want to look ahead with you. Look backwards, and you lose us.
Try this, love:
“I’m Jane Smith, the founder and CEO of Wild Widgets. Industrial Magazine named us Top Widget Maker of the Midwest, which was a huge honor in our business. I’ve scaled back from six to two staff and am looking to build back a really strong team so I can live more of my life.
I’ve struggled to find really crackerjack distributors—they are critical to going from a $1 million dollar company to my vision, which is $10 million within the next 2 years. So my challenge is identifying the winners—the right people to get on board. And if you need widgets, you can find us at WildWidgets.com. Thanks.”
Jane! Baby! I’m so impressed with your clarity and stamina that I want to help you find a legion of those magic distributor elves, right now.
The past is never as relevant as we might think it is.
Stand in your present power. Not relying on your glory days or curriculum vitae forces you to draw power from who you are — now. It’s cleaner fuel. It’s less about proving (which burns energy), and more about trusting in all that you are, today.
I was once late to a swanky advisory meeting for a board that I sat on. I rushed into the dining room and pulled up my chair. “Perfect timing Danielle,” said the CEO. “It’s your turn to introduce yourself.” Sure thing.
“I’m Danielle LaPorte. You can find me at WhiteHotTruth.com where I write about self-realization and entrepreneurship. I’ve got a weekly commentator gig on CBC TV, and I advise entrepreneurs how to rock their careers in what I call ‘Fire Starter Sessions’, and I’m working on my next book.”
Concise, right? Just the way I like it. I clocked in at about 30 seconds. Good finish. I presumed everyone else was eager to get into the Brie and champagne.
Then, each of the six women who introduced themselves after me proceeded to list their very impressive accomplishments, from Harvard degrees, to millions of dollars raised for start-ups and charities, to how many children they had. It was a power tour of who done what. Though, it wasn’t as obnoxious as I may be making it sound. It was proud and thorough and appropriate in that context. It’s just that I’d missed the memo and I felt like a total unaccomplished loser by comparison.
Ohhh…we’re doing those kind of intros. I thought. Humph. If I’d only known, I would have pulled out my most sophisticated ammo:
“I ran a future-studies think tank in Washington, DC, had my own communication agency for years promoting Nobel Peace Prize Laureates and some old pop stars. I raised a bunch of money for my high-profile lifestyle company. I wrote a book—it was an Amazon bestseller, Oprah producers called, lotsa photographers took my picture. I went seriously renegade from my last lil’ empire, and now I’m like, a power blogger with awesome clients. And BTW, I gave birth to my son in our living room, and can run ten city blocks in heels.”
The ego loves a good resume. I took a breath and decided to be sophonsified with who I was in that moment. Easy. They could like me, or not. Or they could inquire for more. And besides, my past pales in comparison to my future, this I know. So does yours, I bet.
PURGING + GLORY BOARDING:
Think about your past career failures, mistakes, bombs. Write out your 3 favourite screw-ups. What did you learn? Can you see a pattern in the lessons? How did they make you a better person? Then, burn the list or write HAHAHA! in big letters across the page. It’s done. You’re free. Next…
Write out your victories and accomplishments. What have you inspired, founded, launched, published, shipped, directed, earned? Let it roll. Blow your horn. And then – you guessed it, burn the list. You’re free – free to innovate.
A Buddhist would advise that power comes when you detach from your past. An exec would say you’re only as good as your last Pn’L. They’re both right. When it comes to your genius, there’s always more where that came from.
Excerpted in part from The Fire Starter Sessions: A Digital Experience for Entrepreneurs.
Danielle LaPorte is the creator of WhiteHotTruth.com, which has been called “the best place on-line for kick-ass spirituality.” A motivational speaker, former think tank exec, publicist, and news show commentator, her latest online book is The Fire Starter Sessions. You can find her on Twitter @daniellelaporte
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