Several years ago, Cliff Hakim wrote a book that shifted my thinking titled We Are All Self-Employed. He followed it up with a book called Rethinking Work. Both of these books describe how to navigate the inevitable change that seems to be driving the demand for innovation, flexibility, and creativity. Basically, Hakim advocates taking charge of your career because companies are less paternal than in the past (which can be a good thing, but less security). And the employee contract is not what it used to be in the past. So companies are less loyal to employees for lifetime employment (universities are moving away from tenure and fewer companies have unions) and employees are less loyal to companies (it is OK to jump from company to company).
When I graduated from college in the 70s, we were warned not to be a job hopper but to stay with a company for a few years. Now, there is not the stigma to jump when opportunities present themselves. In an uncertain economy, people have to take care of themselves. We are all self-employed.
With this mindset, we can all learn from entrepreneurs whether we are one or want to be one. In fact, the term “intrapreneur” is a person within an organization who thinks and acts as an entrepreneur–someone who is creative, innovative, willing to take risks, looking for better ways to do things.
I had the opportunity to hear Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, speak at the IWLC conference. It was a Q and A session where she shared her story. It is a fascinating story and the timelines and basics can be found on the Spanx website under Sara’s Notebook.
I was inspired by Sara’s energy, authenticity, and creativity. You must read about her story. Honestly, she was charming. I wanted to listen to her for hours. You might be thinking it would be easy to be nice and charming if you were declared a billionaire. But in 2012, Sara signed the Giving Pledge committed to giving half of her wealth to empower women. You can listen to her story on one of my favorite podcasts How I Built This with Guy Raz.
Not only are we all self-employed, but we are all probably “selling” something. As a professor, I say we are “selling” ideas. I have to present concepts in ways that students “buy-in” to the information I am sharing. There is much to be learned from entrepreneurs such as the value in taking some risks, looking for new ways to do things, not taking no for an answer and she heard the word “no” for two years.
“What you don’t know can be helping you–it keeps you going. Brilliance comes from not knowing. Courage is a muscle that you have to strengthen. Courage is the secret ingredient.”
One story was how landing the Neiman Marcus sale which was her first major order. Someone asked her how she got the appointment and Sara said, “I just called them.” At that point in time, Sara did not even know that trade shows even existed and that was how most people expected to be discovered.
Sara shared ways she nurtures her passion and creativity. She said that she realized her best ideas came to her while she would be driving around. So even though she lives close to her work, she leaves about an hour early and drives around! She called it her “fake commute” because of the ideas that emerge while she is driving.
To me, she seemed like an old soul in a young body. She started listening to Wayne Dyer motivational cassette tapes when she was 15 because her dad gifted them to her saying, “I wish I had listened to these at your age.” She said she memorized them because she listened to them over and over again. This could be brainwashing because what you think about influences what you say, how you act, how you behave. Positive thinking at such a young age probably contributed to her optimism and positive outlook.
I encourage you to review the Spanx website. You can learn a lot from reading her story and I think you can feel the energy and passion and see the vision Sara has for the company. She certainly inspired me.
Sara Blakely is a passionately curious person. Since we are all really self-employed, Sara can be a role model for people of all ages and in all industries.
How are you exercising your courage muscle?
How are you getting out of your comfort zone to move forward on your passions?