“…follow your passion, stay true to yourself. Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path, and by all means you should follow that.” — Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane Commencement Address, 2009
I was in Dallas recently. Rain, more rain and an early start did not stop a sold-out crowd of aspiring entrepreneurs from heading to The Dallas Entrepreneur Center for keynotes, mentoring and networking as part of the Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs event. Entrepreneurship — following their passion and the path they see other women taking — has quickly taken hold in the Lone Star State (so much so, that the event made front page news). Forging your own path is the new career roadmap.
My opening keynote was entitled “From Employee to Entrepreneur” and my advice can be summed up as:
Build your expertise. Whatever that you want to do — whether you want to start your own business or to become a lawyer, a career coach, an artist, a journalist — whatever it is, be the expert in your field. Just ’cause you want to do something no one’s going to hand it to you. Stay curious and continuously invest in yourself.
If you’re not your own best investment, I don’t know what is.
Build your network. Ideas without a network are just….ideas. Build a strong, diverse network and build it before you need it. Whether you want to have a successful crowd-funding campaign, to secure venture capital funding or to land a new job, it’s a network of relationships that is going to enable you to get there. And those relationships will also lift you up on the dark days when nothing seems to be going right with your venture.
In the sharing economy, it’s not only what you know it’s who knows what you know. Does your network know what you are trying to achieve, what you passionately care about, how you want to change the world?
Build your bank account. This is not your retirement account because you need to think about that anyway, this is the account that enables you to say yes. Your “yes-me” fund that enables you to leap at an opportunity regardless of the compensation level or to pursue a venture whether or not the venture capitalists believe in it. With a “yes-me” fund, you’re able to say yes to your passion or calling because you have the financial control to say yes.
Create a “yes-me” fund so you can say yes to life’s opportunities and to choosing your own path in life.
With hindsight, these three themes have carried my career from Toronto to New York and from law to technology to writing for Inc.com to whatever comes next — plus I’d add a whole lot of persistence, worry and determination. Nothing comes without effort, especially when you’re forging a new path and yes, I’ll continue to put in long hours while I’m (im)patiently waiting for the proverbial silver platter.
Mercury has been in retrograde — which is why my email and website have been offline — however, I’m thrilled to report that my email is again working and my new site is up! Check out the networking tips I’ve included on the new site plus assorted other content in the Recommendations section.
I was asked recently if I ever sleep and the answer is yes.