We see it all of the time – entrepreneurs posting photos from their latest vacation or a conference they’re headlining or another notable event. However, people rarely talk about the guts behind the glory and what it took them to get there. Misty Lown has a different approach. Written on one of the nicest napkins we’ve seen on the show, Misty Lown explains her philosophy behind why rock bottom is a pretty good place for building.
“Everyone has a “ground zero” moment. I like to hear about those moments because they aren’t broadcast often. We do a great disservice to people by only showing the shiny parts of our story,” Misty explains. Currently, Misty owns nine businesses, including “Misty’s Dance Unlimited”, a dance academy Wisconsin where she and her staff inspire over 750 kids to be their best selves through dance and community involvement. Additionally, she operates “More Than Just Great Dancing”, a training school which teaches 145 dance schools worldwide on how to run with the same core values as her main business. “My dance school is eighteen years old and the other [More Than Just Great Dancing] is four. And let me tell you, their ages and how they operate line up so much with parenthood,” says the mother of five children.
But things weren’t always so rosy. Misty’s beginnings in dance came from an unlikely start. She was born with a club foot (which was later fixed). “I thought that starting a dance school was [one of the last] things I’d be doing with my life,” she remembers. She admits to having been a troubled youth. She refers to those years as her “rock bottom”.
She recalls her days of partying and a devastating eating disorder, “My body was my tool and I was abusing it in every way possible. There’s no elegant way to put it, but it was just a hot mess. I had to do some hard heart work to figure out what I wanted to do with the gift God had given me.” At 18, she was accepted into the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. During the summer before sessions began, she realized her love for instructing – and, instead of taking her talents to the stage, she decided to take them to the dance studio. While she now sees the purpose behind her swift change, at the time, she referred to herself as an “accidental entrepreneur.”
In time, she began to realize that her rocky past wasn’t something to be ashamed of or hidden and made the intentional effort to begin to pay those lessons forward. She often ran into students who were facing similar difficulties and was able to provide them with her story as a source of guidance and inspiration. “Initially, I wanted to keep the shiny parts and remove the bad history. But, the benefits of owning your journey is to be able to tell people that you’re old enough to know better, but young enough to remember. During that rough patch, I wasn’t being buried, I was being built for something greater,” she muses.
Misty never regrets her decision to choose the classroom over the stage lights and applause. “Being in the classroom provides an ROI for a lifetime, especially when being compared to being on a stage for a few hours. I still talk to students from years ago; I wouldn’t be able to do that with an audience member,” she says.
As someone once said, “Successful entrepreneurs owe it to the next generation to pay forward their failures and just not their successes.” As Misty began to own her story, she began to find value in the creation and the process, not just the outcome. She shares this mindset with her teams and her family. “There’s great value in doing small things well. I didn’t understand this straight out of the gate and I still don’t have it perfect. Entrepreneurship is a muscle that needs to be built and exercised.”
Twenty years ago, Steve Sims was bored. “I was automatically depressed before I left the house. I realized that there was no fun, no passion, no excitement. There was nothing beyond getting a paycheck. Eventually I said, f*** no,” he remembers. The East London construction worker and motorcycle enthusiast talked his way into getting a bank job, which transferred him to Hong Kong in 1994. “I came on a Saturday and was fired by Tuesday,” he laughs. Stranded in Hong Kong and straddled with debt, he began working at a night club. After gaining clout within the nightlife community and high rollers, he developed a password in order for people to gain admission into his exclusive parties. The password was Bluefish, which would go on to become the name of his company, a group that creates customized concierge experiences. Around this time, he found his governing principle, “If there’s no passion, there’s no point. I actually have it painted on a wall in my office,” he says.
Fast forward two decades and this principle still guides his life. A large component of this philosophy deals with presenting one’s authentic self at all times. He recalls that he toned himself down for a bit, opted for a Bentley instead of a motorcycle and a suit instead of his normal garb. This ended up negatively impacting his business and no one could understand why. “When I changed back into my normal self, the clients returned. They couldn’t even put their finger on why they had stopped doing business with me,” he remarks, “Being me is so bloody easy, it takes no effort for it to be me.”
An additional component of his philosophy involves keeping the entrepreneurial fire burning by only doing the things he likes. “I do what I like and outsource everything else. I focus on doing just what I’m good at. When I do this, I go from maybe 10% productive to 60 or 80% productive,” he claims. Steve is also very aware of the people he lets into his space, citing that he will only interface with people who are incredibly passionate. He often opts to perform The Chug Test. In short, if a client was across the street, he assesses whether or not he would run across the road to catch up with the client and possibly chug down a coffee or beer, “I have turned away clients if they fail this test. I also ask my team members to put our potential clients up to this test.”
While entrepreneurs may view this as unreasonable or hard to maintain, Steve argues that it’s just like building a habit, like jogging or some other form of exercise. Just like the password became a filter to ensure that only the people who he liked could get into the parties, this test ensures that he only works with people who share his sense of passion and purpose. “This may come off as rude but that’s not my intention. This is my life; I’m going to die one day and I want to enjoy every single minute I’m alive.”
How do you live with passion? Tweet us with your answers @PaperNapkin and click below to listen to this podcast.
We’ve all seen it before: the big houses, the flashy cars and the stories of how entrepreneurs made their millions, spread across the glossy pages of magazines. While this may look like success, Dave Mammano thinks there's a little more to it than that. Founder of NextStepU, an organization that helps teenagers plan their future, he explains how to live a more fulfilled life and reclaim hours in your day.
The road to this discovery began in college, where Dave initially majored in pre-dentistry. “My mother’s cousin was a dentist. He had a red Porsche and a big house, so I decided that I wanted to be one too,” he explains. After an unfulfilling internship, Dave really began to evaluate what he wanted to do and readjusted accordingly. His reasoning was not an anomaly; he finds that many teens base their career planning around what will make them the most money versus what will make them happy. Unfortunately, sometimes the same holds true for many entrepreneurs.
Back in 2010, Dave realized he was focusing all of his energy into his business and not enough energy into some of other the important areas of life. Once this began to take a toll on his health, he made it a point to intentionally design the life he wanted. “Because entrepreneurs are wildly creative and somewhat ‘ADD’, this was a challenge,” Dave confesses. After joining the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO), he decided to take a step back and made his internal well-being a number one priority.
Dave encourages entrepreneurs to do regular internal audits to evaluate what success looks like to them. “To me, success is not what I amass in material goods. Rather, I measure it based on what I have internally. I think this is the number one recipe for success and happiness,” Dave explains. But with the hustle and bustle of today’s plugged-in world, how is this possible? “I encourage the teens I talk to, to do something that will scare the living bejeezus out of them. I tell them to put away their phones and any kind of technology. I tell them to go for a walk in the woods and think about what they like to do, what their values are and how they can map out a plan to make that happen.”
Introspective reviews can be tough. So, Dave has developed a system to assist with measuring his internal happiness and personal progress on a week by week basis. Journaling and meditation is fundamental to this process. Additionally, he holds himself accountable and works with an accountability partner to make sure he stays on track. He asks himself: What makes me happy and healthy in the areas that are important? “A healthy, happy entrepreneur is one who balances the work, the family, friends, faith and what not.” While this will vary from person to person, it’s essential for entrepreneurs to plan this out like it is a business to avoid neglecting some of the things that should take precedent.
In addition to improving his mental well being and interpersonal relationships, this structure allows him to “suck the juice” out of every minute. Within these journaling sessions, he plans out his goals for the each day of the week, month and year. He believes that this allows him to be more focused and organized.
Learn more about Dave’s system and experiences by listening to the podcast below!
Welcome to Episode 1 of The Entrepreneur Family, a new channel focused on how entire families share in the entrepreneurial journey and how it impacts not just the entrepreneur but their loved ones as well.
Entrepreneurship requires that a risk-taking individual embark upon a journey: to launch their own business, using their own innovative ideas, in order to eventually earn a viable profit. Entrepreneur Amrit Mansahia discusses in detail with us her business journey, and the challenges she faced along the way. Specifically, she notes that most challenges are unforeseen, and only appear once the entrepreneur is already deep into the process.
Amrit Mansahia explains how one’s family is equally affected by the launch of a new business. Throughout an entrepreneur’s journey, there is more than one individual along for the ride. She says, “It is not me who is failing or succeeding; it is we.” As a spouse, both partners are on the journey together; it is a family affair.
The journey began for Amrit Mansahia when she was a graduate with an entrepreneurship bachelor’s degree, and a supportive husband by her side. They both embarked upon terrific jobs, working for others, until her husband had the idea of the spouses starting their own business. Amrit agreed, even though they had the responsibility of a new baby to also consider. Both spouses quit their jobs and began the business. Immediately, the struggles ensued: long work hours, no income, no money for basic necessities, including baby diapers. Amrit notes, “In one’s own business, there are so many tasks to complete simultaneously.” Focus and balance are very important, because every action and decision depends on and directly effects another action and decision.
Amrit Mansahia describes the entire entrepreneur journey as a rollercoaster ride, with many ups, downs, and unknowns along the way. However, in the end, she observes that having a viable company to call her own is worth the difficult journey it required, of not only her and her husband, but their entire family as well.
What would you do if there were no rules or set path to achieving success? In this podcast, Matt Ward explains his philosophy behind his theory that there are no rules. “In life and business, there are set patterns,” he explains,”but at the end of the day, you can do what you want to do.” And he would know -- Matt started out as an engineer but now runs an ecommerce company.”I was always the straight A student, really rules focused, a bit of a nerd. Great at math and science, not so great at English,” he admits.
After becoming dissatisfied with the corporate world and discovering his love for crowdfunding and ecommerce, he began exploring the idea that rules should be abandoned. He happened upon the idea after reading Eckhart Tolle’s bestseller (and Oprah approved) “The Power of Now”. The book asserts that there is no past because it's over, and there is no future. Additionally, Tolle believes that most problems technically don’t exist because they’re in the future. This was a life changing revelation for Matt, who ended up on a completely different course than the one he started on.
As the head of a Fulfilled By Amazon company, he breaks down how Amazon has broken the rules and subsequently changed history. While competing giant Ebay encouraged people to bid on items, Amazon allowed people to get the best product for the lowest cause. “Raw efficiency... makes things really easy for consumers and is one way Amazon is breaking the rules,” he says.
Matt also believes that many entrepreneurs are victims of analysis paralysis, “You don’t have to be perfect to launch. Perfectionist syndrome keeps people on the beaten path. You [end up] holding yourself back. That’s the main difference between “wantrepreneurs” and “entrepreneurs.”
He encourages entrepreneurs to change course if something isn’t working, a lesson he learned after stopping his crowdfunding story.
He leaves budding entrepreneurs with this advice, “Go do something stupid so that you’ll learn incredible things from it. Set outlandishly large goals. Plan goals over the next 12 months while having this mind set. If you shoot for the moon and get 10% of the way there, you’re going to have a hell of a success story… assuming you have a rocket.”
Check out the whole conversation.
The concept of working a 9-5 position isn’t ancient. You may not realize it, but it’s actually only a few generations old. While people in the 1500s certainly had trades and appointed positions, the work force looked very different prior to the Industrial Revolution.”The concept of going to a big dark building was so foreign  years ago. [But] in the last five to ten years, there has been a shift. Entrepreneurship is the future,” explains Clay Hebert, marketing and growth hack expert.
Prior to the turn of the century, the folks who approved or denied access to certain opportunities - otherwise known as gatekeepers - were the game changers. And although they still exist, Hebert believes they are a lot less relevant than they were in those days, stating, “All of the gatekeepers are gone. Except one. You are the last gatekeeper.” In this podcast, he explains his philosophy behind the quote, along with ways entrepreneurs and creatives can begin to rethink how they view gatekeepers.
Gatekeepers follow the standard rules and procedures that have been around for ages, which means that sometimes “[they] don’t have good taste”, he notes. In fact, J.K. Rowling’s first book in the Harry Potter series was cast aside by publishers and picked up by his daughter, who begged him for a sequel. Hebert came to this revelation after leaving his decade long position with consulting firm Accenture. “I worked with awesome, brilliant people, but they didn’t value entrepreneurship like I did,” he recounts.
In 2009, he studied under Seth Godin’s alternative MBA program and went on to help brands and individuals with digital marketing. After helping a friend hold a successful Kickstarter campaign for a film she was directing, he began to realize how gatekeepers were slowly going out of vogue. “In order to make her film, she needed to raise $30,000 for post production costs. But there were gatekeepers telling her no. With my help, she got past them and found another way.” The film went on to be shown at festivals and win awards, further cementing his idea that gatekeepers were a thing of the past.
Of course, some gatekeepers are useful. “I want to be sure that my pilot is trained and certified, and isn’t some hipster guy from Brooklyn that just randomly decided he wanted to fly a plane,” Hebert jokes. However, when it comes to more creative and entrepreneurial pursuits, he believes that people simply need to get out of their own way.
A big part of this is monitoring what you consume and becoming a gatekeeper for yourself. Whether it’s the latest vacation photos from an old high school friend on Facebook or the salacious headline in the paper, it’s important for entrepreneurs to keep a pulse on what they are “ingesting”. “99% of people don’t care about you or what you do. And that’s great news,” Hebert says, “Ignore them. so you can give value to the 1% that do care. That’s hard to do when you’re ingesting all of that noise.” He encourages entrepreneurs to subscribe to author Kevin Kelly’s concept of finding and nurturing 1000 true fans, while building from the ground up.
Click here for a special bonus gift from Clay Hebert and make sure to listen to the podcast.