The question I’m asked most often as an entrepreneur is some variant of “what do you wish you could tell your younger self?” There are a lot of things I would tell my younger self. But I’m not sure if my younger self would even listen to me—and that’s a good thing. Because the only way to truly learn and understand lessons is to live them and gain the wisdom that comes with experience, and wow, have I had a lot of experiences!
While advice like “follow your own path” is a dime a dozen these days, I think it’s important to share the insights that come with experiences, as you never know who needs to hear them. I co-founded CatalystCreativ eight years ago with my best friend Robert Fowler and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, and I find myself reflecting on nearly a decade’s worth of stories now more than ever, as I transition from CatalystCreativ’s CEO, to the chairwoman of our new board.
And from those stories, here are a few things I learned along the way.
- Surround yourself with people you actually want to spend time with (and work with). You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and we spend most of our time at work—why shouldn’t we enjoy the company of those we work with? When Robert and I started CatalystCreativ, we were told to not work with our friends. I don’t think that’s necessarily good advice. But I do believe that in order to work with your friends you need to realize how you fit together, and recognize the unique gifts you each possess, so that you can grow together. The way to work with friends is to recognize their strengths, accept your weaknesses, and continue to grow as individuals and as an organization, complimentarily and together.
- Time is your greatest resource. I thought that time was an unlimited resource, until I had a child. I have always had endless energy and have been boundless my whole life. I’ve taken trains, flown hundreds of thousands of miles on planes and automobiles to sit down with clients, give talks at universities, meet with team members, and yet once I had my son in January (right before a pandemic), I realized that my time is precious—and so is everyone else’s! Anything I spend my time on needs to be strategic. Having the right people in the right places is the most crucial and important thing to remember about succeeding as a company. This means recognizing the importance of assessing and determining the best roles and accountabilities for each person based on what they are good at and what they love to do.
- Always look to grow. When thinking and planning for this transition over the past two years, it was important that each of us on the team looked to determine what made the most sense for us as individuals and then the company. As I looked at what I was best at—looking at the high level opportunities, assessing those opportunities, and determining how we can benefit as an organization—I realized that while I could perform the day-to-day operations of a CEO, it was not something that I was extremely passionate about. This required a lot of growth. After eight years of doing the same job (in a lot of different ways), it was important for me to push myself to what worked best for me, as well as the organization.
- Let go of what was in order to let in what will be. This is a big lesson for me, and something I have been repeating over and over again during the pandemic. Sometimes you think you know what the future holds, but your perception of the future is based on your understanding of the past. When you let go of what you think is best in order to make room for what can be, and you collaborate with those you trust and care about, things are probable that you didn’t know were possible.
- Be grateful. This seems like an easy one, but it becomes more of a challenge as things get harder). I have been forever in gratitude for those who have helped us get to where we are today. We would be nothing without the community and network of people that have helped us get here. You have made us who we are and we can't wait to continue to support you!
I am so excited to see what’s in store for us over the next eight years, and I am so excited to watch my partner Robert step into the role he was made to take on, as CEO of CatalystCreativ! I will be there every step of the way, but perhaps a bit more to the left than the center.