Have you ever heard the proverbial expression, “God gave us two ears and one mouth so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak…”?
Gosh, it seems so cliché, but it is such a valid point. It took me years to figure out that listening leads to learning. When I began Pretty Girl Movement, LLC. I went into the venture with a false bravado. I had this ridiculous idea in mind that I knew everything I needed to know about business. How hard could it be? I Googled some stuff, read some books, and I knew basic math. My mentality was very narrow; I figured as long as I fully understood the term profit margin, then I was solid. I was aimlessly strolling along that yellow brick road in my sexy red slippers accompanied by my enthusiastic posse of followers.
Side note: You will find that when you start a business, especially when you’re under 30, people will want to jump aboard the train. Your peers will become enamored by your ambition. I would like to quote the wise and underrated rapper Mike Jones, “Back then h*** didn’t want me; now I’m hot h*** all on me.”
Do not allow the yes crew to affect your ego or your state of mind. The aforementioned leads me to my string of points:
- Keep your ego in check.
In chapter one “Ego: Needing to be the Smartest Person in the Room,” and page 37 of Judy Smith’s book “Good Self, Bad Self: How to Bounce Back from a Personal Crisis,” she writes, “An ego out of control can be incredibly isolating, because inherent in the problem is the belief that you are right, which makes you less likely to seek out the perspective of others”.
Unless you have Kanye West capital and Kanye West vision, then you should not have a Kanye West sized ego in business. My company has one investor. He is a former venture capitalist who has been chaired to numerous company boards, and he has managed a lot of capital. Yes – he has given me seed money, but more importantly, he gives me advice and insight. I remember one of our very first conversations. He expressed an interest in investing in Pretty Girl Movement. Initially, I was a sole proprietorship. I had a trademark, website, financial advisor, an attorney, and a copy of “Think and Grow Rich” in my toolbox. I thought I was set.
I was very wrong and very stupid.
Our first conversation led to a deflated ego and an opened mind. All it took was a string of questions: Do you know what a venture capitalist does? Do you understand how an investment will change the structure of your company? How much do you want? I can honestly say I didn’t know how to answer any of his questions.
Let’s play a quick game of two truths and a lie: 1) Johnny Depp was super-hot in 21 Jump Street – the 1987-1991 TV series not the revisited Channing and Seth version – 2) I secretly love Justin Bieber.
Side note: This is kind of a loaded truth because it isn’t really a secret; I am totally a Belieber. All of my co-workers are aware of my groupie tendencies. I am shameless. 3) I know everything about business, and I do not need any sort of mentorship. Allow me to put things into perspective for you. No matter how successful you become there is always going to be a more successful person listed in an issue of Forbes as #1 whatever. Hard and consistent work, especially displayed by the under 30 crowd, will lead to a momentum that attracts attention. Often times, the attention you receive will be from people who are more experienced and successful than you. If you are lucky enough to have one of those people recognize your potential and pull you aside, then you need to remember that aforementioned cliché about God and ears. Even Ryan Blair has a mentor. He says so in his New York Times bestselling book “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur.” Do not be that person who knows everything. Your best bet in a situation with someone who knows more is to keep a mindset that you don’t know anything. “I am not young enough to know everything,” courtesy of Mr. Oscar Wilde.
- Ask Questions. How else do you expect to get answers?
Don’t be an idiot.
Allow me to elaborate, because I promise I am not trying to be an insulting douche. People generally cater to this terrible inhibition of seeming unknowing or stupid. I have absolutely no idea why people allow such a ridiculous idea to consume them. Our ability to freely inquire is an innate human characteristic. Seriously, think about it. If the question had not been presented about the earth’s shape (i.e. flat versus spherical), then we would not have the luxurious Disney Cruise sailing tourists to the Bahamas; more importantly, we wouldn’t have Disney World.
Do not hinder your own ability to get answers. Perfect example, when my investor presented me with those questions, I could have flexed my false bravado. I could have pretended to know the answers. I mean Google is genuinely accessible to anyone. I could have easily Googled the answers to each of his questions. However, I didn’t choose that option.
Why? Because a superficial answer will never be as valuable as an experienced response. To further explain my point, think in terms of simple sentences versus compound sentences.
i.e. Spot ran. (Simple aka my Googled answer)
Spot ran because birds were chasing him down the street, and we all know birds are the serial killers. (Compound aka Investor’s insightful response)
Public Service Announcement: If you are under 30, then you have an exceptional advantage. People assume you that don’t know much anyway. Additionally, you will realize that people are so charmed by your youthful ambition that they will want to help you. Take all of the free help you can get, because once your youthful ambition begins to fade, those people begin to refer to themselves as professionals, and those casual conversations become consultations with a rate of $100+ per 45 minutes.
- Be receptive – Place the Rx before the Tx.
This is going to be my shortest, most forthright, and conclusive point. When someone is sharing insight with you, do not respond with, “I know.” Period. When you throw “I know” into a conversation, people subconsciously dismiss you. They don’t want you to know – that’s why they are Tx’ing. They just want you to Rx.
Allow me to share some more personal goodies with you all. Seeking out mentorship and listening has resulted in some pretty cool opportunities. I have received invitations to award shows; I have been blessed with free press on numerous occasion, and ultimately, I have learned a lot and I have met some pretty interesting people. Granted, I am not saying dive into any situation and act completely clueless. I am simply stating that you should approach every pedagogical opportunity with three basic concepts tucked in your back pocket: Keep your ego in check, Ask Questions, and Be receptive.
Stick these in your backpack for your stroll down the yellow brick road of entrepreneurship.
Jordyn Short is the CEO, Founder and Creative Director of Pretty Girl Movement, LLC. The 24 year old fitness enthusiast is an active duty soldier and college senior majoring in cyber-security at the University of Maryland University College. She is currently stationed in Washington, DC.
Image Credit: CC by Jonathan Powell