ALWAYS be yourself … And if you don’t know who that is, figure it out … FAST!
It was a busy day at the dealership and I had just sold another! I was so excited, 3 months in the car industry and I was doing great! I was 18 years old and full of optimism! Due to an unhealed injury I wasn’t able to start my 6 year plan to become a “starving artist”. I had it all planned out, a 2 year program at George Brown that allowed me to enter into the 3rd year of a 4 year BFA program at York, in my 4th year at York I’d be able to enter into a 3 year apprentice type training program at the National Ballet of Canada to then be a highly trained, highly educated high OSAP loan holder that most likely couldn’t find work in my field.
At first, I was devastated. I was certain that this closing door would not be opening another … I couldn’t see myself in any other career. I never thought that I’d make a living as a dancer, but I loved it! Post secondary education was the next step for me and I still wasn’t able to answer the age old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. It didn’t make sense to spend thousands of dollars on an education when I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to be … So I chose to do what I loved, dance.
Lesson #1 Things won’t always go as planned, expect the unexpected.
Faced with this MAJOR ROAD BLOCK I had to think fast and come up with another “plan”. Dance was no longer an option and may never be an option again. I had to pick a career path, FAST. I immediately enrolled myself in a Radio Broadcasting program at The National Institute of Broadcasting. I knew that if I took a year off I’d never go back, school was never my thing. Radio Broadcasting was one of the other career paths I had considered while looking at Colleges and Universities. Now that I’d hooked myself into a program so I could stay in “school mode” I needed to find a job.
Naturally I ended up in customer service. Due to my lack of experience and formal education there were very few high paying customer service jobs available to me, so telemarketing it was! For 2 months I sold frozen meat and freezers to people I called directly from the phone book. If you ever want to master the art of sales and dealing with people try telemarketing, it’s quite a learning curve.
Still looking for something better, I interviewed at a company that completely misrepresented the position they were trying to fill. None the less, it was a step up from telemarketing and it was 100% commission, I could finally control my income! On my first day I was so excited, I followed my trainer through the mall and watched her walk up to strangers to sell them trial packages for whatever spas we were promoting that week. She was AMAZING! By the end of most interactions with her “prospects” she had sold not just 1, but 2 or 3 packages (nobody goes to the spa alone) and had become their best friend! This blew my mind! People were walking through the mall with no intention of purchasing a spa package and she would have them part with $50 per package on an impulse buy! People couldn’t say no to her … and after a couple days of watching people couldn’t say no to me either
Still wanting more and not wanting to walk up to strangers in Shopping Malls for the rest of my life, I came up with a new strategy. I was going to approach businesses instead of individuals! It was close to Christmas and these packages would be perfect gifts for employers to purchase for their key employees. My first week with this approach I sold enough spa packages buy my first car! This opened up my territory and increased my income, again. Week two in a different territory, still selling to businesses instead of individuals, I pitched a car sales manager on buying these packages as Christmas bonuses or as ongoing incentives for his top sales staff. He turned around and offered me a job. He said that if an 18 year old girl could walk into his showroom and convince him to purchase spa packages for a male dominant staff, he didn’t want his competition to find her first.
Lesson #2 Keep your options open
For the first month or so I felt out of place at the dealership. On the outside things looked pretty awesome. I had a “big girl job”, I was living on my own, I was making mountains of money while all of my friends were racking up debt in school and I was slowly starting to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The question changed … It was no longer “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I figured out that one was dumb I wanted to be me, duh … The new question was “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?”, that question was way more exciting!
While I figured out my new life plan I put my best foot forward at the dealership and started to get the hang of things. I still felt like a kid playing dressed up in her mothers clothes hanging out with a bunch of adults who at best tolerated her, but I was given a new “vehicle” to hone my existing skills and learn new ones.
This brings us back to where I started this post:
18 years old
full of optimism!
Then we moved locations, management changed and life at the dealership was horrible … What once was an easy going environment where I could continue to learn and grow had now turned toxic. I was brought into the sales managers office every day so they could dissected any deals I had made and ask me to justify everything I had done in the sales process and our Monday morning sales meetings had become a platform for public humiliation.
“Luckily” as all this was happening I received a call from someone I had met while selling spa packages. I use the term luckily lightly because I firmly believe we create our own luck. Had I not come up with a creative strategy to pitch businesses, I would not have made that connection and therefore would not have been “lucky” enough to get her phone call.
She had thrown her spa packages out by accident with the wrapping paper at Christmas and needed to know how to replace them . I explained to her that I was no longer at the company and connected her with someone that could help her. Because we had a pretty good rapport we chit chatted a little and I told her what had been going on at the dealership. She then asked me, if I kept my options open … DING DING DING DING!!! Of course I did! And the very next day I walked into the dealership and quit.
Lesson #3 It’s not what you know, it’s who you know and the connections that you make.
This is when things started to change for me. I entered a career in finance and met some key individuals who, in a short few years, taught me more than I couldn’t have learned in a life time sitting in a classroom. They helped me figure out that I was an entrepreneur.
At this point in my journey I was still 18 and still had a lot to learn. I had already figured out that I could never let another human being dictate what I was worth ever again, no one was going to tell me when I could and couldn’t go to the bathroom … and I was never going to go back to school for dance, or anything else for that matter.
I finally figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life … I wanted to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, however I wanted without having to ask for permission.
I quickly learned that in order to have this kind of lifestyle, I had to build a business. I was introduced to a concept called The Cashflow Quadrant. I was told that on the left side of the quadrant 95% of people who did all the work only made 5% of all the money. Which meant that on the right side of the quadrant the 5% of the people, who employed the people on the left side, made the other 95% of the money. The people on the right side of the quadrant leveraged their ideas and put systems in place so they didn’t have to trade time for money. This is how I planned to achieve my new life plan, freedom of time and money.
I spent another couple years in the financial industry learning from some of the most fascinating people and doing a lot of growing up. All of my friends were still in school, most just starting out, and now that I had decided not to go back they all thought I was crazy. GOOD!
Lesson #4 If people aren’t talking about you, it’s because you aren’t doing anything worth speaking of.
One of my mentors taught me that in order to succeed in anything you needed to have integrity and work-ethic. He always said “I can’t teach people not to steal and I can’t make them get out of bed”. I understood that concept right away, his statement was profound and has contributed in a big way to who I am today, without me even knowing.
Reflecting on his words and reviewing the past few years of both my personal and professional life have me wanting to take his statement one step further. I believe there is a third thing that will make or break you in life and business and that third thing is Authenticity. Nobody can teach you to be yourself, and people can smell a fake a million miles a way.
Be authentic, be yourself, and know that you are good enough.
I banged my head against a big brick wall for a few years in my financial career and never really knew why. It wasn’t until recently that I figured it out. I bought into the “fake it till you make it” facade, and just became a fake. I wasn’t authentic at all. I was giving other people advice on a topic I hadn’t even taken care of for myself yet. I was one way with my clients and colleagues and another way behind the scenes. It was exhausting and I could never figure out why. I felt that I had to be someone else in order to succeed in business when just being me would have been more than enough.
It wasn’t until I started doing the opposite of what I had believe I was supposed to be doing that I started to have success. I started putting all of my ducks in a row, I was in financial services so putting my own finances in order seemed like a good place to start. As I took that step giving financial advice to other people started to come more naturally and I started to feel more confident in what I was telling them to do, because I knew that it worked.
I stopped pretending that I had it all together and just started to do the best that I could with what I had.
I focused on my strengths instead of my weaknesses, but I never hid them to make myself look better.
I started to take ownership for things that happened instead of playing the blame game all of the time. A funny thing happens when you start to take ownership for things in life, you feel empowered.
I started making all of these tweaks along with many others and things just started to fall into place.
Eventually I stepped down from my career in finance, I’m still licensed, but I don’t play an active role in that industry anymore. It taught me a lot, and allowed me to figure out my strengths which led me to what I do now.
Lesson #5 Always be yourself
This lesson took me the longest to learn but has been the most valuable. I wrote this post a little differently than the others because I felt it was important to tell you who I am before telling you to authentically be who you are. In life and in business you are your most important asset. Do what comes naturally and know that who you are is good enough.
Always be yourself, and if you aren’t quite sure who that is yet don’t be afraid to take the time to figure it out. I promise you, it will be the most “profitable” thing you do.