I oftentimes think about how my mother raised me to become the person I am today. Not only was she a single parent, she was also an immigrant new to the country. Through her drive and dedication, my mother had the biggest impact on how I choose to spend my time. From a young age, she instilled the values that would help me become not only a determined business owner, but also a caring mother. Here’s what she taught me and how I’ve put those lessons to work.
Take Care of Those Around You to Be Truly Successful
My mother said that being rich, famous, healthy or smart is no fun if you’re surrounded by those who don’t share your luck. It is your duty to share your gifts with others. Give and you will receive even greater gifts in return.
My mother encouraged me to play the piano and violin every other weekend in nursing homes as well as in various churches. I volunteered at the hospital and gave out peanut butter sandwiches to the local homeless. Seeing people’s reactions taught me the importance of giving back. Servant leadership made a difference in the lives of others and also enriched my own life. This set a pattern of how to live a rich life. If you want your children to understand this practice, starting young will set them up for a lifetime of generosity and philanthropy.
Following this pattern, at my company GiftStarter, we regularly give supplies to the homeless, spend time mentoring others, and put 2 percent of what we earn towards supporting other startups and supporting education in the region.
Hard Work and Perseverance Win Over Pure Talent
My mother used to say that most people don’t work as hard as they can — so if you always give your best, you’ll beat out most people in whatever you want to do. Hard work means you’ll get better each time and accomplish something you’re proud of. Without hard work, you’ll end up with regrets. Whatever you do — from work to friendships to marriage — give it your all.
Having been brought up to expect that all good things in life require hard work, I go into most situations expecting to have to put in energy to be able to reap any reward. If something does not come easy, then I haven’t worked hard enough and I start pushing harder. With the company, we do everything to get work done and move on. We believe in hustle, data and doing the right things to get the work done. Our core values to support this including “be a no-ego doer,” and simply “get it done and move on.”
How You Look on the Outside Matters
People are often quick to judge based on outward appearances.
It’s not about how you look with clothes and makeup — it’s about how you communicate with facial expressions, body language and tone. While communication can be improved with training, there’s a lot of intrinsic information that’s communicated based on a person’s values and the state of their body and mind. For example, if a person has poor nutrition, hasn’t slept well or is depressed, that’s going to show no matter how well dressed they are.
The solution is to take care of your health. Eat good, healthy foods, exercise and drink lots of water. Listen with your heart first, then with your brain to what people are saying. When you do all that, how you interact with others will improve.
For my company, our core values support this: Always choose joy, focus on self-improvement, make time to refresh and reflect, and live smarter rather than harder. This helps employees not only feel better on the inside, but convey positive information outwards.
Money Doesn’t Make You Rich
Family and health are what make a person rich. No amount of money, fame or power can replace a loving family and good health. If a rich person is ill and being fed through a tube, do you think that person feels rich?
Today, this impacts me as a daughter, wife, sister and mother. I make sure my family has access to healthy foods and I do my best to spend quality time with them. Even when the world seems to be crashing down in my startup life, making sure I prioritize health and family is what keeps me sane and driving forward. I also know they are doing the same for me, showing their love by making sure I eat well, get regular hugs and sleep enough. It’s a circle: take care of others and they will take care of you. When you have an environment like that you can focus your energy on tackling any challenge that comes your way.
This also applies to small companies. When you work many hours with a team of people, you also want to look out for your their health and well-being. Work isn’t just about code and deliverables, but also taking the time to build whole relationships with each other.
Be a Champion for Your Own Happiness
When it comes to accomplishing life’s goals, you have to look out for yourself to make them happen. It’s similar to the saying that if you don’t have dreams of your own, you’ll work on making someone else’s dreams come true. Have a vision for yourself and stay true to it. If you’re in a job you don’t love, still work hard to do your best, but make small steps toward your goals through reading books, making progress on a project, training, or planning.
Working as a startup we want each of our members to be whole, healthy people. We want everyone to continually be getting better, so we support each other to do just that.
I recently had my first child, which offered me a crash course in motherhood. The joyful yet turbulent ride has shown me the love and sacrifice all mothers make. So here's to all the wonderful mothers who not only care for their children, but prepare their children to take on their dreams - thank you for all that you do.
Originally posted in the Huffington Post.
I wrote this during my third trimester with Lentil, and went back to this draft after we finished our "fourth trimester". Now we're close to our baby being 9 months old. What results is that it's a mix of my brain at that time, and some of my brain looking back at that time in hindsight.
Having a baby is a big deal. Having a baby while running a startup is an even bigger deal. When going through pregnancy, I learned some lessons that were applicable to both my journey as a new mother and as a startup founder. Here are a few:
3rd Trimester as it relates to Startup Lessons
1. It's a LOT messier that it looks. As cute as pregnant women look with their baby bumps, it doesn’t feel “that cute.” I stopped sleeping that last month before my child was born, so much so that I started hallucinating. The media portrays an idealistic, romantic image of running a startup company, with all the freedoms and joys being your own boss, when in fact, there’s a lot more grind involved. In the course of a single day, a competitor can suddenly copy your product, and you can land a big investor.
2. There are a lot of ups and down. When I was expecting, the hormones were flying through my body in epic proportions. I remember on our 500 Startups demo day, I ended up crying the whole ride there, smiling for hours once we arrived, then breaking down and crying in the bathroom, only to go back and smile some more. In the startup world, I wake up in the morning full of optimism, and then by 3 p.m., I can come crashing down, filled with doubt. By 7 p.m., I often have to pull together all the energy I have to pitch my company to strangers.
3. Organic versus interventions - nothing is free. There’s no going back. I learned that once doctors intervene with labor and the birth of the baby, there’s no going back. In the startup world, you need to have product-market-fit and a kickass product. I know many founders who practice all kinds of growth hacking to get their numbers to look just right, but many of growth hacks are just not sustainable.
4. Life is precious. It really is. There’s an unexpected feeling. Creating life with my husband has been magical. The child grows right before your eyes. As a founder, you create something out of nothing. Your existence is only thanks to the customers willing to pay for your product or service (and also to the employees, advisors and investors who work alongside you to make it happen). As a gift-giving service, we make handmade cards to go with every product we sell. I’m personally committed to ensuring each gift receives the best attention we can give, and I work side-by-side with those involved in our business every day.
5. You're the underdog. After having gone through miscarriages, making it to the third trimester made us feel like the underdog. Everything was about not messing it up. Data on the number of women CEOs is limited. Less than 5 percent of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. As a pregnant CEO, I was a minority among minorities. This impacted us, especially when fundraising. It meant we had to make hard decisions as a business to survive. I took out personal loans to cover us for a while. Ultimately, we had to reset and could no longer pay employee salaries.
6. Health and balance become even more paramount. The third trimester is all about health. You work like crazy during the day and prioritize sleep at night. The life of a CEO is about fast decision-making and being able to connect dots and make logical leaps. Even without pregnancy, startups are a marathon of endurance and diligence.
7. Choosing your battles wisely becomes even more important. Everything, from my hands to my feet, was swollen when I was pregnant. I had to be extremely practical, often wearing my husband’s clothing. When it came to my business, I had to prioritize according to the battles I could win and the battles that needed winning. I had to decide whether to change product direction or not. I had to cut spending by 50 percent or increase our fundraising efforts.
8. You're not that special... but you are. You develop a community of like-minded individuals. A woman’s pregnancy journey is very similar to that of other women. I joined various mommy groups because anytime I had a question, there was another person who had experience with it. Startups are born, grow to the next level, and mature in a pattern. Each startup company also has its own special experiences, market and product mix.
9. Critical thinking and understanding are essential. As the due date quickly approaches, everyone around you can start to get anxious. Everyone’s excited for the baby to be born! That anxiety also happens the longer you exist as a startup. It’s really important to keep your critical thinking skills sharp to be able to see what’s real (and what’s not).
10. Let it go. Let it go. And prioritize/focus. It’s about taking care of what needs to get done. Pregnancy is about taking care of yourself so you can have a healthy baby. In startups, it’s also just as much about what you do as much as what you choose not to do. For example, today I could have worked on our email marketing strategy more or I could have finished a landing page. It’s all about prioritizing and making decisions quickly.
Some themes that have repeatedly come up over the past week again and again:
Originally posted and seen in the Huffington Post.