I get a lot of criticism from people about how open I can be. Ever since I was a little kid I never understood why we would constantly spin our lives to make it look better than it was.
When I was working for a production company a few years back we were getting our ass kicked. It wasn't because of us, or our work, or our clients, but because the market was crumbling. Everyone had a camera and marketing directors were assuming great work just happened.
I would go to meeting with peers around the city and the story was always the same. 'We're killing it!' And when I asked how they were doing it, some of their answers were clearly demonstrating they were, but a bunch was superficial.
This style of conversation continued for me as I started this business and became more entrenched in the startup community. I understand it's not appropriate to go around and tell everyone and anyone about your problems, but I also feel like we're doing a poor job of being honest with each other.
There were a few months when I first started this company that I felt 100% like a failure. I had great clients, was writing every day, was making money, but I wasn't 'killing it,' the way I thought everyone else was.
I decided to reach out and ask for help. I called on coaches, and consultants, and educators and asked how they did it. My questions weren't soft. In fact, they were probably more invasive than most were used to. But I needed to know, what was I doing wrong?
And that's when I realized we were more or less all in the same boat. Sure some folks were ten plus years ahead of me and had built a stable funnel of clients and were able to project out more than a few months, but most of us were all worried about the same things--Losing our biggest client, losing our edge, wondering if our advice was really worth the money we were asking for, etc.
For someone starting out, it was more empowering than deflating. I knew I wasn't alone and that my perspective of 'killing it,' wasn't necessarily what was happening.
Which brings me to this post today. If you're starting a business, in the middle of building a multi-million dollar company or just went public, don't forget everyone around you isn't killing it. Heck, I"m sure a lot are just hanging on. The trick for us as leaders is to figure out who to reveal our thoughts, without disrupting the system in place. We don't want to sabotage our own business or reputation, but we also want to be open enough that we can have conversations about the hard things.
Which is why, when someone asks me how it's going, I'm usually answering: It's great for the spot I'm in right now. I wish there were some other things that were happening, but I realize it's a journey." And it's there that usually someone will bite and we'll go from 'life is so good I just booked a trip to Ibiza' to a real conversation that we both benefit from.
Curious about how to be a better storyteller? Check out the workshop I'm doing with Pitch Lab at General Assembly on November 13. We'll be focusing on how comedy can help you be a more engaging storyteller!
* Thanks for reading. I didn't do this in the past, but it's time to just admit it-- I'm dyslexic, can hardly spell my own name at times, and miss basic grammar every once in a while. So, please forgive me if there's a typo. What I do know is how to tell a story, which luckily for me doesn't always require writing.