Now vs Later (or What It Takes to Be An Industry Leader)

I had a mentor who once told me, “The thing about you, Liene, is that you see things about three to five years before other people start to.”

I rolled my eyes at him. I was frustrated because the board of directors I was serving on at the time just flat out didn’t get the urgency of moving on a particular situation. I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t see what I did. His words didn’t really make me feel better. We didn’t have three years. 

Except that we did. Well, no, actually we didn’t. It is true that we had the time in that we waited the three years to start to even think about taking action. But because of the board's reticence to move on anything, we ended up missing a key opportunity to set the community’s pace and tone of solutions, hurt our position as leaders in the field, and ultimately paid the price of "too little, too late."

The saying, “everyone wants what everyone wants” is generally true and the bills that need to be paid today, this month, this year tend to drive strategies that reflect that adage. The problem with this is that people often don’t know what they want until you show them.

The bigger problem is that if you’re playing where everyone currently is, they (and you) are being led by someone else. This means your long-term strategies are ultimately being driven by someone other than you. 

There is a bit of "both/and" at work here in that the reality is you do have bills that have to be paid both this year and in twenty years. It’s simply not an either/or scenario. If your strategy only reflects the first though, you will ultimately be the one playing catch up. You will be the one experiencing the painful reality of too little, too late.

If you’re a visionary, you’re both a trendspotter and a trendsetter, and you see things before others do. This means doing things that people don’t necessarily understand now, but will later. It means that, for now, others may get louder applause, or more followers, or more features in Vogue than you do. It means you’ll spend money on things with no guarantee that they’ll work. It means you're willing to do things differently than everybody else is now because you want to be the one who is around later.

Being the leader who sets the standard for the rest of the industry can be risky, frustrating, and not always an ego boost. It’s worth it. Don't settle.

Originally published February 2015

Limitless Creativity

One of the fastest ways to limit your creativity is to behave as though your experiences represent everyone else’s:

“I’m not booking as many clients this year, so everyone who is “busy” must be lying or charging next to nothing.”

“I had a terrible experience with this airline, therefore no one should fly them ever again.”

“I had a great experience at this restaurant, so everyone who says they’re treated rudely there must be high maintenance.”

“My millennial employee showed up late and Snapchatted all day, therefore everyone in this generation has a weak work ethic.”

“I didn’t qualify for that college scholarship even though I was top of my class, so the educational system is a failure to everyone.”

“But he was nice to me . . .”

The most creative people allow their perspectives to be challenged, are empathetic, choose not to harden their minds or hearts, and understand that their worldview is not the end-all and can always be broadened.

If you want to be more creative, you have to ask better questions and listen more deeply, both to those around you and to the stories of people outside your immediate circle of family and friends.

More importantly, you have to allow that their side of a story may have a certain element of truth to it even if it doesn’t completely line up with how you’ve understood things to be.

Originally published August 2014

Better Than You Found It

If you create something – anything – you will be judged for it. People will love it and people will hate it. Some people will love you and some will decide they hate you (both this love and hate of you personally will be, of course, largely based on assumptions and a story they invent, not on who you actually are).

Your ideas don't have to drastically change the world in order to impact it. If you create something that makes life more enjoyable for someone, or easier to navigate, or allows them to grow their business in a meaningful way or spend more time with the people they love, you will have helped make the world a better place than it was before.

If you allow the fear of what others think of you to win out, all you're left with is a life of solely consuming what others have created and squandering your own potential.

Delight in what others have created, but take the leap to create something of your own. You – and the world – will be better for it.

Originally published July 2014