I'm inspired by entrepreneur Tina Roth Eisenberg, the extraordinary founder of swiss-miss.com (popular creative blog), Friends Work Here (co-working space in Brooklyn for creatives), TeuxDeux (online to-do list extraordinaire), Creative Mornings (monthly lectures and networking for the creative community happening in 121 city chapters globally) and Tattly (temporary tattoos for the design conscious). In her 2013 SXSW keynote, Tina outlined her 11 rules for how she lives her entrepreneurial life (that is, how she can put her design clients on hold, be a wife and mother and make money while doing the things she loves). Tina's rules are:
- Invest your life in what you love
- Embrace enthusiasm
- Don't complain, forget it or make something better
- Trust and empower
- Put experiences before money
- Surround yourself with like-minded people
- Step away from ego and collaborate
- Ignore haters
- Make time to think and breathe
- If an opportunity scares you, take it
- Be someone's eccentric aunt
Tina's Rule Number 1: Invest In What You Love
Life's too short to be spending the majority of your waking hours doing something you don't love. And in line with that, it is never to late to start your career again. I was a corporate attorney from 1991 to 2002. I dabbled in banking, insolvency, real estate, and M&A before finding my legal groove in CMBS (corporate mortgage-backed securities). I ultimately hit the legal career wall in 2001/2002. My first career reboot happened in 2004 when I shifted sides of the law firm ledger moving from revenue generator (lawyer) to cost center (management). In hindsight, those five years in law firm management were training ground for my "execute big vision with no resources" entrepreneur future. Second career reboot was in 2009 when I became the first president of global business networking group 85 Broads (now Ellevate). This role was an opportunity to apply my community building know-how outside the narrow world of big law--to put theory and some experience into bigger action. The year with 85 Broads also pushed me forcefully out of my career comfort zone that has then again propelled me into unchartered career waters. I'd convinced myself since law school that being the reliable number 2 in the back was the professional path for me when really, what I love is making decisions and being out front. While I've done really satisfying work over the past few years as co-founder of a startup accelerator and interim CMO of startup (as well as taking time for a few personal side projects), I know I'm still zigging and zagging toward my ultimate dream career and I know what I really love is:
- Investing in the success of others
- Building on nascent opportunities
- Inspiring action within communities of interest
- Creating mutually beneficial connections
Tina's Rule Number 2: Embrace Enthusiasm
Fewer facial muscles are used smiling vs frowning or who wants to work with a grumpy person? I know the only reason I could get any junior associates to work on my CMBS transactions when I was a corporate attorney, was my enthusiastic ability to sell the learning opportunity for them from working on my transactions. More opportunities have come my way because of curiosity, a willingness to hear someone out and encouraging enthusiasm for new ideas.
Tina's Rule Number 3: Don't Complain
Complainers talk and talk and talk, then talk some more. Guess what? Nothing changes through simply taking. I'm action-oriented: take action, be the change or drop it and move on (or go back to Rule 2, as you have not mastered it yet).
Tina's Rule Number 4: Trust and Empower
Tina has built her own Swiss Army: incredible employees, colleagues, friends she wants to work alongside and a global community of creative chapter leaders. She's done this by empowering them with her own unique vision and enthusiasm. I love to mentor talent. I want to everyone who has worked with me to be better than I ever will be. For me, empowering people I've worked with to trust their inner vision and to pursue their big ambition, is my ultimate win.
Tina's Rule Number 5: Experiences Before Money
I always say to entrepreneurs who are pitching for funding "what do you need other than money, as let's face it, we can all use more money!". No one will turn down a windfall, so if not money, what's your driving force? What really fuels your career passion? My friend Nilofer Merchant once told me to create what she called a "No Fluorescent Light List", that is, a list of the tangible as well as intangible things you want and don't want more of in your career on a day-to-day basis. What's the physical space you want to walk into everyday? Are you working at home and talking to the fridge (as Tina experienced before starting studio mates, the precursor to friends work here) or is there something bigger you need to experience in terms of human or physical or emotional interactions in order to propel you forward? A paycheck takes care of the practical needs, but what's feeding your professional soul?
Tina's Rule Number 6: Surround Yourself With Likeminded People
This is not group-think or isolationism! Opportunities come your way because you put yourself in front of them and that usually means putting yourself in front of other people. And being in front of people does not mean a tweet, like or simply commenting on a blog post like this one. Likeminded people keep you top of mind, watch your back, carry the trust torch in the locations where you can't physically be--see Rule Number 4. They are the people you've looked in the eye, embraced, listened to and broken bread with. Who is your tribe? Are they in tune with your ambitions? I've learned that communities of interest shift, evolve and change and we need to transform or enter into new communities of interest to expand our personal and professional opportunities.
Tina's Rule Number 7: Step Down From Ego and Collaborate
No one ever makes it on their own and there are not more than 24 hours in a day: you can be assured that neither of these truisms is going to be disrupted by technology. My ego has gotten in the way more times than I care to document publicly. Pride, perception of public perception as well as not asking for help is all ego getting in the way. The "poor me won't anyone acknowledge what I've done" has been my ego gone amuck story a few times. Stepping down from the ego stepladder and embracing collaboration is easier when you have surrounded yourself with a truly supportive tribe. Right now, as I wrestle with articulating what it is I want to do and what my future career ambitions are, I rely on a handful of really close friends and advisors--the ones I can shed the pride with, and admit mistakes to. As I am lucky to live by Rule No. 6, I know these people have my back.
Tina's Rule Number 8: Ignore Haters
Haters and FOMO suck good productive energy and force you to violate Rule Number 3. Give your limited and valuable time up for the good stuff only.
Tina's Rule Number 9: Make Time To Think And Breathe
Like Tina, I'm terrible at this, so here is what I'm doing about it:
- I need to take walks to clear my brain so I schedule calls and talk them "on the road" or "in the park".
- I book tickets for gallery tours or museum visits. What's better than looking at art to clear out the tech and work clutter?
- When I'm in New York on a weekend, I cook. Cooking for me is mental relaxation therapy.
- I love the Brainwave 32 Binaural Programs app.
- I say YES more selectively and NO more forcefully.
Tina's Rule Number 10: If An Opportunity Scares You, Take It
Public speaking used to scare me so much I'd never do it. Never. It was the one definite NO out of my mouth for years. Nope to speaking - not as a panelist, workshop facilitator, keynote or even moderator until 2004 when I was required to step up to the podium as part of new job. I still get anxious when I have a speaking gig but I attribute that to wanting to deliver a great experience for the audience, every single time. You took the time to come listen, I owe it to you to make it worth your valuable time. Unnecessary fears hold us back from achieving more of what we want in our careers (for me, a horrid moot court experience in my second year of law school, triggered the 14+ year fear of public speaking), so assess what your are scared of, now.
Tina's Rule Number 11: Be Someone's Eccentric Aunt
Tina had a fabulous aunt who during Tina's childhood opened her eyes to the many possibilities beyond the town she grew up in. We all need someone who not only opens our eyes to a bigger career platform, worlds away from our inner inhibitions but also encourages us in creative, enthusiastic and delightful ways to chase audacious ambitions. Do you have a non-judgmental cheering section (and whose potential are you passionately cheering on)? My "eccentric aunts" range from an incredibly supportive younger brother and his fabulous wife, to numerous BFFs in New York, Brooklyn and beyond, to a former "boss" who I regularly meet for breakfast, as well as the incredible young women in tech I get to mentor (or are they mentoring me?). Seek out eccentric aunts and become one, your career will thank you.