"Wow! You're short!"

Why, yes. Yes, I am.

Let me be a little more specific. At *cough* (adult) years old, I'm about 4'8", or roughly the size of your average 5th grader. I am officially a little person, as defined by Little People of America. I'll be very clear and candid about the fact people still can be pretty cruel about that. But in so many ways, being vertically challenged has been an invaluable teacher. I probably could write dozens of posts about what I've taken from it overall, but these are some of the most precious lessons I've learned from dwarfism you can take into your business.

1. Be open-minded.

Cabinets I can't reach. Constantly questing for the holy grail of a "regular" chair where my feet don't dangle and my back actually touches. Those things remind me every day that I'm physically the odd woman out. But you can't simply stop living your life--or end up sacrificing business resources or morale--because things aren't a great fit. You have to find alternatives to what doesn't work, and you can only do that if you twist the Rubik's cube every possible way and give different creative options a shot.

2. Don't be afraid to ask for help or tell others what your needs or ideas are.

As a little person, I can be pretty ingenious (see 1 above). But guess what. It's still sometimes hard for me to see the display on POP card readers or reach down into a top-loading washing machine. I still can't string my own Christmas lights near my ceiling, even when I'm on a step ladder. Those kinds of real, daily living issues, along with some of the medical conditions often found in little people, are why dwarfism is a recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act. So I've accepted that asking for help isn't a matter of lost pride. It's protecting myself, valuing me enough to voice my preferences, push for opportunity and be all of who I am. And in business, when you logistically can't be everywhere at once and aren't a subject matter expert in everything, it's okay to call in the cavalry. Try to do it all or stay silent about concerns and things will fall apart.

3. Don't be the square trying to fit into a circular hole.

Newsflash. I will never be able to slam dunk like Michael Jordan. But you can bet I could stand in for Little Cosette in Les Miserables or be the one adult in the room kids aren't scared to talk to. I don't waste my time or energy trying to be like "normal"-sized people, because I'm a better fit elsewhere. In the same way, good businesses find what no one else can do. They might borrow or build on what other companies have accomplished, but they always can point out the way they're not the same as "the other guy". Learn about yourself, discover your talents and skills, and embrace your ability to fill a need the big guys aren't. That's the entire heart of branding.

4. You have to have some faith in yourself.

When you do things differently, the way I have to because I'm small, you're often in uncharted waters. There isn't necessarily going to be a sea of mentors for you to turn to. You have to figure things out on your own, trust your gut and do what works for your business, not the other guys'. Remember through that process that mistakes aren't failure. They're just learning opportunities.

5. If you commit to proving critics wrong, you probably will.

One of the most irritating things about being a little person is that strangers often take one look at me and decide what I can and cannot physically do, not hesitating to verbalize their initial assessments. In my experience, they equate being little with weakness or, worse, incompetence. So it has become a personal mission of mine to be strong and challenge their conventions. I train at home 6 days a week. I ran two half marathons this summer and now use heavier weights in my sessions than my husband does. I'm still not going to beat King Kong. But pound for pound, I surprise people. And in business, if you work hard, if you come to the drawing board every day and creatively face the tough stuff with everything you've got, the odds of your company getting stronger over time are pretty dang good, too.

6. Integrity is a magnifying glass.

As a little person, I've faced my share of insults and discrimination. But it's because of those experiences that I treat people with respect, honesty and equality. I know how it feels to get the opposite, and I don't want others to feel that way. And because I behave with that mindset, one of my closest friends gave me the ultimate compliment: "The way you talk and what you do, you've never seemed small to me." If you do the right thing by your workers and your customers, they'll notice. They'll feel valued. They'll trust you. And when you have their trust, you have their loyalty, and that's everything.

7. People aren't always going to acknowledge the extra work you do.

Because I am tiny, I have to make a lot of accommodations others don't. (Seriously. I'd wager you don't climb on your counter to reach snacks, and I've stepped onto stools so many times my keester should make Jillian Michaels jealous.) But in a typical day, most of those accommodations remain unseen. Business isn't that different. You're not always going to get a pat on the back when you stay late or do more research or revisit your PowerPoint. But that's okay. Because it's not about the pat on the back. It's about pulling the best out of yourself and being able to look back without regret.

Being a little person has its challenges. But little isn't the same as insignificant, and I think that if I weren't a little person, I wouldn't be as big as I am, in or out of the office. So my final piece of advice to you is, it's all a matter of perspective. You can either think small and convince yourself that the dirt beneath you is all there is, or you can look up and see the universe of self-actuated possibility above you. And believe me, the latter is a much more beautiful and fulfilling scene to strive to.