You’re Good Enough, Smart Enough and Doggone It, People Like You
4 minute read
That mantra was introduced into popular culture by a 1990s “Saturday Night Live” character named Stuart Smalley, who mindfully recited his daily affirmation into an ornate, full-length mirror. While my twenty-something self (at the time) enjoyed the sheer comic value of Stuart’s shtick, it was later in my life that I would realize the indelible impact that Stuart’s words had on me. In fact, they were a small seed planted in my mind that foreshadowed my entrepreneurial success with Hint.
Today, millions of individuals are choosing to become entrepreneurs. In our lifetime, we may never see more career reassessments and pivots than those taking place during this COVID pandemic, which is already showing signs ofoutpacing even the 2008-2010 Great Recession in new business creation.
Many of these new founders are just where I was back in the early ‘00s, starting down the entrepreneurial path a bit later in life. Let’s call them unlikely or accidental entrepreneurs. That’s how I saw myself – and still do! It wasn’t my vision from birth to start a company. I was in my mid-thirties when I launched Hint (with three young children; pregnant with my fourth), and like many new entrepreneurs that I’ve talked to this past year, I was embarking on a business where my curiosity and determination far outstripped my expertise in the industry I was entering.
For these newly minted founders, Stuart Smalley’s Daily Affirmation may be just the tonic to keep them going, as all the naysayers and doubters and skeptical industry veterans (you know, the folks who always know exactly how things should get done) interject themselves on the road to success.
My own story is a tale of grit, perseverance and a lot of asking questions, starting with “how?” and “why?” I went from being a tech executive with a dependency on diet soda to a founder of a company, staking out an entirely new category in the beverage industry – one truly based on health. Initially, everything I knew about beverages was based on a sample of one. I was addicted to sweet diet drinks, and I had convinced myself that the word “diet” on the label meant that the product must be healthy. It didn’t take me long to figure out that it was anything but. And my gut was telling me that many other consumers were being confused in the same way.
So I went to work, asking questions and searching for the right solution. Within months, the first bottles of Hint hit the beverage aisles in San Francisco. Fast-forward sixteen years later, Hint is the fastest-growing independent beverage company in the country.
Here’s what I’ve learned in that decade and a half, and this is what I recommend to the next generation of accidental entrepreneurs:
- Experience is a double-edged sword. When you know what’s possible because you’ve been there, you know onlywhat’s possible because you’ve been there. History tells the story of boundaries being pushed and breakthroughs being achieved by fresh, curious minds. Don’t underestimate the power that comes with asking questions – and with questioning legacy thinking and long-held industry practices.
- Everyone has fear and doubts. The key is pushing past them. The best athletes in the world; the greatest virtuoso concert violinists; the most lauded actors and performers – they all have DOUBTS. That never goes away. But the successful ones amongst them face their fears and don’t cower from challenges.
- It’s okay to fly the airplane while you’re building it. In fact, it’s necessary. If you’re waiting for all the stars to align, you’ll never get your business idea off the ground. As long as you can deliver on your product’s basic promise – its core benefit to consumers – you’re ready. Just start. Because guess what: you can never succeed if you don’t start!
And to Stuart: thanks for the advice. We’re all good enough, smart enough, and likable enough, doggone it. This next-generation of entrepreneur – whether they’re a newly-fangled bagel store owner who used to be in IT; or the stay-at-home mom now starting a college prep business; or the long-time HR professional working out that long-repressed aggravation by opening a karate dojo – they should similarly remind themselves that anyone can do it if they have the passion, curiosity and determination to make it happen.
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