August 23, 2010

Lessons from a lifestyle entrepreneur



I'm enjoying Jane Pollak's book "Soul Proprietor: 101 Lessons From a Lifestyle Entrepreneur." Jane is a business coach who specializes in working with creative women entrepreneurs.

I first heard Jane speak when I was starting my jewelry business, and even though I'm no longer in a crafty field, I still find her lessons and insights to be helpful in building my business.

I especially appreciate her stories about her own learning experiences, candid and sometimes painful retellings of prideful and embarrassing stumbling blocks that only made her stronger, more persistent and more committed (I can so relate to standing in my booth for hour after hour, not selling a single item).

Here are a couple of Jane's lessons that you can easily apply to public speaking.

Lesson 5: What makes you unique makes you successful

"When I tell people that Arnold Schwarzenegger is my role model, they look at me as though I'm crazy.... He was told that no one in this country was interested in body building, that he had to lose his accent because no one would be able to understand him, and that he had to change his name, because how on earth was anyone going to remember Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Making my living as an egg decorator was not an easy path, but like Arnold Schwarzenegger, what makes me hard to comprehend, unique, and memorable is exactly what has made me successful."

Lesson 9: In changing what is into what can be, we learn what we need to know

"Entrepreneurship is not easy. I have endured near-empty bank accounts, rejections, humiliations, envy and despair. I don't like to talk about any of that. However, I find myself devouring any morsel of information written about someone else's bad experiences. I want a thorough description of how those people moved out of the dumps and moved on with their lives....

When I give a keynote speech now, I tell humorous stories about those early days, about my embarrassment when I stood alone in my booth for hours on end, and the audience members laugh with me....

There doesn't seem to be a kinder, gentler way to get to the end of the tunnel and see the light."

Lesson 16: Step out of your comfort zone when someone asks you to do something that seems hard

"At our May Grand Networking Event, I arrived early to set up the registration area. The president of EWN came over to me and said we were short on hostesses. Would I be willing to act as a greeter?

'What does that entail?' I stalled. 'Just go up to everyone you see, introduce yourself, and start talking.' It's that 'just' word again. Like it's so easy. So I took a deep breath and acted as if it were the most natural thing in the world for me to do. An amazing thing happened. Everyone I approached bought me as the hostess with the mostest; I watched each woman's face brighten because of the attention I was paying her."

Lesson 22: Attention to detail matters

"When I was describing the differences between white eggs and brown eggs, I paused. I knew that I had heard something about their nutritional value but couldn't remember. I knew that I could craft a sentence that disguised my lack of knowledge: Some people think that brown eggs have greater nutiritional value. Or: Brown eggs are often perceived to have greater nutritional value.

But sentence one made me feel like a fraud, and sentence two bored me....

I called the University of Connecticut -- well known for its agriculture department. A professor told me that the nutritional value is the same. I could now inform my students and my readers that there is no difference."

Lesson 90: Learn from each experience -- positive or negative -- and move forward.

"We had several meetings to discuss themes, materials, and direction for the line. I created sketches, drawings and finished paintings of the frame patterns. We met with a marketing person to help us position the line in the marketplace....

The glitch came when the factory overseas was unable to reproduce the colors in the designs I painted. Rather than working with porcelain, which has its own integrity, the factory was using a less expensive ceramic mold. The quality of the finished product was below the standards that both Gigi and I expected. Ultimately, after we both spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on the project, Gigi decided to pull the plug....

I have experienced several dead ends like this in my business. You could call them failures, but along the way they taught me what I can't do and what I'm not good at. They also have shown me which dream I need to discard and which dream I need to continue dreaming."

Check out Soul Proprietor here and Jane's blog here.

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Jane Pollak said...

I love the lessons you picked to share, Lisa. Thanks for the mention. Glad you're enjoying my book.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks, Jane. I hope my readers go pick up your book for all the rest of the great lessons!

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