For those who don’t know me I’m someone who develops habits, particularly with things I like. And when I like something, I become OBSESSED with it. Take a new song for example, I will listen to it repeatedly over a course of a few hours. I ordered rancheros huevos while out at brunch with friends a couple of months ago and I have become so enamored with the dish, I cook it for myself at least twice a week now. I would go as far as to say you can’t find a better tasting one anywhere else. That’s me…I fall in love with things I like, thrive to become the best at it, and either stick with it or lose interest and move on.
What’s my point? The word “change” is not at the top of my vocabulary list. I’ve put myself out of my comfort zone more in the last few months than I ever have and the level of on-going discomfort I’m experiencing is new. That said, I’m noticing I’m becoming more relaxed about the possibility of change, even embracing it sooner than usual in some areas. I’ve learned more about myself during these last three months than I have in years and this process has helped me figure out what I want and more importantly, what I DON’T want.
I’m an extremely private person and even being this open is different for me. Maybe I should add that to the list! As someone once said, “If you don’t create change, change will create you.”
Do or do not. There is no try. – Yoda
All of us in some form want to leave an impact on someone or something. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t want the satisfaction of making a difference. I would argue most of us lay out a time-consuming and complex plan on how we plan to accomplish this.
What if you made an impact on someone’s life without realizing it? Without even REMEMBERING it?
Let’s rewind about three weeks ago. It’s Friday night or my first ever Girl’s Night to be more specific. It was supposed to be three of us and a friend brought someone else along I’ll call Kim for this post. We introduced ourselves and started chatting. At one point, she leaned in close and told me we’ve met before.
“What? No, we didn’t.”
“Yes, we did,” she proclaimed. “Actually, you inspired me to become an entrepreneur.”
My jaw dropped. “When? Where?”
She went on to explain how we’ve briefly talked at a party three or four years ago. I was gushing about how I was about to start my Company. She said I was the first woman in technology she had met and she was so motivated by our conversation, she left her corporate job and started a web development shop right here in Philadelphia. At one point, she pulled out her phone and showed me that she still had my number saved from that night.
I was completely transfixed during our conversation, amazed that I had left an impression on someone without thinking twice about it or even knowing it. That I could have that kind of influence in such a small period of time.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. How many short encounters do we miss out on everyday that can truly transform someone’s life? How often do we ponder how our words and actions can leave a mark on others? Making a difference seems like a daunting task. As I’ve recently learned, sometimes it’s present in the small things.
At one point or another, we’re told to keep a notebook of our startup ideas. A place where we jot down the newest product/service concepts that pop into our heads. My battered one is shown above.
I started mine during my DreamIT Ventures days in 2008. I recently came across a digital version I compiled a couple of years ago and I became amused reading through them. According to my file proprieties, I haven’t updated it since September of 2009. It’s understandable because it’s around the same time I found my CTO for 123LinkIt and started building our alpha product.
I remember being one of those entrepreneurs that was afraid to share my ideas in fear of them being stolen. I’ve learned so much since then. I thought I’d take a moment to post some of the ideas I didn’t pursue. Here they are in no particular order – the good, the bad and the ugly!
As a sidebar, I currently hold the record for most “Innovative Idea Competition” placements at Temple University with three wins consecutively. The ironic thing is I entered 123LinkIt, the concept I finally chose to pursue two years ago and it only received an Honorable Mention. I actually predicated the outcome on Twitter. However, the good news is I ended up winning First Place and $10,000 in cash and prizes in their annual “Be Your Own Boss Bowl” (the equivalent of a Business Plan Competition). I outline the process and win in more detail here.
Inventing a tangible product and getting it out to market is on my bucket list. Here are some ideas I’ve had:
Yes, most of these ideas if not all now exist. Like one you see? Go ahead and “steal” it. I know I’m missing more and I’ll add them to the list when I recall them.
On a given week, I frequent at least five coffee houses. My record for most visits in one day is four. I use them as “my office.” I can’t sit still for too long and I get bored easily so I hop around from one place to another allowing the current location to pique my short-lived interest and then I move on to the next spot.
Yes, I could visit my office at Temple University (we’re their newest incubator company) but I enjoy the short walks from my new place in Center City and they’re great for meetings. I can also easily indulge in my new-found addiction to chai tea lattes.
One of my best friends recently told me he wants to open his own coffee house and we briefly entertained the idea of getting into the venture together. We talked about the aspects that would make it the “perfect” coffee shop. I can’t help thinking about it now every time I set up “office” and so I thought I’d jot down some of my thoughts.
Oh I haven’t mentioned the coffee yet, have I? Well, see that’s the funny thing. I actually DON’T drink coffee. I know, I know…my family are late bloomers, my Mom starting to drink it in her 40s, my sister when she turned 30. That aside, I would find a way to ensure we had the best around by partnering with or hiring a coffee connoisseur. A few friends have recommended La Colombe coffee. Because I know my chai tea lattes, I would employ the same women who mixes them for the Last Drop at 13th and Pine in Philadelphia (try it, it is absolutely delicious!).
There would also be plenty of coffee alternatives such as Teeccino and protein smoothies. The food would be healthy, tasty, made to order and the portions would be satisfactory but not too big (TWSS). As an aside, one of my pet peeves is the ample portions provided by restaurants. The same with the pastries. The cafe would definitely have some kind of chocolate bar (because coffee & chocolate go well together, not because I’m a fanatic ;-)).
I have a couple of ideas to combat turnover issues. One is to limit internet usage depending on the purchase amount. Another is turn it into a coworking/coffee shop hybrid (If you’re not sure what coworking is, check out this great coworking FAQ page by Indyhall.org, one of the most popular ones in the East Coast). One room would be reserved for frequent patrons who want to pay a monthly fee. The other room would be for “normal” customers.
As far as the name, I’m not sure yet. My pal, JP Toto came up with a few possibilities. As you can see, I was clearly enamored with them.
What would make YOUR ideal coffee shop?
Think about your best qualities. Have you noticed they can often be your worst?
I’m extremely competitive, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, neurotically obsessive, a die-hard loyalist, relentlessly persistent, a hard worker, and the list goes on and on.
If you were to ask me which of my worst features would top the list, I would say my own attitude towards myself. Or to be more specific, that little voice in my head that constantly castigating everything I do.
“Why didn’t you do this instead of that?”
“Did you really think that was a good idea?”
And the ever famous, “you should have done better.”
The latter haunts me incessantly. The perfect story that encompasses these sentiments is when my startup, 123LinkIt, won First Place at Temple’s Business Plan Competition last year.
I had entered the Competition three years running, becoming a Finalist two years before but walking away empty-handed.
This time, I knew we were going to be in the Finals. We had submitted the same idea the previous year and we used the notes from the judges to improve our Business Plan. We had also launched and were showing revenue. Yet I still reprimanded myself awaiting the results. I was competing in a tough category against faculty members, graduate students and other alumni. I doubted myself during the process repeatedly asking if I really had what it takes to get to the next level.
When the results came in, I was elated. Instead of congratulating myself, I went into hyper-mode and started a grueling campaign preparing for the Competition. I called in every favor I had with other entrepreneurs, VCs, acquaintances, and friends – everyone I knew and didn’t know to help me with the presentation.
I practiced my pitch so much the night before, I lost my voice the day of the Competition. I spent the morning gargling with salt water in an attempt to regain what would later turn into a soft whisper.
When it was my turn to present, I recall looking at the panel of judges and being terrified at their blank faces. “Can they hear me? Better yet, do they even understand what I’m saying?”
My family and friends patted me on the back afterwards and congratulated me for doing a great job. I smiled weakly and thought back to my Q&A session. “I should have elaborated further on his question. Why didn’t I finish on time? How many points will these mistakes cost me?”
I gripped my sister’s hand tightly and held my breath when they called the announcements.
Honorable mentions – nothing.
2nd Place – nothing.
1st Place – 123LinkIt.com.
I should have been ecstatic, right? I wasn’t. I forced myself to walk to the podium and accept my award. I waited to see who won the Grand Prize and cursed myself for not being up there.
That morning I remember thinking my sleepless nights were going to be long gone after the day was over, that the stressful days were going to be a thing of the past.
I was wrong. I slept LESS the day of and after the competition then I had preparing for it. “Why did they win over me? What could I have done differently? I should have changed this and said that.” I convinced myself that I had cost the Company $50k (the value difference between the prizes). All I could think of the following week is how First Place wasn’t good enough and what I could have done to win that Grand Prize.
It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? I’m saddened by my thoughts thinking about it now, more than a year later.
I’ve been doing this since I was little. You could put me next to someone who severely dislikes me and I would have worse things to say about myself. My Father was the badgering type, he wanted us to do better and his way of showcasing that was to criticize us as a means to motivate ourselves.
One of my goals this year is to eliminate this self-deprecating behavior. It’s a challenge because it’s a double-edged sword in that it IS a driving force. However, I want to reprogram myself to have it come from a loving place that’s not stress-induced and doesn’t include back-breaking pressure.
How will I start to accomplish this?
I’ve already begun by being aware of it. I believe a big part of it has to do with how I talk to myself. Now I catch myself when that little voice appears. “You did a great job with this, good work! You can do even better next time by doing this.” I’m also working on accepting compliments. I’ve noticed the two traits are related. The rest? I’m not quite sure yet but I’m in the process of actively figuring it out.