Channeling my inner entrepreneur: 4 Truths I’ve learned from NPR’s “How I Built This”

Michelle Kolenz

Account Manager

Thursday, August 31, 2017

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I once was in a job interview, and the interviewer asked me, “What makes you different then anyone else that applies for this job? What sort of books do you read?” Needless to say a Nicholas Sparks novel wasn’t what he was looking for. He wanted to know, what do I do that continues to feed my curiosity and make me stand out among my peers? His question has stuck with me for years, as I’ve come to better understand the challenges of staying motivated and inspired as I work towards my career and life goals.

For me, the boom in podcasts has made it easier than ever to keep up with thought leaders across all kinds of industries, providing introductions to ideas that often spark new ways of thinking for me. One of my favorites is NPR’s How I Built This. Host Guy Raz interviews the innovators behind some of the world’s most well-known brands to uncover the stories behind their successes. In these insider stories from entrepreneurs I’ve found actionable advice that I apply to my work and clients everyday. After listening to dozens of episodes, here are my four take-a-ways from the “How I Built This” lineup.

1 Do what you love

I’m a problem solver and analyzer through and through. You express a problem and a light bulb of ideas flood my mind. So much of what I do on a day-to-day basis is problem solving for clients. I love the challenge of finding the ideal solution by asking the right questions (more importantly, the not-afraid-to-ask questions) and collecting the data. Gordon Segal, founder of Crate & Barrel said that we should ask ourselves, “What do I love to do? And if I do it really good, then we will make money.”

2 Be unafraid

“There’s a difference in life between things that are scary and things that are dangerous. There are plenty of things that are scary but aren’t dangerous. And there are things that are dangerous, but not scary,” Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch tells Raz. It’s important for us to realize the difference. No lie, when I was asked to help emcee for a client event with approximately 300 people in attendance, I was nervous. But there was also a part of me that thought, “hell ya I’ll do it!” And I did. Being unafraid places us outside of our comfort zones and set us up for success—so bring it on!

3 Be passionate

Have a passion for the work you do. If you have a laissez-faire attitude about where you work and the deliverables that you provide your client, then you might need to re-evaluate your current situation. Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, was asked when trying to decide to continue what started as her side business full time, “If someone woke you up out of your bed in the middle of the night, would you go and do this thing?” Her answer? Yes. Have passion for what you do and the work you create. You’ll feel it and your clients will definitely see it.

4 Be Yourself

Ask questions, raise your hand and challenge the norm every day. When Rent the Runway founder Jenn Hyman did just that at her first job out of college, she was told it would be best for her to sit and be quiet. The worst part about that directive was that it came from her female boss. Thankfully, I have not experienced this type of management, but the underlining take-a-way is, be true to who you are and don’t be afraid to express yourself. Being comfortable with yourself will enable you to produce better work, building and elevating your relationship with your clients.

LISTEN

Gordon Segal

Jim Koch

Lisa Price

Jenn Hyman

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