How to save the world AND take it by storm
Have you ever felt that you had an important mission on this earth that you're not quite living up to?
Maybe you're working at a "good" job pays you well, looks good on a CV but isn't quite giving you the opportunity to have the impact you know you can make.
Or perhaps you've got a message, service or product you know could help people but you're struggling to find customers, consumers or an audience willing to listen.
If you've ever been in this situation, then this week's post is for you.
Meet Barb Stegemann.
Barb is an author, a social entrepreneur, a visionary, and the founder and CEO of 7 Virtues Beauty Inc.
The 7 Virtues garnered national attention in 2010, when Barb appeared on The Dragon's Den and blew away the Dragons with her heartfelt pitch: the ability to partner with her to buy fair trade, essential oils from war-ravaged countries to transform in luxury perfume.
Today, Barb is a highly sought after speaker, and her line of four perfumes are sold throughout North America and now the UK in high end department stores like The Bay, Lord and Taylor and Selfridges.
A couple of weeks ago I met up with Barb plus some other inspiring women for a glass (or two!) of Malbec and intense discussion about business, fulfilment and world peace. (Seriously. That's what we talked about. Oh, and the joys of tartan.)
Today, Barb is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year winning entrepreneurial powerhouse, and she is getting coverage from media outlets all over the world. (Most recently she was interviewed by Cosmopolitan UK edition). She's toured Haiti with an international contingent including former US President Bill Clinton and she's won an Innovation Award from the US Department of State.
Not too shabby for a girl who grew up in a trailer park in rural Nova Scotia.
Here are five powerful lessons I've learned from my gorgeous, courageous and righteous friend Barb Stegemann.
1. Own your story (and be an open book).
As a child and adolescent, Barb faced a lot of challenges. She was hearing impaired. She was overweight. She grew up in poverty and lived in a trailer park.
She worked hard and by the time she was in her early thirties, had a award-winning PR firm in Vancouver.
But rather than leave her difficult past behind her, she has chosen instead to embrace it, and has used her experience to empower other people by sharing her story with literally tens of thousands of women across the continent.
The lesson? Airing out your skeletons is a powerful thing. When you own your story and accept your life experience completely -- warts and all -- you galvanize support and inspire others.
2. Build your network.
After finishing her degree at a prestigious liberal arts college, Barb started her working career as an air hostess pouring coffee and handing out toilettes in first class. Was it her dream job? Not by a long shot. Would it have been easy to feel sorry for herself? Quite possibly.
But rather than focus on what the job wasn't, Barb tuned in to what it was -- an amazing opportunity to network with and learn from successful people -- some of whom she now considers friends and mentors.
One time over coffee Barb told me that a woman's network is her net worth. And it's true. Almost every super successful person I know has a large network of friends, colleagues and acquaintances he or she can turn to for advice, insight and support.
The lesson? Look at every opportunity as a way to learn, grow, and build your network.
3. Be open to messages from the universe.
It was March 2006 and Barb was living her dream — or so she thought. Her PR firm was going gangbusters and she was advising municipal and provincial leaders of how to engage and build community. Then tragedy struck. Barb’s best friend Captain Trevor Greene, who had been serving in Afghanistan, was struck in the head with an axe. Greene was left paralyzed. Barb promised her friend that she would continue his mission of rebuilding Afghanistan and being a force for peace in the world.
“In that moment, I saw I had a whole new purpose,” she says. Seven years later, she continues to serve that purpose.
The lesson? In life, there are only a few experiences that are going to move us so deeply that we feel called to drop what we're doing and follow that dream. When the universe sends you a mission, choose to accept it.
4. Expect to be uncomfortable.
The Iconic designer and New York Magazine founder Milton Glaser said that "Certainty is a closing of the mind."
Even once you've embraced a new goal or life mission, figuring out what you need to do next isn't always clear. Did Barb know right away that making perfume from fair trade essential oils sourced from local farmers in warn torn countries would become her path?
Not at first.
“When you’re making big life changes, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable while you figure out how to make your dream a reality,” Barb says.
5. Build a moral platform to support you as you grow.
Oprah Winfrey once said that "People will support you until you exceed their expectations of you." Like all successful people (women especially, I'm afraid) Barb has encountered her share of petty and unfounded criticism.
Years of interviewing aspiring and established entrepreneurs has taught me that fear of being criticized holds far too many brilliant people back.
But what has inspired me the most about Barb is her capacity for bravery and her willingness to live at the edge of her comfort zone.
How does she do it? By living a values-centered life. Fear and self-doubt are not among the 7 virtues. Courage, wisdom, beauty and truth are.
As Barb's example shows, when you know what you stand for and what you want out of life, criticism from other people loses its power.
6. Think big. (Like save the world big.)
Probably the biggest reason people fail to reach their dreams is because they give up too soon.
Big dreams take years to achieve. So how do you stay in it for the long haul?
Barb's answer? "You have to make it about something more than just yourself."
Don't be afraid to supersize your dream, to think expansively, to use your ambition to improve your community, or a community across the world. Grand purpose keeps you strong and steadfast.
Now get out there and kick some butt. Barb sure is.
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