May 9, 2012
When we make time, find space for, and invest in our dreams, we make an investment in the true essence of ourselves. On the surface, we may each be asking for what we want – but there will be a tremendous return on investment for our loved ones as well.
– Whitney Johnson, Rose Park Advisors, Harvard Business Review blogger, Author
The saying “Live the dream” can seem trite, but we use it often here at Tech Cocktail, because we feel too many people are spending their lives uninspired, living a life they don’t love. But once you’re on that hamster wheel of uninspired work that pays the bills, how do you jump off to begin something that could truly make you feel alive and like you are contributing to the world?
Whitney Johnson followed her dreams when she co-founded the investment firm Rose Park Advisors, and she has witnessed many others who have dared to dream and made those dreams a reality, regardless of circumstances. These are the experiences and stories that make up Dare, Dream Do, Johnson’s new release of which best selling author Gretchen Ruben (The Happiness Project) wrote:
“In Dare, Dream Do, Whitney Johnson explains, in manageable, concrete terms, how to identify and pursue the possibilities to build a happier life. It’s not always easy to dare, to dream and to do, and Johnson’s book explains now only why, but how to take those steps – with full confidence and success.”
Tech Cocktail is thrilled to offer you an excerpt from Dare, Dream, Do, below. The chapter was excerpted with permission of the publisher Bibliomotion, Inc., www.bibliomotion.co, from Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream by Whitney Johnson © 2012 by Whitney Johnson. And the book is now available on Amazon.
Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream
W H I T N E Y J O H N S O N
LEARN TO BOOTSTRAP
After my first year of college, my mom announced she was out of money. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but tough luck. I went home, got a job as a girl Friday at Priam, a Silicon Valley–based corporation, and saved what I earned. A year later I returned to college, knowing something I hadn’t known when I left: I may need to make my own way in life to get what I want, and I can.
During economic downturns, many of us face similar circumstances. In trudging through a gloom-and-doom atmosphere, there are things we want to do for ourselves or our family, businesses we want to expand or start, but can’t.
Here’s the reality: whether times are good or bad, many of us don’t have what we want, or what we perceive we “need,” to pursue our dreams. In 2007, Entrepreneur magazine and the Corporate Research Board screened ninety- five thousand companies to compile “The Hot 500 Fastest Growing Businesses in America.” Only 28 percent of those companies had access to bank loans or lines of credit, while just 18 percent were funded by private investors, and a mere 3.5 percent received funding from venture capitalists. In other words, more than half of the companies on the list were growing and thriving despite having limited access to the funds most people would deem necessary to nurture a business.
LEVERAGING CURRENT ASSETS
Making our dreams happen is about leveraging the skills, money, and time we already have. It’s about starting where we are and avoiding the lottery mentality:
- If only I had a larger home, I’d be more organized.
- If only I had a housekeeper, I would be a really great mother.
- If only I had a fairy godmother like Oprah, my nonprofit would take off.
- If only I had an investor to finance me, I could start my business.
Marathoner and mother of five Emily Orton (see chapter 1) said it well: “A budget of money, time, or space shouldn’t be about what we can’t do or have, but how to make it happen.” No doubt many of the entrepreneurs behind the “Hot 500” companies sought funding, but it just wasn’t available. So they started anyway, perhaps because their reality was “Do, or Don’t Eat,” and they were thus highly incentivized to make their businesses work. Their determination to succeed was strong enough that 61 percent of the entrepreneurs turned a profit within a year.
Dana King, a St. Louis- based interior designer whose mission is to “make good design happen for everyone,” is a terrific example of an entrepreneur who focuses not on what she doesn’t have, but on how to make her dream happen. When a pitch she made to HGTV for its Next Design Star reality show was rejected, she decided to try her hand at filming her own show. Her hurdles: limited financial resources and very limited technical know- how. (You can follow Dana’s progress and her dream at seedanado.com.)
Dana King: Geekifying Myself
Computers— I affectionately call them “confusers”— and I have a long love-hate relationship. The hardware is too hard. The software is too soft. I have been waiting for a computer that is juuuuuuust right, and doesn’t require an advanced degree to install or special geek aptitude to operate.
Ahh, the iPhone. It changed my life overnight.
Now I can interact with a digital device intelligently and confidently. Thank you, Steve Jobs, the only geek, besides my husband, Dan, that I’ve been madly in love with. My iPhone makes me feel empowered.
For more than twenty years, I have been reliant on Dan to help me operate most electronic devices, and our marriage has been on the edge at times because of my digital codependence. Our biggest arguments have been over my disinterest, distrust, and general dislike of digital devices that don’t read my mind and automatically know what I want them to do.
Since the Dell won’t talk to me, I took my frustration out on Dan. These days, if you sleep, you get left behind in the cybergalactic fog of blogging, linking, Twittering, and Facebooking in a way that can be detrimental to your hopes and dreams.
You learn what you want to learn. I just didn’t want to learn to use technology. But I do want to succeed. I want to be a media mogul, just like Rachael Ray and Oprah. I desire a media platform to teach and spread my gospel about celebrating creative living. The application and audition tape I sent to HGTV went unnoticed. To heck with the studio. I just need a camera guy or gal and an editor; maybe a producer, too; and some big bucks, or sponsors. I’ve got none of those. Does that mean the dream dies?
Dan woke me up one morning with, “I think you should start a vlog.”
“I have a blog,” I reminded him.
“No a VVVVVVVlog,” he repeated. “Post video of what you do. You don’t need a camera crew or sponsors. You just need a flip camera. You can edit the footage yourself.”
Dan knows better than to encourage my projects because he is certain to become collateral damage. I took this suggestion to mean he must believe in me. He must really love me. Encouraging me to embrace a digital project is like asking for a tornado to land on our house.
Dan convinced me that vlogging would be easy, if I would just take the time to learn and stop whining. So I took the challenge, and I reserved the right to whine. Except that he was right. Editing video is easier than I thought. In no time (about twenty hours) I produced my first short film (we’re talking seven power-packed minutes), complete with music and captions. I can now host, film, edit, and produce a show. Who knew?
My vlog has since turned into a website portfolio that has received the attention of a local television show producer. A local production company asked to film my design club— a concept I promote via my postings— and produced a promotional video for me free of charge. If pictures paint a thousand words, video tells even more. In other words, it’s far easier to show you who I am than to tell you.
I still get frustrated, but I tell myself it’s nothing that a little time can’t remedy. And in time, I will geekify myself for my betterment, and for my dreams. As Apple’s Steve Jobs, and my Dan, have shown me, geeks can rock the world!
With the experience of starting her vlog, I asked Dana about the process of bootstrapping her way to her own television show. Here are two pointers from Dana:
Start by doing what you can do: “I couldn’t afford the best camera or a camera crew and editors, so I just use my flip camera and point it at myself. I’m finding that people like the artsy rawness of the videos. What I thought was a limitation has become an asset.”
Let others join in: “Standing outside the Goodwill, I was filming myself for a piece on thrift store shopping. A gentleman on his way in offered to tape me. He didn’t ask why or what I was doing, but he noticed the fun I was having and wanted to join in. I have these experiences regularly. I wonder how I will film something myself, but then help comes along. My limitations actually make the experience fun.”
TURNING SCARCITY INTO OPPORTUNITY
Dana has a dream of having a media platform. She thought she didn’t have the resources, but she soon recognized that she did, in fact, have enough to start. In late 2008, one of my business partners, Clayton Christensen offered his opinion that the recession would have an “unmitigated positive impact on innovation” because “when the tension is greatest and resources are most limited, people are actually a lot more open to rethinking the fundamental way they do business.” This theory is supported by the Kaufmann Foundation statistic that “51 percent of the Fortune 500 companies began during a recession or bear market or both.”
Whether launching a business or pursuing a dream, there are many high- profile instances in which a lack of resources ultimately proved to be a boon, rather than a bane. If we dig a bit, each of us can uncover examples among friends and family, and ourselves. Would most children have as many opportunities as they do in sports, music, or other extracurricular activities without parents, mothers in particular, who are accomplished at bartering as a way to stretch limited family budgets? Would kids have as many chances to explore their interests if their parents weren’t so adept at arranging for carpooling, chaperoning, and borrowing, thus enabling their kids to participate? Without the constraints of time, money, and health, would the online retailer Shabby Apple exist? (For a reminder of how that business came to be, see chapter 5.) If my parents could have paid for college, would I have caught an early glimpse of corporate life during the Silicon Valley heyday? Would I have ever set foot on Wall Street had I not needed to work to put my husband through school?
All of us have had the opportunity to bootstrap if we look hard enough. Men seem to know how to do this in the business world: 88 percent of the founders of Entrepreneur magazine’s Hot 500 were men. But I wonder if women aren’t better at bootstrapping than we think we are. Chronically under resourced (whether due to the gender pay gap or ceding our resources to conform to societal expectations), women continually feel the tension of having too little budget and too little time. Because of this tension, we are expert at rethinking how to get things done. Many of us know how to turn scarcity into opportunity.
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