Anyone who knows me well, knows the following bits about me:
- I work hard, I play hard and I live hard
- I am incredibly serious, but rarely somber
- I lead through laughter, not law
Mid-last week, I had a meeting with someone who indicated that he was concerned that I wasn't serious enough about my leadership role at Shwowp. It was a statement that floored me. I eat, sleep, live, breathe and otherwise obsess about my company. I go to bed consumed by thoughts of it and wake up consumed by thoughts of it - and when I dream in between, I am dreaming about it. There are just about 3 Gazillion balls in the air at any given time with the company and I'm blessed to have two co-founders who co-juggle alongside me. It doesn't mean that the work is lessened. We can just cover more ground together.
So I asked out of curiosity how I was giving that impression (because it wasn't the first time someone hinted at it). The answer was that it came down to my tweets and posts and generally casual disposition. "You just don't come across as very serious," he explained.
My first thought was, "Dude! I'm the most serious bidness person I know!" but I stepped back and realized this may be a moment to be somber in my reply. I think I used a few big words and furled my brow to look really serious. I'm not sure how convincing I was.
But I threw in, "Do I need to be somber to be serious? Because that isn't my style." And it isn't. My signature is smart, but fun. Inspiring, but light-hearted. Even when I've delivered the most serious subjects while giving a talk at a conference, I've aimed to make people laugh their way to having the idea stick.
It took me years to actually approach the world (and especially business) in a way that feels right and genuine to me. I struggled with trying to emulate stereotypes in the most awkward way through my 20's. I studied the 'greats' and tried to be just like them. It never worked very well. Then one day I decided I would just be myself and, somehow, it worked. It worked wonders and everything changed. I gained confidence. People were more receptive to me. Ideas flowed. And I felt like I really hit my stride. But every now and then I encounter a situation where my approach is misinterpreted. My thoughts when it happens? "Meh. I'm breaking the mould."
So let me assure you if you didn't already gather it...I am VERY serious about my role at Shwowp. I don't talk about it incessantly because it's not my style to be pitchy (except when I'm expected to pitch). Everything I tweet and blog and post everywhere is tangentially connected to my immersion in Shwowp, but aimed to keep people's interests, too. My running has everything to do with Shwowp. It keeps me grounded and sane and able to handle what has been the most financial uncertainty I've ever faced. I turn down most speaking gigs, but those ones I accept are because I think it will benefit my company (I actually have a speaking caveat that I only talk about things related to Shwowp now - no more book stuff). All travel is related to Shwowp. Every event I go to is about Shwowp (whether it's for recruiting, learning or networking). Everything I buy is because I want to post it to Shwowp. Everyone I meet with is related to Shwowp. I really don't have a life outside of it and I'm seriously okay with that. I love what we are doing. I love the startup life. I love my co-founders and co-workers.
So yes. I'm very serious, but I'll never be somber. This is just too much awesome to be a downer. And besides, it's my "job" to set the tone for my company...which will always be about never taking ourselves too...um...seriously.