One of my favorite loveable, goofball characters on my all-time favorite comedy Parks and Recreation frequently uses the term “awesomesauce” to describe something that’s, well, super awesome.
So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I heard Sue Heilbronner talk about awesomeness at an event held by the Advancement for Women Entrepreneurs (if you don’t know about this group, you should definitely check it out).
Sue is the CEO and co-founder of Mergelane, a startup accelerator targeting companies with at least one woman in leadership, and, in my opinion, an all-around cool chick. I was really inspired by her own story of awesomeness and the courage she had to step out on her own.
To paraphrase Sue’s remarks, she left a lucrative career as an attorney, all she’d ever known in her professional life to that point to pursue one in business after she founded an online baby gift company. A few years later when she sold her company, Sue joined Discovery Communications to learn even more about how business works. When she started this job she had no idea what a P&L statement was and couldn’t even use Excel. To add insult to injury, one of her co-workers told her that, quite frankly, she didn’t think Sue deserved the job. This co-worker remarked that she had more credentials because she earned an MBA at [insert ivy league university here]. Needless to say, she had an uphill climb ahead of her but was up to the challenge.
Fast-forward a few months to when the dot.com bubble burst, and, subsequently, ninety percent of the company was laid off. However, Sue beat the odds and remained at Discovery Communications among the final ten percent, because she was – to put it simply – awesome. Her judgmental co-worker didn’t, because she wasn’t.
This got me thinking about what it means to be awesome: what was it about Sue that propelled her to the top, rather than someone else who was, arguably, more credentialed and looked better on paper?
In short, what is it that makes the sauce so awesome? Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Ask Questions: No one expects you to know everything. When you ask questions, it shows engagement and thoughtfulness because you’ve considered the facts long enough to come up with an intelligent question. Additionally, it signals you’re interested in learning more. Remember, nobody likes a know-it-all.
Embrace Mistakes (And Learn from Them): To err is human. So until the robots overtake us, get used to making mistakes. The best thing you can do is own up to them and learn something from them. Be sure to apply what you’ve learned to future situations so you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Be Curious: Always challenge yourself to learn something new. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘you don’t know what you don’t know?’ Well, it’s true. Learn from others who have gone before you, and teach those who will follow. Although every piece of knowledge may not apply to you in the present moment, you never know when you’ll need it in the future. Plus, it doesn’t cost anything to listen.
Be Authentic: Self-awareness is important. A wise professor once advised our class to focus on improving our strengths rather than our weaknesses because a weakness is less likely to become a strength. This makes sense. Focus on improving what’s already awesome about you, but always be aware of the areas that are slightly less awesome and you may need some help.
Be a Team Player: We all have strengths and weaknesses as I said above. When you collaborate as a team, play to your strengths and let others do the same. I guarantee you the final product will be better. And don’t worry, there are enough stars in the sky for everyone to shine. As Harry S. Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.”
As successful entrepreneurs know, you’re asking potential customers and/or advisors to invest in you just as much as you’re asking them to invest in your idea or vision. So let’s all challenge ourselves to be a part of the scrappy ten percent like Sue who continue to reinvent themselves, because YOU are what makes the sauce so awesome!
About the Author
Megan Greer is the director of communications and outreach for the Entrepreneurship Initiative. She has worked in higher education for more than a decade and is a proud two-time graduate of Meredith College. When she’s not in the Garage or attending events in the entrepreneurship community, she can likely be found watching too much E! or Bravo and spending time with her family. She also knows a ton of useless celebrity facts and is good at remembering dates–so be sure to tell her your birthday! Follow her on Twitter @megandgreer.
*Photo Courtesy of https://tribzap2it.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/parks-and-rec-andy-best.jpg and NBC