In Part One of Diane Danielson‘s interview, the three words that I used to describe her are Brave, Bold and Pioneer. And, after processing the interview, here are the steps that I think are required to be a trailblazer:
- Take risks
- Have a support network
- Think big and be bold
- Jump in and try things, fail fast if you have to
- Embrace change
- Say yes to opportunities
Of course there are other requirements but I think the ones I listed are pretty important, what are your thoughts? Part Two of Danielson’s interview is just as powerful as the first, and is also filled with lessons and ideas that you can use immediately.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am the founder of the Downtown Women’s Club, which is a women’s business network and career website. I’m also Vice President of Business Development for a social media consulting firm called Convengine. I try to combine the two because a lot of what I do at the Downtown Women’s Club is the social media strategy and a lot of our online networking program. I’m also recently remarried, I have four kids and a huge dog and I live outside the Boston area.
How did mentors influence your life?
Hugely! And I don’t look at mentors as the traditional more senior person who helped me, even though I had a couple of those who would help me with specific situations, but because some of the fields that I’m in such as social media and creating a networking group that was mostly online, there weren’t a lot of people who had done this who were ahead of me so I really depended on peer mentors. I have a group of peers that depending on the situation I will call them and they have the most wonderful advice and input, and I think that’s a huge thing and I probably would have given up on a lot of things if I didn’t have them sit there and keep me accountable and say, “look how far you’ve come and we are proud of what you are doing.” But they also gave me advice and would say, “you know what, you should focus on this.” They have been there and helped me to make decisions. I rarely make decisions in isolation, I usually have someone who is impartial enough, and cares about me enough to help me make the right decisions, so mentors are enormous.
What’s one core message you received from your mentors?
Trust my gut and take risks because most of the times, by the time I come to them they are able to say to trust your gut and take risks.
As an Invisible Mentor, what advice would you like to give to readers?
Go for the grande, especially if your readers are women because a lot of us don’t think big enough. They may think let’s open up a coffee shop, let’s not create another Starbucks. Think bigger even if you don’t create another Starbucks, what if you end up with a chain of three or four coffee shops? Women need to think better and bigger, and I think that’s one piece of advice that I’d give to almost any woman that I meet.
For everyone else, I would say know your network, and know who you can turn to for really good advice. I think sometimes we build close networks of people who are vested in the outcomes of whatever we do, and we surround ourselves with people. So if your best friend doesn’t want you to get, or take that promotion, that’s not necessarily helpful information, you need to find people who will be able to give you good advice that’s in your best interest and not theirs.
Build a network of core people you can trust to help you build your business life and it turns out that they generally help you with your personal life as well.
Which resources (books, movies, training etc.) did your mentors recommend to you?
Usually I’m the one recommending all the books. Early on someone encouraged me to get sales training, even though I was coming from law with an analytical background, it was great advice and I would recommend to anyone to take sales training because it affects everything that you do.
How do you integrate your personal and professional life?
It seems that because I’m a working mom I tend to be friends with women who work. A lot of my best friends are women from the working world who do not have kids, so that’s my social life. For me, my personal and professional life is seamless, it just flows, I don’t keep the two separate. To know me is to know what I do.
What’s a major regret that you’ve had in life?
I’m going to go back to not having more kids of my own. My major regret is not to give my son as he is growing up a typical situation. I think sometimes it was hard on him, hard on me and probably hard on my ex-husband because we didn’t have the normal nuclear family. But what is normal anymore.
What are five life lessons that you have learned so far?
- Have a network of people who you can call on. Having friends and family to support you is huge and you shouldn’t do anything in isolation.
- Think bigger on everything. I was single for eight years and at times I said that I wouldn’t get married again, but when the opportunity came I took it and I said that I could still do this.
- Take risks. Every time I’ve taken big risks they tended to have worked out, and whenever I took the safe route I wasn’t happy and it didn’t work out for other people either. So it’s like going for the job of your dreams instead of settling for a job. Every time I’ve settled for a job, it has never been great.
- Take the high road at all times. I know that it sounds trite but sometimes I’ve wanted to retaliate and then thought just let it go and take the high road because I would sleep better at nights and people start to realize that. And putting yourself in other people’s shoes, giving them second chances helps you to understand and be empathetic. I think we live in a society where people are not empathetic to others.
When you have some down time, how do you spend it?
Generally I’m playing sports with my kid or reading.
What process do you use to generate great ideas?
I brainstorm with people. I belong to an international women’s networking group (The Belizean Grove) and going away with them to meetings I always walk out with big thoughts, because I have these thoughts and I bring them there and have other people synthesize them and chime in with their background, and definitely my great ideas come from there. I can come up with some good ones but I need the input of my team there to come up with great ones.
What’s your favourite quotation and why?
“Just say no to status quo,” because when you accept the way things are when they are not working you need to change them because change isn’t scary and often a good thing. You don’t change for the sake of changing. So when the status quo is no longer working you need to think creatively and change it.
How do you define success?
Success for me is a mix. It’s being content with having a good mix of my family is happy, and work is going well, and I think for me, that is success when everything seems to be flowing. Work and family have to be flowing, one or the other won’t work.
In your opinion what’s the formula for success?
First you have to define what you think success is, and a lot of us define success based on what others think. Contentment and happiness is the formula for success, so it’s going to be unique to everybody. For me personally, work has to be a part of it. I couldn’t be just happy with work, and I couldn’t be just happy being a mom, I actually need both.
What are the steps you took to succeed in your field?
Let’s take social media as an example. I became knowledgeable by just jumping in and trying it. I didn’t hesitate when someone asked me to give a speech, I just jumped in, did it and figured it out later. I think a lot of steps to my success were trying new things and not being scared to do so. It’s also a lot of finding out what works and doesn’t work, and sometimes it’s easier to figure out what doesn’t work then focus and build on what’s working, and I think those are the steps. When I found out that writing didn’t pay well enough, but speaking did, I jumped right in and started speaking. And by being out there, and speaking about social media while doing it, I can show the success of the Downtown Women’s Club, and other clients.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out in your field?
If we are looking at someone who wants to start a network and website, they have to realize that it’s a lot of work. I see new women’s group starting every day claiming to be the first this or the first that, and they generally disappear within three months when they realize that it’s not easy to get 12,000 people on a list and keep them there. That took 10 years to build that up so I think the thing is to have patience, have a good plan and partner with people because you cannot do it alone. I don’t do anything alone. I have a lot of partners. You have to persevere and have patience, there are no overnight successes.
If trusted friends could introduce you to five people that you’ve always wanted to meet, who would you choose? And what would you say to them?
- Obviously I would like to meet Barack Obama. I would just ask him to reassure me that he knows what he is doing, and that he is way smarter than me, and that this is all going to work out. And of course I would congratulate him on hanging in there and doing what he believes in.
- Another person that I’d like to meet is Steve Jobs and I’d like to find out about his creative process. It’s impressive how he keeps on coming up with new things.
- I’ve always wanted to meet George Clooney, not because he’s cute, but because I like that he has understated a lot of his humanitarian work and he has a good sense of humor and I think he is truly a good person.
- I would say Stephen Colbert because he is actually a very bright person and bright people fascinate me. He is very talented and I think he would be a fascinating person to meet. With him you wouldn’t be able to control the conversation. I really liked that he sponsored the speed skating team. He seems like a really incredible and interesting human being.
- I would like to meet Margaret Thatcher. She was one of the first woman leaders and I would like to know what her experiences were, just hearing behind the scenes what it was really like running a country during tough times.
Which one book had a profound impact on your life? What was it about this book that impacted you so deeply? Did you have an emotional or intellectual attachment to this book? Why?
Looking at the way I run the business it would be the two books by Chip and Dan Heath – Made to Stick and Switch. They make things so simple and clear that I find myself referring to both books a lot in business conversations. I would say those two and The Tipping Point, the concepts constantly come up in conversations and in thoughts on how I’m running the business.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are five books that you would like to have with you and why? Summarize the book in two sentences.
- Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. I’m a big Jane Austen fan and that’s a classic, the love story, the wittiness. She is a sharp observer of society and the book transcends time.
- Les Miserables has been one of my favourite books of all times. It’s nice and long and the characters are so many and so varied and I think it covers so much.
- I do like the writing of War and Peace and it’s also long and that’s important if I can only take five books with me on the deserted island.
- I haven’t read John Adams so I’d take that one with me, I would need something I haven’t read before. He was one of our founding fathers and I think in today’s society looking back at what the founding fathers thought we really misinterpreted things and I think that I should go back and read that book that I haven’t read to clarify for myself what they were really thinking.
- For the last one I’m going to go classic and say To Kill a Mockingbird. It was about someone standing up to society. It’s a classic case of overlooking prejudice and I just hate people who are prejudiced. It’s a well told story and it has a great message.
Have you read any books that inspired you to start a business, service or invent “something”? If yes, which book?
Most of the books have just clarified the direction I was going.
What one music CD and movie would you like to have with you (on the deserted island) and why?
The movie, and I would take the book too is Breakfast at Tiffany’s, that was a favourite movie. I think I would have to go with Garth Brooks Greatest Hits for the music CD.
If you cannot view Garth Brooks YouTube video The Thunder Rolls click here.
If you cannot view Breakfast at Tiffany’s Trailer on YouTube please click here.
What excites you about life?
Learning new things everyday.
How do you nurture your soul?
I spend time with my 10 year old who tells me what life is really about.
If you had a personal genie and she gave you one wish, what would you wish for? Or, if I gave you a magic wand, what would you use it for?
I know that I sound like a Miss America but I have to say world peace. I think I would also wish that our country was not so divided and dysfunctional at this point, and it’s really upsetting to me. I wish that we’d be more rational because we are a world leader and we need to play well with others and amongst ourselves.
Complete the following, I am happy when…..
I’m with my family and friends
What can you learn from Diane’s experiences? Let’s keep the conversation flowing, please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Many readers read this blog from other sites, so why don’t you pop over to The Invisible Mentor and subscribe (top on the right side) by email or RSS Feed.
About Diane Danielson
Diane K. Danielson is the founder and chief social media strategist for the Downtown Women’s Club, a professional network and career website. She is the author of The Downtown Women’s Club Beginners Guide to Facebook ebook (2009), the co-author of The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking (or What Would Jane Austen Do?) (2007) and Table Talk: The Savvy Gal’s Alternative to Networking (2003). Diane blogs for www.womensDISH.com, and Entrepreneur magazine and serves as a workshop leader and social media coach for companies, non-profits and individuals.
She is a former vice president of business development for Spaulding & Slye Colliers, a vice president of marketing for Meredith & Grew, Inc./ONCOR International, and an environmental attorney. Diane is a graduate of Colgate University and Boston College Law School.
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