How to Reinvent Yourself: From Teacher to Entrepreneur
How I Reinvented Myself & Changed My Path: Ten Strategies I Used To Move From Teacher to Entrepreneur (This is a shorter version originally published on LinkedIn)
“There are lots of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is: it’s to change the world.” – Phil Libin, CEO Evernote
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher, a journalist and an author. In high school, you could find me staying up late at night under my covers with a little book light writing a narrative or translating the Canterbury Tales from Old English to New English. I fell in love with words by the time I was ten years old. The sounds, feelings and the power that came alive on a page naturally enlightened my universe.
It was in my junior year in high school, when my English teacher, Dr. Dieter, first noticed a few of my narrative pieces. Dr. Dieter was an icon in our school and was well known for her tough-love pedagogy and unyielding strategies to stretch the minds of all of her students. She paved roads with soft notebook paper and provided the opportunities we needed to find our strongest pens. To this day, our woven relationship brought together in that classroom remains.
When it was time to look down my path toward college, I waivered between journalism and teaching. I became an elementary teacher and taught public school for six years and went into higher education for another five.
Every academic year, Dr. Dieter would come to my classroom and read to my fourth-grade students for Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Her encouraging words to continue writing never left my side. And the pen remained.
My Continued Love for the Written Word Never Ceased
Over the years, I continued to write, not because I wanted to, but because I had to. Writing is part of my unique build, like a nucleotide within my DNA. Most of my early work was about my childhood. I found these stories challenging to share; they were about my father, a man I never knew well nor did he know me. He walked away from my family when I was 11 years old, leaving behind a crater of poverty and pebbles of the unknown.
Loss, fear and childhood insecurity permeated the narratives I wrote. Nevertheless, these anecdotes were filled with moments of triumph, flashbacks of smiles, and a bond between a mother and her children that couldn’t be expressed in words.
Regardless of these uplifting outcomes, I only shared my work with a few close family members and friends. The stories notably moved those around me. However, I kept these narratives close to me, rarely letting anyone else into this space.
I didn’t believe my work was worthy enough to be shared, and I was afraid of judgment and adverse reactions. This is where my mindset stayed for quite some time.
In 2011, I had to make a difficult to choice to leave higher education. I learned about web design and chose to focus on writing about my great passion for education. I began interviewing innovators and game-changers in the education field. At the same time, without realizing it, I was reinventing myself as well as my career.
Although LinkedIn noticed a vast amount of my work over the past few years (which I am eternatlly grateful); it was at this point when others outside of my circle began to notice my work. Ouch, my comfort zone was starting to shake.
Entrepreneur: How to Reinvent Yourself
Did you know that some teachers make the best entrepreneurs? According to Rod Grimshaw, the CEO of TES Global, “Some of the best innovators, fundraisers, and problem solvers are often found at the front of a classroom. There’s another, much simpler reason the education technology market is taking off: the teachers pioneering this market make great entrepreneurs.”
Here are Five Reasons Why:
1. Sales And Marketing Come Naturally
2. Teachers Are Natural Fundraisers
3. They Know When To Throw Out The Playbook
4. Teachers Know What Students Want
5. They Care-They aren’t in it for money
And Then It Happened. Someone Called Me An Entrepreneur.
However, I was still struggling to refer to myself as a writer. In my mind, I was a teacher, end of story. The entrepreneur world was part of an entirely different orbit. My thoughts about myself or how I could grow continued to hold me back from leading my career journey toward its full potential. I went on in this manner of, what some may call denial, for quite a long time.
Until Something Magical Happened. Hello, Brené Brown.
Over the past year, Brené Brown’s life-changing work came into my life. Her research about vulnerability altered my entire mindset. If you haven’t seen her TED Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, I suggest you watch it. In a recent article on LinkedIn, Brené said it best, “We need braver, more authentic leaders. We need cultures that support the idea that vulnerability is courage and also the birthplace of trust, innovation, learning, risk-taking, and having tough conversations.”
I was hiding in this space of vulnerability; and it was at this moment, that I began to work on believing in myself. And every day, I take an organic step forward toward changing my mindset and continuing my reinvention.
If you’ve struggled with these changes or haven’t reached an “ah-ha” moment, I hope these tips I’ve learned can help you.
Ten Strategies I Use To Reinvent Myself And My Career
1. Meetings with Vulnerability: I have meetings with vulnerability. I walk slowly toward it, and I am now able to share a little bit more about my personal life in my work.
2. Believe: I work on believing in myself. If I don’t believe in my work, who will?
3. Speak and Write: I talk about what I want in life, and I write it down (similar to The Secret). I wanted to work in education and journalism, and here I am today. I also wanted to work with smart, talented and exceptionally friendly people (you’ll meet him below).
4. Pay Better Attention: I listen more carefully to my inner voice.
5. Listen to Others: I listen (instead of hearing) to the voices around me, especially from those who are non-biased. I take notice of people who take the time to offer advice or compliment my work.
A Focus On Others
I want to focus on #5 because many people had a tremendous impact on my life as a teacher, a writer, and dare I say an entrepreneur. Their words inspired me to move when I didn’t want to glimpse. I believe when people with more experience take the time to compliment your work (sans an agenda), it is a good idea to pay attention, to be thankful and especially, remain humble.
Here are a few people I want to thank because they changed my life for the better through their words of encouragement. There are far too many to add here, so please know I appreciate all of you who have played a role in my life.
Susan Cain, whom I met through LinkedIn, had a tremendous impact on my personal life. After reading her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I had a tremendous awakening in reference to self-reflection, understanding my introverted traits and especially bringing my passion of writing and painting back up to the surface. And most of all, Susan is so nice and especially encouraging.
Tom Tuohy, whom I met via LinkedIn. We became instant colleagues and even closer friends. Tom is a lawyer in Chicago and a social entrepreneur who has changed the lives of thousands of kids through his nonprofit, Dreams for Kids. Tom stated: “You and Max (my husband) would be ideal in the start-up world. You have so much more to offer there; they need your skills and talent.”
Daniel Roth is the extraordinary Executive Editor at LinkedIn. We became friends through some of my articles shared on LinkedIn and Pulse. I follow Daniel’s work and turn to him for inspiration. He consistently returns my emails, encourages me to keep writing and always congratulates me on my personal successes. Out of his very busy schedule, he has taken the time to compliment my work publicly and privately.
Daniel once stated to me, “Love seeing your name show up to comment on or share posts and ideas; we greatly value your voice at LinkedIn.”
Kindness, Understanding & Complimentary
In 2013, Edith Moricz wanted to interview me for her successful company, Beyond Success Online. I politely told her no because I didn’t feel I was an entrepreneur nor would I be a good fit for her site.
Edith’s kind response when I flat-out said no is below:
Ok, I understand, but I confess I was really looking forward to sharing your career reinvention, which I found fascinating and thought others should hear about it. I think your background is very entrepreneurial, in my humble opinion. Write to me when you are ready. I would enjoy sharing your story.
And, my friend, Louis Salguero, who has taken so much time to share his thoughts with me. “Thanks, Robyn, That was heartfelt and for a split moment, I felt I was there too, such beauty and simplicity in your words. You made my Aussie Sunday afternoon even more special.”
And of course, I must say thank you to my amazing mom and exceptional husband.
These are just a sampling of encouraging words from colleagues and friends that had immense meaning in my life. I learned that if others take the time to compliment you, or notice something special in you, it doesn’t hurt to listen. You do not have to act on what others say; it’s good to be open to both compliments and constructive criticism.
And For the Remainder of my Reinvention Strategies
6. Pay Attention to the Signs: I pay attention to signs that are in front of me. Whether it is a phone call, an email or any other form of sign and communication; I remain aware of the signs beaming on my path. I am open to receiving more light.
7. Quiet Fear, but Understand the Meaning of its Presence: Every time fear appears, I tell it to quiet down a bit. However, I know that fear means I am in a new place, which is precisely where growth occurs.
8. Take Action: I take action when the signs are there and make things happen when the signs are invisible. I am more confident and for that reason, I am bit more assertive, but not aggressive.
9. Make Mistakes: I make and will continue to make mistakes every day. If we’re not open to errors, we cannot learn.
10. Learn and Practice Saying No: This was a big one for me. During graduate school, I took an entire course on personality types and learned I was a people-pleaser. I had a challenging time saying no to anyone. I lost a lot of opportunity for personal growth because I put the needs of others before mine quite often. I will always help others, but I learned to scale back and prioritize my love of giving.
This Is A Bit Of My Story. Are You Ready To Tell Me Your Story?