For seven years she sold fax machines door to door until one day she didn't like the way her butt looked in a pair of white pants. This is a true story.
She didn't like the way her butt looked in her white pants and so she thought to herself, "there must be a better way."
She then proceeded to cut the feet off her pantyhose and slipped them on under her pants. Instantly knew she was on to something.
It was a long and difficult road from idea to marketplace for the now self-made billionaire, Sara Blakely, the Founder of Spanx.
What I find to be truly fascinating is not the level of success she's reached, although of course it's absolutely extraordinary, but rather what she identifies as the smartest move she says she made.
For an entire year she didn't tell anyone about her idea. She fussed and fixed and fine tuned and plotted and strategized and for one whole year she kept her idea a secret.
It wasn't until after her first meeting with Neiman Marcus when she realized she was headed towards success that she sat her family down and told them what she was up to. She was met by those she told, with a fair amount of skepticism and concern.
Is this really a good idea?
Why hasn’t it been done already?
If it’s a good idea, the big guys will probably knock you off.
What Sara shares next is the message I really want you to hear.
"I was selling fax machines door to door. I wasn't a designer. I wasn't an entrepreneur. I wasn’t familiar with retail. I had no idea what I was doing. But the key to why this worked for me was because I kept it a secret for a year. If I had listened to my family's response when I first came up with my idea, I'm certain I would still be selling fax machines."
There’s no denying that Sara’s body-shaping undergarment was a genius idea, one that filled a gap in the marketplace and was clearly well received.
But maybe the more genius idea was the move she made to trust her gut and protect her idea from other people’s apprehension and fear.
Anyone who's ever strived for more, who’s pondered throwing her hat back in the ring to see if she can go the distance, knows that the path to 'more' is quite similar to Dorothy’s pilgrimage down the yellow brick road; you don't get to Oz without being tested by the wicked witch. You don’t get to go ‘home’ without having the courage to come face to face with yourself.
Achieving your greatest life is a true rite of passage. You will be tested six ways to Sunday. But the real test isn’t about how smart or connected or capable you are; the test is about whether or not you have what it takes to listen to, protect and honor yourself.
It’s about whether you can stand your ground in the face of skepticism, fear, insecurity and doubt, both yours and everyone else's.
Whatever you’ve got inside of you that’s dying to come out; your biggest challenge in life (and your greatest chance for success) is to give yourself permission to let it out.
If you trade your desires for what other people think, if you trick yourself into believing that self-doubt means you must not have what it takes, if you don’t really feel deserving, then you'll fall prey to giving other people the power to kill your dreams.
The other day I came across this quote while leafing through a book about investing; "The intelligent investor is likely to need considerable willpower to keep from following the crowd." - Benjamin Graham
As in investing so it is in life.
On the path to figuring out who you really need to be, you're going to be tempted to sell out, to buy into bullshit, to go along with someone else.
You're going to be met with intense emotions and serious questioning and a massive amount of fear and self-doubt. You’re going to want to quit.
And it doesn’t matter if you want to travel the world, or volunteer, or make art, or get in shape or rise to a new standard of living with yourself; I’m sharing this message with you today to remind you that you are just as deserving as anyone else.
You deserve the chance to respond to what’s been calling you and if you don’t there’s a pretty good chance a lot of people would miss out.
Not everything you try is going to lead to success, your billion dollar idea may not yield a billion dollar payout; the first book you write or the product you develop might not be well received, you might get some serious pushback from your family if you decide to change the routine, but real failure has nothing to do with being met with a lackluster result; real failure occurs by never allowing yourself to ever try.
I bet Sara Blakely was scared to leave her job after 7 years of selling fax machines. I bet she had NO idea what was waiting for her on the other side of cutting up her pantyhose.
You’re not supposed to know either.
One thing is for certain on your path to figuring yourself out; you’ll never get a chance to see what’s possible if you don’t give yourself permission to get in the ring.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Below are two great interviews with Sara. Treat yourself to these.