"Be conscious about the choices you make with your money and always try to support the people who support you. I like to call it, Doing You by Doing Us."
- Russell Simmons
Author of Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success
"What business entrepreneurs are to the economy, social entrepreneurs are to social change. They are the driven, creative individuals who question the status quo, exploit new opportunities, refuse to give up-and remake the world for the better."
- David Bornstein
Author of Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas
Be True to Yourself – "Do You"
Excerpt from a Founder's Address by Nadine Abraham Thompson
8th Annual Warm Spirit Sales Celebration and Conference
Orlando, Florida 2007
You know, throughout our years together I’ve often talked about how the universe listens to our needs and gives us answers—if we’re willing to trust in its power and pay attention.
Well, recently I started reading a new book that I feel speaks to all of us here today. I was really blown away by its message and the fact what the author is saying is so appropriate—and runs so parallel—to what we have talked about here at Warm Spirit since the company’s launch ten years ago.
The book is Do You - 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success by Russell Simmons. Many of you will recognize Russell Simmons as the entrepreneur and visionary who brought hip-hop to every facet of business and media. He is the cofounder of Def Jam Records and innovator behind Phat Farm, Baby Phat, Run Athletics, and Def Jam University—just to name a few of his accomplishments.
What really resonated with me in this book was Simmons’ unfailing belief in two critical elements necessary for being successful and fulfilled as a person: being true to your vision and being true to yourself.
Simmons makes it very clear that it is your vision that will see you through the difficult times and take you where you want to go in life.
You know, we often think successful people just “got there” without any struggles. But he describes how it was his vision to create a line of hip-hop clothing that helped him tune out all the people who were telling him his Phat Farm line was a failure—even when he had personally invested and lost 10 million dollars in the first six years. No one else could see the vision he held of creating hip-hop clothing with “flava.” He was even encouraged to sell out his initial idea by deviating with hockey jerseys and extra-baggy pants for a national chain—a move that would have helped him out financially in those early years. But he held firm to his vision because he knew, in his heart and in his soul, that Phat Farm was an idea that could be successful.
And indeed it has been. Ten years after creating the company, Simmons sold Phat Farm for 115 million dollars and retained day-to-day control of operations, and its success helped Simmons and his wife create Baby Phat, another successful venture.
I think what really struck a chord in me with Simmons’ book was this idea that a vision is connected to who you are as a person, and it goes far beyond how well you’re educated or where or how you live. Vision—true vision that can launch you on a destiny of unbelievable rewards—is rooted deep within you. It’s that feeling, that little inner light bulb that has gone off in your soul, which tells you “this is what you’re supposed to do.” Sometimes you can’t even fully explain how you know it, you just know it.
Simmons said something else I liked - he believes visions are spiritual and “are actually God’s way of communicating with us.” Isn’t that a beautiful concept? Your compelling vision is God whispering in your ear and nudging you along the path of accomplishment.
Of course most of us feel the spirit of vision on occasion but we don’t always know how to nurture it, or harness it as Simmons says. If you’re an energetic and creative person you may be brimming with visions. If so, you must determine the vision that is most powerful. And how do you do this? By recognizing the vision that is driven by your passion. Once you have identified this passion-fueled vision, you must immediately “freeze” it. When you can see it clearly in your mind, write it down or draw it. Record your thoughts into a tape recorder. Do whatever you can do to ensure you never lose these thoughts and images. Freeze the big picture first and then work on all the details. For example, if you want a home in the Caribbean, first see it clearly in its entirety. Then break it down—how many rooms does it have? How will it be furnished? What is your color scheme? How far is the beach from your front door? You get the picture. The more details the better.
Next, be clear in your vision. Know it inside and out and be able to speak your vision, which brings me to the next step …
Sharing your vision with others. In other words, put it out there. A by-product of this process is that once you share your vision with others, you’re stuck with it. Cool idea, huh?
Next, focus on one vision at a time. If you’re like a friend who has more great ideas in one week than most people have in ten years, force yourself to focus on your most compelling vision and see it through. You can achieve much more with single-pointed focus.
Value your vision—don’t let your background or lack of experience convince you your vision isn’t important. Simmons had never created a clothing line before, but he knew the idea was a good one.
Throughout Simmons’ book he includes thoughts under the heading, Recognize the Real. Here is the one he included about vision, and I love it. Absolutely love it. Write it down—it’s powerful.
“Your vision makes your world. If you see the world as a happy, loving place, then that’s where you’re going to live. But if you see the world as a messed up, negative, and dangerous place, then that will be your reality.”
I encourage each of you to embrace the possibility for happiness and success in your life. Envision it, be committed to it, and make it your reality.
Now the second part, being true to yourself, or “do you” as Simmons calls it, might be a little trickier because there are so many temptations out there waiting to trip us up. We have these things called ears that sometimes listen to ideas and criticism and directions that aren’t us at all. How many of you have had a makeover by a makeup artist and walked away feeling far more foolish than glamorous?
I’m not saying makeovers are a bad thing—they can do a world of good. But most of us have had our encounters with someone who has thought we should project an image, or do something, that was far from who we really are, right?
I’m reminded of a friend who was made up for a video shoot once and the makeup artist exaggerated her rather thin upper lip. My friend’s teenage son happened to be on the set with her and he commented that she looked like she had a caterpillar on her lip.
Once again, you must listen to that voice inside you. Don’t be someone you’re not—don’t compromise your integrity or your vision. Even if you fail a few times, you will know you did what was right for you. So, don’t let anyone paint a caterpillar on your face—everyone will know it’s not real.
When you are committed to being you, you’ll discover that people will trust you and stick with you even if the water gets a little choppy. As a businessperson, you have a responsibility to create and maintain a brand, just as we do with Warm Spirit, which people can depend on. You build your brand right alongside the brand that represents the products. Each time you are a woman of your word—you say you’ll replace a product and you do, immediately—you’re building your brand as a businessperson. If you listen to someone who isn't committed to her business and tells you good customer service isn’t that important, you’re tarnishing your brand as an individual.
You have determined how you want to build your business, and it is only by being true to yourself that you can create the loyalty and the support you need to be a leader.
And finally, Simmons encourages people to give back to their communities. He calls it “Doing you by doing us.” That means supporting those who support you and the causes you believe in. It means sharing your success with those who are struggling and it means working toward making the world a better place.
It is wonderful to be here—I am so grateful to all of you—and I look forward to continuing our celebration together this weekend.
Be joyous, be positive, and always, always—be you and hold on to your vision.