I have a special fondness for back stories about successful people that include advice from their dad.
Wise advice from Dad
I have a dad who gave me the best possible advice ever when I was having problems justifying taking a day a week to just focus on my writing. I was worried that I was being irresponsible when I could be working on that designated writing day and making money to feed the mouths I had at home. Instead of discouraging me, he laid out the facts: “Brenda, you have to write; you’ve been writing all your life. You’re young, go for it.” At the time, I was in my forties which didn’t seem particularly young to me. And then he said the words that gave me the clarity I didn’t know I needed.
Dad: Don’t give up on your dreams, Brenda, and remember who your audience is.
Me: Who’s my audience, Dad?
Dad: It is the every woman. It is the woman in Detroit, the one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the woman in Salt Lake City. It is the woman who gets dressed everyday. She needs your inspiration.
He was so right. I wasn’t dreaming of writing for fashion editors at Vogue or The New York Times, but there was an important audience out there who craved sensible style tips for every day. I could serve them!
He also told me that it wouldn’t be easy, that no one would notice me for a long time, but that one day people would be calling. He failed to mention it would be people like Oprah Winfrey wanting me on her show. I wouldn’t have believed him even if he’d said that, but it happened!
B.J. Novak’s dad shares advice
So I’ve saved this clipping from the New York Times Magazine, an interview with B.J. Novak. You may recognize him from the hit TV show, The Office or The Mindy Project or one of his books. In this interview he responded to a question about what he does with the ideas that wake him up in the middle of the night.
Here’s his response.
My father game me advice when I started stand-up. “How about you say only what you like and keep only what they like?” Don’t say anything you don’t love, don’t share anything you don’t love, don’t make anything you don’t love, but if you love it, try to make it popular. My goal is not to make popular things. My goal is to make the things I love as popular as I can make them.
How does love play into what you do?
When you read what B.J. Novak’s father said to him, can you relate his advice to something about how you work or run your business?
I can. I remember earlier in my career when I thought that I needed to serve every kind of client and solve every kind of client problem. Over time I focused on what I loved most. What is that?
I love style.
I love helping people connect to the truth about themselves – all those wonderful qualities that they miss because those qualities are hiding in their blindspot and they can’t see them.
I love dressing clients so they feel more like themselves than they ever have. I want to understand them and help them understand themselves through the art of getting dressed.
I made it my rule to start with style
It seemed risky to insist that anyone working with me needed to do my style assessment first. I wouldn’t run out and do a shopping trip or agree to clean out their closet without them doing the style assessment first.
What is it that you love? What is it that you love doing the most? Have you created your service offerings to do those very things you love? Do you write about them in your newsletters? Do you speak about them in your presentations?
All of us can have a satisfying, successful career especially when we focus on what we love.