Top-Shelf Tip No. 127:

"It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen."

Scott Belskey

Be Brave Enough To Be Different

This week, more than 150 industry women met in Atlanta, Georgia, for the 2016 PPAI Women's Leadership Conference (WLC). They came to network, be educated and be inspired by others who are shaping both our industry and the business world as a whole. Some of these words of inspiration came from within and some from outside our industry—from speakers such as Kelly Swanson, a motivational expert who closed the conference with words of inspiration about how attendees could change their story to effectively change their life.

Today, Promotional Consultant Today wraps up our series featuring some of the inspirational speakers from this week's WLC with excerpts from a recent article by Swanson on the courage to be different.

Being the class clown in college, most of my best stories started with the words, "Wouldn't it be funny if …" These words were usually a good indicator of a dumb idea that we would laugh about for years. While this made for great college stories, having a dumb idea in business makes the sting much greater. Now when I have a dumb idea, there is no team of cheering partiers who will applaud my bravery and won't remember my mistake tomorrow. Now there is a community of peers—people watching and waiting to see if I succeed—and some will even be giddy when I fail as if they needed proof that I wasn't as great as they think I think I am.

I know I shouldn't care about those people watching me on the sidelines. But I do care. But not enough to stop trying.

This business of being a motivational speaker (and I imagine not just my business) is built on risk. Courage is your No. 1 skill set. It's not just having the courage to get up on stage, but the courage to get up there and be different. It's having the courage to try new things, the courage to be cutting edge, the courage to be raw and vulnerable, the courage to put yourself out there over and over.

It's having the courage to run with an idea and having no guarantee that it will work.

I have tried jokes that bombed. I've told stories that offended people. I've hosted events where nobody showed up. I have boxes of products I convinced my husband that I would sell, and yet I never even opened the box. I have stacks of shiny, slick postcards that were outdated before I ever used them. I've had clients who didn't like me, and audiences that asked me not to come back.

I'm pretty confident that for every good idea I had, there were 50 bad ones. But some were golden. I just didn't know it until I got on the other side of it. And I wouldn't have known had I not tried every one.

That's the thing about innovation. The very concept is built on creating something that never existed before. So by its very nature, there is no guarantee that it will work. And even if you try it and it doesn't work, that doesn't mean it was necessarily a bad idea. You just might have gone about it the wrong way.

One man's bad idea is often another man's jackpot.

Don't be ashamed of your bad ideas. So you failed. Get over it. Celebrate that you tried. That is the victory. You had the courage to be pink in a sea of black and white zebras.

Stay pink. Keep at it. Your next big thing is just around the corner.

Source: Kelly Swanson is a motivational speaker, comedian, author, storyteller and a small-business person. She is also a wife and mom who resides in High Point, North Carolina, with her husband and son. In addition to keynote presentations, she conducts breakout sessions where she goes deeper into "her truths" to make them real for audiences. Swanson presented the WLC Closing Session: "You. Your Story. Make An Impact."

Compiled by Cassandra Johnson


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