Last week was Denver Startup Week, a series of events, workshops, speakers, and parties, celebrating everything entrepreneurial in Denver.
Despite managing several entrepreneurial endeavors myself, to date, I’ve put little effort into “networking” or “establishing business connections”, perhaps a more palatable term than the former. On second thought, little effort may be a generous appraisal!
Recognizing the need for like-minded community, I decided to sign up for a series of Denver Startup Week events, mostly focused on women and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Settling into my first event, an all-female entrepreneur panel (cheers), my deep-seated fears of limp handshakes and fielding the quintessential question “so, what do you do?” quickly dissipated.
After the event wrapped up, I walked to my car and reflected, “that was nice!”. While I did have an overwhelmingly positive experience, one thought lingered, “…but, why was I being a hater?”
Yes, a hater. Naysayer. 1,000+ different synonyms.
This was hard enough to admit to myself in the privacy of my own mind, so imagine typing this article for digital consumption by, in theory, the entire Internet realm.
I believe, deeply, in the idea of female solidarity.
During the all-female panel full of bright, accomplished women, I was part fist pumping and proclaiming “hell yes!” and part face palming.
I wanted to see some of the panelists solving, what I deem to be, “real, gritty, pressing” problems. Not another makeup or women’s beauty business. While I have nothing against wanting women to look and feel their best, I was still frustrated. I wanted a different narrative about female entrepreneurship, so I found myself cringing at the lighthearted jokes around funding — bootstrapping vs. raising capital vs. “finding a husband to bankroll your business”. It hit a tender spot. I admit that.
While I didn’t openly share my conflicted emotions, I felt guilty and embarrassed that I didn’t fully support this particular woman. More importantly, why couldn’t I just fully celebrate her if even I didn’t necessarily envision that entrepreneurial journey for myself?
Silence your critics (who don’t matter)
This experience reminded me of a Netflix documentary I stumbled upon not too long ago Brené Brown: The Call to Courage.
For any Brené Brown skeptics, hold your groans. You’re certainly entitled to your opinions if you think she’s “overrated” or a cliché, but hear me out.
Brené slung some seriously sage advice:
“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion because you were being brave, I am not interested in or open to your feedback about my work.”
And there’s a really, really, I think, easy… way to think about it, and it’s this:
There are millions of cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never once step foot in that area. They will never once put themselves out there, but they will make it a full-time job to hurt criticism and judgment and really hateful things toward us.
And we have got to get out of the habit of catching them and dissecting them and, you know, holding them close to our hearts. We’ve gotta let them drop on the floor. Don’t grab that hurtful stuff from the cheap seats and pull it close.
Don’t pull it anywhere near your heart. Just let it fall to the ground. You don’t have to stomp it or kick it. You just gotta step over it and keep going. You can’t take criticism and feedback from people who are not being brave with their lives.
It will just crush you.”
Are you in the arena?
I’ll be the first to confess that even though I didn’t speak unsupportive words, I took the cheap seat with my thoughts.
Sure, I’m also on a woman-owned business journey. I fight my own fight, but I don’t fight hers.
Who am I to criticize her choices or downplay her success?
Next time you (or I) have unsupportive thoughts, ask:
“Am I in the arena? Getting my ass kicked on occasion because I was being brave?”
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!