Her Agenda: Why did you want to create your own path versus going down the beaten path?
Lauren: I wasn’t wired to want to be anything else. And when I say, “create your own path,” it’s not just that I work for myself. It’s that I define what I want to do.
How many people are like, ‘I’m looking for a job.’ Okay, what do you want to do? [And they say something like] ‘let me know if you hear of anything.’ What!? (*laughs in disbelief*)
It was ingrained in who I was, because I’ve always had a lot of responsibility. I have always enjoyed having a lot of responsibility and I’ve always thrived on working hard, and being able to take ownership for having created something, and then making it successful. That can come in many forms, it can come in the form of being an entrepreneur, it can come in the form of a C-level executive, or growing a company from 10 million to 100 million.
I recognized at a very early age that I was better equipped to create my own path and make my own contributions to a variety of different things that interested me. Over a fairly short period of time, that enabled me to control how quickly I was able to grow and how much I was able to grow in that period of time, which directly impacted how I was able to accelerate my career. I like having that control. I like that feast or famine mentality. If I was an employee, I would have been an employee of a commission based business. I don’t think there was [any other] way for me to accelerate my skills and accomplishments if I hadn’t created my own way.
Her Agenda: You once said, “Be hungry to succeed, not thirsty for attention.” How did you come to realize that concept?
Lauren: A lot of people think that “shine” equals success, and it doesn’t. I would love for this book to do incredibly well, not because I want the shine, but because I want to see millions of other women redefine their path, get to the top on their own terms, to be comfortable in who they are, own what makes them unique, and find a way to leverage that to become successful.
If I had an opportunity to do something that I was incredibly successful but wasn’t public-facing or consumer-facing, that wouldn’t stop me from doing it.
When I was starting the [Gen Y] fund, I was sleeping four hours a night for a year and a half. I’d be on email with my partners, closing investors into the fund, sending off documents at two in the morning. Talking to people in Hong Kong and London at odd hours, because it suited their schedule while also doing my other work, and running Luxury Market Branding, speaking, raising my children, and doing everything else. Sleeping from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. and waking up and going to the gym and taking the kids to school. But, I thrived on that excitement. It was to the point for me where I couldn’t even sleep straight through every night for those four hours because my mind was still racing even though my body wanted to sleep. I would literally sleep with a notepad by my bed.
Her Agenda: What time management tips do you have?
Lauren: Other, than the auto-reply? (*laughs*) A very very nice auto-reply, telling people that I’m coming back from out of town a day or two later than I actually am, so I’m not bombarded with an avalanche of emails when I return. Other than that, no. I don’t have any other time management plans or skills, because it’s always evolving. I’m guilty of the same imperfections in both time management and productivity as everybody else. I pride myself on being a very good communicator, so that also translates in my everyday life as not being as productive as I could or should be. But I also think that’s what people appreciate about me. I’m always on, I’m always avail. I’m always dedicated, I’m not one of those ‘oh it’s 9-5; it’s 5:30 see you tomorrow.’ they know that I’m always available and dedicated. My tip for productivity would be to start working with people that you really like so that your personal life and your professional life have more overlap.
Her Agenda: Do you have a large team or a small team?
Lauren: I have a small team of four people, but I like them and I like that other people that I end up working with. [To an outsider] me grabbing dinner and drinks with a co-worker may appear as being purely social, but it’s also productive. The most powerful productivity [tip] is to create a life that’s serendipitous by design that allows you to start liking the people that you work with. I think that it’s definitely a shift in culture, and it’s very different than the way that I grew up. My parents are enamored by the fact that I would end up working with a lot of people who I also call friends, or I end of becoming friends with the people that I work with.
Her Agenda: There’s definitely a fine line between friendship and business. Do you have any advice for navigating that?
Lauren: It’s almost similar advice you would give to someone who’s considering an inter-office romance. You have to know how to turn it on and turn it off. There’s a time and a place. As long as you understand that, you’re okay. Just because I’m friendly with just about everyone I work with doesn’t mean that I don’t get my work in on time, that it’s not the best caliber of product, it doesn’t mean that I’m late. It doesn’t mean that I think I can be laissez-faire, it means none of that. I may text an individual and say, “Can’t wait to see you this evening,” but if we have an email exchange or conference call, it’s all about business. It’s definitely a skill.
Her Agenda: What has been your biggest failure? What did you learn from it?
Lauren: My biggest failure so far has been personal. It was when my marriage fell apart. It was a hard lesson for me to learn, that there are some things that you just can’t change. There are some things that your actions, your words, your care, your commitment, your concern just won’t change the outcome. That was a really hard pill to swallow.
It was both a valuable lesson and wake up call for me to learn to let things go and to be secure in who I am and what I represent absent from the title of wife, mother, daughter, entrepreneur, CEO, marketer, philanthropist or whatever. What it taught me the most was that when people show you their true colors, believe them. It didn’t hit me right away. It took me a year to realize that this was a lesson that God wanted me to learn.
Oftentimes, we so badly want the outcome to be different that we want to see a change in people that they’re not willing to make. It was a defining moment in my life that told me that life keeps going, and I must keep moving. [And there are times] where you’re forced to accept things the way that they are and make the best of it. It made me value qualities that aren’t teachable skills. It made me really value and appreciate honesty, integrity, morality, communication, things that long-standing good relationships are based on. Ultimately, it made me a very good judge of character, and that lesson I take with me into everything.
Her Agenda: How did becoming a mom impact your career?
Lauren: Being a mom is an amazing blessing. Becoming a mom has impacted my career because it has inspired me to want to be their role model. I struggled with this for a long time, especially after the winery. I started asking myself, ‘Do I want to be a stay at home mom and give them my all?,’ because I’ve been busy doing so many things, or ‘do I want to go on and start Luxury Market Branding?’ I asked myself the same questions when I was starting Gen Y capital, and when presented with the opportunity to write this book.
I was grappling with the fact that you don’t get these moments back, before I know it, they’re going to be 18 and going off to college. But I was equal parts, ‘I’m not going to get these moments back’ with ‘but these are really great opportunities that I may not see again.’ Luckily, it happened at a time when both of my children were able to be vocal about how they felt. My son and my daughter both started showing me that they respected and were inspired by me as their mom, and that was my other signal and sign from God, and from them and from life, that I was making the right decision. Over the last couple years, it has given me an increased sense of worthiness and confidence in the decisions I make everyday, knowing that my children sincerely look up to me as their mom. When they say who they want to be when they grow up, my daughter wants to be me, she wants to be like her mommy. She wants to do everything like her mommy, her version of dress up involves what she takes as a phone and she’s on a conference call going to the airport. My son’s version is he wants to run my business, and negotiate everything. That’s been really humbling for me.
Her Agenda: Do you have any personal mottos that you live by?
Lauren: Run your own race. A lot of people are so concerned with what everyone else is doing. Just do you. Other than that: “is it worth it even if I fail?”
And there is one other thing I can’t really claim that is mine. It’s the Boy Scout’s motto. It’s something I’ve always done and probably not always verbalized. It was something Mellody Hobson said to me in one of our many phone calls it’s “Be Prepared.” It’s so simple, it’s two words, but that defines her career, that’s what defines who she is, and she’s always prepared to out-work everyone. She always works really hard. I live by that everyday. I have no idea what exactly tomorrow holds for me but I’m always prepared.
What unique traits are you utilizing to help you craft your career goals and define your own path to success? Show us! Upload a photo and hashtag it #redefiningmyagenda. For full contest details, click here.
[Editor’s note: This contest is now closed. This feature was published on May 19th, 2014]