How a Stranger Changed My Life

Sometimes the best things in life are completely spontaneous. Sometimes the best connections are made on accident. Sometimes the best decisions are the ones you are afraid to make.

When I say sometimes, I really mean most of the time.

Last month, Seth Godin was a stranger to me. Now, I consider him a mentor, a true leader who is inspiring me to DO, take action and to SHIP my ideas to a finish. I am so grateful to have met him. I am honored to know him. Let me tell you how I met this stranger...

My oldest brother, Linal Harris, is the beacon light of success in my life. I remember the days when he struggled to find his niche as he built his career and I’m inspired by the leaps of progress he has made by simply applying himself.

My mantra has always revolved around hard work, dedication and passion getting you anywhere you want to go. My problem has always been figuring out where that special place I want to go is...


About a month ago, Linal forwarded me an email that contained an invitation to apply for an intense 3-day seminar in New York hosted by Seth Godin, a marketing mastermind with insights people pay thousands of dollars to hear. Though I was unfamiliar with his work, my brother has followed him for years and insisted that this was an opportunity I could not miss.


From the hundreds of applicants, I am honored to be counted among the fabulous 20 impresarios that will change the world having learned a wealth of information that has shipwrecked many ideologies we past held as a standard (for insight on what an impresario is beyond what I write here, read the book I co-authored the 2nd day of this workshop).


Seth spent the first day deprogramming all of the nonsensical thinking processes that have developed in our brain from the systemic pressure to be like a honey bee in a hive. Stuck with one general path to success: a 9 to 5 that pays well, a healthy 401k, great benefits and after 30 years of service (if not more), a peaceful retirement. But is that really all life is about for the “successful” ones? Preposterous! 


The problem with the whole scenario of “success” above is the fact that it solely depends on someone else picking you. The underlying fear of thousands of grads is based in this. 


What if I don’t get picked? Even if you are picked, you must realize that the same power that brought you in can kick you out. The hundreds of thousands of unemployed have come face-to-face with this fear, their success suddenly snatched away from them. This is NOT the way to live. That is not success. Success is not about being picked, but like Seth told us constantly looking directly through us to our very souls, “Pick yourself.”


Here at UIC Liautaud, we call it being an Entrepreneur. In New York, we called it being an impresario. Still there are many questions. How? When? With what resources? Where do I start? Or perhaps the biggest question, which interest/passion do I pursue? Shhhhh... Silence the voices. Silence the doubt. 


"Indecision is another flavor of fear." -Seth Godin


Simply decide on one thing to be dedicated to entirely, building relentlessly like your life depends on it. Focus and action are the things that makes your lizard brain freak out. 


Ah yes, the lizard brain, the animal instinct in you. The first impulse in panic, shock, excitement, lust, hunger and fear. The amygdala. The lizard. The part of you that will not ever go away, but can be trained. Train the lizard not to freak out at opportunity. Train the lizard to embrace spontaneity. Train the lizard to relax in the face of uncertainty. Train the lizard to dance. Yes, dance with the lizard.


Seems like I remember Professor Mark Shanley in my Corporate Strategy (MKT 500) class saying something along the lines of companies often faltering in the planning process due to overplanning and missing out on opportunities to ride the waves of opportunity.


I'm also reminded of what Maija Renko, UIC Liautaud Entrepreneurship professor, constantly encouraged me to do in her (ENTR 502) class. "Keila," she'd say, "you have BIG dreams, but how can you put them into action now?"


The secret is choosing the actionable. Choosing what can be done immediately.


"It never feels done. You may never finish. Be OK with that, and do your best anyway." -Michelle Welsch


Go read Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin and hang out for the next parts of this talk.