Ep. 130 – Angela Maiers: What is your genius as an entrepreneur? And how will you share it?
Angela Maiers Show Notes
Angela Maiers has been listed as one of IBM’s Top 20 Global Influencers, named by Forbes as one of the Top 5 Education Leaders to Watch, in 2017 and 2018, and is among Huffington Post’s Top 100 Social Media Influencers!
Angela founded the global movement, Choose2Matter in 2014. The non-profit organization grew out of the impassioned response to a TEDTalk she gave on the power of two simple words, that went viral. YOU MATTER!
She is the author of nine books, including the highly-acclaimed Genius Matters and Classroom Habitudes.
Futurist. Innovator. Educator. Entrepreneur. Change Maker. Angela Maiers is on a mission to disrupt the status quo and to empower every individual to change their own world, if not the world around them for the better. It is fair to say she leaves no room unchanged. Please join me in welcoming – Angela Maiers!
Most passionate about
As long as I can remember, my passion and my mission have been to educate. I’m a linguist, and the root of the word “educate” means “to lead out.”
That’s what people don’t quite understand. They think education is putting information in, when it is the complete opposite. It is seeing the gifts in front of you and helping to lead them out, to move them so they can be contributed to the world. So, to be able to lead out, it doesn’t matter if I’m with five-year-olds (which is how I started my career) or with Fortune 500 companies.
The genius that exists within individuals and organizations is what my mission, what my mantra, what my whole essence is about: to educate, to lead out.
Angela’s career and entrepreneurial development
For as long as I can remember, I have loved learning. I was really good at it and very passionate about everything I could get my hands on. That had to do with how we learn, how the brain learns. I actually put myself through medical school and studied neuroscience.
My entrepreneurial side; I worked to put myself through university and all my jobs had something to do with special communities and special needs students, from severe and profoundly autistic to emotionally disturbed to drug-addicted. I worked with them and their mothers to get them back on a pathway of purpose.
It’s what made me feel alive, and it’s what taught me what true passion is. As I said before, it’s not what you’re good at. I was good at school, but it’s not what I love to do, which is learning. I love learning about the brain. I love every single part of neuroscience. But it wasn’t what I was meant to do.
My entrepreneurial spirit led me to become an educator. I quit medical school, went back to college, and became a teacher.
No one I knew supported me because, at the time I was going to school, it was – and still is – a really big deal to be in medical school. I was the first woman in my family to go to college, the first woman in my family to pursue the pathway of medicine.
There’s prestige in that. Unfortunately, there’s not as much prestige in being a teacher. So, when I went back home and announced to everybody that I had found my passion, that I was going to quit medical school and be a teacher, I was met with a lot of resistance.
I think that’s how you know that something is a true passion. No matter what, no matter how much resistance I got and no matter how challenging the act of educating is, the act of not being a teacher was akin to not breathing.
Angela’s TED talk
Then I did this TED talk. With TED, you get 17 minutes to tell the world how you’re going to change the world. I had this beautiful talk about social media all ready to go.
The night before the talk, I watched my six favorite TED talks. They were all from profound people. I started doubting myself. I started thinking, ‘Who am I? I can’t do this. I don’t have anything worthy to say.’ And then I thought, ‘You know what? That is the problem with the world.’ The reason we don’t contribute our fullest, fiercest genius to the world is that we don’t think we’re enough. We don’t think we matter.
So, the name of my talk was “You Matter.” The simple thesis focused on whether people understood how much they mattered, how much they were needed, how much they were counted on.
Angela’s best advice for approaching customers
As an entrepreneur, I think the question you need to ask yourself is, “How do I wish to matter?” Or, another way to put it is, “How will I add value?” Because mattering isn’t all about wanting to feel worthwhile.
We get to the deepest level of worthiness by understanding not only that we are essential but how we can be essential. That’s our deepest fulfillment: knowing that we fill a need for someone. Seth Godin calls it art. Like, how will you contribute your art?
I think that’s the difference between running a business and being an entrepreneur. Running a business is selling art. Being an entrepreneur is being art – working on art and contributing your art fully and fiercely to the world.
It goes back to the value question. How is your unique value proposition – which is a combination of your genius and how you share it – going to be valuable to other people? Because value isn’t a price thing. It isn’t a money thing. It is a worthiness thing. How are you living up to your full value while also providing value for other people and finding that out?
Biggest failure with a customer
Part of being an entrepreneur is not a lack of ideas, not a lack of vision, but surrounding yourself with the wrong people. I think I learned hard, really hard.
I’ve made some bad mistakes by thinking that a “dream team” consists of people who liked me and not necessarily the right people who can move the mission forward. I attracted people to the work that I was doing, especially the work around the concept of mattering, and while I think these people were attracted to me, they were not the right people to move the mission forward.
It’s extremely hard. I think that when you look at startups, you might find that the reason why 98% of them fail is not because of ideas or even funding. It’s because they have not found the right partners or the right team.
So, that has been my struggle. I think that the team you surround yourself with shouldn’t necessarily be people who are like-minded or from the same field. They must be people who might not have any passion for the work, but they’re geniuses at moving a certain aspect of the mission forward.
Biggest success due to the right customer approach
I think that is my research. I wanted to create a framework for education, to turn mattering into practice so that it isn’t just common sense, but it’s also commonplace and common practice. I went directly to the source, which is students. I approached half a million students, in every state in the United States and every grade level from kindergarten through 12th grade.
I asked: What would make them run to school? They said, “Well, we just want to matter.” I said, “Well, we need to break that down. What does that look like? What is the one thing someone can do?”
And when I wanted to move that work into organizations and to industry, I worked with the largest employee engagement network and asked them the same question: What would make you run to work every day? Then I took that data and operationalized it in terms of how wide I wanted the impact, and how scalable and sizable I wanted that implementation, to be. People aren’t motivated by theories and theorems. They’re motivated by real experience. And I wanted to know what their day-to-day is.
Recommendation of a tool for customer focus, marketing, or sales
I think we all suffer from the “shiny new tools” syndrome. If I look at my journey in social media, my journey as an entrepreneur, I have basically used the same five tools since the beginning. Each serves a purpose and I think that understanding the function of what you want to do has to lead. The purpose has to lead.
The two that are essential as an entrepreneur are 1. Twitter. If I really want to know what people are saying, I need to be masterful at learning how to search. The conversations and hashtags are absolutely revolutionary because they allow you to get into the community, the real conversation. You can also do this through Twitter lists and other things.
2. Video. For a different objective, I think the best way to connect with your customers, for them to get to know you as an entrepreneur and as a brand, is through video. Nothing is more disruptive than video. I can do more in a half-hour or hour of video than I can in a thousand blog posts because people can see through you. You can’t fake authenticity, and that is what allows you to reach above. I think it is absolutely essential for every entrepreneur to have a video presence.
Angela’s key success factor
This is the ‘habitude’ I was talking about, the habit and attitude of self-awareness. It is one of the least-talked-about attributes that are foundational to entrepreneurship. And, yes, the other habits matter. Passion matters, as we’ve talked about. Courage matters. Adaptability matters. Imagination matters. Curiosity, all of those things. However, as an entrepreneur, specifically, if you don’t have self-awareness, you can’t lead. You can’t innovate. You can’t make the impact you were meant to make. Self-awareness is the ability to be inside and outside of yourself simultaneously.
Because we believe that the best way for entrepreneurs to get fast, big, and sustainable success is by leading your (new) market category, and the entire entrepreneurial journey reminds me of mountaineering, or conquering the mountain, I want to ask you if there is a mountain you dream of climbing or a mountain you have already climbed?
I just spent a week in Yellowstone, in the beautiful mountains of Montana, and went hiking every day. Each day we took a different path and each day we pushed ourselves differently than we did on the previous day.
There was a group of about 100 people. Every day, I asked, “Who wants to go hiking with me?” Now, nobody wants to do it because they see it’s a mountain and then it’s just too hard.
A lot of the population doesn’t have the endurance, doesn’t have the vision, doesn’t have the adaptability or even the confidence to try.
When you’re in the mountains, the actual mountains, it’s the most beautiful time to reflect on your journey.