My "Courage" Led to My Progress
By Lisa Stone, Co-Founder, BlogHer March 17, 2015 12:00 PM
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Lisa Stone, SheKnows Media Chief Community Officer and Co-founder of BlogHer, shares her story about the defining characteristic that led to her progress.
Have you ever seen a child blush red and break out in a sweat when called upon in class? Or cry in embarrassment if forced to speak? That was me.
Today I can confirm that early, painful shyness was essential to my progress. Struggling with shyness birthed the personal style and intellectual insights that led me to work I love. Because I was shy, I became a journalist, then an entrepreneur and a CEO.
As a child, I couldn’t stand to be the center of attention, where my anxiety would bring me to tears. I loved people, but how to make friends when I wanted to be invisible? Worse yet, my family moved a lot.
Then my mother, a savvy elementary school teacher, made a brilliant move: She gave me the responsibility of taking care of people like me. “Honey, the world’s full of people who are lonely,” my mother told me. “If you’re friendly when you pass people on the street or at school, it will make such a difference. What if you’re the only one who says ’Hi’ to them today? They’ll love you for it.”
That broke my heart. I knew how lonely invisibility was. So I worked up the courage to start smiling, then saying ‘Hi,’ then asking how people were. And somehow, along the way, my temporary courage became genuine interest and then a passion. Eventually, I became a journalist, working for outlets including CNN and The Los Angeles Times. After all, what is a journalist if not a professional listener? Voila!
Then magic happened: All those hours of listening not only helped me start communicating with confidence, but started inspiring big ideas. First as a reporter, then as a producer, media strategist, editor-in-chief, digital consultant and start-up vice president. My listening habit gave me strategic insights into what Internet audiences really wanted, how to interact with technology users, and why digital content was different.
Pairing my listening habit with the skills I developed as a journalist trained me to develop models and recommendations steeped in evidence — not just opinion. Running the numbers – listening to data! – further bolstered my confidence as I began to make boardroom arguments for quality content development.
Thank goodness I got that practice a few start-ups ago, since one of my big ideas led ultimately to me becoming co-founder of BlogHer Inc. in 2005, CEO of the company in 2007, and now Chief Community Officer of SheKnows Media, our parent company as of late 2014.
Today I’m much less shy, but I’m a work-in-progress. I won’t pretend I love public speaking – frankly, every minute on stage at our annual conference for thousands of women takes an hour of preparation! But I enjoy feeling bedrock-solid about my research, and users – just like those strangers who I first started engaging with as a child – continue to fascinate and educate me. It’s this ability to connect with others, rooted in my genuine interest in people, which is the root of my progress.
The one secret I share for forming professional relationships – whether it is a colleague, co-founder, potential client, customer or community member:
Ask. Don’t tell.
P.S. Thanks, Mom.