We’ve been told our entire lives to trust our guts so why is it that when we get into business, that advice all too easily flies out the window? Perhaps it’s because we doubt ourselves as we learn to navigate the unfamiliar paths of entrepreneurship or launching a new product. Or maybe we’re seasoned business vets who’ve crossed many a chasm, but we still let other people’s advice weigh too heavily on our decisions when we’ve known the right direction all along.
When it comes to marketing and social media, I consider myself somewhat of an expert. I’ve worked in Marketing for nearly twenty years and began using Facebook when you could still only access it with a university email address (yes, an original pioneer, how vintage right?). I have about 20,000 followers across my personal social media platforms, and I understand my audience and my personal brand extremely well. I’ve won awards for marketing and business and regularly teach others the ropes.
But despite all of this, two years ago, I wavered on all of this experience and absolutely did not listen to my gut.
It all came about when I took a fun picture of myself in a Barbie box at a Barbie Expo in Montreal and posted it to my personal Instagram and Facebook accounts with the caption “I’m a Barbie Girl in a Barbie World”. My long blonde hair was front-and-center in the picture as fun memories rushed back to me, of dressing up as Barbie one Halloween back in university. You see, I’ve always loved Barbie, and this was before all the current hype going on these days, again how avant-garde of me.
At the time, two years ago, I had been working with a PR consultant, and less than an hour after posting she sent me a really mean email telling me to take it down. She said the Barbie brand was “white girl racist objectification of women” and “CEO toxic stuff that’s super bad for branding as a leader with a head on her shoulders”.
My gut flip-turned upside down upon reading her email. What? Is my beloved Barbie being seen in this light? The same Barbie that I had just attended an Expo for, which was extremely inclusive and featured Barbies of all different backgrounds, sizes, abilities, and more? I thought my post was fun and light-hearted and my followers seemed to agree but I went against my gut and took the post down.
Minutes later, I regretted it. I wished I hadn’t removed it and I went to work researching all the ways the Barbie brand had fought against the stigmas placed upon it in early years. I replied with an email explaining my thoughts and got an even longer reply from the consultant rebuking my position and basically telling me I was absolutely in the wrong and that had I left that post up it would come back to haunt me one day. It was a scary thought for me, a girl just trying to be taken seriously in the man’s world of Sports Tech. Would men not respect me because of this fun and harmless post?
I was still green back then. I was still finding my voice and trying not to suffer from mentor whiplash. Don’t get me wrong, we have had so many incredible people help us on our journey thus far but sometimes you just know in your gut if something fits or doesn’t fit. On that day, I knew what I should have done (kept the post up) but I didn’t trust my gut. I let fear win.
Since then, I have worked hard to find my voice and really listen to my intuition. That consultant and I parted ways a month later and I really took it as a lesson learned; to give myself and my experience (both in life and in business) more credit and to trust myself more often. I now give keynote speeches on the peaks and valleys of entrepreneurship and how sometimes your inner compass really knows best.
Because the entrepreneurial journey is really all about gathering as much information to add to your map as you can and continuously learning and growing. It’s about leaning on mentors, consultants, advisors, and teachers and using their knowledge to guide you and get you to the next step while being aware that sometimes, the only person who knows the terrain you’re dealing with is you. Especially if it is new terrain on a path, you’re forging for the first time.
Sometimes out on the new terrain, the only thing you have is your gut and that intuition. And hopefully thick skin.
I’m happy to let you know that I had my chance to finally repost my Barbie picture. I decided to celebrate the release of the Barbie movie with a condensed version of this story on my social channels and what do you know? People loved it! They celebrated my courage to repost it, they celebrated Barbie’s inclusivity and messaging, they cheered me on for owning my blonde hair as a Sports Tech Founder & CEO and some even said they should make a Badass Boss Barbie for me. Make me blush or what.
The moral of this story is that you know YOU and you know your business better than anyone else in the world. Yes, others may have walked a similar path, but no one has walked in the exact same shoes and steps that you have. While diverse thoughts and differences of opinions can sometimes be a catalyst for necessary change and growth, at the end of the day it’s important for any decisions you make to feel good in your heart and soul.
So next time you’re faced with a challenging decision, ask around for help but remember how important it is to always trust your gut and stay true to yourself. Your business will thank you for it down the road and across the chasm.
by Shannon Ferguson