• Wed, Apr 11 2012

‘Fire Starter’ Danielle LaPorte: Trying To Be Well-Rounded Leads To Mediocrity

“Reframe what it means to be successful. Be strategic with your desires. Leverage your contradictions. Make ease a metric of your success. Prioritize what’s sacred.”

That is the tagline for Danielle LaPorte’s new book The Fire Starter Sessions (available April 17 from Random House.) The book is really a collection of energetic thoughts to help get you out of a career rut and get you pursuing what you really want, whether it is starting your own company or just finding more passion in your current job. With lessons centering such as “Being well-rounded is highly overrated,”"Life balance is a myth,” “Screw Your Principles,” and “Competency is for suckers,” you will quickly realize  this is not your typical self-help book. That is because there is not one thing typical about LaPorte. Her resume includes a brief stint in fashion, bartending, co-running The Body Shop Canada’s Department of Social Inventions and running a Washington D.C. think tank. Did I mention she didn’t go to college either?

She is also the creator of WhiteHotTruth.com, which has been called “the best place on-line for kick-ass spirituality.” An inspirational speaker and business strategist, Danielle has worked with 462+ entrepreneurs in her 1-on-1 Fire Starter consults (which are $500 and booked six weeks in advance.)

“I really wrote this [The Fire Starter Sessions] as a survival guide. I had this acumen, just these great stories about the journey we take,” she said. We were lucky enough to chat with Danielle for a bit about the biggest cause of mediocrity, the magic formula for entrepreneurs (it involves a lot of sweat), focus bubbles and cold-calling CEOs.

The Grindstone: We write a lot about career transitions on this site but sometimes it seems the hardest part is to figure out what you want? How do you figure out what you want?

Danielle LaPorte: It is about analyzing your dream. It takes a lot of analysis and a lot of encouragement and asking those questions about why do you want what you want. Is it your dream or your mother’s dream? Or something you saw on reality television which isn’t really reality? You have to know why you want what you want because once you get clear on that you can be much more efficient and much more stoked.

The Grindstone: How do you get your dream career? Or rather what is your advice for those who are scared to maybe pursue their dream career?

Danielle LaPorte: The secret to it is I never believe the excuse of “I don’t know where to start.” Then my response is, “You don’t want it bad enough,” because anything you try, even if you bomb, you’re gonna know more people at the bank, and yourself. You need to just keep going. I’ve failed! I’ve failed publicly. I have felt like a big fat fake. I have had those moments of “Who am I?” There are times when I think I should have done it this way. Sometimes it’s not quite what you imagined, but you keep going. If you aim for sincerity then you’re okay.

The Grindstone: Do you have advice for female entrepreneurs that may be working a full time job while they launch their dream business on the side?

Danielle LaPorte: You need to accept your day job and your dream job and accept that you are going to be working double time for a good year and a half. That is the way it is. I don’t know anybody who did it any differently. That is the magic formula. You have to sweat. And then you need to have your “jumpby.” You have to say by X date I hope I am going to have X amount of money in the bank. But here’s the thing, if you don’t honor that jumpby, a little part of your soul starts to die. In the book, I call it your “light at the end of the tunnel day.” You gotta go when you said you were gonna go. You gotta quit when you said you were gonna quit.

If you don’t make it for your jumpby, would you say then you should give up on this goal?

Danielle LaPorte: No, but you will disappoint yourself. Don’t disappoint yourself because of safety. My god, put it on a credit card. Move home. Do whatever you have to do.

You have talked about when you are juggling these multiple projects you enter a “creative bubble” where you pretty much shut yourself off from the world? Do you recommend that for others?

Danielle LaPorte: Focus is the essential ingredient. You’re going to make some uncomfortable no’s. You are going to miss a few parties. And that’s what it takes. That’s what it takes to birth a project, birth a baby, get the job, get it out the door. And you can’t live in that bubble of “Gooooo! And launch!” You need single-minded determination and focus.

How long has your longest bubble been?

Danielle LaPorte: I’ve got about three months of focus in me. After that, it’s bad for my skin.

Well I have ADD so it’s like 10 minute sessions for me. Anyway, let’s focus on you. I know in the book you talk about how for some people being asked what they do for a living can be a very difficult question if they hate their job. This may help them realize what they really want to do. Can you expand on that?

Danielle LaPorte: If you are in that place where you feel like [about your job] “This blows,” but you still want to connect with someone you should realize your not your job, it’s not the only part of your identity. It’s about what you’re interested in and be sincere. If it’s not gonna get you fired  you can say, “Look, I’ve got this joe job. It pays the bills. What I’m really interested in is this…” It is better to show up in honesty than to shrink. If you think shrinking is going to make you look good, then that’s not good. You can’t connect with someone that way.

Do you feel like certain people still judge you for not going to college? Or are they actually more impressed that you didn’t? I feel like, especially on the East Coast in some of these professional, elite circles not going to college is just so taboo? But you ran a think tank in Washington D.C.! How did you do that?

Danielle LaPorte: I worked in DC where everyday I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement and everyday somebody asked “Where did you go to school?” Like, it was pervasive. I would say I didn’t go to school and they were like, “What do you mean you didn’t go to school?” So then it was impressive. I leveraged it. People thought, “Wow! She must have something.” I don’t even think about it.

After high school I just ended up going from one thing to the other. I was going to go into fashion design. I wanted to be the next Armani. And I realized everytime I sat down to cut a pattern or to sew I would get a raging headache. I remember walking out of my first day and saying, “I hate sewing. I’m done.” And I didn’t like the competitive spirit of that whole industry. I bartended for a while then I got a job in retail and up, and up, and up. One thing led to another. It’s a long and twisted journey, but there I am running a think tank in Washington, D.C.

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