I was invited to a women’s networking event last night and the theme was “Dangerous Women”. The idea was that we all bought our dangerous woman with us as an icebreaker. Initially I found this rather tricky, perhaps due to the my very literal interpretation of ‘dangerous’ (somehow I felt Rose West wouldn’t have made the brightest of introductions ) I rescanned the invite and it encouraged us to be creative in our interpretation of ‘dangerous’, suggesting we pick someone we admire ( I later realised that danger does seem to slip into the equation when it comes to the women I admire, but I’ll touch on that later).
One particular lady that I admire and has had huge personal impact on me over the last year in Michelle Mone, Founder and CEO of Ultimo. It’s not simply Michelle’s success as an incredibly astute business woman that inspires me (although impressive); nor her lifestyle or her fabulous mane of hair (although I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to either of these ). It’s something much deeper, more vital, and the very reason why I am sitting here today, writing about Michelle Mone.
I first became familiar with Michelle Mone’s personal story when watching the documentary, How We Made Our Millions, where Peter Jones fascinatingly explores what makes up a successful entrepreneur. It was her gritty, unshakeable determination to bring life to her vision no matter what that had me in awe. Many of us know Ultimo for the glamorous global lingerie brand it is today- rarely do we contemplate the personal journey that is the life force behind it.
For those that are not aware, Michelle had a challenging childhood, having left school with no formal qualifications and having the pressure of providing for her family from an early age (her father was diagnosed with spina bifida and confined to a wheel chair). After having been made redundant and having had her second child, she was out at a party one night and had an idea that she could create a more comfortable, cleavage enhancing bra than the one she was wearing, deciding then and there she was going to make it happen (how many of us have genius ideas that fall by the wayside as turning it into reality seems a fantasy to hard to fight for? Not so for Michelle).
During the journey of bringing Ultimo to the market, she ranked up thousands of pounds worth of debt and was urged to give up on her dream. Yet Michelle kept going, trusting her vision and acting out of that yearning inside, never once giving up when outside ‘evidence’ appeared to point in that direction.
The moment that really got Ultimo in the limelight and was the first step in creating the successful brand it is known as today is a clever, feisty PR campaign. A knack for clever PR is something Michelle is known for, and many say the empire she has successfully created today is down to her sharp eye for publicity,
This got me to thinking. By the time Ultimo got it’s big break, Michelle was pretty much desperate to make it happen. Not only was she in financial dire straits, but she had invested a huge amount of time into developing and perfecting her product.
Now I’m not for one second suggesting we bury ourselves up to the eyeballs in debt in order to create the success we desire, but I am wondering how much putting ourselves under pressure and forsaking the comfort zone for the rockier realm of risk is crucial if we are really to tap into our brilliance? Would Michelle have unleashed her PR genius and acted on her ideas had she not put herself so completely on the line?
When we decide to make a change and strive for something meaningful and exciting in our lives, be it building a business or changing career, so many prioritise getting their back up plan clear, keeping that safety net close by and ready to break a fall, but Michelle had no back up plan. To me, this can be the crucial difference between someone that really gets results and someone that remains clutching on to the sidelines. In the shadow of the What If’s comes the hesitancy, the waiting for the perfect moment and the excuse to back out when all gets too tough (and of course it will do, that’s part of the parcel of creating something magnificent and certainly was the case for Michelle).
When you’ve put yourself on the line as Michelle did, you give yourself no other option, you are propelled to act, to drive past the ‘monkey mind’ that destroys so many dreams (you know, the self-sabotaging “I’m not good enough” and “Come on, Just be realistic now” mind junk ). At the end of the day, it’s action that brings our dreams to life.
If Michelle had said “I’ll give it a couple of years and if it doesn’t work I’ll get another safe job” than I wouldn’t be here writing about Michelle Mone. And I wonder how many Michelle Mone’s I could have been writing about, had the back up plan not been so alluring when the fear crept in and the obstacles felt too hard too tackle. And it is scary when you’re in the beginning stages of doing your own thing and going against the tide of the staus quo. Maybe that’s where the ‘danger’ comes into it. In the pursuit of bringing to life her all-consuming vision, Michelle confronted fear head on to truly emerge as that dangerous force to reckon with.
You may wonder why Michelle Mone’s story had such an impact on me. After all, there are many successful women that demonstrate a similar scale of sheer gusto and perseverance. I guess it was all to do with the timing of learning her story.
Nine months before watching the documentary, I had decided to follow my heart and train as a coach, building my own coaching business with the plan to go on and launch my brand, TheCareerStylist.com. I guess somewhere deep down, there was still that little voice that tentatively whispered:
Just be careful.
What will you do if it does fail?
It held me back. It drained my energy, it got me analysing things from the cold eye of caution and What If, rather than aiming high out of the depths of my passion and drive. Michelle’s story reminded me that there can be no room for that voice if my big vision is to come alive in all it’s glory. It encouraged me to make bigger personal commitments to myself and cast aside the options that the slippery ‘what if’ brings.
Now here’s the really cool bit. Bizarrely, a few weeks after the documentary I was walking down Bond Street. A taxi pulled up just in front of me and who made her glamorous, high heeled exit?
Yep, you’ve guessed it, Michelle Mone.
One could say it was simply chance, however as an avid believer of the law of attraction, I can’t help but feel it was the Universe’s way of signalling to me that I should too, as Winston Churchill famously said “Never, never, never give up”
So, is it time for you to throw the back-up plan to the wind and start acting like it’s impossible to fail? Be Warned: you may just discover that brilliance deep inside.