Recently, I had the best week ever. Within three days, I met three of the most successful women I had ever had the pleasure of shaking hands with. Each, known for success in different industries, each armed with different talents, and each of a different generation. However, despite their many differences, there were common themes I observed from my interactions with them that will forever change how I approach business and life.
First, I met Susan Taylor at a Caribbean awards dinner. Susan is considered to be one of the most powerful women in the history of publishing. She was the editor-in-chief of Essence magazine for nearly two decades.
The next day, I had the pleasure of interviewing Taraji P. Henson for Black Enterprise’s Our World at the American Black Film Festival. With her starring role on Fox’s Empire, Taraji is one of the most in demand actresses today.
Within 24-hours after meeting Taraji, I met Miko Branch at an event I co-founded called Weekend StartUp School. Miko is the co-founder of Miss Jessie’s, a natural hair products empire. Miko is also recognized for being a pioneer in the natural hair movement.
Now, after speaking with each of these ladies, on three different days, in three different scenarios, three traits immediately stood out and are clearly reasons for their extraordinary career success.
1. Stay Hungry
They all alluded to currently feeling as if they have “only scratched the surface of what can be achieved” (as was said by Miko). Most illustrative of this point is Susan Talyor, who at 69-years of age has already accomplished several lifetimes of achievement yet told me “I’m just getting started in my career and my work.” I could see in her eyes how focused she was on doing more. In my interview with Taraji, she mentioned “I can’t slowdown because I’m not anywhere near where I should be,” suggesting that despite the fact she’s the most seen actress on TV in her role as Cookie on Empire, she aspires for much more. These women personify my favorite Steve Jobs quote: “stay hungry…”
2. Demand Your Worth
To be successful in any area of your life, you not only have to know your worth, you must have the courage to never accept less. Take Miko for instance, she grew her company alongside her sister Titi to become a multi-million-dollar global enterprise without a penny of investment. Not because they didn’t get investor offers, they actually got many. Including outright acquisition attempts, but the sisters never gave up a percentage of ownership (not even in times of dire need for cash) because no one could match what they believed the company was worth. Taraji said “for the last 15 years, you haven’t seen me in as many roles as other actresses because I refused to take parts that paid below my rate.” Susan stated “knowing your worth is what allows you to draw the line and give yourself to you first.” These ladies have keen self-awareness to know their value and they also possess an unwavering strength to turn away from anything or anyone who can’t see that value, as well.
3. Know Your Accessibility is Currency
I have the opportunity to be in a lot of VIP sections, namely because I host a syndicated TV show and popular bi-weekly video chat. So my invites normally come with a “Paul, be sure to mention this on your show :-).” Whenever I’m in one of these “elite spaces” I become the ultimate people watcher. I’ve always been curious about the characteristics of the most successful and popular, so I turn into a kid at the window of a candy store in any VIP room. For those of you who haven’t been up close to A-List entertainers, business moguls, or star athletes, it’s a lot of what you probably can imagine. A bunch of folks walking around with their nose up, avoiding eye-contact, and keeping their distance from the non-VIPs at all costs. That is of course, not if you’re Susan Taylor, Taraji P. Henson, or Miko Branch. I watched how all three ladies not only welcomed each and every person who came their way, handing out hugs and kisses, but each also remained focused on the person directly before them, giving the appearance of truly caring about each conversation they had. Taraji exemplified this perfectly, literally showing me her recently purchased iWatch within 2 minutes of us meeting. I’ve witnessed only a select number of other successful people do this and my belief is that real connections with your audience/fan base/following is what distinguishes those who achieve long-term success and lasting legacy with those who disappear after their 15 minutes of fame or who have tarnished reputations long after their death. No doubt the reputation of these ladies is strong and will be intact forever because they understand and embrace that their accessibility is also currency.