Erica Dhawan is the Co-author of the new book, Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence. She is a globally recognized leadership expert and keynote speaker driving innovation across generations and cultures to prepare the global workplace for tomorrow.
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Worst Entrepreneur moment
- Waking up on the floor of her office with a nosebleed, Erica knew things had to change FAST.
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- Get Big Things Done by Erica Dhawan and Saj-nicole Joni.
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Erica: Hell, yes.
John: Erica is the coauthor of the new book, Get Big Things Done- the Power of Connectional Intelligence. She is a globally recognized leadership expert and keynote speaker driving innovation across generations and cultures to prepare the global workplace for tomorrow. Erica, I've given Fire nation just a little insight, so share more about you personally and expand upon your biz.
Erica: Absolutely. Well, maybe I'll start with a personal, because I think the personal always guides the professional. So I am based in New York City. I'm the daughter of immigrants. So as you could imagine my childhood was setup to check all the boxes of success. I got a shiny degree from an Ivy League. I marched into a glamorous job on Wall Street. And like every other young person I worked incredibly hard. And it was, you know, years ago and during the 2008 recession that I really witnessed firsthand a broad sense of disillusionment and confusion among the up and coming generation, around how to tap into our dreams and passions that were often being squashed when we went into work.
And at the same time I was studying how tools that were connecting people differently, whether it was podcasts, or YouTube, or Facebook, or Twitter, we're connecting people in new ways. And this lead me to completely switch gears to find more meaning in my work, and better understand how the next generation could really leverage our passion and purpose and the resources available to all of us. And what I found through my research is that whether you were at NGO, or at a private equity firm, or starting your own company, many of the struggles were quite similar. And, you know, people across the board are struggling to figure out how to work more intentionally.
How to cut through the noise of lots of overcome activity to get big things done. And that led me to my research with renowned business strategists Saj-nicole Joni, and led us to co-author our new book, Get Big Things Done. And in the book, really what we try to do is showcase how anyone, from a big time entrepreneur, to one just starting a company, to that secret intrapreneur that’s in the large corporate, but wants to use entrepreneurial skills can leverage their connectedness to get big things done. And my mission is really to help solve and work with others to find greater value and meaning in today’s connected world.
John: I love that name intrapreneur. It's definitely been kicked around a lot, and I think we're gonna hear it more and more Fire Nation as we go forward because there are so many entrepreneurial focus and mindset type people right now that are stuck in these corporations because they do have responsibilities, because they do have bills to pay, because they do have a family and healthcare needs etc., but they have these aspirations of becoming entrepreneur, or just really innovating within their own company, for their own company. And there's a lot of exciting things around that that we can really build upon as entrepreneurs.
So if you're listening to this in your cubicle right now, and you have aspirations to be an intrapreneur, you know, this is a really exciting time for you because you do have a lot great things ahead of you. Erica, we're gonna do a big deep dive into your journey as an entrepreneur, specifically how you got to where you're at now, but before we do all of that, I really want to expose Fire Nation to insights into your mind. So we're gonna dive into what I call the one minute mindset. Where I'm going to be choosing five questions, and getting five insights into your mind. And take about a minute-ish each to answer these questions. The first one being ideally, what are the first 60 minutes of your day look like?
Erica: I love this question, John. I would say it’s not always the same, but on average it's a morning – you know, it's a morning workout, coffee, a really great yogurt granola, and I'm reading the paper. I really – the first hour of my day is sort of about my health, my fitness, my body, and activating my mind. So I try not to actually dive into my emails immediately. You know, I have to check my email in the morning, but I try to sort of have that settle in. And I find that when I come into my office I'm just much more alert and connected because I took care of myself first.
John: What is your biggest weakness Erica, as an entrepreneur?
Erica: I would call myself a very creative person, and I think as part of that I don’t necessarily love structure or putting things in boxes because I love being out of the box. And I think it's a big part of how I think about being a connector in today’s world. And so sometimes the lack of a high level very strategic structure doesn’t always fit with those that need a very clear, you know, 123 step methodology to get big things done. So I would say that’s one of the opportunities I face.
But the great thing about our world today is that – and in my book Get Big Things Done I talk about, you know, when we look at our weaknesses, instead of looking at them as something we need to work on – and yes, I will work on it – but it's also finding the right partners that can help you achieve that. And I think that’s something I've been able to do well is to find the right partners, knowing what my weaknesses are.
John: And that’s one thing that I really want to touch upon real quick again, Fire Nation, this is why it's important to surround yourself with the right team, with the right individuals of people who have strengths where you have weaknesses. And when you're able to just be honest with yourself and identify your own personal weaknesses, then you can start filling your gaps and making a much stronger team. And Erica, what's your biggest strength?
Erica: Connecting with people around passions and purpose, not just connecting with them around jobs or transactions. Because I think that’s – our connection to passion and purpose is what's beat about the human spirit. And when combined around those two things, I think that’s where breakthroughs happen.
John: What's a habit Erica that you wish you had?
Erica: I wish I meditated every morning for 20 minutes. I have been off and on with meditation over the past ten years, and it is something that grounds me and centers me, and I wish I did it more.
John: This is a great app Erica, this might help you. It's called Headspace. And they have a free ten minutes per day ten day challenge that’s just really enjoyful to go through, and it can maybe get that ball rolling, and for you too, Fire Nation. And Erica, what's one thing that has you the most fired up right now?
Erica: My book. My book Get Big Things Done has been released. You can find it at getbigthingsdone.com. But most importantly, you know, I've spent the past series of years really researching this space around how people can connect and harness their connections, not just to – not just to have a lot of contacts, but really to create measurable change. And, you know, I'm really proud of this work that I've done with my co-author Saj-nicole Joni because what we're really trying to showcase is that simply building a network doesn’t lead to measurable change.
The most important thing is how you use your networks, and how you actually leverage bringing people together around what they really care about, and combine resources that really lead to great breakthroughs.
John: So Erica, you shared over the years you’ve been developing this, and that’s what I want to dive into next is really your journey as an entrepreneur. You know, you’ve had the ups, you’ve had the downs, you’ve had the plateaus, the valleys, we all have, but take us to your worst entrepreneurial moment. I want you to take us to that moment in time. I want to feel what you were feeling. I want to see what you were seeing. I want you to tell us that story. Take it away.
Erica: Wow, this is a great question. The worst entrepreneurial moment, I think was a moment that was probably in the first six months of my business, when I was really trying to get it off the ground, and also what I would call figure out what I was doing. And a lot of my research and work started around studying Millennials, and how – what Millennials really wanted in today’s world. And I remember there was a time, it was a mix of I just finished grad school. I had launched my business. I had gotten married – I was getting married. And I had just moved cities. And it was like all these big life changes that happened all at the same time.
And I found myself not lacking really – you know, I wasn’t – I was pitching a lot, and pushing around, getting clients, and I just was not getting momentum. And looking back at that moment I was like: am I really cut out for this? And I always knew I had the yearning desire because I care so much about the work, but looking back at that time, I think, I realized that I – I had impatience, which is super healthy, but that growing a business takes a lot of time. I mean, relationships that I cultivated three years ago are now coming back and wanting to work with me. And sometimes people – it's not that people don’t believe in you, because I think that was one of my big struggles, I felt like people didn’t believe in me.
It's that, you know, often times their readiness might be different in terms of how they can support you. So some people really don’t want to refer their friend or their past coworker to a client for years. It takes some time to really see things. But over time I've seen my network really be channeled in a way that has helped complete expedite my business. So I would say the first six months were the hardest, and a lot of that came from the frustration of people not – me being impatient, and also not feeling like I had support from my community, when in fact support takes time and trust takes time.
John: So there's a couple things I want to dive into here. There's one phrase Fire Nation that I think we just all need to adopt, especially when we're first starting off. Because Erica, you said something that I totally agree with, sometimes it's just not the right time for that client, for that listener, for that viewer, and you don’t want to burn bridges, and you don’t want to take it personally, it's truly this case of it’s not me, it’s you. And not in a negative way because it's not their fault that it's not time yet, but nurture that, you know, put on a brave face and a smile, don’t take it personally and say: okay, great, well, if in the future – and for you Erica, sometimes it was three years in the future that relationship came back around.
And another thing that’s so powerful, Fire Nation this is not a sprint. We are on a marathon right now. Those people that sprint for the success, for the respect, for the money, they get burnt out. I mean, even the Olympic sprinters get tired after a 100 meter sprint, that’s just a reality, we're in it for the marathon, look long term, think long term and realize this is a journey that we are on. And you're listening to Entrepreneur on Fire, so Fire Nation we are in this journey together. And Erica, I want to make a shift now. And I want you to tell us another story.
And I really want you to take us to that moment now, like I really want to be there with you when this light bulb goes off, this epiphany, this “ah ha” moment happens in your life. Take us to that story, tell us the surrounding circumstances that you are in, and then share with us the steps you took to turn that idea, that great “ah ha” moment into success.
Erica: One of the key “ah ha” moments – I would say the key “ah ha” moment for me was actually, you know, to go back to my personal story, back around the 2008 recession. So I actually worked at the bank that went bankrupt, Lehman Brothers.
John: Whoa. You were carrying one of those boxes?
Erica: Barkley’s bought us in New York, but I was carrying one of those boxes. And information worked on the trading floor when we went to zero – a zero stock price. And, you know, I – it was interesting because I had stayed on at the company, I wasn’t fired. And it was about a month or two later I had a 6:30 a.m. meeting in a conference room. And I was working my way, like I – you know, a typical high achieving twenty something. And it was a 6:45 a.m. – it was around 6:45 a.m., we were in a meeting, and I started to feel like I was about to faint, and I left the room. And I went and sat in my chair on the trading floor.
And without even knowing it, I wake up. I had fallen on the floor, somehow from my chair I had fallen by myself, and everyone was still in the meeting. And I had a nosebleed, I was sick. I stayed out of work for days. And when the doctors really tried to diagnose what I had, it was burnout. And I think that it was a really big “ah ha” moment, and also a shock moment for me, almost my body telling me that I needed to be in a different work environment. And a work environment that actually worked for me. And I'm not saying anything negative about financial services, my husband is a banker and he loves it.
And so I think that’s – I'm not saying anything about the industry. What I'm saying is that, you know, each of us needs to find the place that helps us ignite our fire. And that really led me on a soul searching journey. And lead to my research around how we find more meaning and passion and purpose in our work because I was completely burnt out at that moment and that period of time. And I think that shock has really led me to do what I do now, which is spending a lot of time with corporate executives helping them rethink how to create more creative – spark more creativity and innovation in their workforce.
Not only from the top people, but from the entry level to midlevel employees because I think that’s where change really happens. It happens, you know, at the bottom, and then moves to the top, while most people push from the top to the bottom.
John: Fire Nation, are you going to wait until you have your Erica moment, passed out on the floor, waking up nose bleeding, knowing that you just are in the wrong environment – or have you already had one of those moments and you're still continuing on? I mean, what is going to take to realize that nobody’s going to take control of your life except for you. This is your choice, your opportunity to step back to evaluate and to say, you know, like Erica’s husband: well, I do like this niche. I do like this industry, and I'm gonna stay here because it works for me and that’s awesome.
Or, are you gonna be like Erica and say: wow, this really just isn't for me. All the signs are showing I just had burn out. You know, I just passed out on the floor of my cubicle here. What is next? And then start taking those steps. And what it really comes down to is that you have the answers Fire Nation, you just have to give yourself time to think about it, and to rationalize your current situation, and then move forward in the way that you know your intuition, your gut, your instinct is telling you. And Erica, that’s my kind of roundup and sum up of your “ah ha” moment. But in just one sentence, what do you want our listeners Fire Nation to take away from that experience?
Erica: To constantly ask yourself every day: am I making the best use of myself today? And when you ask yourself that question, It might be an immediate yes, or it may be, you know, I could do something more. And I think in my new book, Get Big Things Done, it is really about the fact that getting big things done isn't always about having a fancy job or making a certain amount of money. It often is about investing in the things that we care most about. And it may be the fact that you're a dog lover, and you might wan to build a community that’s connecting dog lovers together, and launching an initiative for a foundation.
Or, it may be that you're a cancer survivor and there's something that you could do for the survivor community that could really change the game for research. Or, a doctor – doctor – whatever it might be. And so I think really asking yourself that question every day is really powerful.
John: Investing in the thing you care most about Fire Nation, powerful words. And we're not always talking about investing money, it's time, it's energy, it's resources, it's your bandwidth, and investing those things in which you care about most is definitely a step in the right direction. And Erica, I'm not gonna let you go anywhere quite yet, because we are about to enter the lightning round. But before we do, let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors. Erica, welcome to the lightning round, where you get to share incredible resources in mind blowing answers. Sound like a plan?
Erica: Sounds like a plan.
John: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Erica: Being raised in a family where the vision and version of success was becoming a doctor. And wanting to follow that path, and knowing that striking away from that was going to lead to a lot of negativity, but perhaps even my parents not being proud of me.
John: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Erica: As a woman, my strength is that I am a woman. And it’s not a challenge or a hindrance in today’s business world. It’s my greatest strength.
John: What is a personal habit that you do have that you believe contributes to your success?
Erica: I am a dancer. So I love to dance. And dance inspires the way I think, the way I connect with people, and it's one of my greatest passions.
John: Do you have an internet resource like Evernote that you can share with our listeners?
Erica: One of my favorite ones right now is Cora, a knowledge network where you can ask any question and get answers. And I would say one other really cool internet resource –
John: Nope, only asked for one, thank you.
John: Erica, if you could recommend one book for our listeners to join Get Big Things Done on our show notes page, what book would that be and why?
Erica: I would say the book would be, for the entrepreneurs out there, Choose Yourself, which is a book by James Altucher. It's an amazing book about choosing yourself in today’s world, and what that really means. And it's not a self help book; it's really a practical book that I think anyone will connect with.
John: Well, Fire Nation, I know that you love audio, so I have teamed up with Audible, and if you haven’t already, you can get an amazing audio book for free at eofirebook.com. And a quick side note, James actually does the audio version of Choose Yourself, himself, and adds in a lot of side hysterical moments, so I recommend listening to it that way. And Erica, do you have Get Big Things Done in the audio form?
Erica: We do. So you will be able to download Get Big Things Done in the audio form.
Erica: And if you're an audio listener, it's perfect for you.
John: Love it. Well, Erica, this next question is the last of the lightning round, but it's a doozy. Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning in a brand new world, identical to earth, but you knew no one. You still all have the experience and knowledge you currently have, your food and shelter taken care of. But all you have is a laptop and $500. What would you do in the next seven days?
Erica: I would create a network across the world that would help educate children online, whether it was funding a mobile app that they could download or a website online. I think one of the greatest – that our most important route across the world is around educating our next generation. And I think we can empower educate in really different ways. And I would imagine creating a website where anyone can share videos that would allow people to learn in entirely new ways. And we've seen the rise of this through sites like Khan Academy and Corsara, but I think this would be really a simple form, so children across the world could access it.
John: Erica, let’s end today on fire, with you sharing one parting piece of guidance, the best way we can connect with you, then we’ll say goodbye.
Erica: Great. So one parting piece of guidance I would say is that our greatest sources of help are where we least expect them. So I would urge you to create connections beyond your industry, your background, your generation, your discipline, your gender, your age. And often times when you open up to new people and ideas, that’s when you really get big things done. And that ties into how you can stay in touch with me. The first thing is you can order a copy of Get Big Things Done, by Erica Dhawan and Saj-nicole Joni on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles, or buy the audio book. And you can find me at ericadhawan.com, and at edhawan on Twitter.
And lastly I have a little gift for all of you that are listening. And my gift is to give you a free connectional intelligence quiz and manager guide you can use with your teams, to help think about how you can leverage all of your networks to get big things done. So if you text the number 66866, and type in Erica, E-R-I-C-A, I'll send you the details to get the free quiz and guide. That’s 66866, texting Erica, E-R-I-C-A. So I hope you’ll stay in touch, and thanks so much again.
John: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And you have been hanging out with Erica D and JLD today, so keep up the heat and head over to eofire.com, just type Erica in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop right up with all the links, the resources, the books that we've been talking about today, of course Get Big Things Done will be linked up there. Ericadhawan.com will be there. And don’t forget the gift, 66866, Erica, so if you text that you will be getting that gift, awesome stuff Fire Nation.
And Erica, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today, and for that we salute you, and we’ll catch you on the flipside.
Erica: Thank you so much.
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