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The weird path to my first big silicon valley client

The first really big client to hire me to teach strengths (the precursor to Native Genius) was Ebay back in 2010. How do you orchestrate something this lucky? I always thought breaks like this came through boring networking and jumping through hoops. But Ebay became a client by saying YES to my YES, which is a sure-fire strategy for activating your Native Genius. 

I do this weird kind of dancing called Contact Improvisation. Several years ago, one of my dancing buddies here in Boulder, Colorado told me her friend was putting on a conference about living mindfully amidst the technologies of our age. It was called Wisdom 2.0 in the Bay Area. Immediately, I had a YES for it. This was quite unusual for me, because despite having a very established business career, I’d never been to a single conference, ever. 

I generally considered business conferences and networking boring because I was rarely, if ever, talking to a kindred spirit about things near and dear to my heart. Back then I hadn’t found my business people yet. Networking always felt like jumping through hoops to “put myself out there,” so the last thing I was going to do was go to a conference.  

But when my friend mentioned this conference: no questions—I was going. I knew instinctively, People who are drawn to these topics will be my people. I already had two master's degrees in topics related to the conference and had long been geeking out on these topics in my personal life and bringing them into my work—sometimes explicitly and sometimes on the sly. 

My YES led me to heaven. The speakers and participants were all fascinated by the same things that fascinated me. We were geeking out at meals, in breakouts, between sessions. I call this kind of geeking out Taco Talk Crazy because it’s like people who are super into making tacos geeking out for hours about different salsas and marinades. That’s what I felt—so energized, so inspired, so at home. 

I put myself in the universe of what fascinated me. 

After the conference, the dancer friend who invited me in the first place, introduced me to a person she met at the conference who worked at Ebay. We had a networking call after the event, that of course felt nothing like my old story of networking. We geeked out what drew us to the conference and our interests in bringing mindfulness, wisdom, authenticity, and humanity into the workplace. One conversation naturally and fascinatingly led to another. Later that year, I flew to London to teach strengths to Ebay leaders from the perspective of helping them find more alignment between their inner truths and outer work. And there began a long relationship with my friend who brought me in, as well as several leaders at Ebay. 

Here’s what’s still delightfully surprising to me. The only way I even knew about this conference was not because I was going to boring networking events, as conventional wisdom instructed. I knew about this conference because I was doing a hobby I loved in my free time—a weird type of dancing, which on the surface of things “was never going to amount to anything.” I said YES to my YES and gave myself permission to dance. Then I said YES to my YES and gave myself permission to go to Wisdom 2.0. I’ve gone to almost every Wisdom 2.0 conference since and made a number of dear friends and colleagues there.

You activate your Native Genius by putting yourself in the universe of what fascinates you. The content will stir your imagination and you’ll have a whole herd of people with whom you just might make deep and lasting connections. 

This is what Jane Goodall did when she went to Africa in her twenties. This is what Steve Jobs did when he took a calligraphy class. This is what Amanda Gorman did when she met with a poetry mentor every week in high school. 

I’m sure they had Yeah-Buts—”Yeah, but this will never amount to anything,” “Yeah, but I’m not good enough,” “Yeah, but I’m not one of ‘them.’” On and on the mind goes doling out an endless stream of “Yeah-Buts.” But they put themselves in the universes of what fascinated them anyway. And you can too. 

What are the universes that fascinate you? I like the word universe in this context because you don’t have to know specifics. Just head toward your big broad area of interest and you’ll find your way. What area of interest have you’ve wanted to expand or explore but haven’t yet? Even if it's sticking one toe in. Let yourself say YES to your YES. 




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