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Marie Forleo: focus on progress, not perfection

Marie Forleo and husband Josh Pais

Marketing and lifestyle expert Marie Forleo is most known for her book 'Everything is figureoutable'. It is not only good to have dreams for your company, but more often than you think you can turn them into reality. She grew her own brand to Oprah status, as Forbes notes. But striving for perfection is not the best approach: focus on progress works best.


"Perfectionism is a huge thing and many of us want to do their best, so we have high standards and all of those things are wonderful. But there is a distinction between having high standards and performing at your best." Perfectionism can even affect your company in a negative way. "Perfectionists feel they can never meet their own standards. What helped me most is this idea of focusing on progress, not perfection. It is a great way to keep your action in perspective and to keep moving forward."

The phrase (and book title) 'Everything is figureoutable' helped her throughout her career, from her Wall Street jobs to hosting an online show with tens of millions of viewers. "After completing school that phrase helped me get every job I have ever had. From bartending, being on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, working in publishing, then starting to teach hip-hop and dance, becoming one of the world's first Nike elite dance athletes to having the audacity to start a business. I was completely insecure, but I took the idea and grew it into the global brand that I have today," she recounts in a video talk. Forleo is the founder of B-School, an online business school for modern entrepreneurs.

Oprah
Oprah Winfrey named her as a thought leader for the next generation. She was invited for an interview. "Oprah's team got in touch with me and it was a nerve-racking and exhilarating experience," she recounts. "Being interviewed by her was surreal, a dream come true. In terms of my career, I was deeply grateful for the exposure to a new audience and to get to know her team." Forleo started her own online show MarieTV. "No, I do not see myself as the next Oprah," she said when interviewed by Forbes. In her show she talks to entrepreneurs and marketers such as Seth Godin, Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington or to former students at her online workshop 'who have made their dreams reality'. One of them is Carmen Narancsik, who left the safety of a regular job and now runs a 7-figure rafting business that is only open four months out of the year. "I was able to build a business around my passion for the outdoors and share that with other people."

Creating positive change
She repeats her slogan 'Everything is figureoutable' to everyone starting a business or working in the field of marketing. It is not always easy, but you will find a solution that works for you. She was inspired by many conversations she had and finally came up with a set of rules. "The purpose of these rules is to help us create change and then help us create positive change in the world around us. The first of the rules is: all problems or dreams are figureoutable. Number two: if it is not figureoutable, it is not really a problem, but a fact of life (taxes, gravity or certain laws of nature). Number three: you may not care enough to solve a particular problem or reach a particular dream and that's okay: find something you do care deeply about and go back to the first rule." In summary the rules may sound oversimplified, but she stresses they have worked for her and many others.

Forleo grew up in an Italian-American family. Her father was a small business owner. "I loved the way he treated his customers," she says during a video talk with Gary Vaynerchuck. "It was a printing business. I would go in weekends and nights to work with him and just loved his work ethic. That's what inspired me." It was her mom who used the expression Everything is figureoutable. Her mother was always listening to a tiny radio that she once got from Tropicana orange juice for free, but one time it didn't work anymore. She found her mother with a dozen pieces spread out in front of her. It seemed an impossible task. "But then she said: 'nothing in live is complicated and everything is figureoutable'. That phrase was so cool and it planted a seed in my soul that I swear has been the most powerful driving force in my life ever since."

Start working for free, that's how you win
For some time, she worked in magazine publishing in the ad sales department, and as a fashion editorial assistant. But she wanted something different and signed up for a coaching program at night. She quit her steady job. Initially, as a coach she didn't get paid. "After I built my skills as a coach, working with people one-on-one, I did it for free for so long. That's how you win." She also recalls when she self-published her first e-book. The first sale you will not forget. "When I came home, somebody from Spain had bought my e-book. Then I realized I can make a difference to someone on the other side of the world." Her early experience in marketing was an advantage to help grow her business. Even on sites such as eBay, Etsy or Craigslist you are required to figure out the audience. "It is about how you write the headline, how you take the picture and the words you put in it. The reason why I always sold things on eBay better than my friends is that I am good at positioning things. Practicing it may actually help you figure out how to put yourself in a container and merchandise it. To get good at sales and marketing, you have to do it."

Steps to pursue 'unrealistic' dreams
In her courses and presentations Forleo advises how to build and grow a brand. Yes, everyone can do it. But what often happens is that friends and others are telling you that your dreams are unrealistic. "Our dreams are not going to happen, unless you take a different approach." Marie Forleo draws on her own experience of creating change and pursuing dreams. Whether you are an (aspiring) marketer or entrepreneur, these steps can help bring your dreams closer:

1.Frame your dream. Translate your dream into words, write down that big unrealistic dream. You are much more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down.
2.Filter opinions. Negativity is one of the most toxic forces on the planet; it's toxic for your brain and for your ability to stay motivated. Don't talk to the people who are most likely to shoot your dream down. Ask yourself: has this person taken meaningful risks?
3.Flood yourself with positive examples. Surround yourself with positive stories of people who have achieved 'unrealistic' dreams.
4.Focus on action. Action is the antidote of fear. You don't have to take perfect action, you need to take any action, that is how all great things are achieved. How to do it? Step by step. (And don't forget that everything is figureoutable).

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