Think Like a Billionaire: Don't Seek Validation from Others
Sara Blakely, the inventor of Spanx, literally stared from the bottom. Here's how she built a billion-dollar empire without a single business class.
Throughout history, inventors have found inspiration from the strangest places. For Spanx founder and owner Sara Blakely, the inspiration came from VPL (visible panty lines) and uncomfortable thongs. A frustrated consumer turned entrepreneur, Sara invented footless pantyhose, created an international brand and led a shapewear revolution. Obsessed with inventing comfortable garments that minimize flaws while maximizing women’s confidence, Sara and the Spanx team have created an assortment of problem-solving products including bras, shapers, hosiery, swimwear, activewear, menswear and other fashion apparel. Busting at the seams with hundreds of fan favorites, Spanx has reshaped retail, opening stores across the nation with more to come. Chances are you’ve seen Sara flashing her Spanx on QVC, judging inventions on ABC’s American Inventor, or sharing tea with Richard Branson atop a hot air balloon at 10,000 feet on Fox’s The Rebel Billionaire. As the runner up on Rebel Billionaire, Sara received a $750,000 check from Branson to pursue her dream to start a foundation to empower women. Since launching the Sara Blakely Foundation in late 2006, Sara and Spanx have donated roughly $24 million to The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation that supports education and entrepreneurship among women. As an entertaining and sought-after speaker, Sara shares her story to inspire people to follow their dreams. Remaining self-funded and profitable ever since Sara used her own savings to start the company, Spanx continues to show incredible growth. In addition to Spanx retail stores, SPANX are sold in America’s finest retailers and boutiques including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s and Lord and Taylor, as well as high-end retailers in more than 60 countries around the world. Sara has graced the covers of Forbes and Inc. magazines and her story has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, TODAY, The View, 20/20, GMA, USA Today, CNN, WSJ and CNBC, among others. She has been named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year and Georgia’s “Woman of the Year.” In March of 2012, Sara was named the world’s youngest, self-made female billionaire by Forbes Magazine and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. Sara and her family reside in Atlanta, Georgia. Sara is a native of Clearwater, Florida, and a graduate of Florida State University
Throughout history, inventors have found inspiration from the strangest places. For Spanx founder and owner Sara Blakely, the inspiration came from VPL (visible panty lines) and uncomfortable thongs. A frustrated consumer turned entrepreneur, Sara invented footless pantyhose, created an international brand and led a shapewear revolution.
Obsessed with inventing comfortable garments that minimize flaws while maximizing women’s confidence, Sara and the Spanx team have created an assortment of problem-solving products including bras, shapers, hosiery, swimwear, activewear, menswear and other fashion apparel.
Busting at the seams with hundreds of fan favorites, Spanx has reshaped retail, opening stores across the nation with more to come. Chances are you’ve seen Sara flashing her Spanx on QVC, judging inventions on ABC’s American Inventor, or sharing tea with Richard Branson atop a hot air balloon at 10,000 feet on Fox’s The Rebel Billionaire. As the runner up on Rebel Billionaire, Sara received a $750,000 check from Branson to pursue her dream to start a foundation to empower women. Since launching the Sara Blakely Foundation in late 2006, Sara and Spanx have donated roughly $24 million to The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation that supports education and entrepreneurship among women. As an entertaining and sought-after speaker, Sara shares her story to inspire people to follow their dreams.
Remaining self-funded and profitable ever since Sara used her own savings to start the company, Spanx continues to show incredible growth. In addition to Spanx retail stores, SPANX are sold in America’s finest retailers and boutiques including Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s and Lord and Taylor, as well as high-end retailers in more than 60 countries around the world.
Sara has graced the covers of Forbes and Inc. magazines and her story has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, TODAY, The View, 20/20, GMA, USA Today, CNN, WSJ and CNBC, among others. She has been named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year and Georgia’s “Woman of the Year.” In March of 2012, Sara was named the world’s youngest, self-made female billionaire by Forbes Magazine and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People. Sara and her family reside in Atlanta, Georgia. Sara is a native of Clearwater, Florida, and a graduate of Florida State University
Sara Blakely: So, as an entrepreneur I'm such an advocate for everyone to think like an entrepreneur. Whether you want to start your own business or not, it's incredibly helpful no matter what.
And so thinking like an entrepreneur inside of organizations or if you are starting your own business, I always say—I love to tell the people around me to do this: Close your eyes and take a minute and think about how you would be doing your job if nobody showed you how to do it. What surfaces?
Because if you think about it we're all on autopilot. We're doing things the way either someone else showed us how to do it or we saw and learned from watching. And real change only happens when you do it different than everybody else. So all the time I put myself through mental exercises where I'm like, “Wait a minute, I know everybody's been doing it this way for a really long time, but is that the best way?” And I just want to see what comes up.
I also come across ideas and inventions by going throughout my day looking at objects and saying, “Now how could that be better?” And why did the person who first created gum—gum to me is so fascinating.
As someone who started a brand with $5000, had to get an idea out there that didn't already exist (the footless pantyhose) I love to think about people who first introduced things to society, and I think about the guy who did gum.
Can you imagine! I thought I had it tough, this guy is walking around going, “You just chew it, you just put this wad in your mouth…” and people are probably like, “And then what?” “Don't swallow it, you just chew it.” Like that's a pretty hard sell at first. And I think that gum had no flavor in it when it first came out, so that's even crazier to me.
But everything from the pencil to the fork to the chair we sit in to the car that we drive: somebody originally had a thought and brought it forward it to society.
So get off autopilot, look at everything every object in your life, the way that you do things; when you get up and brush your teeth, is there a better way to brush your teeth? Is it the right way to be doing it? And see what comes.
I started Spanx with $5000 in savings from selling fax machines door to door in Clearwater Florida for seven years. And I started it out of the back of my apartment. I had never taken a business class. I had never worked in fashion or retail, but I was determined to make this one particular undergarment for myself and women that filled a much needed void in a fashion.
And it was the most challenging the first two years to get it made, because no one took me seriously. I heard the word no for two solid years.
I actually was calling all the hosiery manufacturing plants and I ended up taking a week off of work and drove around North Carolina in person begging these people to help make my prototype and my idea.
And so there were many, many times in those first two years: When I wrote my own patent, I went to Barnes & Noble and bought a book on patents and trademarks. I created the packaging on my friend's computer after work. I thought of the name Spanx sitting in traffic in Atlanta and went home and trademarked it with my credit card for $150.
But all of this time I was doing it I wasn't sharing it with anybody. None of my friends or family knew what my idea was, and that was really important to my journey because I didn't want to share the idea just for validation, because I wanted to make sure that I spent anytime I had pursuing it instead of defending it and explaining it.
And I think so often, so many times, people have an amazing idea, I mean you have a million dollar or a billion dollar idea in your life, and the first thing you want to do is turn to your right or left at work and tell a coworker, tell your friend, tell your husband, your wife and out of love and concern you get a lot of feedback that stops that idea right in its moment that it happened.
But for me because I wasn't using a support system in those times that I had doubt, I ended up really—I listened to a lot of inspirational and motivational lectures. And so I would second-guess myself, I’d put those tapes in, I’d drive around, I’d have to give myself pep talks.
I mean it was a real back and forth for me to keep believing in myself when no one else was.
What's the difference between a successful entrepreneur and everyone else? People who build an empire from a product or idea are the ones who take themselves off auto-pilot and ask: is there a better way to do this? That one question is how Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, went from being a door-to-door fax machine saleswoman in Florida, to the owner of a billion-dollar fashion brand. Here, she shares a mental exercise that helps foster entrepreneurial thinking, and explains why pursuing your idea is so much more important than having people validate it. Basically, here is a lesson in lighting a billion-dollar fire under your ass. Sara Blakely is also the creator of The Belly Art Project, which works with Every Mother Counts to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for women everywhere.
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Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.
An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.
- A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
- A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
- Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.
The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.
Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .
The Barry Arm Fjord
Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach
Image source: Matt Zimmerman
The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.
Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest
Image source: whrc.org
There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.
The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.
"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."
Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.
What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord
Moving slowly at first...
Image source: whrc.org
"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."
The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.
Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.
Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.
While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.
Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."
How do you prepare for something like this?
Image source: whrc.org
The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:
"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."
In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.
The famous cognition test was reworked for cuttlefish. They did better than expected.
- Scientists recently ran the Stanford marshmallow experiment on cuttlefish and found they were pretty good at it.
- The test subjects could wait up to two minutes for a better tasting treat.
- The study suggests cuttlefish are smarter than you think but isn't the final word on how bright they are.
Proof that some people are less patient than invertebrates<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H1yhGClUJ0U" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> The common cuttlefish is a small cephalopod notable for producing sepia ink and relative intelligence for an invertebrate. Studies have shown them to be capable of remembering important details from previous foraging experiences, and to adjust their foraging strategies in response to changing circumstances. </p><p>In a new study, published in <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2020.3161" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Proceedings of the Royal Society B</a>, researchers demonstrated that the critters have mental capacities previously thought limited to vertebrates.</p><p>After determining that cuttlefish are willing to eat raw king prawns but prefer a live grass shrimp, the researchers trained them to associate certain symbols on see-through containers with a different level of accessibility. One symbol meant the cuttlefish could get into the box and eat the food inside right away, another meant there would be a delay before it opened, and the last indicated the container could not be opened.</p><p>The cephalopods were then trained to understand that upon entering one container, the food in the other would be removed. This training also introduced them to the idea of varying delay times for the boxes with the second <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/cuttlefish-can-pass-a-cognitive-test-designed-for-children" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">symbol</a>. </p><p>Two of the cuttlefish recruited for the study "dropped out," at this point, but the remaining six—named Mica, Pinto, Demi, Franklin, Jebidiah, and Rogelio—all caught on to how things worked pretty quickly.</p><p>It was then that the actual experiment could begin. The cuttlefish were presented with two containers: one that could be opened immediately with a raw king prawn, and one that held a live grass shrimp that would only open after a delay. The subjects could always see both containers and had the ability to go to the immediate access option if they grew tired of waiting for the other. The poor control group was faced with a box that never opened and one they could get into right away.</p><p>In the end, the cuttlefish demonstrated that they would wait anywhere between 50 and 130 seconds for the better treat. This is the same length of time that some primates and birds have shown themselves to be able to wait for.</p><p>Further tests of the subject's cognitive abilities—they were tested to see how long it took them to associate a symbol with a prize and then on how long it took them to catch on when the symbols were switched—showed a relationship between how long a cuttlefish was willing to wait and how quickly it learned the associations. </p>
All of this is interesting, but what use could it possibly have?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcxNzY2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTM0MzYyMH0.lKFLPfutlflkzr_NM6WmnosKM1rU6UEIHWlyzWhYQNM/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C10%2C0%2C88&height=700" id="77c04" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7eb9d5b2d890496756a69fb45ceac87c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A diagram showing the experimental set up. On the left is the control condition, on the right is the experimental condition.
Credit: Alexandra K. Schnell et al., 2021<p> As you can probably guess, the ability to delay gratification as part of a plan is not the most common thing in the animal kingdom. While humans, apes, some birds, and dogs can do it, less intelligent animals can't. </p><p>While it is reasonably simple to devise a hypothesis for why social humans, tool-making chimps, or hunting birds are able to delay gratification, the cuttlefish is neither social, a toolmaker, or is it hunting anything particularly <a href="https://gizmodo.com/cuttlefish-are-able-to-wait-for-a-reward-1846392756" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intelligent</a>. Why they evolved this capacity is up for debate. </p><p>Lead author Alexandra Schnell of the University of Cambridge discussed their speculations on the evolutionary advantage cuttlefish might get out of this skill with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/mbl-qc022621.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Eurekalert:</a> </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> "Cuttlefish spend most of their time camouflaging, sitting and waiting, punctuated by brief periods of foraging. They break camouflage when they forage, so they are exposed to every predator in the ocean that wants to eat them. We speculate that delayed gratification may have evolved as a byproduct of this, so the cuttlefish can optimize foraging by waiting to choose better quality food."</p><p>Given the unique evolutionary tree of the cuttlefish, its cognitive abilities are an example of convergent evolution, in which two unrelated animals, in this case primates and cuttlefish, evolve the same trait to solve similar problems. These findings could help shed light on the evolution of the cuttlefish and its relatives. </p><p> It should be noted that this study isn't definitive; at the moment, we can't make a useful comparison between the overall intelligence of the cuttlefish and the other animals that can or cannot pass some variation of the marshmallow test.</p><p>Despite this, the results are quite exciting and will likely influence future research into animal intelligence. If the common cuttlefish can pass the marshmallow test, what else can?</p>