I was sitting down with a guy yesterday being interviewed for an ambitious project he's embarked upon as he meets with Millennial entrepreneurs around the country.
We got to talking about my upbringing, my entrepreneurial education and the various businesses I've been a part of over the years, and I felt a kinship with this gentleman because he seemed to clearly understand my ambitions and saw the thread connecting the things I've pursued over the years.
Maybe it's a Millennial thing, but that's not true because this guy isn't a Millennial.
Maybe it's an entrepreneurial thing, but that's not the case either because this guy wasn't the founder of any businesses either.
I think what it was was a listening thing. This guy actually listened.
Too often people want to gloss over things I've said and written about my journey and skip to the supposed highlights like Sneak Attack or Style X or Bazaarvoice.
Case in point, I was speaking to MBA students at UT last spring and a few of the students seemed to believe that it was taking the job as director of operations at Bazaarvoice before their 2012 IPO that truly set me on my entrepreneurial journey. They completely glossed over the fact that I started my first business at 11, my second business at 12, or my first investor-backed business at 26 or Style X at 27.
I felt a kinship with this guy because he actually listened, and only because he listened, did he actually understand my pursuits. All this in a 45 minute interview at a coffee shop where we met for the first time.
He saw how these dots of my life - from growing up without a father to wanting to work at 11 and 12 years old to pay for my own school field trips to going to DC after college to build a professional network to advising companies like FedEx and X Games - and how it all connected.
It's not that hard if people simply listen and pay attention. But too many people choose not to do that.
I have been blessed with some amazing friends and mentors throughout my life. People who've taken the time to get to know me without trying to take shortcuts. I am now trying to give back to the cycle by being a good friend to some, lending helpful advice to many and mentoring a few other young, aspiring, budding entrepreneurs.
The number one role of a mentor is to listen. Friendship could probably do well to start there, too. The only way you'll truly understand someone and truly be able to lend any meaningful advice or dialogue is by starting there.
Listening wasn't my strong suit growing up. I was too focused on the outcome and getting to it as quickly as I could. More recently, I have even realized how failure is often the result of not listening to your own internal voice.
In my 30s, I've learned just how important listening is to all things as my ambitions have scaled with my ability to execute on them.
Yesterday's conversation was a reminder of just how good it feels to be heard.
I don't measure my life in likes or follows or anything like that despite being so active on social media for business and life, but I do know the most important community I'm a part of is the one in which listening is the currency.