Episode 26: Rule Follower or Rule Breaker? (How Each Affects Your Chances of Success)
Are you a rule follower or a rule breaker? We all lean in one direction or the other. Do you believe that your natural tendencies are part of your success formula? They are! And the good news is that there's no one "right" path to success as an entrepreneur or in life in general. Carmen Reed-Gilkison and Deirdre Harter share their life experiences to compare and contrast the different paths their lives took that led them to become successful entrepreneurs, and they shine a light on the societal norms that tend to hold people back.
[02:09] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: The last time Deirdre and I met in person was for a CEO retreat, and it was fabulous. And we were driving in the car and talking about the different lives that we led prior to becoming entrepreneurs. And they are so very different that we thought, you know what? We should probably do an episode about this because, truly, you don't have to have followed one certain path to become an entrepreneur, and I think our stories will show you that.
[02:39] Deirdre Harter: That’s right. And the interesting thing is, I think one of the things we were talking about is a lot of times, we feel like we aren't equipped to be an entrepreneur, or we don't check all the boxes, or who am I to say I'm an expert? And we see this a lot in the clients that we work with. It's this imposter syndrome, and it even happens with people who got all the credentials, right? And so, in my journey, I worked my way through college. I was working full time as a young adult, and I was doing the nighttime and weekend classes to get my Bachelor of Arts degree in accounting. And the reason I was doing this is it really wasn't my passion. It really wasn't the thing that I'm like; I want to do taxes for the rest of my life! Like, that was not the thing. But what I kept hearing is people were telling me - and my parents and everyone's like, oh, that's such a good idea to be an accountant, because you're always going to have a good job. And so it was really a very practical decision. And so I decided to just go ahead because it sounded reasonable. And so I got the degree, and then I had to do extra classes in order, it was basically the equivalent of a master's degree in order to have all the classes I needed to sit for the CPA exam. And so then I had to do all of the studying and take those classes and take the course and take the test and get my degree. And so it's like I went through my life thinking, this is how I'm going to be successful. I'm taking the path that everyone agrees is the path to take to be successful and to have a good income, and to be able to build wealth. And sometimes, I felt like an imposter in the accounting world because I was looking at people and preparing financial statements for people who were making anywhere from three times to ten times what I was making. And I'm thinking, I know so much more than they do about finance, and here I am making so little compared to them. And that's when I really decided that it was because they were entrepreneurs and I was just working for a wage, basically.
[05:03] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah, and I love how you didn't sit there and think, well, oh, boy, I want to do taxes! But it was a reasonable decision, right? To go into that, and I think, so my story is completely different, and I think we come across the same thing. I happen to think that we are pressured into deciding what we're supposed to be or ‘who do you want to be when you grew up?’ at way too early of an age, and I understand it, but it's kind of like society tries to get you, you're going through school, and then now we have to plan out your future. And it's like, I don't even really know who I am yet. My home life, while it was very good, was also volatile. And so, growing up, I was a rebel. I wanted to rebel against what was going on. I couldn't stand being put into a box. And we're talking all the way back to preschool. So funny story - in preschool, when the teacher asked all the kids, what do you want to be when you grow up? The kids were saying things like a teacher, nurse, doctor, fireman, and police officer. And I said I wanted to be a bird! So I have never thought inside the lines. I've never fit in a box, and it's telling in my entire life, but that's what happened. And I ended up dropping out of high school, and that was, oh, my gosh, the worst possible thing in my parents' eyes. And I completely could understand what they were saying, you know, but I could not get myself to do it. It was like, you cannot trap me into this thing. I wanted to go explore life. And the funny thing is that even through that, I became extremely successful in corporate, making six figures, all of that stuff, without a college degree and as a high school dropout. And that's something that's not really necessarily easy for me to share, but I think it's important for me to share it because it's something that's common to many entrepreneurs. You know, Richard Branson, there are all kinds of famous entrepreneurs who dropped out of high school, and it kind of lends itself to the fact that we don't fit into a box. But it doesn't mean that you also have to be this rebel to be an entrepreneur. You can be a rule follower. And I think Deirdre, what we were talking about in the car, and I'd love for you to share more of your story. You know, I was like a rule breaker, and Dieter was a rule follower. And yet both of our pasts led to where we are as cofounders of Encore Empire, in this amazing business that we get to run and help women live out their dreams.
[07:46] Deirdre Harter: Yeah, that was it. Yeah. I was a rule follower extraordinaire. I was the straight-A student. I was the one who never got in trouble. To this day, I think we all have parts to our personality. And to this day, my husband, he kind of makes fun of me because when we're in a parking lot and I'm driving, you know how you're supposed to drive down the lane and you're not supposed to cut across the whole parking lot even if it's empty and there's parking spaces? Well, I will not do it even if there's nobody there. I will drive straight down the line and make the turn and come up the next lane, and he's like, just cut across. I'm like, no, because you're not supposed to do that. So that's kind of been a theme throughout my entire life. And yet I did have a rebel...a rebellion streak Carmen. It came out, my mom will tell you that it started when I was twelve because I decided that I was going to dress to impress. And so I would borrow her clothes all the time. I was wearing high heels to school in middle school, and one of the things that I did every day was I was put on a ton of makeup. Like, that was my thing. And I remember coming down the stairs in the morning to go to school, and there she was waiting to inspect me. And she would take one look at me, and she goes, young lady, go back up those stairs and take off half that makeup. So I would stomp up the stairs, go to the bathroom, take off half the makeup, throw it in my purse so that I could just reapply what I got.
[09:20] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Yeah, that's pretty common. I remember that kind of stuff as well. And my disenchantment with school had nothing to do with my ability to learn. So I also was a straight-A student. I just could not stand it. And especially when I got into middle school and high school and all the cliquiness, it was like the biggest waste of my time, I thought. And I just couldn't do it. But then fast forward to later in my life, and this time in my life, for example, education is so important to me to move myself forward, but it's education on my terms, and I get to create my life based on how I want to do it. And I think I always wanted to do that, and I never knew how. Because society is always telling you you have to do this, and if you're not this or you don't have a degree, or you didn't get straight A's or you didn't go to the prom or enter thing here that you were supposed to do, quote-unquote, according to what everyone in society says, then you're not going to make it. And I just always thought it was a bunch of hooey. I didn't appreciate someone trying to tell me what I was going to have to do. And I certainly did not know how to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. So really, I kind of just drifted around and had jobs, many different jobs. We had a business; my girlfriend and I had a cleaning business at one time. And finally, I relented and decided to become a hairstylist. I got on a waiting list. There was a waiting list for the term that I wanted to join. And that was kind of my meet my parents halfway. And that turned out to be a really great thing because when you're a hairstylist, I'll tell you, you learn some people skills. You are working directly one-on-one on another human being's head. And in the beginning, as with anything else, you make mistakes. So it's a very huge education in how to handle yourself, how to accommodate, and how to handle making mistakes with people one-on-one. And that, I think, really served me well as I moved forward, trying to figure out who did I want to be when I grew up.
[11:36] Deirdre Harter: And one of the things that when we started our business, when we got together, we both realized that we discount our own experiences as women in general, and we had the tagline of ‘experience elevates everything.’ And I think that's really what we're talking about here. It doesn't matter. You don't have to have a particular kind of experience. Everybody is different and as we get older and one of the reasons that we love working with women who are over 40 in building their businesses is because of all the experiences we have throughout our lives, all these things that at the time are seemingly not important or we have no idea how this could serve us in the future. It does. And when we get to a certain age, we begin to recognize it. And I think sometimes I was almost at a disadvantage because of the path I took because of all the formal education that I had. It really limited me in being able to think creatively or to think or to recognize things. And, like, I, fortunately, was obsessed with personal development throughout my entire life. I remember listening to Tony Robbins when I was 18 years old. While my girlfriends were probably reading a romance novel, I'm listening to Tony Robbins. And that education served me so much better. Not that my formal education didn't - it had a purpose, and I learned a skill, and I learned all of the financial things that you need to know in order to prepare tax returns and financial statements. It has served me well, but for the time and effort spent, Carmen, I think sometimes when I hear your story and I hear of the richness of all of your experiences that served you, probably propelled you forward faster than mine did.
[13:34] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: Possibly. It's like, how do you ever know? And at the same time, I know that people judged me for my actions and my lack of following the rules. And, you know, perhaps someone listening to this episode is going to judge me as well. But luckily, once we hit a certain age, I don't really worry about what other people think of me. I know my self-value and my self-worth. And I think that's a good point, though. And, you know, just like you, I sometimes think, man, I wonder what would have happened or how far would I have gone if I had buckled down and gotten into studying and learning about or tapping into how great it feels to achieve at an earlier age? But honestly, it was not in my DNA. I could not do it. I couldn't even force myself to do it. My parents, luckily, had money when I was growing up, and my dad even said, if you graduate from high school, I will buy you a new car. And even that wasn't enough. And cars were a big deal to me back then, but it was like a, it's kind of like an inner guidance. And I don't want to say that it's necessarily the right thing. Did I do the right thing or not? I mean, it worked out for me, but it was me following my inner guidance. It was just like it was oil and water. If I was trying to fit in and do that stuff, it absolutely did not feel right. And it wasn't just a teenage angst thing because this lasted well into my twenties. So it's just with my personality, and it has served me well, and I'm grateful for it. But you always wonder what would it have been like if you took the path that you didn't take. So I can say the same to you. Deirdre, as I think about, wow, what if I had done X, Y or Z? What if I had been more scholarly? What if I had gotten a degree? And sometimes I'll hear stories about these people who are like 27, and they're already doctors, and I'm thinking, oh my gosh, at 27, I didn't know what I was going to do still, you know? So I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's a maturity thing, if it's an exploration thing it it's whatever it is. But the point of this whole episode is to showcase that there is no one right way to live your life. Like, let's do away with that, you know, let's do away with the pressure. Of course, people should be able to support themselves in life, and we want people to be productive. And I always have wanted to be productive, and I always have been employed, and I always have supported myself, so that's not it. And after my parents lost all their money, because during a recession years ago, that happened. So it's not like we have money for a time, but it's not like I lived off what my parents did either. I have been responsible and supported myself the whole time. And so there are ways to do it. But I think the most important thing is if you are like, honestly, when I was 27, I still didn't know ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up.’ And if you're there and you're thinking, oh my gosh, I'm such a loser because all my friends know what they're doing or they're getting married and having babies, and I don't know; it's hard to understand. And you don't get that objectivity until you live your life longer. But there's nothing wrong with not knowing what you want at age 27, 37, or 47. Like, look at us. You know, my big awakening at midlife came when I was 50. And the best part of my life is now, honestly. And everything prior did help. And just like Deirdre said, you know, experience elevates everything. So everything that you do is accumulating and helping you, but there is no right or wrong.
[17:21] Deirdre Harter: One of the things that when Carmen and I met one another, the thread that really pulled us together initially, was this desire to help women who wanted to build a business. Who were building a business. Who were growing their business. To really embrace their entire experience and to see it in a different light and how it is supporting them now. And to break through all of the molds and the, you know: You should be doing this, and you should have done that. And all of them, it's the would've, should've, and could've. And we really have to let go of that. And we have to say, I am here now, and what can I do going forward? Because I think when we get to Midlife, we are kind of faced with two paths. We can either go the route of ‘this is going to be the most powerful time of my life, and I am going to take advantage and live and enjoy every moment of it,’ or we can go down the path of, you know, ‘I've made so many mistakes in my life, and I didn't think I'd end up here.’ And we kind of get stuck there, and we don't look at all of the opportunity and look at our entire path to this place as it all needed to happen for us to be who we are and to be where we are.
[18:42] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That's right. And I would like to ask: Made mistakes according to who? I think that's the biggest question, that in my life, people could say that ‘you're doing it wrong.’ Well, according to who? According to you or according to me? It's your life. And I know that some people don't have the courage to step out of bounds like that. And I feel like it's a shame because when you step out of bounds, you gain more courage. And I think that's one of the reasons why we love working with entrepreneurs so much is because to be an entrepreneur, it means you are willing to push the boundaries, you're willing to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. And essentially, that's kind of what I got comfortable with early on, where it takes a lot of people a lot longer to get there. But it doesn't matter because once you're there and you're able to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and you're able to look at things a little more objectively and say, aunt Sarah thinks that I was wrong for what I did back when I was 20. And then by the time you're 50, you're like, who cares? And was I wrong? Maybe. According to Aunt Sarah. And the same way in my family, some people look at me, and they may say that you know, Carmen did it all wrong, but I'm here living a profitable, joyful, wonderful life, doing exactly what I want to do, and a lot of them aren't. And so I'm super grateful, Deirdre, that you broke the mold and broke out of that whole corporate thing and had the courage to become an entrepreneur because otherwise, I wouldn't have met you, and we wouldn't be doing this great thing called Encore Empire.
[20:20] Deirdre Harter: That's right. And I kind of had the same moment when you said your father was going to pay you to stay in school. I think my parents actually, they probably thought the same thing when I decided to become an entrepreneur. I think they really wanted to just pay me. I could see the look in their eyes, like, are you insane? You have a steady job, you have a good career. You can be there forever. But what they didn't understand, and no one does. And when you're an entrepreneur, this is why we feel community is so important and why we have, we're always promoting community and we have a Facebook group. If you haven't joined us yet, we would invite you to join us there. Because anyone who's not an entrepreneur, they just don't get it usually. And if you are leaving a career or leaving a job to go and create something out of nothing, which is generally what entrepreneurship is all about, people will look at you and think you are out of your mind, and they just don't get it.
[21:23] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That's 100% true. And you know, the funny thing is I was thinking the other day, this is so weird that I've never made this connection, but my father was an entrepreneur. He was the founder of a company that got bought out by Xerox. He was one of five founders, and that is the company that actually got him to be a millionaire at one point. And his story is fascinating. Anyway, but I'm not going to go down that road. But the other day, I was thinking about the fact that he was an entrepreneur, and I never made the connection with that. And he was a marketer in that company, and they got so good that they got bought out by Xerox. So it's interesting because he had that gene. I have that gene. But when you also think back to when we grew up, and so the women that we help are all over 40, and our parents lived in such a very different time, as happens with every generation, but it was so much less common for someone to break out of a mold. And I think our generation being the children and every generation going forward, is breaking the mold even more. And I just love to see that because I think the mold sometimes can be the problem.
[22:42] Deirdre Harter: Yes, that is exactly right. And so we really want to share our stories. I know I've heard a lot of ladies I've been talking to are like, we love it when we hear your stories because we want you to know that no matter what it looks like on the surface, when you're looking at somebody else's business, and you might get into comparisonitis, right? You think, oh my gosh, they're doing something. I don't know if I can ever do that or mine doesn't look like theirs. There's always the real story behind it, and there's real people behind it. And just because you didn't have a certain upbringing or a certain education or a certain kind of job. It doesn't make any difference as long as you have a desire in your heart and you want to share that gift that you have. And we all have our gifts. When you want to bring that out into the world and share it with those. You know you can help and make their lives or businesses better. That's all that you really need because you have gotten what you need to get to this point. And that's why we love coaching women because you have these gifts, you have these talents. But maybe it's not in the business, right? You don't have the business-of-business experience. And that's what we bring. And Carmen and I have been able to grow a business that we love so much, and it lights us up every day. We both can't wait to get up every morning because we know we're making such a difference in the world, and we want everyone to experience what that is. And I will say it has been so much greater because Carmen and I partnered together. We were each doing this on our own as entrepreneurs. And when we got together and partnered in this company, it just became ten times better. And we know it's hard to find that synergy with another person. And we built Encore Empire to be the silent business partners that are so hard to find.
[24:51] Carmen Reed-Gilkison: That's right. And it's our mission to be that for you because we did spend years and years. I mean, both of us had our own separate businesses, and we came together and decided to do this joint venture. But before that, we experienced all the same things that you are. And the cool thing is that we've got the experience. And some of our clients, we hear from them, ‘I love your age,’ because they know that we've experienced a lot of the things, and they might be freaked out about something. But Deirdre and I; if I haven't experienced it, Deirdre has, and if she hasn't, I have. So with the two of us coming together, we really are a great resource to help our clients. And as Deirdre mentioned, community is one of the most important values that we hold. And so our Facebook group is the Empire of Unstoppable Women. We invite you to join us there, and we would love to see you there. And you can take advantage of all of our resources and our free training every Tuesday.