Meet Emily Lyons
Emily Lyons is a serial entrepreneur with a business track record that can be summed up in one word: unstoppable. This millennial CEO is the founder of Femme Fatale Media Group – an event staffing agency headquartered in Toronto (but with a presence sprawled across North America).
She’s also the founder and CEO of three other companies – an organic makeup business (True Glue), a luxury matchmaking agency (Lyons Elite), and an unprecedented watch brand which contributes to research on cystic fibrosis (JWLS).
Emily launched her first company when she was 23 – without a high school diploma, let alone a college degree. Now a highly successful entrepreneur and businesswoman, Emily pens this letter to her younger self – specifically, when she was in her early 20s and had recently experienced the devastation of losing her sister to cystic fibrosis.
Dear Early-20s Emily,
Even if you don’t feel entirely worthy of it, I am proud of you.
Proud that you’ve thrown yourself into life’s challenges and complexities. Its beauties and its sorrows. Its rose petals and its thorns. That is something about yourself that you can feel good about.And here’s something else you can feel good about – as you wake up every morning with a head full of uncertainties:
It’s all going to be okay.
I’m not kidding. It really all will be okay.
You feel like you aren’t good enough. You probably had a day full of rejection from prospects as you strive to build your event staffing agency. That’s okay. Rejection happens; loss happens. It’s what gives meaning and depth to those moments we really win in a big way.
So don’t sweat the losses. Don’t lose sleep over the rejection.
Because you have a vision. You love what you do. And that’s all you need.
You don’t need the “hows” and the “whens” right now; those will come to you in time. Right now, what matters is pursuing your vision – and boldly pressing forward in life by doing what you love. Keep that tucked somewhere in the folds of your mind when people question the path you’ve chosen.
And don’t be surprised when people do question you. You will be judged (harshly). You won’t be liked by everyone. The words and judgment will sting like hell, but you will get over it, and every sting will make you stronger.
Non-conformity, of course, draws the ire of bona fide conformists. But no need to worry; embrace that part of you – that rebellious streak in your spirit. Revolutions – whether social or business, political, or creative – aren’t started by people who are too scared to think and act for themselves. Or who refuse to swim against the current or dive into the deep end.
That rebellious, non-conformist part of you is not to be shunned or suppressed. Embrace it; cling to it tightly. It will be useful to you. That reminds me of a line I read somewhere – it’s always stuck with me since
You’re in pain, and that’s only to be expected; your sister, who you loved dearly, has recently passed on. You have so many regrets. You feel like giving up completely. But someday this pain will be useful to you. It will harden you and help you shine – like a diamond.
This pain, this experience – this is how growth happens. This is how progress happens. Don’t run from it. Pain – it’s a natural part of living; some people learn how to use pain as a tool, an instrument, an advantage to becoming someone better and stronger and wiser and kinder. Be one of those people.
Something else I want to tell you, younger-Emily-Lyons:
Gratitude goes a long way.
It’ll keep you sane when things get crazy in your life. There’s so much to be thankful for, and living with gratitude day-by-day is a surefire way to keeping yourself in the present – instead of burning time by worrying about the future.
The future, after all, hasn’t happened yet.
Nobody knows what lies hidden away in the future. The news is full of predictions of what will happen tomorrow – and it’s often wrong. And, buried in our own heads, are predictions about what will happen in our own lives in the future – and we’re often wrong.
That’s why it makes so little sense to drown ourselves in worries and anxious thoughts about tomorrow. You’re just wasting time by doing that; instead, focus on the present.
Stop lingering in the past, either. You can’t change the past; it is primarily useful only as a tool for learning. So unless you’re mining your past for valuable life lessons, you need to stop being trapped and stuck in the mazes of yesterday.
Yesterday is gone. Focus on what you’re doing now.
Focus is power.
Focus now on your business – fully commit to seeing it through to the end. With a magnifying glass, you can focus the light of the sun into a tiny, white-hot point – and burn a piece of paper or scrap of wood. A similar thing occurs in life: focus enough energy into achieving your vision, and it’ll happen.
It might not happen overnight. Or even in a year – or two or three years.
It takes time, it takes patience, it takes grit.
But, eventually, that white-hot focus will burn away the obstacles, the challenges – burn it all away, and set fire to your life in an amazing, beautiful way.
What else am I going to tell you here?
You don’t have to be perfect. Nobody is “perfect.”
Our whole lives we are bombarded with messages that tell us to be perfect in this way or that way. Whether it’s TV or parents or teachers or whatever – we’re told again and again to stick to a standard of perfectionism.
The thing is though – perfectionism can easily become a block to forward progress. It’s an excuse not to advance in the direction of some massive undertaking where there’s the chance of failure. Author Anne Lamott cautioned that perfectionism “will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”
That’s pretty true; so, instead of striving for perfectionism, strive instead for movement. As long as you’re moving, you’re learning. And from there, you can adapt. Perfectionism kills adaptation, and in life as in business, adaptation is the name of the game.
Don’t have a high school diploma – no college degree? That’s okay because you don’t have to be perfect! You can adapt to this situation instead of blaming yourself endlessly for your perceived shortcomings.
Adapt – but how?
Always maintain an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
Knowledge is power, it’s been said. The more knowledge you have, the more resources you have to improve yourself and your situation – and offer value to others, too. So always have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
Don’t forget that knowledge comes in many forms. It doesn’t always look like a textbook or a professor or a lecture hall. Sometimes it looks like a cheap paperback inscribed with the words Business for Dummies. That was how we began learning about business.
As long as you’re learning, you’re growing – but don’t let others define what “learning” looks like.
Define it for yourself – know what it means for you – and you’ll go far towards gaining the knowledge you need.
Now, how about a piece of advice that’ll kick procrastination to the curb? It’s this:
The years will fly by. Make them count.
You’re in your early 20s now. But you won’t be forever. If that scares you a little, that’s good. It means that, on some level, you know this to be true. You’ll go to sleep one night, and before you know it – you’ll wake up, and it’ll be almost a decade later.
So make these next years count. Pack them with enough explosive power to change your life and the lives of those you love. Blow up any thoughts of hesitation, of complacency, of settling for mediocrity. Act deliberately. Consciously. Don’t let the years slip by without purpose.
Be strong, young woman.
Special thank you to Emily Lyons for writing for Influence Digest.