One of two things typically happens when you move around a lot growing up. You could end up being the cool kid, super popular, with folks vying to be your friend because they love the novelty of someone new. You learn to adapt quickly, figure out what’s or who is hot at your school, latch on to those things, and catapult into popularity.
On the other hand, you could end up being me. Eternally awkward, always a year behind the trends, and really, really good one-on-one, but not so great in groups.
I’ve never been a part of the in crowd. I went to 7 different schools before finally landing at my 8th school in the 10th grade that I graduated from. By then, I had learned to accept that fact that I was never going to be a cool kid, and settled in to my role as a supporting player in high school. When I went to college, I was a cheerleader for the first year and Freshman Queen, so more people knew me, but it wasn’t long before I drifted back to my comfort zone behind the scenes as a nerd and theater geek.
As an adult, I get along with a lot of folks, but I’m still not one of the “popular kids”. While I do consider myself influential among my peers and in my career, there have been times when I’ve been in the room with people that I’ve worked with, even people that I’ve hired for jobs before, and they haven’t known who I am. Multiple times.
I used to get frustrated by those experiences. I mean, shouldn’t I have outgrown this stage by now? Am I that unremarkable? Will I be relegated to play stage crew for my whole life while the pretty people get to shine under the spotlight on stage?
Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to look at things in an entirely different way. Instead of worrying about what the folks who are part of the in crowd are doing, I started creating an all in crowd where everyone is invited to shine. I began to connect with the folks that I saw thriving on their own, and building tribes and support systems with them. Most importantly, I finally decided to completely own and accept my eternal awkwardness and vulnerabilities. Instead of hiding them, I’m putting them out in the open, knowing full well that every single time I do, it puts me further away from being one of the cool kids, but closer to being authentically who I am.
I also don’t look at being stage crew as a bad thing anymore. The folks behind the curtains are the ones who make the show happen. Instead of just focusing on myself and the role that I’m playing, I am blessed to be aware of the things that are going on around me, and am able to use that awareness to be influential in a way that is much bigger than if I were only focusing on myself.
Last year I started the community Courage To Earn to challenge women with blog businesses to recognize their value and increase their income. After years of trying to crack the code to earning a decent income from my site, I finally figured it out. Instead of keeping it all to myself, though, I wanted to share it with my friends. I know how frustrating it is to see people thriving and not having an idea of where to start, and once I had (some of) the answers, I knew I had to let other folks know. I also know how much emotions and history play into our ability to earn money, and Courage to Earn addresses the why in addition to the how of digital entrepreneurship. Although our group has over 800 people in it, and just about every day someone calls it out as their favorite place online, it’s still a bit of a best kept secret.
Best kept secret. I guess that’s kind of like me, too.
Well, the secret is out. This year, thanks to my sweet community, I am a Nominee for the distinguished Breakout of the Year Award presented by the Iris Awards®. Now, I know full well that this award is not about me, Brandi Riley. I didn’t create any viral content this year, wasn’t featured in any major campaigns or projects, and most of the people who are able to vote probably saw my name on the list and said, “who?”
This nomination is for the brilliant women in my community who have trusted me enough to share their goals and dreams with me and each other. It’s for the entrepreneurs who stepped out of their comfort zone when I challenged them to pitch, expose themselves, or to please just give LinkedIn a chance. (Pretty please? LOL!)
This nomination is for my daughter who is watching me, and who is the reason that I first started pushing myself out of my comfort zone in the first place. It’s for my husband who accepts me waking up at 6:00 a.m. to call a blogger and talk them through a business idea, and deals with me responding to an inbox message from a friend who needs a quick pep talk.
My Breakout Year was a result of so many people pushing me to accept that my purpose is to be a help and a support, and who gave me encouragement and love as I grew my own business.
I was only able to breakout because of all of these people.
So, whether or not I ever get into the in crowd, or end up with an award, I’ve already won. Everyone may not know who I am, but the folks who do have blessed my life so much that I feel like a star already.