Julia Hu is the founder and CEO of Lark, a mobile and wireless technology platform. In 2010, she had a great idea for a wristband alarm clock that connects to your phone and vibrates, noiselessly waking you up without disturbing the person sleeping beside you. Almost immediately afterward hatching this idea, she secured a meeting with one of San Francisco’s top venture capital firms.
Because she didn’t have a prototype of the product in time for her big meeting, Julia created demos of her product. Unfortunately, in the meeting, all the demos failed to work correctly. This flub costed her and she didn’t get any money from the firm. Julia said of the experience, “It was the most traumatic VC meeting I’ve ever had. Yet, in a way I was glad that was my first meeting because I’d hit rock bottom, so there was nowhere to go but up.”
Here you can see that Julia does a great job reframing her failure into a lesson learned. She was a bird flying into a window that rebounded and was ready to try again.
So she got working prototypes made and ventured out to raise money once again. After such a rough start, it no doubt took guts to get back out there.
Even though Julia had rallied, the meetings were still going poorly for her. She heard a lot of criticism and a lot of the word “no.” Despite the naysayers, Julia believed in herself and her product and instead of giving up, she studied what was going wrong.
In the same way that coaches study film of their games, Julia analyzed what happened after every unsuccessful pitch. She discovered, “Whenever something went wrong, whether it was a question I didn’t answer to the best of my ability or a harsh comment, instead of bouncing back and relishing the debate, I’d start feeling bad about myself and would downward spiral. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, getting smaller and smaller.”
This introspection was a big light bulb going off and helped her understand why she was experiencing repeated failure. Julia left nothing to chance and began working with an executive coach to help her build emotional resilience, hold her ground and maintain her confidence during future confrontations with VCs and naysayers.
And wouldn’t you know, Julia ended up raising $11 million for her company.
What we learned from Julia’s story:
1. We all have blind spots
People tend to make the same errors over and over without being aware of it. Understanding where your blind spots are is a great first step in preventing them. To identify your problem areas, you’ve got to separate yourself a bit from the task at hand. Stay objective, act like a detective. If this is too difficult to do on your own, recruit friends, family and colleagues to provide you with honest feedback.
2. Be open to getting help
After figuring out her weaknesses, Julia asked for help. Most people would have taken that information and tried to “just do better.” But relying on willpower or trying harder doesn’t always work (any past dieting attempts come to mind?). There’s no way we can do everything ourselves. So, just as you might hire a personal trainer to help you get fit, consider getting help from a career coach or as in Julia’s case, an executive coach, to help you get to that next level.
What are your blind spots and how have you tried to overcome them?