We love sharing the journeys of women leaders and business owners. We each have so much to learn from each other. When we see another woman do something brave or inspiring, it reminds us of what’s possible. We are excited to share Alison Desir’s story. She’s an Activist, Entrepreneur, Mother, Mental Health Coach, Runner, Yogi, and more. She’s passionate about connecting movement with mental health and will be leading a free summer tour Meaning Thru Movement, hoping to normalize the conversation around mental health; particularly in marginalized communities.
You have started multiple inspiring movements. What’s the first step you take when you go from having an idea to getting it in motion?
My first step is to share it with someone in my “inner circle”. These are people whose opinion I value and who aren’t afraid to give me constructive feedback. Since I’m an ideas person, there are always several ideas rattling around in my head but until I actually share them with someone, there’s no momentum behind them. Sharing the idea forces me to work out the kinks and then put a plan in motion. I’m a big proponent of “fail fast” and many of my ideas do in fact fail. But the sooner I fail, the sooner I’m able to pivot/adapt/abandon the idea. Failure still remains scary to me but I fail regularly, which has helped me grow more comfortable with it.
When faced with adversity in work, what helps you move through the “oh F*&%” moment” to making the next “right” move?
It’s funny because you don’t ever really know what the “right move” is. But what I do know is that movement in general is important. When I’m feeling stuck, I try to think about what other options are available to me to keep up the momentum – how can I make this work vs nothing is working right now. For example, a common obstacle I face (and many face) as a founder is lack of funding. If I let not having money be a barrier to me, I never would’ve gotten anywhere. So I often stop and think – how can I pair down my idea to the simplest version where I can still afford to do it if nobody ever invested in it. Or, how can I pivot so that whatever the “costs are” associated with it are ones that I’m willing to bear right now. Brainstorming, feedback from close friends, and now experience allow me to keep moving and get unstuck.
Do you have a mantra that keeps you inspired in your work?
I often recall my previous marathon training or grad school or my birthing experience and remind myself that I can do hard things. When you’re in the thick of it, it often feels like the challenge is insurmountable and you’re the only one who has ever gone through something so difficult. But when I remind myself “I can do hard things’” “It’ll get better” and get really specific remembering how difficult things that I have accomplished once felt. I can usually snap out of it, however, it can take minutes or days, depending on the circumstances! Additionally, to be honest, inspiration/creativity is a habit. I read “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Thorpe many years ago and the premise has stuck with me – creativity can and should be cultivated. When you have a process around your creativity or “inspiration,” it will come to you more regularly. If you just sit around and wait for creativity or inspiration to strike like lightening, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
What skill have you had to put the most effort into in your leadership, one that didn’t already come naturally to you?
I have this quote saved in my notes – I’m not sure where it’s from – but I read it to myself often as a reminder.
“The humbling role of the founder is about putting others in a position to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Your role as a founder isn’t to be in charge of everything, all the time. In fact, it’s the opposite.”
As a “doer,” I have to remind myself that effective leadership is really when the ship can run without you, so to speak. Letting others lead and consistently working myself out of a role has been a difficult but very gratifying skill to cultivate.
What advice do you have for an entrepreneur in this time of the pandemic?
Keep making plans for the future but be nimble and present. I think entrepreneurs are well positioned to understand that volatility is the name of the game. When you are an entrepreur, nothing is ever guaranteed and plans are often disrupted. Additionally, now more than ever, I would advise entrepreneurs to consider their why and whether what they’re doing is really making the world a better place. “Better” can be subjective but I think the pandemic and all of the loss and trauma we are experiencing should provide a much needed moment of introspection about purpose.
Who do you go to when you feel stuck or unsure when making decisions about what to do next in your work?
The first is my husband. He has witnessed and experienced so many of my ideas, he’s a great sounding board, supporter and truth teller. Next, I usually go to Mary Wittenberg. Over the years, she has become such a cheerleader of mine and her energy is so pure and contagious. I’m so thankful to have her in my corner.
Want to learn more about the movements Alison has inspired? Check them out below: