Fearless, The New Rules for Unlocking Creativity, Courage, and Success by Rebecca Minkoff
How did fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff go from barely covering her rent to transforming a T-shirt design business into a multimillion dollar fashion label? Minkoff attributes her success to hard work and fearlessly forging her own path. In her lively, accessible book, she distills the lessons learned during her career into 21 maxims you can apply to your own unique journey. If you just want to imitate someone else’s success, says Minkoff, follow the template of your predecessors. But if you want to create something totally new, dare to do things differently.
- Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff offers her tips for professional success. First, own your choices.
- Choose purpose over profit, and give back to your community.
- Be specific about your needs, and seek opportunities you may be missing.
- Conquer your fears. Take risks and venture into the unknown.
- Cultivate strong working relationships, and stay aligned with deep communication.
- Be accessible to a broad audience, and don’t rush yourself or take shortcuts.
- Stop imitating others. Give yourself freedom to experiment.
- Flip your perspective about change, and tune into your intuition.
- Opt to collaborate rather than compete.
- Prioritize self-care, and design a life that works for you.
- Treat failure as a learning opportunity, and recognize that your goals will keep evolving.
Fearless Book Summary
Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff offers her tips for professional success. First, own your choices.
For two decades, fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff worked from the ground up, building her global luxury fashion label. Now, she shares her rules for success. You can choose how you apply these guidelines on your own path toward success. Sometimes pursuing your goals will mean eschewing safe and established conventions, and forging new ways of working. Thus, adopt Minkoff’s advice only when and where you see fit. Remember that true success – however you define it – takes hard work and dedication. Nobody achieves their dreams overnight.
“If I had taken the safe route and always done as I was told, when I was told, where I was told, I’m pretty sure I would be answering the phones at my father’s office in Florida.”
Throughout your formative years, you likely sought permission to do what you wished to do. For example, children must ask their parents or guardians if they want to eat or go outdoors to play. As an adult, don’t ask others to validate your choices before you make them; doing so offloads responsibility onto others for matters you yourself should handle. Instead, embrace your autonomy and direct your own life.
Choose purpose over profit, and give back to your community.
When you were a child, how did you respond to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” You likely answered authentically – even if your answer was something outrageous, such as a “ballerina cat.” As adults, many people stop believing in their dreams, because they worry that following them won’t pay the bills. Try to reconnect with your sense of purpose, seizing opportunities that align with your unique strengths. For example, if your greatest strength is your ability to listen empathetically to others, then choosing an accounting role, for instance, might not serve your purpose as well as working in a customer service position. Find work that feels truly rewarding to you.
You can help others in your community in many ways. Giving back could mean beautifying your neighborhood or joining a social movement, for example. You have something to offer those around you, and you should take an active role in building the kind of world in which you want to live. You don’t need to spend money to make a difference. Think about ways you could use your time, energy, skills, ideas and resources meaningfully. If you believe you don’t have time to give back, think about the last time you sat down to watch your favorite television show or browsed social media. You decide how to spend your time, so take ownership of the choices you make.
Be specific about your needs, and seek the opportunities you may be missing.
People frequently ask Minkoff if she has time to chat with them about their careers. She turns down such vague requests because it’s impossible to offer meaningful advice to people who ask for generic tips and aren’t specific about their needs. You’re the only one capable of discovering what you need, and you can’t expect others to figure out those needs on your behalf. Try to answer as many of your own questions as you can before reaching out to successful people for help. Do your own research. If your question is common, the public figure from whom you seek help has likely already answered it in a public forum. Once you’ve found answers to general questions, you may discover a bigger, more meaningful question you’d like to ask someone you admire. Be specific when you solicit input. Asking more targeted questions will lead to better answers.
You may find yourself in a tough situation and feel you lack options, or you could face poor options that don’t serve your needs. When Minkoff first moved to New York, before her career took off, she faced a tough choice: She could rent a cool apartment that exceeded her budget or move back home to live rent-free in her childhood bedroom in Florida. She eked out a third option for herself, although it wasn’t instantly apparent: She found a cheaper, less-glamorous apartment on the Lower East Side and started a side hustle working as a stylist on commercials. Search for flexible, creative solutions to your problems that may not be immediately obvious.
Conquer your fears. Take risks and venture into the unknown.
Examine your fears and anxieties, and try to understand what they can teach you about yourself. If you discover your fears are suppressing your full potential, cast them aside. If something you try fails, don’t engage in negative self-talk. Acknowledge the reality of your situation, remove the emotion from it and don’t be afraid to walk away. Avoid wasting your time agonizing about why things didn’t pan out exactly as you’d hoped. Seize opportunities to pivot and forge a new path for yourself.
“Fear is not calling the shots. It’s not in control. You are. You don’t have to listen to it. You don’t have to let it stop you.”
Fear isn’t always a negative emotion. It can help you avoid disaster, navigate dangerous situations and increase your awareness of the world around you. Fear becomes negative only when it stands between you and your dreams. You can overcome this kind of fear and develop the courage to live life on your own terms. Though it can feel overwhelming, your fear doesn’t actually control you. You’re the one who ultimately decides what course of action to take. Overcoming your fear doesn’t mean eliminating it; it means learning to take purposeful action while facing it.
Try something new. You have no guarantees that your ventures will work out, but by taking a chance, you might just reach your desired outcome or generate new ideas for solving a problem you face.
Cultivate strong working relationships, and stay aligned with deep communication.
You can’t have productive working relationships without clear communication. When you communicate in a confusing manner, your outcomes will be sloppy. When you talk to your team, take time to make sure everyone understands the message you wish to convey. Minkoff often stops during meetings and scans for people nodding their heads. If your company is new, prepare yourself for an adjustment period of trial and error. Women often struggle to embrace directness and clarity at work, because people expect them to project positivity at all times. This can muddy your message when you face a problem. Honest feedback can propel your projects forward and bring new perspectives.
Try to understand others’ triggers, and don’t dismiss their concerns, even if those issues seem trivial to you. Articulate your weaknesses so that others understand your shortcomings, as well as your strengths. Delineate your own boundaries and respect other people’s. For example, some may find constant communication disruptive.
Effective communication requires more than just clarity and understanding. To cultivate close relationships, you must display vulnerability. If you want to have a long-term relationship with a friend, colleague or partner, you’ll need to engage in deep conversations that evolve with your relationship. View your conversations as investments in the partnerships you’re nurturing.
Flip your perspective about change, and tune into your intuition.
Be wary of becoming too attached to your ideas; sometimes you’re going to have to expand them or change your approach. Don’t take opportunities for improvement as a sign that your original idea is bad; view them as indications that you’re growing and are moving in the right direction.
If you listen to your gut when making choices, you will less likely regret them. Swap any negative self-talk with positive thoughts. Tell yourself, for example, that you are the best person to make decisions for your business, because you know it better than anyone else. Imposter syndrome can trigger the belief that you aren’t the best-qualified person to make the tough choices in your life. Don’t allow decision fatigue to paralyze you.
“Negative thinking gets the better of all of us sometimes…I ring the alarm when a negative thought creeps in, and I reinforce the opposite.”
Remind yourself that you occupy your current role because you belong there. While some situations warrant expert advice – for instance, if numbers don’t come easily to you, seek out a financial expert – synthesize any information you gather and, ultimately, make your own decisions.
Be accessible to a broad audience, and don’t rush yourself or take shortcuts.
You might think that cultivating brand desirability is inherently tied to exclusivity, but overpricing your product or service, or making your offerings scarce in order to create a cachet of luxury and prestige won’t help you.
“Playing hard to get is overrated…If it feels like an old way of thinking, that’s because it is…Inclusivity is the new exclusivity.”
For example, when Minkoff decided to reduce the price of her bags to get them onto the arms of more customers than would be possible if she kept the price on the high-end of the luxury purse spectrum, her sales increased 548%.
Skimping on details to work faster is unlikely to yield the results you want. For example, you might decide to use a template to get a website up and running quickly, but then you could wind up having to rebuild your site because you don’t get the result you’d envisioned. Cutting corners rarely reaps dividends. Accept that the results you seek require good, quality work, which takes time.
Stop imitating others. Give yourself freedom to experiment.
You may feel tempted to mimic someone else’s strategy and process, but it’s best to discover your own. While finding inspiration in others’ work is natural, being your own director is important. Relish the fact that nobody can replicate your work from a place of authenticity, or in the same singular way that you can.
If you simply follow others’ templates for success, you’ll imitate their results, wins and mistakes. Each industry has its own rules and methodologies, created by the successful people who came before you. If you wish to create something new, you must be a pioneer and an innovator. Dare to fly in the face of what has gone before.
Opt to collaborate rather than compete.
You may be tempted to view others’ wins with envy or jealousy. Women who have a scarcity mind-set due to a historic lack of opportunities may struggle, particularly, with such feelings. But that attitude doesn’t serve you. When you see others successfully doing the work you want to do, cheer them on as an inspiration – a proof of concept. Collaborate with other women you admire to achieve meaningful change. Collectively you are greater than the sum of your individual parts.
Prioritize self-care, and design a life that works for you.
Often, the best form of self-care is connecting with your passion for purpose-driven work. If you feel burned out, reflect on how you’re spending your energy. What aspects of your job make you feel depleted? Perhaps you have issues with a particular colleague or aren’t keen on a new project. Do you love your job? If not, can you find a more meaningful career?
“Burnout comes from living in a constant state of stress. There is no scented candle in the world that will make that feeling go away.”
Reflect on your work environment and get specific about what triggers feelings of burnout. If external factors – such as, say, caring for an aging parent – are causing burnout, find ways to address those issues.
The term “work-life balance” implies a separation between your private and professional lives. But separating those two worlds simply doesn’t work for many people. One realm constantly leaks into the other, and vice versa. Instead, design your life with a broader picture of what makes you feel happy and fulfilled in mind. By taking this approach, you can enjoy your life, overall, even when you face unexpected circumstances that disrupt your sense of balance. Design a life that serves your individual needs. Your approach to navigating your life may shift over time. Accept that you can’t be everything to everyone at all times (working mothers, in particular, often must navigate this minefield), and strive for flexibility, accepting support where possible.
Treat failure as a learning opportunity, and recognize that your goals will keep evolving.
You might fail to reach your desired outcomes just as often as you succeed. Try to take a measured approach to failure: Don’t fall apart or react with shock. Instead, acknowledge what didn’t work and move forward. Treat your failures as learning opportunities, then try again with a positive attitude.
Acknowledge that you’ll never achieve all you want to achieve because your dreams keep evolving along with you. Just as you have endless possibilities, the journey you take toward realizing your purpose is also endless.
About the Author
Rebecca Minkoff founded an affordable luxury fashion label in 2001. She hosts Superwomen, a weekly podcast, and is a co-founder of the Female Founder Collective, an organization that connects women business leaders across industries.