The goal of the “Living in Your Top 1%” interview series is to break down the qualities of people who excel and to show that you can be successful and achieve personal greatness from any starting point in your life. The interview series looks at people from all different careers and industries. Some names will be familiar and others may not. The purpose is to understand and borrow from the “best practices” of winners to develop a roadmap to YOUR TOP 1%. We will share a new story each month.
This week’s guest is Lori Deschene, the founder of Tiny Buddha which is one of the most popular Facebook and Twitter sites with 65,000 and 230,000 devoted fans!
In 2008, Lori Deschene held a full-time web content manager job that felt more like a paycheck than a purpose. Looking to inject meaning into her online activities, Lori began tweeting a daily inspirational quote through her twitter account (@tinybuddha). This simple daily dose of wisdom quickly attracted a large readership, with over 230,000 followers to date. In the fall of 2009, Lori launched tinybuddha.com as a place where individuals from all over the world could share stories and lessons about applying those ideas to everyday life.
In an overcrowded space about inspiration on the internet, Tiny Buddha has emerged as a place for people to share their thoughts and be heard. Tiny Buddha’s tagline is, “Simple wisdom for complex lives.” Lori’s first book, Tiny Buddha, Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hardest Questions, comes out in January 2012.
Alissa Finerman: What’s the most important strength you possess that allows you to be successful in your role?
Lori Deschene: The strengths that help me the most with tinybuddha.com are my empathy and honesty. I launched the site because I spent a lot of my life clinging to pain, and I understood how difficult it can be to let go, empower yourself, and commit to creating happiness.
I wanted to design a space where we can all help each other by sharing the things that might make us feel vulnerable. In this way, we’d know that we are never alone, and we are all here to support each other.
My compassion is what drives me to help people; my honesty allows others to help me. And though I may be the leader of the Tiny Buddha community, this balance is what makes me first and foremost a friend.
AF: What does success mean for you?
LD: Success, for me, is maintaining a schedule that allows me abundant time with the people I love; finding a little time every day to do the things that make me feel happy and healthy; operating with integrity; honoring my values; and pushing myself to do the things I want to do, even when they might be outside my comfort zone.
AF: What motivates you on a daily basis to keep going?
LD: I keep going because I can’t imagine stopping. I love Tiny Buddha, and I love how my life has evolved because of it. I love sharing my struggles, experiences, and insights. I love the experience of working with writers to help tell their stories and hone their messages. I love the conversations that build around the posts. Lastly, I love that Tiny Buddha supports both my personal and professional growth.
AF: What role do goals play in your life? Tell us a few words about your goal setting process.
LD: I generally aim to set only one or two large goals at a time, and then I manage them with a very Type-A system of to-do lists, deadlines, and regular progress evaluations. I aim to set SMART goals—specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. However, I’ve learned that the most important part of goal-setting, for me at least, is flexibility. In the past, I’ve attached to very specific plans and outcomes, and this led to stress and missed opportunities. If I can create a vision and hold it lightly, I can open up to beautiful possibilities I may not have imagined.
AF: What challenges did you have to overcome to start Tiny Buddha? Did people support or doubt your idea?
LD: I was my biggest challenge. I launched the site in the fall of 2009, more than a year after the Twitter account. At this point, there were already 50,000 people following, and they were accustomed to receiving just one daily quote. I felt hesitant to link too much on the Twitter account, and I also didn’t want to turn Tiny Buddha into something that was all about me—my blog, my stories, and my insights. I wanted it to be about us. This was what prompted me to run Tiny Buddha as a community blog. This is also why I rarely tweet more than four times a day. I believe less is more. I didn’t, at the time, have people around me who doubted my idea, but I did with my previous blog (which was about positive thinking). A man I was dating told me that people don’t care about other people as much as I think, and that they wouldn’t regularly visit a site about positivity and happiness.
Tiny Buddha presents a more balanced perspective, but the underlying messages are similar. Contrary to what he told me, I have found that people do care.
AF: What are some of your most meaningful accomplishments?
LD: One of my proudest moments was moving into the first apartment I rented on my own (without roommates). Three years prior to that, I lived in a 7’x 7’ room in a single-room-occupancy building in NYC, and I felt certain I would always be depressed, isolated, and deeply unsatisfied with myself and my life. It was the culmination of years of low-self esteem and bad decision-making, but also the start of a whole new way of thinking and being. In the following years, I didn’t really recognize all the progress I’d made until I looked around at the external change and realized the internal change that helped create it.
Another meaningful accomplishment is my first book, Tiny Buddha, Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hardest Questions. I started by asking my Twitter followers a series of difficult questions including “What’s the meaning of life?” and “What does it take to be happy?” I then wrote the book around their responses, including stories from my own experience. I put my heart and soul into this book, and I can’t wait for it to come out in January 2012!
AF: What do the top performers do differently to excel?
LD: I can’t speak for others but for me, I never consider myself on top. I think that’s what helps me excel: I have no clue where I am in relation to other people. I only know where I am in relation to where I’ve been. I take each day as it comes, and do my best to learn, grow, and improve.
The “Living in Your Top 1%” interview series is presented by Alissa Finerman, an Executive Coach and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, speaker and author of Living in YOUR Top 1%. She works with managers, C-suite executives and teams to leverage strengths, shift beliefs and achieve meaningful goals. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked with Ross Stores, Petco, BNP Paribas, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Brookfield Property Partners, Neutrogena, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Dress for Success. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website and follow her on Facebook