Living in YOUR Top 1% INTERVIEW SERIES
The goal of the “Top 1%er” 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 Zoe Jackson, a rising star under 25! As a result of being offered a place at the National Youth Theatre, Zoe created the Living the Dream Performing Arts Company in 2006 at the age of 16 (based in the UK). She decided that a great way to subsidize her course fees would be to create her own performing arts company and produce shows in order to provide a spotlight for young people to showcase their talent, not just on stage, but behind the scenes as well. In 2009, Zoe won an award by the PR company, Ing Media, as one of the Top Ten Teenagers in the UK, for her role in inspiring other young people. In April 2011, she received the St Albans Mayor’s Pride Award for Cultural Innovation.
The performing arts company gives young people the chance to take part in something affordable, accessible, fun and exciting! Over the last five years, her company has grown beyond recognition and is made up of over 350 talented young people, aged 5-25 who take part in classes, events, showcases and flash-mobs in a youth led environment.
Living the Dream is providing a positive role model for young people and making a true difference in the world. Thank you Zoe!
Alissa Finerman: What’s the most important strength you possess that allows you to be successful in your role?
Zoe Jackson: Passion and determination. I have a very strong passion for inspiring young people to believe in themselves and what they are capable of, a passion for the performing arts and the determination to create affordable access to the performing arts throughout the UK and to become a household name. I don’t let anyone stop me from achieving my dreams and being told ‘no’ makes me more determined to succeed.
AF: What inspired you to start a school of performing arts at such a young age?
ZJ: I was offered a place at the National Youth Theater and couldn’t afford the course fees, so at the age of 16 I decided as a way to subsidize my fees I would create a performing arts company made up of young people and produce shows in order to provide a spotlight for young people to showcase their talent, not just on stage, but behind the scenes as well.
AF: How do you define success?
ZJ: For me, success is being able to step back and acknowledge what you have achieved and feel very proud of it. Success comes in all shapes and forms, from a student telling me I have changed his or her life, to putting on a show, to taking the next steps to grow and expand my business. I think women need to understand that they have many moments of success everyday that need to be acknowledged to remind them of how brilliantly they are doing (not just the outcome of a huge project or journey).
AF: What motivates you on a daily basis to keep going?
ZJ: I am motivated by the positive response from the young people I work with growing in talent, performing with such enthusiasm and commitment and feeling more positive and confident about their futures.
I am also motivated by the exciting opportunities ahead as more organizations become aware of Living the Dream and are beginning to recognize our achievements to date and the potential of our business.
AF: What role do goals play in your life? Tell us a few words about your goal setting process.
ZJ: I write down my goals on a daily basis, both short and long term and have a clear idea of what I’m working toward. I set high goals that some may believe unrealistic, but I don’t stop until I achieve them by doing everything I can to make them happen. So far I have achieved everything I have set out to do. I find that visualizing my success helps me achieve my goals.
AF: How big of a role does mindset play in the performers that excel?
ZJ: Having a strong and positive mindset is crucial. I ensure that I am surrounded by like-minded, creative, enthusiastic, passionate, and positive people. This really helps my mindset to make me fearless, open to new ideas, and focused and strong while learning from my mistakes and excelling in my abilities to grow and expand my business.
AF: What’s the toughest challenge(s) you successfully overcame?
ZJ: The toughest challenge I have overcome has been when people don’t treat me seriously – they see me as a young naive girl. I have been exploited in the past and had my fingers burnt. I have successfully overcome these by always turning a negative into a positive and making certain that I learn from these experiences. I am beginning to be taken more seriously as my business grows.
AF: What are some of your most meaningful accomplishments?
ZJ: My most meaningful accomplishment would be setting up Living the Dream at the age of 16 in the middle of my a-levels and continuing this through my degree. For five years I produced, directed, and choreographed successful showcases each year.
Another meaningful accomplishment would be setting up the Living the Dream School of Performing Arts in October 2010 after I graduated from university and recovered from major surgery. We now have over 350 students attending our weekly classes and after school clubs.
The next would be our Flash-dance performance at St Pancras International on New Year’s Eve 2010. It involved over 100 young people who performed, choreographed, filmed, and edited this video (view video).
AF: What do the top performers do differently to excel?
ZJ: I think the top performers in business listen. We are all very good at talking, selling, and pushing new perspectives, but by listening to your customers about what they want and need, you engage them and gain their commitment. I also think that empowering the people around you to succeed, such as your staff (and in my case also my students) gives them more ownership and they feel more involved, passionate, and invested in their work.
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