One of my favorite business icons is fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. I’ve loved her stylish dresses for as long as I can remember, especially her iconic wrap dress.
The DVF wrap dress has become a much-copied design classic and is adored by millions of women around the world for its effortless chic.
So I was really pleased to stumble across an article in Inc Magazine about Diane von Furstenberg. In it, she talks about the importance of being authentic for lasting success.
After being in business for over 40 years, and experiencing many highs and lows, von Furstenberg knows a thing or two about what it takes to succeed.
Especially the importance of being true to yourself.
But the question of doing something for money or passion often crops up in my coaching sessions.
“Should I follow the money or follow my heart?”
Perhaps you are facing this dilemma too?
It doesn’t have to be so complicated though.
Maybe it’s because we learn in childhood to mask our true selves and present what the world wants to see. We’re terrified of letting people get too close in case they see who we really are, warts and all. We’re scared of being hurt or rejected so we stop communicating from the heart.
As a result we become less authentic and less connected to what really makes our heart sing.
That’s why I was so inspired by von Furstenberg’s business journey. It’s a fascinating story of success, followed by failure and then later super stardom.
Most of all, von Furstenberg’s experience highlights that there are lessons in business that apply to all of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re a tiny start-up or the founder of a multi-million dollar fashion empire.
Everything boils down to authenticity and staying true to yourself.
Below, I’ve shared 3 important lessons to help you be more authentic in business and life.
3 Important Lessons On Being Authentic
1. Follow Your Heart
In 1974, Diane von Furstenberg exploded onto the fashion scene with her first wrap dress.
She was only 27 when her iconic design landed her a cover spot on Newsweek—and the business of millions of women eager to snap up her designs.
Success came quickly but demand soon faded, forcing von Furstenberg to sell most of her licenses to avoid bankruptcy.
Von Furstenberg went back to the drawing board to re-evaluate her designs. She realized she had tried to grow too quickly and had overstretched herself.
She had a hunch to bring back the wrap dress that had been key to her initial success and re-launched her company in 1997.
It was an instant hit.
Today her company is a global luxury lifestyle brand, boasting annual sales of over $200 million.
The 68-year old designer has a lot to teach us all about building a business around your passion.
Like most women of her time, von Furstenberg was inspired by the feminist movement. She was passionate about fashion and design, and was looking for a way to combine effortless sexiness with the growing sense of empowerment among women.
“I made this dress that tapped into the zeitgeist…just as women were beginning to feel empowered. That was a once in a lifetime thing.”
Her initial success was built on trusting her intuition or as von Furstenberg calls it, her instinct. Design came easily to her but she used her flair for fashion to create a product that fit the mood and needs of women in the 1970s.
Von Furstenberg stresses that every entrepreneur—regardless of their niche or industry—needs to understand how critical passion and instinct are to their business.
And it’s the same for you.
Your unique outlook on life, your talents and your strengths will all drive your business, in good times and bad.
Of course, you also need to work hard and take the right actions to grow your business.
But it’s important to trust yourself and build an authentic business that is aligned with your passions and your values, and marry that with what the market wants so you also monetize your passion.
This process starts by knowing yourself and structuring your life and business around that.
2. Reinvent Yourself
Fashion had changed in the 20 or so years since von Furstenberg’s dress originally hit the market. But a new generation of women who appreciated stylish design were finding DVF dresses in vintage shops.
Von Furstenberg calls this stage her “comeback years,” a time for her to show herself and the world that her success was not an accident.
Another lesson we can take from von Furstenberg’s experience is that failure isn’t final and you can always reinvent yourself.
It doesn’t matter what happened in your past or how long it takes, you can bounce back from your setbacks and come back even stronger.
Remember, each of us is blessed with the gift of creativity.
Even if you think you aren’t particularly creative in the traditional sense, you are born with the ability to think new ideas and find solutions to any challenge you may face.
Von Furstenberg tells us that the key to re-launching herself after 20 years was returning to the dress that had served as the cornerstone of her career.
She began to study her own work, trying to figure out what had made it successful. What did she do before that had worked so well?
By extracting “the spirit” of her brand, she was able to make a comeback bigger and better than before.
The lesson here is about finding your true authentic spirit. It’s also about looking for clues.
What do you stand for?
Where have you experienced success before?
When you find this authentic essence, take it and infuse your business with it.
I can see examples of this in my own life.
Although I’ve reinvented myself many times – from teacher, trainer, manager, director to entrepreneur and business coach – my biggest successes always came from teaching and inspiring others.
I was born to inspire. I feel happiest, most authentic and connected when I’m helping others.
After years of going round in circles trying to make money, I eventually “got” what the Universe was telling me and created a business around that.
And that’s when things changed.
I invite you to study your own failures and your successes.
If you’re heading down a path that isn’t satisfying you, don’t be afraid to stop and change direction.
Evaluate your past and your present to find what lights you up inside. Look for the golden thread that connects your successes. It’s there even if you have to dig deep to spot it.
Then use this spark to reignite yourself and create a more authentic life and business.
3. Think Legacy
We all know what a legacy is, but what goes into creating one?
Von Furstenberg asked herself that same question.
“Legacy is …when you realize that you have built something significant enough that it will last”.
By trusting her intuition, von Furstenberg poured her talent and passion into creating a product that really resonated with women. It had a distinct DNA and an appeal that continues decades after its original introduction.
This long-term thinking has not only made von Furstenberg one of the world’s richest and most powerful women, but allowed her to give back through her philanthropic work.
You and I are no different.
Even if you are just starting your online business, resist the temptation to go for “quick wins”. There is no shortcut to success regardless what people tell you.
Building an online business takes time and work, just like any kind of business.
The online space is full of fads, hype and scams. There are many self-proclaimed “gurus” out there who promise to show you how to make $1,000,000 in a week for just $27.
It sounds great and they may even have a professional website and a gazillion testimonials to back them up. But I’ve been there and fallen for their lines. They will just take your money and run.
The better way is to think and act long-term.
Start with your passion and build your business around that, one step at a time. Don’t worry about how long it takes, just do the work.
Make your business stand for something. Let it be an authentic reflection of you. Strive to build a legacy that will outlive you and any fad.
And pay it forward whenever and wherever you can.
Over To You
What do you think is important in order to be more authentic in life and business? Please comment and share your thoughts below.