Collaboration is a treasure trove and arrogance will keep you from unearthing its reward for as long as you choose to keep your head up your ass.
Erika Napoletano holds no fancy titles and is an expert at nothing except screwing up royally and learning from her mistakes. As the person behind the RedheadWriting online persona, she’s been hailed by Forbes as a “spinless spin doctor” for her BS-free perspectives on business, marketing, branding, and life in general. She’s the “Head Redhead” at RHW Media, a Boulder-based personality development firm, where she works with companies from all walks of life to help them discover who they want to be when they grow up. She’s a twice-published author whose works include The Power of Unpopular (Wiley 2012), a columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine, and speaker at conferences across the U.S., covering the inherent power of truth in business, or as she refers to it, the power of unpopularity.
What are you working on right now?
The never-ending process of figuring out what’s next. I’ve been graced with so many incredible opportunities over the past few years that it’s pretty easy to get caught up in an unfocused whirlwind. I have days where I feel like I should be doing everything, but that just turns out to be completely useless. I’m taking a look at what I’ve done, what I love, and what yanks my chain every morning when I wake up and getting myself out of the ill-tuned symphony of feeling as if I have to be doing everything. I’m investing a lot of energy into defining what I don’t want. It’s pretty incredible when you watch things that don’t serve you fall away; it gets a metric ton easier to see where you want to devote your energy.
Where did the idea for RedheadWriting come from?
The name itself was dumb luck. When I joined Twitter in early 2008 (yes, I was a very early adopter!), I didn’t want to use my real name. I was a copywriter at the time, and when I signed up, I had this nonsensical thing going through my head to the tune of Little Red Writing’s Hood. Character limitations be damned, I typed in RedheadWriting and a brand was born.
On a bigger scale, the blog as you see it today was the product of two blogs being brought together: Redheaded Fury, which was a place for my personal stories, and RedheadWriting, which was overwhelmingly about business. I started to see a substantial crossover between the blogs’ respective audiences and really hated feeling as if my life had nothing to do with my business. In early 2010, I kissed Redheaded Fury goodbye and brought both blogs together under the RedheadWriting brand. It was the best decision I ever made. But why? A member of my community put it best when she said, “I love the way you demonstrate, time and time again, that there is no dividing line between life and business. They’re forever intertwined, and thanks for consistently reminding us that our path through this world isn’t an a la carte experience.”
What does your typical day look like?
When I have a “typical day,” I’ll be sure to let you know. I do my best to make sure that no two days are alike. I thrive in a culture of diversity.
How do you bring ideas to life?
With a car battery and jumper cables–kinda. The truth is that ideas can only come to life through other people. I don’t personally bring anything to life–I launch an idea in front of an interested audience and watch. Then I listen. Those in the audience tell me exactly what they think of the idea and what they’d like for it to become. Ideas are everywhere. Successful ideas come from throwing a whole lot of spaghetti at the fridge and seeing what sticks. I also recommend a dog to eat all that half-cooked shit that falls on the floor.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m not really a fan of trends, but I’ll tell ya–the phone excites me. Use the damned phone. We get so caught up in email, texting, online chatting, Facebook messaging, tweeting, and every possible digital communication iteration you can think of, that I feel we’ve forgotten the value of the human voice. Screw emoticons. I want to hear the emotion. And I’m sick of conference calls, too. I’m all about face-to-face meetings and think we do better when we are more often reminded that there are real, live people behind the decisions we make, who feel the impact of the words we can so casually fling about.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I was an operator for an answering service with a bitter supervisor who kept reminding me that I couldn’t do anything right (including answer the phone). I learned she was right, and I walked right out the door and never looked back. It turns out that I’m pretty good at answering the phone. I just suck at working for bitter people who are unhappy and take it out on everyone around them.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d get humble–and fast! I used to think that I was the only one with brilliant ideas and everyone else was a moron. Turns out that I was the moron and most of “my” brilliant ideas these days start with the ideas of others and those who are willing to share their time and thoughts with me. I can’t believe how stupid I was and for how long. Collaboration is a treasure trove and arrogance will keep you from unearthing its reward for as long as you choose to keep your head up your ass.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Unplug–and often. We’re blessed with all of this technology that’s supposed to make our lives better and easier, but I’m convinced it complicates things. We suck at communicating, and we suck with emotions. Email and emoticons can’t replace unplugging from tech and plugging into people.
What is one problem you encountered as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Just one problem? Heavens, I don’t know where to begin. How about this: when I’m stuck, I get out of my head and ask for help. That happens every day. Other people are the reason great things happen to anyone, so when you have a problem, chances are, someone can help you get that taken care of quick and properly!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Give away “the why” and sell them “the how.” “Whys” are build on information–you can get information everywhere. But “hows?” That’s where the magic lies. “Hows” come from your expertise and years of doing/screwing up/moving forward.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I wake up each day determined to make a difference in someone’s (or something’s) path. The incremental changes that I can affect each day, no matter how small, are my own way of changing the world. When those are put together with everyone else’s incremental changes, that’s one helluva contribution.
Tell us a secret.
I hate stickers. They freak me out. I don’t wear adhesive name tags. Ever. I’d go so far as to say it’s a sticker phobia.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
- Copyblogger is an endless treasure trove of great writing and resources for marketing and writing. It always provides a swift kick in the backside when you need it. They build great products and are a proven example of how a well-executed content marketing strategy can help take a business to new heights with your audience.
- MarketingProfs. With a full disclaimer that I teach the occasional course for them, I love how comprehensive their tool set is for business owners. From marketing smarts to analytics, they couple free information with paid courses that give business owners as much or as little as they need to improve nearly ever aspect of the marketing side of their businesses.
- The local library’s online catalog. I think people have forgotten about libraries since the Internet came along. I can go to the public library’s website and find out how much information is available on a given subject and who’s written about it. On top of that, you can find out what events they have on tap that bring together content creators with content consumers. Libraries aren’t just about books; they’re repositories for knowledge and meeting places that bring communities together. They’re scavenger hunts. Discovery tools. And that whole journey can start online.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s a fable about following your dreams. It’s simple, beautiful, and breathtaking.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
Bottom line: I have no idea. What’s interesting to me might not be interesting to you. I’m not a fan of must-follow recommendations, because that involves following someone else’s “shoulds.” Find your own “wants.” They’re much more precious and are the people who deserve your attention.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I laugh every day at the dog park with my pups. One day, it’s because my Big Dog (Hippopotamus) is running around with drool strings all over his face, without a care in the world. Another, it’s because Small Dog (Penelope) is smiling at me with unabashed joy after she’s pooped. I know, it’s simple. But they remind me every day to lighten the hell up. Poop and drool? Still funny after all these years.
Who is your hero?
It changes every day. Some days, it’s the kids who benefit from the research funded by the pediatric cancer foundation to which I donate my time. They’re fighting a life-and-death battle every day, and they inspire me to live better.
Other days, it’s my parents, because they put up with a restless kid like me while I was growing up and never told me that I wasn’t good enough. They taught me (and continue to teach me) the value of “me” every day. I don’t idolize anyone or elevate anyone else to a place above me, as I never want anyone to put me in that position. I’m just a funky, red-headed gal who likes banana milkshakes, riding her bike, and meeting people who are as excited about “doing” as I am. Maybe the act of “doing” is my real hero.
What advice would you give to someone looking to launch a business?
Be yourself. Everyone else is always taken and “you” is a damn awesome thing to be.
What would you be if you weren’t a writer?
That’s inconceivable. I can’t imagine being anything other than a storyteller. Dead?
Erika Napoletano on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanapoletano
RedheadWriting on Twitter: @RedheadWriting
RedheadWriting on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RedheadWriting
Erika Napoletano’s personal website: http://www.erikanapoletano.com
RedheadWriting’s blog: http://redheadwriting.com
The Power of UN-popular book: http://www.unpopularbook.com