[quote style=”boxed”]Ideas come to life when they’re ready. I find they hit me when I’m washing dishes or vacuuming or meditating. They might come to mind right as I’m waking up in the morning or just as I go to sleep at night.[/quote]
Tara Agacayak likes to call herself a problem-solver, which she says is really just about asking the right questions. As a problem-solver, she supports the creative entrepreneurship of people in the global community through programs aimed at building and promoting professional web platforms using a combination of technology and personal development.
In 2002, Agacayak left a budding IT career with the U.S. Department of Defense in California to move to her husband’s native Turkey. Her struggle to find a suitable job in the small town where they settled quickly turned into a devastating identity crisis. The stress of taking on the wrong jobs was making her chronically ill. Discovering the possibilities of using the web to do business helped her overcome her isolation and also gave her the platform to realize her untapped potential and connect with others.
The social web became a lifeline—a personal and professional survival tool—to develop herself and discover the depths of her capacity. Building her personal business brought about healing. Recognizing that working on the social web is as much about social science as technology, Agacayak combines her degrees in Psychology, Information Technology and eight years as a data specialist with the Department of Defense as the COO and Co-Founder of the transformational media startup GlobalNiche.net. GlobalNiche shows people how to create a path for opportunity to find them.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m the COO of GlobalNiche. We’re right in the middle of running our first program, called “SUM-it UP,” and looking ahead to what comes next in 2013.
Where did the idea for GlobalNiche come from?
My business partner Anastasia Ashman and I have 25+ years of experience as expats between us. What we discovered is that expats are especially skilled at solving problems that come from living outside of your comfort zone—things like identity, work, life satisfaction—and we also recognized the power of the social web to overcome many of these problems. We’d been talking about these things for many years, and in 2011 decided to address them in a practical way—not just for other expats, but for anyone who feels trapped by their circumstances.
What does your typical day look like?
After making breakfast for my husband and sending him out the door, I spend an hour doing yoga and meditation, then another hour or so doing housework. After lunch, I work until my husband comes home. We have dinner together and it’s typically back to work for me since that’s when Anastasia, who is in San Francisco, and I are able to work collaboratively. There are 10 hours’ difference between us, so if we need to work together, this is the time we get to do it.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas come to life when they’re ready. I find they hit me when I’m washing dishes or vacuuming or meditating. They might come to mind right as I’m waking up in the morning or just as I go to sleep at night.
It’s also very important to ask the right kinds of questions to coax them along. “How” questions are especially useful, like “How can I make this work?” or “How can I get this to happen?” Asking “how” gives your brain a puzzle to work on, and that usually brings on the right idea/answer to the question.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m not sure if I’d call it a trend, but an idea that really excites me is that Web 3.0 is Life 3.0. As a database specialist and designer with the Department of Defense, we understood how meaningless data was until it was queried. Only by asking questions were we able to derive meaning from the data that let us use it to recommend legislation or create specific personnel programs.
We use this idea at GlobalNiche to look at the meaning of our own lives; by taking inventory of all that we’re creating on and off the web, we get insights into who we are that are extremely useful and empowering. Knowing ourselves better gives us the opportunity to make adjustments or keep going in the same direction; it sets the stage for a more fulfilling life.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I hate to say this, but my worst job was teaching English as a second language in Turkey. I adored my students, but I was not made to be an English teacher. After consecutive years of declining health, I realized that it was the work that was making me miserable. Through this I learned that I could take control of my life and my work—that if I didn’t make changes to enjoy what I was doing, my life, my health, and my relationships would continue to suffer. I learned that I had choices, and that I could use them to take control of how I was living and working.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would trust myself more. Thinking I had to please others kept me from making decisions that would have been in my own best interest. In the end, no one was pleased! I would trust my skills, my intuition, my loves and my vision for what I want my life to look like.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Build a web platform. Build it early, before you think you need it. Your web platform is your launching pad, your calling card, your real-time resume. It’s how people can find you and how you say (and discover) who you are. Without it, it’s almost like you don’t exist. Whether you’re looking for a job or creating your own business, your web platform is a tremendous asset that can help propel you in any direction you choose to go. By the time you realize you need one, it’s almost too late.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t believe in failures; I believe in opportunities to learn how to do things better in the process of reaching a goal. One big opportunity I had was taking on too much stock for an ecommerce project when I wasn’t sure I needed that much supply. My business partner at the time ordered 1,000 units when I only thought we needed 200. Six years later, we’re still working on liquidating that inventory!
But that goes back to what I said before about trusting myself. I knew what the right amount was at that time; I just didn’t know how to communicate it without hurting my partner’s feelings. I’m much better about communicating now.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There’s a big trend right now in online education. Everyone has something they can teach to someone else. Head on over to a site like Udemy and build a course that you can sell. Support yourself by being in service to others.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
One thing that hinders a lot of people in the world is judgement. By judging a situation or a person or an idea or ourselves, we limit what is possible. We close the door. By removing judgement, we open the door to possibility.
Instead of saying “I’m too old to build my own business,” ask “At my age, what kind of business would I like to build?” This is something I’m working on changing in the world through the programs we offer at GlobalNiche; we’re guiding people to see things differently by tapping into their own potential and inherent wisdom.
Tell us a secret.
As social as I appear to be online, I’m really quite an introvert. I recharge my batteries by spending quiet time alone.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?
1. Twitter – Twitter is my lifeline, my news feed and my continuing education. It lets me reach out to the world at any time and feel like I’m connected. (Introverts still need to be connected!)
2. Pinterest – Pinterest is a way for me to reset my brain when I need to clear it out. I spend a lot of time reading and writing, so tapping in to the visual platform at Pinterest gives me a chance to use my brain differently. I’ve also learned things about myself I didn’t recognize before by using Pinterest. For example, I didn’t realize how feminine I was until I found myself pinning so many pink images. It is a useful tool for self-discovery.
3. Linqto – Linqto is a platform that enables you to have live, interactive web broadcasts. We use it for GlobalNiche each month to have global conversations, and it deepens our work and our connections around the world.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It was one of the first books I read that made the case for creating passive income. It talks about working smarter rather than working harder.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1. One of the most interesting and intelligent people I know (who happens to be my business partner) is @AnastasiaAshman. Follow her for provocative tweets on things happening around the world, as well as tweets about writing, work and being.
2. I recommend @endeavoringE because she tweets about entrepreneurship and the state of the world, and she isn’t afraid to question ideas.
3. Finally, I suggest following our GlobalNiche CFO @TMonsefBunger, who is spending a year living/working abroad exploring what “mobilize harmony” means—very interesting tweets on politics, women’s leadership and empowerment.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Last night while watching an episode of The Simpsons.
Who is your hero?
A hero implies there is also a villain. I’d rather live without villains. I prefer to think we’re all the heroes of our own lives, conquering the things that have been preventing us from living fully. When you make a decision to overcome obstacles, I think you’re the superhero in your own story.
That said, I’m a big admirer of spiritual activist, author and founder of The Peace Alliance, Marianne Williamson, for practicing what she preaches.
With your business partner in San Francisco and you in Istanbul, how are you able to work together?
We manage the time difference by getting online in the mornings and evenings. So, I’ll come online in the morning just as she’s ending her da, and vice versa. We call it “passing the baton.” We rely on the cloud to share information, documents, projects, store ideas, express thoughts and use tools like Skype, Linqto, Google Docs, Basecamp, Twitter, text messaging and more to carry on our synchronous/asynchronous conversation.
How do you manage to balance your offline life with work that requires you to work online so much?
My parents divorced when I was very young, so since the age of six, I’ve been used to living a hybrid life. We lived with my mother during the week and stayed with my father on the weekends. After marrying my Turkish husband and moving to Turkey, I realized I had created two homes yet again—one in Turkey and one in the U.S. Even Istanbul spans the two continents of Europe and Asia, so in lots of ways, I’m used to merging these different worlds into one cohesive life.
There are times when I recognize that I need to spend more time offline developing local relationships and being involved in local events, but my online life connects me to my world back home and the work that I do. They aren’t really separate; both need nurturing. I aim to keep myself aware of how to feed both.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.