November 14, 2017
Yin is the co-founder of SheWorx; a worldwide collective of high-growth female entrepreneurs who are redefining leadership. In just over two years, the organization has had roundtables and summits that launched in seven global cities and reached over 20,000 entrepreneurs. To spark a movement takes motivation and, as you’ll find out in this interview, she sure does have an abundance of it!
I was anxiously sitting in the back seat of Erik & Adeline’s car, somewhere in midtown Manhattan, as we literally inched through traffic. I had just finished my interview with Tim Urban and the torrential rain was throwing a massive wrench into our schedule. The city was grinding to a halt and, as optimistic as I was that we were going to get to lower Manhattan by 2:00 pm, it wasn’t looking good. My interview with Yin Lin was in jeopardy since she had a hard stop. We had to cancel. I was bummed.
When I first started Outrageously Remarkable, Yin’s name was one of the names that came up via a recommendation from my network as a potential interview. Around the same time, I kept seeing the SheWorx brand, which she co-founded, come across my social feed. I read into the organization and found out how much she has been able to get done in a short period of time! It’s definitely impressive.
So, what is SheWorx? It is a worldwide collective of high-growth female entrepreneurs who are redefining leadership. In just over two years, it has had roundtables and summits that launched in seven global cities and reached over 20,000 entrepreneurs. To have the determination to spark a movement takes motivation and Yin Lin has an abundance of it. Case in point; she’s a triathlete currently on a mission to finish a marathon in every continent.
Yes, every continent.
Judging by what she has been able to accomplish at such a young age, I wouldn’t bet against her. Oh, and since this interview, she has also become the Executive Director of TheWrap; an organization focused on building a power base of leading women in entertainment, media, and technology committed to accelerating the careers of the next generation.
As you can tell by the existence of this post, our interview did end up happening! During my most recent trip to New York, we were able to grab lunch. Let’s take a trip down to Wall Street and meet Yin …
[Setting: After finishing up an interview with Peter Shankman, I headed down to Lower Manhattan with my photographer, Adeline, to meet Yin. She had suggested a restaurant, that happened to have an abundance of nice lighting, and we found a table off to the side on its own … ]
Dean: Thank you so much. The last time I was in New York we weren’t able to connect, so I’m really glad that we got a chance to finally meet up. Let’s jump right in. When you meet somebody who has never heard of SheWorx, which by the way many people in Orlando know about it, how do you describe it and what do you say about it?
Yin: SheWorx is the global collective for ambitious women entrepreneurs and our mission is to connect women entrepreneurs with investors and advisors who excel in their businesses. We have a presence in seven global cities and we host roundtable breakfast events and larger conferences to connect women entrepreneurs who are actively fundraising with investors who are eager to invest in women entrepreneurs.
Dean: Where did the idea initially come from? Where was it sparked?
Yin: I started SheWorx about two years ago. I met my co-founder through a mutual friend. We had dinner one day and our conversation naturally gravitated towards issues that female founders were facing in the tech ecosystem. So at the time, I was working with early-stage companies to help them raise venture capital and she was a female founder going to Silicon Valley, raising funds for her food tech company. She was in situations where she had to deal with inappropriate behavior from investors, going to meetings with her co-founder and being sideswiped as the assistant … just really horrendous stories. And this is something that we’re seeing more and more in the news with the recent coverage of the Valley. I was also hearing the same stories from the female founders that I was working with, so we thought why isn’t there a place for founders who are serious to support each other?
Dean: With the recent repulsive coverage of how women are being treated in Silicon Valley, would you say that the positive side of it is that it’s shining a light on things that have been happening?
Yin: Oh yeah, one-hundred percent. These are things that are happening, and have been happening, for a long time. Ellen Pao is probably one of the first women to come out and attack the culture in a very public way. We’ve seen that with Uber and other tech companies. It’s a trend that will come and go, but ideally, over time, it will become a better culture for females all around. It will take time to shift the dynamics of power in the ecosystem because 95% of investors are still male and only 3-5% of venture capital gets allocated to a female-founded company, which is still really, really low given the proportion of founders who are actively funded.
I signed up for a triathlon to learn how to swim
Dean: You and your [SheWorx] co-founder, Lisa Wang, are both competitive athletes. How do you balance each other?
Yin: This is a really hard struggle for us, especially since we weren’t friends before we started the organization. Literally, we met one night through our mutual acquaintance and the next day, we were planning for our first event. That year, we planned an event every single week. Through that consistent organizing and planning came the seven cities and people all around the world reaching out to us, being inspired and excited about what we’re doing. So going back to your question, I’m definitely much more of a forest person and she’s more of the trees, so that is a really good balance in terms of strategic vision versus attention to detail and execution. We differ often in our opinions, but it’s usually a healthy discussion that leads us to a better place for our organization. The ego thing is a very real problem and something that a lot of co-founders go through.
Dean: It’s amazing because it’s like you got married after the first date and you’re getting to know each other during the marriage.
Yin: Basically. That’s essentially what has happened.
Dean: So your life motto is ‘be uncomfortable.’ Is there something that you can share you’re doing or that you have done recently that has made you uncomfortable?
So by 2020, I will be done with the seven continent marathons.
Yin: Last year, I signed up for a triathlon to learn how to swim. So, I’ve been saying for years that I need to learn how to swim and I just didn’t make time for it. My thought was that I’m really good when I’m on a deadline, so I signed up for a triathlon and I had three months to go from barely floating in the water and being deathly afraid of the deep end to being able to swim in open water for half a mile. I had a friend who trained with me four days a week and I trained by myself two days a week. I watched YouTube videos to fall asleep basically for three months and through that process, I was able to push myself to lose my fear of swimming and to accomplish the entire triathlon. I’m already a runner, so I do a marathon every year, and then this year, I did a half Ironman. I didn’t finish the entire race, but I did finish the entire swim portion, which is a mile. I love that process of really going in deep to something that I’m afraid of and coming out of the other side realizing that what I was afraid of wasn’t really that scary in the first place.
Dean: In addition to the triathlon, I notice that online, you wrote that you want to climb a summit on every continent. Is this kind of like an analogy for entrepreneurship?
Yin: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s all about setting goals that are way beyond your reach and then doing everything you can to get close to that. If your goals are big enough, you might not hit those goals 100%, but even if you get there 80% of the way, it’s still a success and you’re still going to accomplish a lot. I plan to do a marathon on every continent first and then the seven summits, so I’m doing Australia in three weeks, then I have Tokyo, South Africa, and Antarctica. So by 2020, I will be done with the seven continent marathons.
Dean: I have a feeling that you’re going to do it!
Yin: Well, I already have them planned out, so … [laughs] Usually, when I put something on the calendar, I make it happen.
Dean: I also read that you spoke at the UN. I’m sure that speaking at the UN is on many people’s bucket lists. Is there somewhere else that you would like to speak to spread your message?
Yin: Everyone wants to do a TED Talk at some point in their life, right? So, I would love to do a TED Talk. That might start off as a TEDx talk, and then transition to a TED Talk …
Dean: Coincidentally, I brought you a small gift from TEDx Orlando, it was just launched back up!
Yin: Fantastic! I haven’t actively sought out that opportunity, but that’s definitely something that I would be interested in. And in general, just reaching larger and larger audiences so that I can be more impactful with the work that I do.
Dean: If I can put you on the spot, what would the title of your TED Talk be if you had to give one today?
Yin: I think I would love to talk about the ‘be uncomfortable’ theme. I think it’s very powerful in all aspects of life, no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re an entrepreneur or a mom or retired and you want to do something interesting with your life. It’s something that I’ve thought about ever since I was in high school. I used to be a super, super shy person. When I went to college, I completely transformed my personality from shy, quiet Asian girl to this person who was running for student government alongside a large number of my classmates. And now, what I do in my daily work is to meet and network with incredible people and connect them.
Dean: I always ask about the status quo and it feels like you’re already breaking the status quo in everything that you do. Where is your biggest struggle with the status quo right now in business?
… he was one of the earliest investors in Amazon
Yin: Personally, I’ve helped six businesses that have hit the six-figure mark relatively quickly and I think that the next level is getting to that seven-figure mark, so that’s something that I would like to accomplish within the next year or two years. Another thing that I’m always working on is becoming a more impactful leader and speaker and influencer, so I read a lot about power. I’m reading The Power Broker by Robert Moses, 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, and I talk to a lot of people about how they influence other people and how they’ve become successful in their careers through the use of power.
Dean: What is something that is absolutely true about you that most people wouldn’t believe?
Yin: That’s a hard one. I’m actually an extroverted introvert. We’re also called ambivert. I come off as very extroverted and I go to networking events and people believe that I’m this outgoing individual, but on the weekends, I actually just like being alone. I would rather read a book than go to a party and be around a lot of people. And that’s because that’s just my way of recharging. Being around people is actually draining for me compared to being alone. That’s the other thing, right? That’s how my ‘be uncomfortable’ motto has really driven me to be the person that I need to be in order to accomplish what it is I need to accomplish.
Dean: I think we definitely have that in common. I was telling someone the other day that if I was just by myself for a few days, digging in deep, I’d be really content with it, but being at the altMBA annual gathering this weekend … I loved it, but my brain just really needed a break afterward. Honestly, I remember wondering if you were going to be an extrovert or an introvert, but you did come off extroverted, so it’s interesting to hear that … Okay, so who is the most remarkable person that you’ve met and why?
Yin: This one is actually pretty easy. He was one of our speakers for our events, his name is Richard Seet. He is one of the founding members of the Carlyle Group, which is now a $160 Billion fund. He actually joined the company when they couldn’t afford to give him a salary. One of the youngest professors at Harvard Business School, he got recruited to join this firm, and he just took a risk. He didn’t know what to expect, but people who he respected said that he should take this opportunity. Low and behold, it’s become one of the most successful funds in history. He started their Asia Chapter, he was one of the earliest investors in Amazon; that was one of his best investments. He went on to start three separate media companies and he’s now the Vice Chairman of four different startups. He realized that he didn’t like the day-to-day operations and he wanted to focus on the strategy stuff and because he is who he is, he can do that. He is one of the most well-connected individuals I’ve ever known. So I was telling him that I was reading The Power Broker and he was like, “Oh yeah, I know Robert,” and I was like, of course you do. He’s just full of so much knowledge and wisdom, so I go to him for a lot of professional advice, especially when it comes to career and personal branding and positioning.
Dean: So, this might tie into that answer, but let’s just say other than Richard, is there a mentor that has influenced you most in your life?
Yin: I work with a business coach, Karin Bellantoni, pretty regularly. She has been very influential in the development of my self-awareness as a leader and really shining a mirror on the dynamics with which she views my actions with other people because it’s the unknown unknowns that kill us. If we don’t take responsibility and confront those issues … I always try to do things that allow me to expose those things. AltMBA was one thing, I’ve also done lots of other programs, like Landmark. So yeah, I get coached on a regular basis. I really value an objective point of view of my behavior and actions because we simply can’t be objective about what we think about our actions. Even if we think we’re fair, we’re probably not, because we are biased human beings and we just need to accept that as a fact. Like all of these investors that are clearly not investing fairly or in an equitable way, but most of them either don’t have the time or don’t need to consider how they should change, or why they should change. I think it’s important that we all take that time and reflect on that on a regular basis.
They’ve done studies of people imagining themselves lifting weights and there is an increase in muscle mass …
Dean: I have a question with regard to my intrapreneur readers, what is a way that they can stand out in their careers?
Yin: Always optimize for connecting with the most powerful people that you can, whether that’s within the organization or leveraging the position to connect with those outside of the organization. I say that because the best opportunities always come to the most powerful and influential people and those people are often times the most well-connected. Because we are social creatures, power comes from other people, so the most powerful person in the world, if they isolate themselves, will not have power eventually because they’ve lost that social connection with people who give them that power.
Dean: So, it’s like networking with an intention.
Yin: Yeah, networking with an intention for sure and being aware of the value that you can provide to those powerful individuals.
Dean: Is there a narrative or hack that you use to give yourself motivation because evidently, you have a ton of motivation!
Yin: I always write down my goals. One-year, three-year, five-year goals. Like most athletes, I visualize. I do a lot of that visualization work, especially when I hit a really hard spot. I think about the life that I intend to create for myself and that keeps me motivated and going. I also use the analogy of running a lot. Completing a marathon is literally just putting one foot in front of the other. If you can keep that vision of what the future looks like and still keep going, one foot in front of the other, eventually you’ll reach some version of that vision. It’s super powerful. They’ve done studies of people imagining themselves lifting weights and there is an increase in muscle mass even if they don’t do the physical work of lifting the weights, so our minds are just incredibly powerful. We need to train ourselves to leverage the power that we have to own the success for the future. I used to be a Special Ed teacher at an all-girls public school in New York. I did Teach For America as my first job out of school and so I’ve seen the flip side of the power of our minds. A lot of my students had learned helplessness, which was this phenomenon where you fall and fail enough times that you start to believe that you can never succeed. That’s a very extreme, but dangerous path for our minds to go down. Our goals should be to strengthen the belief that we can always accomplish whatever it is that we want to accomplish as long as we imagine it and we take actions necessary to get there.
Dean: I have one last question. If you can put your humility aside for a moment, what is your secret to being outrageously remarkable?
Yin: Just being bold. I’m willing to set really high expectations and goals for myself and I’m willing to tell other people about those goals. So, on the side, I have a real estate portfolio. I’ve quadrupled that portfolio last year and I plan to double that next year. When I first started, I said that I wanted to make half a million dollars in this passive real estate income, but now I’m at the point where I want to raise that goal to a million dollar business that will just run passively on the side. So I think it’s just being willing to verbalize what it is that you want to accomplish and being bold in believing that you can do it and tell the world that. I always say that your goals or ideas don’t mean anything unless other people are aware of those things and when they’re aware of them, they can do things to support what you want to accomplish. It’s okay if they think that you’re crazy. It’s better to be crazy ambitious than not. When they walk away from me, I want people inspired to set higher goals for themselves. It’s almost like every time I meet someone that’s done something extraordinary, it makes it more possible for me to believe that I can accomplish something extraordinary. The first time that I met a millionaire, I thought maybe I can become a millionaire. The first time I met a billionaire, I was like, oh wow. It’s really, really hard to get there, but maybe I can set that goal for myself and see that as a possibility for my future.
Thank you, Yin. I’m going to visualize even bigger dreams for myself now after speaking with you.
Amazing pictures of Yin & myself by Adeline Ramos of You Look Lovely Photography (check her out!)
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