I've been doing a lot of reflecting over the past year. I wrote my first book, Power Your Happy: Work Hard, Play Nice, and Build Your Dream Life, which chronicles my journey toward starting PopSugar.
The process allowed me to reminisce about how much I have grown as a person—but also how much of my youth I continue to hang on to. As both an entrepreneur and an individual, staying true to my core values and my passions has been essential to my success and my happiness.
As I spent time with the Adweek editorial staff selecting this year's Young Influentials honorees, I was reminded yet again about the values and characteristics that I hang on to from my youth. They also happen to be the top qualities that I most admire in others, and that I hope none of us ever get so jaded that we let them go.
Following your passion
I started PopSugar as a way to share what I was excited about with my readers, and 10 years later, that remains the core mission of our 100 content creators: we are experts, but first we are fans. Chances are, if you are passionately consumed by something—particularly since childhood—other people will share your passion. As proof, look no further than Matt and Ross Duffer, who created the massive Netflix hit Stranger Things, inspired by their shared childhood obsessions with all things Steven Spielberg and Stephen King.
Admitting you don't have all the answers
The minute you think you have nothing more to learn is the minute you stop evolving. Kids ask questions all the time, and guess what? So do successful adults. I also have the benefit of being surrounded by talented people who allow me to be a perpetual student. Not unlike Karlie Kloss, who could have easily rested on her supermodel laurels. Instead, she decided to learn to code, then partnered with existing academic institutions to launch a coding summer camp for teenage girls.
Not being afraid to take risks
In order to be influential, you simply can't be timid. Sometimes, that means daring to disrupt an industry, the way Dollar Shave Club co-founder Michael Dubin revolutionized men's personal care. Taking risks also means not being afraid to reinvent yourself, like actor and rapper Donald Glover, who at the age of 32 is embarking on yet another career, as the creator, co-writer, executive producer and star of the new FX series Atlanta.
Looking at things with fresh eyes
As a kid, you can't help but see things with fresh eyes. But as adults, we risk viewing the world in the same way, every day. When I'm facing a tough decision, I find it helps to change my surroundings, whether that means taking a long walk or working from a different office for a week. I love what Sara Sindelar is doing as co-leader of IBM's Millennial Corps, where she and millennials from other large brands (like Pepsi and Estée Lauder) meet on a regular basis to share ideas and make sure their voices are being heard at their respective companies.
Obviously we can't all be sunshine and rainbows all the time, but I try to choose positivity over negativity as often as I can. I created PopSugar as a solace from all negativity on the internet, and I want our corporate culture to have the same vibe. Smiling is easy, cheap and contagious. I want everyone to know that I appreciate their hard work, and I believe a smile is a simple way to express that. I want to be surrounded by people who bring that positive energy, which is why I admire 2016 Young Influential honoree Zendaya. The 19-year-old actress and singer's fearless ability to shut down digital haters makes her a great role model and voice of her generation.
I could go on and on, because every single person on this year's YI list possesses qualities I greatly admire, and the Adweek staff does an outstanding job on the following pages outlining the accomplishments of all 30 honorees, like Snapchat's Nick Bell, Whisper CEO Michael Heyward, Laurel Hodge of Imgur, and more.
People often ask me what I would tell my 21-year-old self, and the biggest piece of advice I'd offer is: It's OK not to have everything figured out yet. Try to keep perspective, look beyond yourself and appreciate the richness of life. Don't be so committed to a life plan that you stop evolving. Don't fear change so much that you miss out on opportunities to grow and learn. Don't work too hard that you forget to have fun.
And most important, let your core values govern your decisions, and don't ever do anything that comprises those qualities that make you who you are.
Lisa Sugar (@lisaSugar) is founder and president of PopSugar; mother of three; candy aficionado; bag collector; soccer coach and chair of the Young Influentials selection committee.
This story first appeared in the October 3, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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