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As I'm about to turn 39, people often ask how I continue to lead a media company aimed squarely at 20-somethings. It often seems impossible to keep up with each new startup, platform or app we need to download right this second—I had barely started playing around with Meerkat and then it was all about Periscope, all while I'm still trying to find my friends to add on Snapchat.
It was easier when I was younger. I had no fear. I just kept playing and experimenting, and it all felt so intuitive. But as the PopSugar brand grows older and I age, admittedly it has become harder to keep up.
Here are a few things I've learned along the way to maintain that level of freshness and innovation as the company—and I—mature.
Don't be afraid to move fast at any age or any stage. Not being afraid to fail is a stated company value, provided that we learn from it and get better next time. We don't overthink launches; we can't always wait for a sponsor because we need to innovate to stay relevant.
We may make mistakes, but we try, learn and then evolve so we can be proud of what we are producing as well as make something our audience wants. And let's not forget our audience is always changing. Millennials may be the buzz generation of the moment, but soon we will all shift gears and focus on centennials, Gen Z, or whatever else you want to call them.
Being in an industry that's constantly changing means that we are always adapting, and our jobs never, ever get boring. Learning new things—whether it's mastering a new app or discovering a trend—is incredibly fun. That joy you feel when you finally figure out how you'll tackle something new is an extraordinarily powerful motivator.
Surround yourself with young talent. Invest in recruiting and training them. Believe you can learn just as much from them. Despite our size, recruiting is one of my top priorities because I strongly believe in finding different types of personalities—all with a common passion to serve our mission to inform, inspire and create beautiful content.
And we believe in giving responsibility early and promoting from within. We create a safe environment to share ideas and support each other and encourage our employees to create the job they want and make their own path within.
The key to being a leader while also staying young is being able to switch gears from thinking about the microscopic details to focusing on the high-level big picture. We always have a five-year vision, but we also adjust our strategy every six months (or even every six days if something isn't working) to adapt to the changes around us. We must learn to master the minutiae of our industry; leaders and influencers should never underestimate the value in knowing the details because innovation can happen by observing those micro details. But we also need to be able to step back and observe from a high level what's working and what isn't in order to adapt and make an impact.
Keeping an open mind to trends of today and to the young team I am learning from every day has even forced me to let go of old pet peeves. Personally, I had avoided abbreviated speak and acronyms, but even I have come around, simply because of FOMO.
Proactively seek inspiration from outside your own walls. Adweek's list of Young Influentials (which I helped curate) offers up great examples of those creating their own paths. Take Jessica Alba, a talented actress-turned-entrepreneur and mom of two. She is truly an influencer in every way, be it fashion, beauty, healthy living, entrepreneurship or parenting.
Then there is Eva Chen, who continues to reinvent her career with an authentic, relatable freshness that's only become more charmed with her adorable daughter Ren.
And whenever I need a reminder not to take myself too seriously, I turn to Mindy Kaling. Her wit, humor and wisdom are just the beginning of her intelligence that continually refreshes and uplifts me. She is my virtual best friend I've yet to meet.
In the end, they say age is just a number. I feel younger on the cusp of 39 than I did when I started PopSugar at 29. By keeping it playful, continuing to experiment and occasionally letting go, I have managed to be a perpetual student—first day of college, everyday.
It's possible to feel younger as you get older. Plus, you now have the confidence and the wisdom experience brings. This is the formula to being forever young and forever influential.
Lisa Sugar (@lisasugar) is the founder and principal curator for PopSugar, and is also the chair of the Young Influentials selection committee.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 5 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.