An interview with Liz Forkin Bohannon, about her book “Beginner’s Pluck: Build Your Life of Purpose and Impact Now”.
What inspired you to write this book?
My name is Liz Forkin Bohannon and I am the author of Beginners Pluck. So I’m also, my day job is that I am the CEO and co-founder of a socially conscious fashion brand called Sseko Designs. So about 10 years ago, after finishing my master’s degree in journalism, I moved to Uganda because I wanted to learn more about the issues that were facing women and girls living in extreme poverty, and in conflict and post-conflict zones. And long story short, for the purposes of this interview, you can read more about the story in the book.
I ended up meeting an incredible group of young women in between high school and university that were academically qualified to go onto college but couldn’t afford to do so. And so I started a charity, and then I shut that down, and then I started a chicken farm and that failed. And I ended up designing a pair of these funky strappy sandals, and I went to the school and hired three young women, Mary, Mercy and Rebecca, and promise these young women that if they made sandals for the next nine months, for their gap year during high school in university that they would go to college in the fall. And they were like, “Okay.” And I was like, “Okay.” And came back home to the US and started selling sandals out of the back of my car, which is definitely what your parents want you doing with your master’s degree in journalism.
And basically, for the last 10 years, I have been building out a best in class, vertically integrated manufacturing company in East Africa. We’ve enabled hundreds of female scholars to continue on to university. We’ve created full time fair wage, dignified jobs for thousands of artisans across the globe. And most recently, we have enabled thousands of primarily female entrepreneurs here in the United States to start and grow and run their own social enterprises. And through that process, I have learned a lot about what it means and what it takes to build a life of purpose, and passion and impact that aligns with your deepest values, that I’ve also become really hyper aware of the ways in which our current culture, inspirational Instagram motivation about dreaming big and finding your passion and like you’re so special.
You just have to believe that and tap into it. Is actually affecting us. And I really believe that it’s creating a lot of fear and anxiety and serious analysis paralysis. And so I wrote Beginner’s Pluck. I use my story of starting and growing this company as the narrative framework, but it’s really about the 14 principles that I’ve identified over the last decade, that I believe are infinitely more helpful than the standard pop culture narrative that we’re getting right now and to help propel us into building really meaningful lives of purpose and passion and impact.
What are some key lessons from the book?
Well, I opened up the book, principle number one is to own your average, which is pretty contrary to a lot of the existing messages about like you’re super special, you’re probably smarter than you think you are and you just have to realize that and be confident. And I really challenged people. They’re like, “The truth of the matter is, like statistically speaking, this is how averages word.” You’re probably pretty average somewhere in the middle of the bell curve. And that’s actually a remarkable thing to not only be able to recognize, but fully owned because when we believe that we’re probably pretty average, and this isn’t just from me learning and seeing other people grow and be successful, there’s actually really solid social science behind it.
It actually allows us. We take more risks, we take on more challenging assignments. It really propels us more towards a growth mentality. Then this really fragile protective ego space where we make a lot of our decisions based off of fear, and based off of protecting our identity as very special achievers. And so I really encourage people to own their average. We talk about dreaming small, and how important that is in a world that is constantly telling us like, “Go dream big.” That it’s actually the way that we get big dreams in the first place is by allowing ourselves to dream small and then actually doing something about those small dreams, and then in that process of momentum and creation and iterating and pivoting, that that is where we don’t find our passion, but we can build our passion, which is another principle of the book. That it may sound like just semantics, the difference between finding and building, but when you believe in this idea that made me someday you’ll find your passion.
There is a bit of mystery and luck that’s involved with that. Like maybe, I’ll have the right conversation at the right time, open the right door and make the right decision and then I’ll kind of discover my passion. And what that does is that puts people in a really passive state. It’s a lot of many reasons that I named the book Beginners Pluck, but one of the reasons is because I think the notion of luck in general is really harmful because it really puts us in this place where we think we need to wait for lightning to strike as opposed to having a much more empowered and proactive stance, that literally everyone can build a meaningful life that aligns with their deepest values, and that creates a beautiful impact in the world, but you can only do that if you believe that you can. And the other principals are really teaching you exactly how to go about doing that.
What comes next after the book?
My core focus frankly, is still on running my company on growing it, on growing the network of impact entrepreneurs across the United States who are running alongside of us to really run and scale our company. And so my hope is that this book really inspires a movement. We call them. It’s been really fun actually. The book just launched a couple of weeks ago and we’ve already got this community of people that refer to themselves as pluckies. So we’ve got this community of pluckies who are finding one another. We’ve got a Facebook group that you could join that are sharing stories, sharing tips, really encouraging and supporting one another banding around these principles.
And so my core goal frankly, is continuing to run my company, grow it, build my own life of a purpose and passion and impact and invite people into that. And then through the book and the community that surrounds that really become a place where other entrepreneurs, other artists, other dreamer doers. And I’m really passionate about the fact that this book isn’t just for entrepreneurs. I think it’s very helpful for entrepreneurs who are just starting out or who like me, a decade into their career and needing a boost of a fresh way to think about things if you need people. I think that this is going to be an incredibly helpful but for you. But I also think it’s really helpful for anybody who happens to be in a time of transition.
So a recent college graduate who’s facing the angst of like, “Oh my gosh, what’s next?” Stay at home mom who’s thinking about maybe transitioning back into the workplace. As I mentioned, definitely a leader who’s leading a team, whether that’s at a startup or corporation. And so my hope is, I’m going to keep doing my thing, but I hope that the community that surrounds the book, the book itself really creates a community of encouragement and inspiration for people to run their own races.