Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Book Nook: Become the Fire


“Become the Fire.” It means not allowing yourself to be in the fire of life’s challenges, getting burned, but instead using the fire to ignite your motivation and drive, passion and grit. It means not focusing on what you don’t have or can’t do, but instead leveraging what you do have and can do. It means using your differences to your advantage and seeing life’s chaos as fuel to propel your success. Using her own story of entrepreneurial success as well as interviews with ten other diverse and highly successful leaders, Elisa Schmitz presents ten actionable lessons for putting your personal power to work, with unstoppable results.


A trailblazing Latina entrepreneur, Elisa shows how to transform obstacles that can block the progress of women and BIPOC into the unstoppable fuel of success. Elisa sold her first business, iParenting, to Disney. Her current venture,, is home to millions of monthly unique users.


In addition to detailing Elisa’s own journey, the book includes interviews with ten other highly successful women and BIPOC leaders, along with ten actionable lessons to help readers put the power of the author’s message to work in their own lives.


The daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and Yugoslavian immigrant father, Schmitz knows what it means to be an “outsider.” She learned to use her “differentness” to make a difference as she grew up in Puerto Rico, war-torn Lebanon, and suburban Chicago. She learned to read whatever situation she was in, just one of the lessons she teaches, including:


  • Becoming visionary
  • Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable
  • Being gritty and courageous
  • Making friends with failure


Become the Fire is a road map for dreamers who want to be doers, and for doers who need help turning their spark into a flame.

I had a chance to learn more in this interview.

Why did you write this book?

While serving as a mentor with the Council of One Hundred, a mentoring organization made up of Northwestern University’s leading alumnae, I first realized the need for this book. At one of our on-campus mentoring events, I was hosting a table of female students and young alumnae. After listening to my story, the first question was, “How did you do it?” The others at the table nodded and leaned in to hear my response. That is what they all wanted to know.


I ended up talking about ideation, passion, hard work, perseverance, resilience. But I realized that to really answer the question, I would have to spend a lot more time thinking about it and putting together a comprehensive, actionable answer. That’s how the seed for Become the Fire was planted.


Over the years, I thought about the question “How did you do it?” and what they were actually asking. What they really wanted to know was, “How can I do it?” And to answer that question would require much more than just telling my story. It would require understanding the skills and breaking them down into lessons so they could do it, too.


This book tells my story, but I was curious to learn and share the skills that guided other successful women on their paths. That’s why I also tell the stories of ten other women who have risen to the highest ranks of their careers, using many of the same mindset shifts and skills I relied on to take control of my own transformation. Whether because of their ethnicity, religion, health challenges, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, lack of connections, lack of direction, or something else — in one way or another, they are outsiders. These women shared many of the same skills, honed through years of becoming the fire. I analyzed their revelations and formulated mindset shifts and skills that I then integrated with my own experience. I put it all together to create ten comprehensive lessons that teach others to manifest the life they want, no matter their circumstances.


It took years to organize my thoughts, gather the perspectives of the ten women, and develop the lessons. But Become the Fire is my ultimate inspiration, my deepest dive of mentorship and paying it forward. Going far beyond whatever I could tell them at a guest lecture or over a cup of coffee, this book provides mentorship on a broader, more comprehensive scale.

What are the benefits of becoming visionary?

One of the key skills in any successful job or business or venture is being able to read the room and to envision what’s next and what’s possible. If you can see what’s really happening and what’s not yet happening, you can create solutions or find better ways of doing things. Someone who has this skill is often called a visionary.


When you think about visionaries, you may picture big thinkers who manifested their ideas into grand realities that touch us all — people like Oprah Winfrey or Steve Jobs. Thinking of vision at such scale can make it seem out of reach, almost impossible to achieve. But the truth is that if you are living in a challenging or chaotic situation, you are likely already a visionary, or on your way to becoming one.


That’s because being visionary happens in everyday moments, by everyday people, doing everyday things. Children show vision every day, whether by making up their own games or coloring outside the lines. Teenagers show vision every day, whether by starting a club at school or coming up with a creative term paper. Moms show vision every day, whether by finding ways to support their kids’ teachers or creating recipes to nourish their picky eaters. Dads show vision every day, whether by organizing a soup kitchen or building a backyard fort with their children. Employees show vision every day, whether by enhancing an existing company product or pitching an idea for a new one. Entrepreneurs show vision every day, whether by starting a side hustle in their area of interest or developing a better solution to a problem they see.


Although being visionary looks different from person to person, visionaries of all kinds share a certain set of skills. Chief among them is their use of situational awareness to see and create opportunities. Visionaries then transform those opportunities into realities that make life better, which leads to more success. 

How can we leverage failure into part of our success?

Life is full of chaos and fire. From health and parenting challenges to economic and relationship stressors and more, our ability to juggle everything life throws at us, and bounce back from setbacks and failure, is constantly being tested. And fear of failure can stop us from trying.


But failure leads to success in everyday moments, by everyday people, doing everyday things. Children learn to walk by standing up, falling, getting up, taking a step, falling, getting up, taking another step — trying again and again until they’re walking across the room. Parents learn to calm babies by rocking them, feeding them, changing them, burping them, singing to them, reading to them — trying again and again until their babies are soothed.


All those times you have failed – whether at work or school, with your family or partner, or in terms of what society expects of you – are times you have learned, adapted and grown. So there’s no need to fear failure. It’s how we respond to failure that matters. 


Failure means you tried something that didn’t happen to work. It’s when you decide to learn from what didn’t work, to bounce back and grow from the experience instead of retracting, that you become friends with failure. And when you embrace failure as a lesson to learn from, rather than a mistake to run from, you are more likely to succeed.  


We strengthen our resilience by realizing that, as humans, we are not perfect, by understanding that we will make mistakes, and by acknowledging that we will fail. Once we accept imperfection, mistakes and failure as part of life, we can use those experiences as the lessons they are, allowing them to help us improve and grow. The more you learn to be friends with failure, the more success you can achieve.

What does it mean to be gritty and how can we develop this trait?

Grit means being patient and determined and undaunted by mistakes, failures and fires, knowing you can bounce back. It’s having fortitude and sticking with it, no matter what. It’s seeing things to conclusion, even in the face of adversity. And if there’s a setback, grit means having the mental toughness to try again and again until you succeed. 

You know when someone tells you something can’t be done, but you show them it can be done anyway? That’s grit, and it’s what kept me going as I was building my businesses. As a young mom to three children, finding the sweet spot between work and parenting wasn’t easy. I found “work-life balance” to be an oxymoron. When I focused on work, family life was affected. When I turned my attention to family, I tipped the scale in the other direction. Maintaining equilibrium was an ongoing struggle, and even though I loved it all, trying to keep the precarious balance took its toll on me. Like many moms, I was always putting myself last. 


Because I was so passionate about what I was doing, I stuck with it. Whether that meant taking an important call from a rocking chair in the nursery, jotting down ideas in line at the grocery store, or combining business trips with family vacations, I found creative ways to further my goals. It was grit that helped me persist through the fires – even though that scale kept tipping. And I found that it’s by persevering that I achieve the most success. Adjusting my mindset to “I can do it” often meant that I really could do it. With passion driving me, most of what I did helped to advance my mission. That’s grit. And the grittier I became, the more success I achieved.

No comments:

Post a Comment