When people look at Jamie Kern Lima’s success, they see a glittering fairy tale in which this tenacious self-made entrepreneur sold her company to L’Oréal and she and her family lived happily ever after.
But what they don’t see is the years of hard work, tenacity, research, and undying passion for IT Cosmetics that led to the now 43-year-old’s success with QVC, major retailers, online, and beyond.
Now, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, Lima, a motivational speaker, philanthropist, investor, and author of the New York Times bestseller Believe It: How to Go from Underestimated to Unstoppable, (Simon and Schuster) shares the personal story of her failures and successes that are vital life lessons for our own often bumpy journeys.
Through her grit, perseverance, and unwillingness to change her mission Jamie created dozens of products that helped women feel beautiful and witnessed their confidence soar, whether they wore the make-up or not.
With her husband, Paulo Lima, with her every step of the way, extremely loyal employees and friends, Jamie built IT Cosmetics into such a sought-after brand that L’Oréal bought the company in 2016 making her the richest self-made female entrepreneur in America.
With great heart, Jamie Kern Lima recently spoke at length about her new lesson-packed book, her recent massively successful high energy all-day video book launch that was attended by 218,000 people, and how women need to bring one another to the table, whether it is at a PTA meeting or a Fortune 500 board room.
“So, I realized the importance of being brave and sharing all of the real stories behind the stories,” she continues in a recent exclusive interview. “When we do this, it makes everything we’ve gone through bigger than ourselves, and that’s where our true fulfillment comes from.”
You must be so proud of the book and the fact that it is changing lives. What does this mean to you?
Jamie Kern Lima: I feel like right now even more than ever that people need connection, inspiration, and hope and to feel less alone and more than enough. After the last 14 months (of the pandemic and isolation) so many people are tired, and overwhelmed with self-doubt, and have been consuming their own light. It’s just been such a hard season for so many people.
There are people who never thought they would be homeschool parents and combined with the divisiveness in families over the pandemic and politics, it’s just been a heavy load on a lot of people. I think that’s why I wrote the book, to begin with. For so long, especially with social media, people typically just see the highlight reel for one another. People would share with me that they’re not getting enough traction in their own business, or in their own journey, and they are thinking about giving up. I believe that you need to have your finger on the pulse of everything going on around you.
What are you hearing from readers of the book and others who attended your “Unstoppable” book launch?
I’ve gotten so many inspiring messages. One woman said she decided to trust herself with something major in her life and it worked. Oh my gosh! Another woman said that when she was reading the book, she was rooting for me through all these stories and when she finished the book, she realized she was rooting for herself again! For me that is everything. I think that we all need to start rooting for ourselves again. I think the timing is just so serendipitous for a book like this, too, because I think people need to ‘ignite their light’ again.
Sometimes when we tell our friends and colleagues our big plans, they give us 20 reasons why it won’t work. What if you embark on a major undertaking — your big dream or pursuit — and you can’t drown out the naysayers or the messages in your head that you’re not enough?
Yes. That’s the biggest thing. I think between the naysayers and self-doubt it kills more dreams than anything else. One of the things that I talk about in the book is that so many of us have really well-intended people all around us who love us; friends, family, colleagues, or sometimes it’s the experts who literally see our own hopes or dreams or ideas through the lens of their own experience and their own fear.
The biggest through-line in the whole book ishow do you learn to trust yourself?How do you learn to hear yourself and hear your own knowing and then make the decision to trust it?
In my journey, and you know I share so many of the millions of things I’ve done wrong, but one of the things I think I did right that changed everything was that I learned how to hear my own knowing and then make the decision to trust it. In the book, I talk about the idea of turning the volume down on everyone else. It’s about being able to check-in with your gut. We have a knowing. And then we have everyone else around us that sees our stuff through the lens of their own fear, or their own experiences, or all of that.
Talk about some of the hard-won tools in your tool chest.
One of the tools I talk about that I think is so important, and that I hope is going to be impactful for people is this idea of learning to control who we hand our microphone to, and about what aspect of our lives. And this idea of a volume dial. For me, I have to be intentional about all of this — like the investor that told me “No one will buy makeup from someone who looks like you with your body and your weight.”
That must have been crushing, and as well can all see, he was wrong.
I remember the moment he said that to me because obviously, I had a lifetime of body doubt and self-doubt, and all that came flooding into my body and I went to my car and cried afterward, but I also remember the moment he said it to me I had this feeling in my gut “he’s wrong.”
Over the years, every time his words returned to my head, I’d be tempted to replay them, to let them take root, or to let them equate to self-doubt I’d have to be intentional and imagine myself turning the volume down on his words. And turning up the volume on that feeling and that knowing that I had when he said it that he was wrong.
What else can each of us do to stop dimming our lights so that we can pursue our dreams, whatever it is they are? This is something that we can help our children with, or we are in danger of having these messages negatively color their lives as well.
There’s a famous saying from Tom Rath, (author/employment consulting expert), who says, “You cannot be anything you want to be — but you can be a whole lot more of who you already are.” I think this idea is about igniting our light again starts with just asking ourselves, “Are you living your life in a way that’s everything that you are?”
For a lot of people, the answer is “no.” I feel like most people never actually break through barriers of self-doubt or even become able to hear their own self make those decisions to become everything that they are.
Overall, what else do you want my readers to know about your book?
A lot of people see Believe It as a business book about how you build a huge company. Actually, it’s a book about a girl who went from not believing in herself to believing in herself. It’s a book for anyone who’s been told that they are not enough, or who told themselves that they are not enough. It’s my journey on facing that so many times and overcoming it in a lot of ways, and I am still working on it in other ways.
A lot of women don’t do that. They don’t trust themselves. They’ll make decisions based on consensus and other people’s opinions and they won’t go for things unless they think they’re not going to fail and they’re afraid of failure and all those things. I think the most important thing is learning to get still.
Many people go through a to-do list and feel like they are doing it wrong. So, can everyone believe in himself or herself?
First of all, they have to want to. People will ask, “How do I develop my intuition?” I think it’s about looking back at times where we had a gut feeling and we ignored it and we went with someone else’s opinion instead or something else that didn’t feel right. Just thinking back on those times and thinking about what happened as a result.
Similarly, there were times when everyone was saying don’t do something and then we did it because we trusted ourselves and look at what happened as a result. I think intuition’s a muscle that we build over time and we refine through life experiences. I think it’s the most powerful thing we can do because it tells us what direction to go in, it tells us what fills our soul, and what fills the lines with who we are on our own path.
Please talk about the importance of powerful women bringing one another to the table.
I think it’s so important. I wish this were not true, but I still think that antiquated, old belief that another woman’s victory diminishes my own or that there’s another woman at the table means there’s not a seat for me. But that mindset is still there; where women feel like they are tempted to — they see each other’s successes as competition. It’s just so not true.
I talk in the book about my experience with that even when I first started having a lot of success with IT Cosmetics and going through that journey of mean girls and everything else and coming out of it with full conviction. So, I live this and believe this in every ounce of my being that we’re not here on this earth to compete with anyone else. I also believe that we get what we give. I think we all have a responsibility, too, together to bring another woman to the table, bring another woman as our plus one.
How is this key to women in leadership roles?
I think that so many times people have to see something to then believe it’s possible for themselves. I think that we can all do that in so many ways that are literally free but makes a big impact on helping other women as well, rise higher and see themselves in big board rooms, and big positions, and at a PTA meeting, or at a cool event or party.
I want to mention thatJohn Maxwell has this quote that says, “Great leaders don’t climb ladders, they build ladders.” I feel like that is a universal thing that I think great champions of women do the same thing. It’s about saying, “Oh, here’s a product development meeting, can I invite someone else to it so that they can start dreaming bigger and being exposed to more?” It’s about bringing others inside the rooms where the conversations happen and just exposing them.
What happened to the so-called Energizer Bunny, that you called yourself, who worked 24/7 for nearly a dozen years?
Being super real about this, I think it’s one thing I did wrong. I think that I did not need to work 100-hour weeks for ten years to have the outcome that we had. I think that I went through a journey of being told no for so many years, hundreds and hundreds of no’s and rejections, that by the time IT Cosmetics started doing well I almost couldn’t believe it for a while. I almost had this season of imposter syndrome where I felt like, “Oh my gosh, am I worthy of success happening? Is this really happening?” I lived my life for a number of years as if I had to strike while the iron’s hot.
I put so much pressure on myself to keep going and building, and going after it that I literally lived in a season of burnout for a long time. For years I was burnt out. Hearing Arianna Huffington talks about falling over and hitting her head on her desk from exhaustion, I resonate with that and that’s one thing I did wrong. That’s one thing I would do differently if I could and one thing that I’m working on it completely differently today.
The other thing, too, is in this season when we’re burnt out it’s so hard to even feel the good stuff. It’s hard to feel alive, to feel joy, to feel anything really. I think busy-ness and work addiction is like any other addiction where it separates us from ourselves and it’s numbing and all those things. I realized that I got that piece wrong.
While I was able to build a successful business, I was not a good steward of health for the body. I neglected relationships in my life. That’s something that I want to not repeat. I’m working hard on it every day. This time around I’m not going to repeat those mistakes. But I have to be aware of it because there are still times where I’m like I’m more tempted to work than to be with my family.
I have to be so intentional because I was raised by parents that worked all the time and worked really hard. I’m working on un-learning those kinds of addictions right now and doing things differently. I think it was a lesson I had to learn the hard way, too. I’m much more intentional day-to-day about feeling the day, the good parts, and the bad parts. For me, it’s about appreciating all of the moments.
7 Top Tips from Jamie Kern Lima’s book “Believe It”
1. I want every person to feel beautiful. Even if it’s for the first time, or the first time in a long time.
2. The biggest risk to your business isn’t the competition. It’s if you get distracted and influenced by it and dilute your own secret sauce.
3. Authenticity doesn’t automatically guarantee success…but inauthenticity guarantees failure.
4. If you want something, the best way to get it is to give it.
5. Follow the people online who have actually done the thing that you want to do. Not the people who are just really good at talking about it.
6. Work addiction, like any other form of addiction, numbs and separates you from you.
7. I worked really, really hard and I didn’t give up, but the most important thing I did… was believe that I could.