Joanne Flynn Black of launch b4: “Be authentic”

Be authentic. Be you. People will be drawn to you if you are your authentic self. You don’t need a fancy haircut or lots of makeup. The more real the better. One of the reasons I kept delaying recording myself for my course was because I was waiting for just the right _____. Fill in […]

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Be authentic. Be you. People will be drawn to you if you are your authentic self. You don’t need a fancy haircut or lots of makeup. The more real the better. One of the reasons I kept delaying recording myself for my course was because I was waiting for just the right _____. Fill in the blank. Whether it was microphone, wall color, haircut, voice lessons etc. I had all the excuses. Turned out I did my first live course sitting on an Adirondack chair on my porch. No makeup, no fancy hair cut and just my laptop camera and AirPods. And it went well. No one cared that I wasn’t “glammed up.” Actually maybe they would have been put off if I came to the sessions not my authentic self. People ask, “What is your secret sauce?” The secret sauce is you, just being honest and yourself.

The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.

As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joanne Flynn Black.

Joanne is the founder of launch b4. She encourages people to launch before everything feels perfect. She spends most of her time in a tiny cabin in the Hudson Vallley, New York with her husband, Ira, her son, Joseph, and their dog, Luke.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My parents Joe and Madeline knew that they always wanted to have a girl as part of their family. They were “saving” my father’s name to give it to their daughter. They named me Joanne which is a combination of my dad’s name and my mom’s middle name.

They were blessed initially with boys. First Edward, then Robert and finally Michael. They thought three kids were enough and if my brother Michael was born a girl they would have stopped at that point. But they tried once more and finally I arrived. (Thanks for being born a boy Michael — I owe you my life.)

I grew up in a loving environment in Jersey City, NJ. We ate dinners together as a family when my father came home from work. We were happy. Until the happiness was shattered. My brother Robert, my protector, got involved with drugs and lost his life at 18 because of it.

I was 12.

Robert was a super-talented musician, gymnast and an awesome big brother. He was always looking out for me and teaching me life lessons.

It was, and still is, super difficult to talk about how much his passing impacted my life and my family.

I have always felt that he has been a guiding light and continues to look out for me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Leap and the net will appear,” is a quote that really hits home. Some people attribute this this a Buddhist quote, however it is by American naturalist John Burroughs. I first saw this quote in my friend June Shatken’s Art Studio.

She had it predominantly displayed and I noticed it each time I went to her studio. It must have stuck in my subconscious. I imagine this is part of the reason why I named my company launch b4. If I’m encouraging people to “launch before they are ready,” I must believe that there will be a net to catch them.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

This may be a strech of a comparison, however for a writer and avid reader, this question feels a bit like asking a parent to name their favorite child.

My son has told me he’s pretty sure that I’m going to read all the books and there will be none left.

If you asked for the top five I would have said Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, You are a Badass by Jen Sincero, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and Side Hustle by Chris Gillebeau.

But since you’re looking for one, the biggest impact has been Finish by Jon Acuff. Starting is easy. Coming up with an idea is easy. It’s the finishing that is difficult. He takes you through funny life stories of what he needs to do to finish.

He has practical suggestions to how to finish. He walks you through removing “noble obstacles” so you can cross the finish line as opposed to having lots of projects going at the same time. With nothing finished.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?

For most of my career, I’ve worked as a Management Consultant. Working with Global clients to implement systems that run the backbone of their company. Typically these projects span multiple years and involve working with people on locations around the world.

To do this type of work you have to be comfortable with uncertainty. It means not being sure where the next project will be located.

One of my first clients was a winery in Washington State. They put the consultants on their sprawling property in The Manor House. The only people who were in this house were my manager, David Jacobson, the chef that prepared lunch for the executives and me.

The chef would send up food for us to taste her recipes and let her know how we liked them. When there were meetings over lunch the chef brought in lunch that was something out of a movie. We scheduled our weekly status meetings with executives on Thursdays at noon.

Peacocks roamed the grounds freely. I thought consulting was the best job ever.

That was until my next project. It was at a chicken farm in Modesto, California in the middle of a dusty heat wave. My head was spinning from the work, the heat and the smell of chickens. It seemed like the days at the Manor House were far deep in my memory. Although, I did meet great people at the chicken farm and the project was a success.

I’ve consulted for clients that called Wall Street their home, helicopter manufacturers, a client that was the Fortune 1, (no I didn’t leave off any zeros, they were #1), a large coffee company in Seattle who was expecting large growth, and the list goes on. My projects were all over the world including Cork, Ireland, Lyon, France, Venice Beach, California and New York City.

I left consulting for a bit to join a high-growth start-up. Wait. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Anyway, the company was WeWork in the height of their expansive growth. We considered ourselves a start up at that time. We were growing like crazy in dozens of countries with 1000s of employees joining our tribe. It was like an extended family to me. Yes, a large loud crazy family, but still a family.

I also left consulting for another part of my life. That was to take a break and do a round-the-world trip. At the time I wanted it to be a solo journey — “Girl out in the world.” While I was planning I got involved with a guy I really liked. I told him that I wasn’t sure if he really wanted to get involved with me because I was leaving “soon” to go on a long trip. He said he would take his chances. By the time I got everything in order (leaving my job, selling everything I owned in order to afford this trip etc.) I asked him if he wanted to go with me and he said yes.

But consulting is a huge part of me. I love the feeling of starting something new. It always felt like the first day at school. The feeling of being the new kid on the block always made me work even harder.

Along the way the thing that has meant the most to me has been the amazing people that I have had the opportunity to work with and with whom have stayed in my life.

What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?

During the pandemic I launched a membership community and courses.

I am focused on helping others to get past their fears of putting themselves out there and giving them the Tech tools to go from idea to launching as short a timeframe as possible.

Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?

Prior to the pandemic, I was working on launching a course on helping people create a business in a shared economy. When the pandemic hit I realized that the specific course was no longer relevant. There were moments of thinking, “Well that was a waste of time.” I felt pretty dejected.

I was able to “flip” my thinking. I thought about everything I knew about creating a course and working through fear of visibility and thought, “Hey, that can be what I do next!”

So I built launch b4.

Launch before you’re completely ready

Launch before everything is “perfect.”

Because the world need you, right now. (not in 18 months from now)

This community was built for women to learn about choosing the right technology tools and breaking through the fear of launching.

We create together, share wins/fears/epic failures, and are there to support each other and cheer each other on.

Because we create as a community better/faster/easier than we create on our own.

All using the Mighty Network platform, which is awesome, I am hooked!

And I love that it’s founded by a woman. In Silicon Valley! Watching Gina Bianchini and her team, and learning from them has been such an inspiration to get out there in the world.

How are things going with this new initiative?

I started my membership community with just myself in it. Then I invited my first member, Maribeth Rubenstein. It was just the two of us for a while. Then I invited my friends who I knew would be supportive. Then I branched out to people I met on zoom calls. Now I’m speaking to groups that include a 420K online group of Women Entrepreneurs. And inviting them.

Two of the women in the community have already launched their own community and courses. Gina Cerbone, launched SOO Kula, which focuses on Nutrition and Yoga. Mariah Texidor launched, MT Edu, a community and course for photographers.

I still need to do more to get out there. And show people the transformation they can achieve by being part of this community.

I have been doing an exercise where for the New Year I choose a word that will be my guiding principle for the coming year. My word for 2021 is Visible.

But it’s not all immediate wins. Some women come on to the community and for a few days they tell me it’s the best thing that has ever happened to them. And then they are gone. It could be because something else has their attention or it’s not the right time for them. Or it could be as simple as they lost their password and waiting until they have more time to figure out how to get it back. They will come back when it’s the right time for them. Or they will not, but it’s all OK either way.

I don’t dwell in, “I wonder what I could have done better.”

One day I ran into a friend who had been on the community for a day. She left and never came back. When I saw her she mentioned something that she could only have known from the community. I said that I thought she hadn’t been on in a while. She confirmed that she hadn’t been on but she gets notifications of my posts in her email. When she reads the snippets she feels a sense of connection.

I am excited about the future of my pivot and bringing all of my talents from helping large companies to helping individuals to launch their passion into the world quickly and have it is big and meaningful.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Nora Ring and I met in an online business group. We immediately hit it off and became online friends. And she even came to visit me in New York. We’ve been meeting weekly on Zoom and became each other’s accountability partners. And also good friends. She has been with me through some dark times and exciting times.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

Every Monday morning two women from my community, Kathy Kane and Mary McDowell, have their “Inspired Work, Creative Play” sessions where we claim what we are doing at the beginning and report back at the end how it went. As part of my, “breaking through the fear of being visible,” I reached out to Sarah Cordiner the online course creator. I asked if she would do a Side-by-Side software comparison of software with me.

The goal of this comparison is so people can quickly choose what software is best for them and not spend valuable time analyzing each one.

To my surprise, she said yes immediately.

So we scheduled a Zoom session, late night my time and the morning for Sarah since she lives in Australia. While I was setting up the background in my office and getting ready for her to join the session, I looked around and it seemed a bit busy.

So here I was at the last minute, pulling some things off my shelf to make it look more clear. I had my hula hoop slightly peeking out from the corner and I almost removed it. But thought it showed off a bit about my personality so I left it in the screen view.

Sarah posted the video to her Youtube channel and we got our first comment. It was from Bee Varga the Hula Hooper from Latvia, who was looking at course platforms for her amazing Hula Hoop courses. She saw the hula hoop and made a comment about it.

Bee had a few course related questions. We then decided to hop on Zoom to talk about our businesses. We immediately had a great connection. She is now a member of the launch b4 community.

I learned that breaking through the fear of being visible and connecting with others will lead to even more connections.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Be authentic. Be you. People will be drawn to you if you are your authentic self. You don’t need a fancy haircut or lots of makeup. The more real the better. One of the reasons I kept delaying recording myself for my course was because I was waiting for just the right _____. Fill in the blank. Whether it was microphone, wall color, haircut, voice lessons etc. I had all the excuses. Turned out I did my first live course sitting on an Adirondack chair on my porch. No makeup, no fancy hair cut and just my laptop camera and AirPods. And it went well. No one cared that I wasn’t “glammed up.” Actually maybe they would have been put off if I came to the sessions not my authentic self. People ask, “What is your secret sauce?” The secret sauce is you, just being honest and yourself.
  2. Asking for help is not a weakness. Have an accountability partner. Have an accountability group. Find a mentor of someone who has achieved what you want to have. I’ve done the “I can do it all by myself” routine. And honestly, things happened much quicker for me when I raised my hand and said, “I need help.” This could also include outsourcing some of the things that you think you need to do, but in reality you can be more effective and get farther if you are willing to let go and have others help you in a specific area.
  3. “Downs” are a part of the process. You may be super high from a great week and then, boom, you are in the middle of a crisis. That is part of the process. Embrace it. Don’t let that stop you. I’ve had some weeks where all was going according to plan and I was feeling on top of the world. And other weeks where I wonder if what I am doing is providing any value to anyone. I’ve been able to take stock in what I am working to build and knowing that it is not going to be all unicorns and rainbows. Sometimes I will need to push through those “down” weeks. Trust the process. Sometimes a long walk in nature or a deep gratitude practice will help you change the story in your head or help you to realize another way through to another plateau.
  4. Streamline Technology Choices. Watch out for endless researching of choices, such as software. And searching for perfection. Yes, you should take the time to figure out what the right software is for you, however don’t waste time spending months selecting the right platform. Know what is important for you. See which platform does it best. Make your selection and move on. Don’t let it stall you! I spent weeks and months trying out the different learning platforms. While I was doing this I was stalling my launch. Once I picked the platform I kept the momentum and kept moving forward.
  5. Challenge Yourself. If you’re not challenged, you do not grow. Well someone actually did tell me this. I was a brand new employee at Deloitte Consulting. A partner, Greg Seal, was up at a podium with a sea of people hanging on his every word. (Well, except my friend who was busy looking at the curtains — she was a designer at heart.) Anyway, this really stuck with me and I would remind myself of this every project when I was challenged. Sometimes I would say, “Do I need to be this challenged?” I think back to those words many times for inspiration and reflection and how I can use this to grow in each new situation. I’d like to put a positive spin on his mantra and change it to, “When you’re challenged, you grow.”

So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?

As we all were, I was pretty freaked out when the pandemic hit. Scared. And panic set in. I was overcome with stress. And felt of of the things that were lost. But then I started feeling grateful for what I did have. I was safe. I was with my family. I was able to take long, sometimes two-hour, walks with my friend and neighbor Peggy Neu. We walked and walked and took in the nature we were surrounded by. We talked about life and planned out what we were going to do next.

I started to be grateful every time panic thoughts set in. I did a 28 days of Gratitude practice with my community. Every day for 28 days I posted my thoughts on what I read fom the book The Magic. And since I had people following along and participating from the community it felt important that I hit every day. And I did.

And I felt better. And some of the members of my community said that they felt a lastting impact of this gratitude practice.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

That girls and women around the world are seen and heard. That they can live and work to their full potential. That women have the same opportunities as men. That we can be taken as seriously as men. That we have to spend less time proving our value. That we can be out in the world proud.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Elizabeth Gilbert — Why? As I mentioned before I am a big fan of her book Big Magic, Creative Living Without Fear. It feels like it changed something in my DNA. I also listened to her Big Magic podcast where she works with people who are trying to break through their fear. So powerful. One of the things I’ve heard her say that really stuck with me is to write a letter to “Fear.” In this letter I would thank Fear for doing her job and tell her it’s OK for her to step aside while I blaze a trail.

We would also talk about traveling. We all know how her travel stories out! I have stories that I’m working on compiling into a book but haven’t quite finished. Yet. But some day soon I will.

And most importantly we’d talk about my brother, Robert, because I imagine that talking about him with her would be powerful.

How can our readers follow you online?

Marco Polo Channel:
Instagram: @jflynnblack

Facebook: launch b4
Linkedin: Joanne Flynn Black

Youtube: Joanne Flynn Black

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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