Maintain both humility and courage.
Take the time to learn something new (even if it’s in a different field).
Be willing to consider viewpoints other than your own.
Cultivate close relationships with other deep thinkers where you can talk about your ideas.
When your idea is ready share it again and again and again. Don’t hesitate to take an opportunity to spread it through writing or any other format available.
As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Longyear, Herbal Chemist & Founder of Blissoma.
Julie spent the majority of her life enchanted with nature and how the power of plants can create such harmony within our bodies. She spent part of her career pursuing the world of art yet always felt drawn back to nature.
She began working in aromatherapy as a natural perfumer. As she spent more time with natural plant ingredients she noticed how exceptional botanical oils and extracts were and the huge disconnect that there was between real healing plants and the skincare that was sold.
It was during this time that Julie began experiencing health issues and severe chronic migraines. She visited countless doctors and tried various pharmaceutical medications, but nothing was healing her ailments.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I have a strong personality, a busy mind, and a tendency to want to learn by doing, so I’ve always been someone that was eager to try new things. As a child I was always working on a project — keeping me occupied was no problem. Ending up as an entrepreneur was a good fit for me because life and experience become the ultimate teacher. I initially studied art, then started on a path to go into art restoration and that was where I got my chemistry experience. During college, I began getting debilitating migraines to a point where they drastically impacted my ability to work and carry on a normal life. After a few years of trying medicines prescribed by the neurologist I got frustrated and decided to work on myself more holistically. My interest in herbalism and alternative treatments grew from that experience. When I began having skin problems in my late twenties I applied the plant-based knowledge I had gained to that issue and ended up with success. It’s been a long and winding path to where I am now with many unplanned detours and different adventures, but it has all added up to something quite substantial.
Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?
I’m an idea person above all else. I love making products, but those products are all based on strong core ideas that drive all my decisions. I spend a lot of my time reading and researching and talking with people to explore and tease out solutions, and I love that. My mind has a strong ability to sense patterns and correlate concepts, and my natural introversion gives me plenty of time to spend in contemplation. I’m also incredibly independent and am not bothered at all by taking a path less traveled. I don’t need other people to do something first before I will. I’m an INFJ personality type, which is incredibly idealistic. If I believe something to be right I won’t hesitate to stand for it even if I am doing so alone. I think these kinds of qualities are necessary in leadership because to lead is to set the tone.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Honestly probably one of the most interesting things is just that I’ve ended up where I have. I certainly didn’t start off intending to go into cosmetic chemistry. I’m also a really low maintenance person when it comes to “beauty” so the idea that I’ve ended up making a living as a beauty entrepreneur is highly ironic. I’m the opposite of what most people might think of. I don’t dye my hair, paint my fingernails, or even wear makeup most days. The universe really dragged me into this industry by surprise. One thing led to another and suddenly I have a makeup artistry certification and am helping people pick foundation and apply eyeliner. I spent my undergraduate days in college in sloppy clothing covered in clay dust! But things are oddly perfect, so I can’t complain. My strengths in art and science really make me ideal to understand all the facets of the industry. I certainly didn’t see this coming back then though.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One time I had the chance to be featured on a local TV morning show for a feature with a DIY body product recipe. I was nervous and not used to getting dressed for appearances. Somehow I managed to misunderstand what time they wanted me there, and I also spent extra time fiddling with my hair. By the time I got there they were panicking because they had me set as the first presenter, and I just had time to park in the fire lane, run upstairs to the studio, and get my things out before the camera was live on me. The viewing audience would never have known and things went smoothly, but I think I traumatized the production staff enough that they likely blacklisted me. Lesson learned — always be early to media appearances!
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?
Thoughts drive our actions, and they are what must come first. Thought leaders are the leaders of typical leaders. Being a thought leader is about creating new ideas and new vision. You have to be willing to break with old ideas. It takes flexibility and a willingness to be humble and admit you may have been wrong in the past. Personal growth is absolutely required and you really need to be able to see from multiple viewpoints. Typical leaders would look to thought leaders for new ideas and use the product of their thinking to fuel quicker action in their field.
Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?
To me, though, the benefit of being a thought leader is having the chance to shape the energy and activities of many people. Ideas are really the most powerful thing in the universe, and so to wield that as your personal magic is a really special thing. Your physical being is limited by time, space, and your daily energy but an idea is not limited at all. Victor Hugo said “There is one thing stronger than all the armies of the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.” By being someone that shares and spreads ideas we can have an impact far beyond any individual product or service. We can literally influence what the future will look like, how we will treat one another, how resources are used, and the quality of life we all have. It is incredibly important to have the best ideas in order to have the best outcomes because the idea is what drives all of it. That said, I don’t think it’s everyone’s role to be a thought leader and that is fine. Everyone has his or her own skillset and specialty and you really need to assess what you are particularly good at. There is a lot of information gathering involved in being a thought leader and not everyone may resonate with that process. Sometimes the information you are gathering may seem unrelated and it’s only later than you discover things go together, or that a principle you learned in another field can be applied somewhere else. We also need people to be excited about the ideas that others have.
Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?
Thought leadership can help an entrepreneur see a new opening in a market and move to serve it. The next concept in green energy production or tools for daily life is likely out there simmering in the collective consciousness just waiting for someone to associate the various pieces of information. When you spend time absorbing information and thinking deeply you are more likely to hit upon messages and products that will resonate with people. It gives purpose to everything you do and allows you to stay on the leading edge. Sometimes it takes a while for others to catch up with you but if you stick with it and the idea is good you will be there to serve people. When I began making and promoting sustainable, plant-based products the economy was really not ready for that concept. We did a lot of education and informing people why they would even want to care. It was slow going to start with. Over the years the green beauty industry has grown based on the ideas that were spread by myself and other pioneering entrepreneurs, and the growth is now outstripping the conventional beauty market. We are here and ready to benefit from that work. While others are scrambling to catch up or making products that miss the mark we are resonating deeply with people because we helped create the movement.
Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.
1. Maintain both humility and courage.
2. Take the time to learn something new (even if it’s in a different field).
3. Be willing to consider viewpoints other than your own.
4. Cultivate close relationships with other deep thinkers where you can talk about your ideas.
5. When your idea is ready share it again and again and again. Don’t hesitate to take an opportunity to spread it through writing or any other format available.
I often find that my best ideas happen when I’ve exposed myself to some new art, historical information, or experience. Whenever I am running a little dry for my own work I just stop and enjoy the work of others. Inevitably it gets my creative mind going again.
In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.
I have really enjoyed the work of David Abram, who is an ecologically based philosophic writer. He coined the phrase “the more-than-human-world” to highlight how humans share global space with many other important life forms that also have intelligence and to change the understanding of our complex place within that web. This is a simple, but profound shift since so much of Euro-centric thinking has had humanity at the center and pinnacle of all creation. The logic and experience behind his concept really resonated with people and it was adopted as a major concept in the modern ecological sphere. I think Abram did a very good job explaining why this concept is relevant and timely in the book that debuted the idea. To consider other life as equal to humans challenges existing assumptions and requires that we change how we operate within the world. Often ideas like this are right there under our noses and just need to be given a voice. It’s simple but profound. Abram has been persistent in sharing this idea as well. He wrote a full book supporting it and has also lectured broadly and continues to write. A good idea is worth nothing if it dies with us. I see a four-part process in play for thought leaders like this — learning, synthesis, articulation, and dissemination. Abram has excelled at all 4 of these stages.
I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?
Sounds like we might need a thought leader to come up with a new term! In all honesty, I’m not sure it really matters what it is called. Human society has always had this role. Sometimes we are called visionaries, torchbearers and even gurus…. it really doesn’t matter what the title is as long as the work is getting done. Simple can be good. It’s not the title that counts, it’s the thoughts.
What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
Self-care is absolutely crucial. I do my best work when I am stable and healthy in all facets of myself. There will also be some flops or periods where you may not have great ideas for a while, so just enjoy the process of learning. The pieces will come together eventually. Quality thoughts also require quality input, so watch what you consume. Cultivate your mind purposefully and carefully like a garden. The human brain is also only able to engage in its best, highest levels of thought when it is not being dominated by strong emotion. Try to stay out of patterns that will take you to fear and anger as these will short circuit your rational mind and cause erratic, misguided thinking. Make sure you have the right people to bounce off. People that “get” you will help keep you energized and even help you take your ideas further.
You are a person of enormous 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would urge people to approach each day with more humility and true gratitude. Most people living in modernized societies already have so many advantages that it’s hard to even comprehend the difficulties our ancestors went through to get where we are. Just the idea of being able to get in a car and drive or turn on the tap and have clean water come out is a miracle. I think the best ideas often bring us back to what is essential, and those things are often very simple. We overcomplicate them and forget. Finding joy in really small things will ensure that you always have something to bring you a smile. Finding satisfaction in simplicity is tremendously powerful. It puts happiness very much within your control and is something that is difficult to take from you. If we all had more gratitude for little things I think it would, by extension, solve a lot of problems with overconsumption and waste, it would rejuvenate and ease relationships, and give us a better overall experience of life. It would also help address inequality because if we find satisfaction in smaller things it frees up resources for others to have what they need as well. You can always want more, and while wanting is not bad it can become an endless hunger that is hard to satisfy. When you want for little you have achieved richness no matter how much money you actually have.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Well behaved women seldom make history.” — Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
This is a very popular quote and it has really stuck with me as I have challenged patriarchal notions of what it is to be a woman in the world. I have a lot more spirit, intellect, energy, and determination than a lot of people, yet women are often shoved into very confined roles. I immediately start to chafe when restricted, but I have still had to do a lot of self-work to unlearn what society tried to tell me about myself and embrace my full potential. I’m shaking off the “shoulds” and deciding what I want for myself and for the world, even if it means not being nice. Being nice and well behaved is toxic as far as I am concerned. Those rules were written to ensure women stayed quiet and out of the way. I am here to bring my light to the world as loudly as I can. I will be kind, but I will be bold, and I might break some things along the way. Some things need to be broken and remade though.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to just get to drink in the presence of Ava DuVernay. She is an incredible inspiration. Not only is she the highest-grossing black woman director in American box office history, she also tells deeply important stories that are actively changing who gets a voice, how stories are told, and who gets to see themselves represented. They are just flat out great films in addition to being revolutionary. I deeply appreciate that she has made sure to be loud and present and help change what people think is possible, and for all the doors she is opening for others.
How can our readers follow you online?
Visit out website: www.blissoma.com
It’s really my email readers that get my most intimate content right now, so I would highly suggest that people join the Blissoma email list.
The Blissoma blog
@Blissomaskin account on Instagram.
I will have a new skin health company launching in a couple of months called Holistic Skin Circle, so watch for that! News about that will be going out via email.
Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.