Vicki Saunders is an entrepreneur, award-winning mentor, advisor to the next generation of change makers and leading advocate for entrepreneurship as a way of creating positive transformation in the world. Vicki is Founder of #radical generosity and SheEO, a global community of radically generous women supporting women-led Ventures working on the World’s To Do List. Vicki has co-founded and run ventures in Europe, Toronto and Silicon Valley and taken a company public on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Vicki was named one of the 100 most influential leaders of 2015 from “EBW – Empowering A Billion Women”, In 2001, Vicki was selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum.
What does success mean to you? Has your definition of it changed over the years and if so, why? | My definition of success had definitely changed over time. I wanted to be successful in the ‘external’ narrative we have from a young age, which in the business definition was to take your company public. That was the pinnacle. I did that in my early 30’s and it didn’t work out so well for me and definitely didn’t bring me joy or a feeling of success. After I did that, I did a lot of healing and deep personal work to figure out what was missing.
Success for me is showing up every single day to share and cultivate my gifts to the highest and best use. We all have a piece of the puzzle. We all have something to give. If I’ve been radically generous to myself and others I’ve had a good day.
Where do you think your ‘MAGIC’ comes from? | I have the ability to start over and over again when things don’t work out the way I know that they can and I keep trying things until they stick. I am relentless, in a radically generous way, in my pursuit of my vision and potential.
My coach, MJ Ryan says that I’m “habitually, non-habitual”. I come at things (including myself) from so many different angles to get at new approaches to unlock potential. I will try almost anything that helps me to stay in flow. My whole leadership philosophy is “follow the energy”.
I recently read a quote: “A good answer must be invented many times from scratch”. That feels like truth to me. I have created dozens of initiatives and many companies that try to get at the same thing; how do you create the conditions for people to thrive and be free, from the angle of tech, youth, women, social impact. And, despite mountains of tears and struggles and moments of despair along the way, I have kept going, mostly because of the supportive community I have built around me. When the going gets really really tough, there always seems to be a “teacher” who shows up and helps me through it.
What is one talent or strength of yours, which has been critical to your success? | I think my greatest gift is connecting people and ideas. Many of my ventures were created by combining ideas in new ways to create an innovation. The whole design of SheEO is a mix of crowdfunding, microfinance, behaviour change knowledge, collective intelligence data, original democratic thinking, indigenous culture, and noticing every single thing that doesn’t work for me in business and venture capital culture and reframing it. There is rarely a meeting or conversation I’m in where I can’t think of someone who could help the person I’m talking to. It is something I could do all day every day and not get tired. It energizes me.
When you get / got STUCK, what caused it and how did you get going again? |When I get stuck I have three different ways depending on my mood and where I am.
1/ If I’m alone, I ask myself these five questions:
What do you want?
What do you have?
What do you need?
How are you going to get it?
What are you going to do with it?
2/ When I’m with others, I like to think out loud with others. It’s my preferred way of creating.
3/ I have practiced noticing my limiting language or thoughts and then flipping myself out of them. For example whenever I hear myself saying, that would be hard, or I don’t have enough resources I flip the question to, What if I did? I practice this every single day to get myself out of limiting thinking.
On a psychological or mind-set level, how do you use your mind and how do you think in a specific way to help you achieve your goals and realize your ambitions? | I cultivate a growth-mindset daily. I’ve got a lot of different tools I’ve learned to use at different times. MJ Ryan who has been a coach, mentor, friend and co-creator with me for many years is a master of wisdom. Check out her books and some of the Learning Labs she’s created at www.SheEO.World. And, most importantly I think, I have cultivated my intuition. We have three brains in the body, mind, heart, gut. We have dramatically underestimated the role of our heart and gut and been stuck in our heads and mechanistic thinking for far too long. I have learned over many years that honing my intuition and what feels right to me beats out rational thinking any day.
What are the most important lessons you have learnt so far, in your career or life journey? This could be anything from very simple small lessons to much larger bigger lessons. | Who you are surrounded by often determines who you become. I am very careful to surround myself with people who have a buoyant perspective, who care deeply for others and have healthy, nourishing relationships. I continuously “clean my closets” of people who don’t believe in the good of others; who only notice the negative. I work on coming at things from love instead of fear, from abundance instead of scarcity, from trust instead of control. It’s acute muscle-building to stay in that zone and it’s a practice. You don’t just all of a sudden turn to noticing the positive in everything, we have been trained in our culture to notice all the things that are wrong, not right, or at least that has been my experience. We can flip this and create an entirely different world, if we want to.
How do you deal with self-doubt, fear or negativity? Can you share a time in which you either doubted yourself the most or had great fears, yet faced up to them and conquered them? | It’s quite hard not to have self-doubt or fear. I’ve been littered with it my whole life. We are so a-cultured to think there is a ‘right’ way of doing things, some expert who knows what’s better for us that know for ourselves. It’s epidemic. And it’s totally wrong. The number one question I get asked from entrepreneurs is, “am I doing this right?”. There is no right way. If we follow what has been done before us we are going to end up with more of this world, which is absolutely NOT the model or path forward. We need to reinvent almost everything right now, including what we value. What feels right for you? That’s the starting point for getting to a new world. And again, the way to get through the doubts is to be surrounded by people who believe in you. Find the others. It will save you.