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Lean In’s Cofounder On Learning From What Doesn’t Work

Why Gina Bianchini, Mightybell CEO and cofounder of Lean In doesn’t believe in work-life balance, but always makes time to read.

Lean In’s Cofounder On Learning From What Doesn’t Work
[Photo: Flickr user TechCrunch]

What worked then doesn’t always work now, notes Gina Bianchini, a high-profile veteran entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. She’s an investor and current founder and CEO of social enterprise startup Mightybell, aimed at connecting people to collaborate on common goals and interests.

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“In 2010, Bianchini, 42, became an executive-in-residence at the Andreesen Horowitz venture capital firm. Prior to joining the top-tier, multibillion-dollar Silicon Valley firm, Bianchini cofounded social networking platform Ning with entrepreneur Marc Andreessen. She also cofounded Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In nonprofit.

She shares a few lessons with Fast Company on getting it right throughout the years–and learning from when things go wrong. What follows is an edited version of the interview:

Entrepreneurship Is Continuously Learning New Skills and Refining Everything You Know Every Single Day

If I wasn’t sitting down–ideally in the morning–to think about what my goals are, where and how I can get better and be effective, then it would be really hard for me to be good at my job.

I’ve been [with] startups for 15 years now. The fact is that some days are great and some days are terrible. When the highs are high, don’t think that they’re going to last forever. And when the lows are lows, know that they’re definitely not going to last forever.

The great thing about this [startup] world is that you can be wrong a lot, and still make a massive impact on the people around you. Being wrong is okay because it’s one step closer to being right. I’m very comfortable with being wrong. I’m wrong a lot. I am comfortable in any environment that I am wrong in . . . as long as I’m right every once in awhile.

Differing Things Work At Different Times

Sometimes, nothing can beat working out. Other times, being able to go into a room, and write down everything that is in my head is super calming.

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This is what I’ve found as I’ve gotten older–it’s much less about working more than 18 hours a day. It’s more about having great ideas.

I don’t spend a large amount of time thinking about how I would be different if I was X, Y, or Z. If I did, I would get pretty discouraged.

I went for many years wanting to be successful; wanting to be good; wanting to be liked. A few years ago, I honed in on my goal to be effective. For me, it is not about being right. I’m not looking to be right. What effective means is that you can only control what you have control over. How do you harness those things that you have in your world?

I Try To Take One Day A Week To Read and Think

It doesn’t mean that I’m not thinking about our company, or our mission, but taking a step back is really important to stay motivated.

I read a whole set of things, but my favorite are biographies. Especially business biographies. Since I was a kid, I love reading biographies. I love meeting people.

I Look For Three Things In People I Want to Work With:

  1. One is high integrity.
  2. Two is high output–someone who doesn’t have the ability to produce would be challenging to work with.
  3. Three is mission-driven. It’s really important to me to have and be surrounded by these people.

I would not be an entrepreneur if I wasn’t passionate about the mission. I’m a mission-driven entrepreneur. I care about this one thing: the opportunity to bring people together. How do we connect people who should know each other instead of staying in the networks that we have? This is why I do what I do. It’s incredibly exciting and invigorating.

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I Don’t Believe In Work-Life Balance

That doesn’t motivate me. I am incredibly lucky that I’ve stumbled across a mission, and I know exactly what I’m trying to solve. This is what makes things fun, and you learn something new every day.

Correction: A previous version of this article implied that Bianchini was still the executive-in-residence at the Andreesen Horowitz venture capital firm.

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About the author

Vivian Giang is a business writer of gender conversations, leadership, entrepreneurship, workplace psychology, and whatever else she finds interesting related to work and play. You can find her on Twitter at @vivian_giang.

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