Follow Friday + FutureDerm Personal Updates: What I've Learned From Nicki


I know this is a departure from Nicki’s usual Friday post, but bare with me, she’ll be back next week to tell you what she’s up to! But I want to take today to talk a little bit about my time working with Nicki.

Today, the entire FutureDerm staff was interviewed today about what we’ve endearing termed “startup life.” It was a conversational-style, group interview, so we spent a lot of time talking to one another about what our experiences have been thus far.

What’s incredible is the way FutureDerm has grown in the past year. You see, startups and blogs begin as the idea of a single person. For years, FutureDerm was just Nicki doing what she was passionate about after school and work, and the company was an idea. AlphaLab gave her a space to make that idea something concrete. So, less than a year ago, FutureDerm was the dream of one young, ambitious woman. Now we’re a company of many passionate women all endeavoring to see a company succeed that has become the dream of the entire team. Seeing that come to fruition has been an incredible experience and I feel fortunate to be here for it.

Nicki would never toot her own horn, so I’ll tell you for her that she’s one incredible woman (but you already knew that!). I’ve learned so much from her. Her enthusiasm and encouragement is very much the reason that this team works as well together as it does. I’ve personally learned quite a bit and I’d like to share some of that. Think of this as “Lessons Learned from Nicki.”

Talk about Your Dreams Like They’ll Definitely Happen

Don't talk about dreams like they might happen, think of them like will happen and shoot for that.
Don’t talk about dreams like they might happen, think of them like will happen and shoot for that.

When I first started at FutureDerm, I talked about everything I wanted to accomplish in life as an “if.” Dreams like publishing a book and traveling the world were all question marks in my head.

One day Nicki sat me down and told me that “if” was a dangerous word in that regard. In saying it, I was giving myself an out. She wasn’t being harsh, she was right. When I talked about my goals as though they might not happen, I didn’t consider what I needed to do to make them happen — I just daydreamed.

Once she said that, I snapped into gear and stopped thinking of “if” my dreams would happen and started thinking about “when.” That, in many ways, changed how I looked at my future. I didn’t imagine myself in some unobtainable place in a distant future. Instead, I saw myself taking steps tomorrow — small steps, but steps nonetheless — toward what had once seemed a goal too big to fathom.

That’s by far one of the best things I’ve ever learned. Plan for your dreams like they will happen, talk about them like a certainty, and go through your days taking those small steps to achieve them.

Be the Person You Want to be RIGHT NOW Not Tomorrow

The great thing about kids is they're willing to wake up and be exactly who they want to be — even when that's a fairy!
The great thing about kids is they’re willing to wake up and be exactly who they want to be — even when that’s a fairy!

We all have visions of who we’d like to be. It’s inevitable. But oftentimes we tell ourselves that we’ll take those language classes tomorrow, or sign up for that fitness group next year. That won’t get things off your to-do list.

Nicki comes into the office every week with a new goal, something she puts into effect to be exactly the kind of person she wants to be or create the kind of company she wants to have. That might sound overwhelming, but it’s not. Some goals are small, simply that she wants to implement a new calendar system or start keeping healthy snacks around the office. Others are more lofty, but she always has a plan for how to make them happen.

The point is that one of the most admirable things about Nicki is that she has an insatiable urge to keep striving to be the person she wants to be. That, in my opinion, takes a lot of guts. Heck, she took a leave of absence from medical school because she felt this was exactly what she wanted to do.

I’ve really taken this idea to heart and it’s made me more of a go-getter. A while ago I realized that there wasn’t going to be a moment when I woke up and was magically the person I wanted to be; I had to decide to make those things happen right now. You should always be pushing yourself whether it’s at the gym, in your job, or at home, to be the kind of person you imagine yourself as.

Invest in the People around You

Surround yourself with people who make you happy and inspire you, and put your energy into those relationships instead of the ones that bring you down.
Surround yourself with people who make you happy and inspire you, and put your energy into those relationships instead of the ones that bring you down.

Startups are as strong as their team. Having even one person in the office who doesn’t jibe with the company culture can really be a downer. Nicki’s done a lot of work to create a space where we all collaborate and have a really enjoyable workspace. She did that by investing in the people around here.

Applying that to life means something a little different. I admittedly tend to overbook myself. Oftentimes that means trying to do everything all the time, sometimes even with friends I’m not very close with. But I’m trying to scale back.

Talking with Nicki and seeing the way she’s run FutureDerm have helped me come to a point where I’m learning to invest in the people around me. That works in two ways. The first is that you have to pick people in your life who you can build a reciprocal relationship with where you better one another’s lives. If someone sucks the energy out of you and makes you feel awful, then reconsider the time you spend on them. Here’s the second part: The energy you’d normally spend on those draining people? Put it into the people who make you happy, and make sure that your relationship with them is strong. Those are the relationships that are important.

It’s been an incredible ride to watch FutureDerm grow into the company that it is today, and I consider it a privilege to have Nicki as my mentor. I’ve learned a lot from her and from startup world. So I’m talking about my dreams like certainties, working to be the person I want to be, and putting my energy into the important people around me, and I hope that these lessons I’ve learned resonate with you.

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  • Natalie Bell

    @Cecilia — Thank you for commenting and for the advice! I love that you shared your own tricks and tips (and I will definitely remember the backpacking offer for the future — that’s something I’d love to do!)

    @Jennie — Thank you so much for commenting! It’s so true that they can really suck the energy out of you!

  • Your remark about negative people sucking lifebloood and enthusiasm out of you is so true. Actually avoiding toxic people like that is essential!

  • Cecilia

    Hi Natalie! Thank you again for an awesome post.

    Tips: if you ever decide to bagpack around the world, email me and I’ll send you an itinerary. I did it last year, for 6 months (4 in Asia and 2 in eastern europe) and I wrote everything down.
    Also: about diet and healhtcare, read about paleo. More specifically: I’ve been following the Rosedale protocol for 6 months and I’ve never felt nor look better. Google it and give it a try!

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