Marie Forleo, deemed “the thought leader of the next generation” by Oprah herself, is a true entrepreneurial force. With an innate passion for human potential, Marie has built a socially conscious digital empire through her award-winning show MarieTV and world-class online training programs. Her new book Everything is Figureoutable, which officially launches today, is an enlightening handbook to help readers become the creative force of their own lives. We recently had the chance to chat with Marie about her book and how she built her dream business from the ground up.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING 5-10 YEARS BEFORE LAUNCHING YOUR BUSINESS?
MF: I started my business a few years after graduating from college. I worked as a trading assistant on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and then in publishing for Conde Nast. But those jobs never felt right. It wasn’t long before I realized a traditional career path wasn’t for me, so I decided to give up the typical 9 to 5. I spent the next seven years building my coaching business from the ground up, all while supporting myself through bartending, waiting tables, cleaning toilets, personal assisting, teaching fitness and dance—you name it.
For a while I dreaded people asking me what I did for a living. But one day the phrase “multipassionate entrepreneur” popped into my brain and I started using it to describe myself. This little made-up phrase was transformative at that stage in my life. From that moment forward, and without much forethought, when people asked me what I did for a living, I started saying that I was a multipassionate entrepreneur. Rather than feeling shame because I didn’t have one good, society-approved answer, I began to feel just the slightest twinge of swagger. People were intrigued and asked what that meant. I’d then share a bit about all the things I did for a living: my coaching practice, working as a personal assistant for a photographer, bartending, and that I was starting work in dance and fitness. That phrase gave me a new context and, in doing so, I began to see myself in a new light. Which, unsurprisingly, led to new opportunities.
IS WHAT YOU’RE DOING NOW YOUR DREAM JOB?
MF: Yes, 100%. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been insatiably curious about human potential. I wanted to know what exactly helps people become genuinely happy, successful, and creatively fulfilled. Why do some people struggle while others find a way to thrive, often despite the most challenging circumstances?
In everything that I do now—from our award-winning show, MarieTV, to our world-class online training programs to my new book, Everything is Figureoutable—is designed to give people the tools they need to live into their highest potential. This business allows me to be the same multipassionate person I was back in my twenties and, in many ways, I feel like I’m just getting started.WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO START YOUR BUSINESS AND DID YOU HAVE AN “AH HA” MOMENT WHEN EVERYTHING CLICKED?
MF: When I was working corporate jobs right out of college, this little voice inside me kept whispering, “This isn’t it. This isn’t where you’re supposed to be. This isn’t what you’re supposed to be doing with your life.” After a string of career failures where I kept wanting to quit my jobs (despite knowing how lucky I was to even have a job), I started to question my sanity. Nothing made sense. I had jobs since I was 9 years old, so work ethic wasn’t the issue. Honestly, I felt like a loser with career commitment issues.
Then one day at work, I stumbled across an article about a brand-new profession at the time called, “coaching.” (Remember, this was the late 90s—it was all so new!) Something inside me lit up. Within a few days, I enrolled in a three-year coach training program. I worked at my publishing job during the day, and studied at night and on weekends. Six short months into my training program, I had a fork in the road moment: accept a promotion at Vogue or quit and start my own business. Despite how irrational it sounded to my logical mind to quit and start a business (something I had no idea how to do), I went with my gut and chose the latter. The crazy part is that had I not given myself permission to take those classes and explore coaching, I would never have made that decision. But clarity comes from engagement, not thought. It was an incredible life lesson that I still use today.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS BUSINESS CONCEPT AND DID YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE IN IT PRIOR?
MF: There was no road map for my career. Our business model has evolved over time. And no, I did not have prior experience. It was all gained through practical application. Conventional career advice says: “Dominate a niche,” and “the more specialized you are, the more quickly you’ll succeed.” Intellectually, that advice makes sense. But every time I tried to “choose one thing,” it felt like I was cutting off a limb. That voice inside of me kept telling me to stop trying to fit in. Thank God I finally listened.
I allowed myself to pursue opportunities in multiple arenas, even when it didn’t necessarily make logical sense. It’s how I got into coaching before it was a well-known industry, became a Nike Elite Dance athlete with no formal dance training, and built a socially conscious media empire that touches millions—with no investors or graduate degree. I don’t say this to brag. I just want people to know that you don’t have to have everything figured out before you start. Starting before you’re ready will fast-track your learning and growth. These days, I run toward projects that make me uncomfortable, and not once has starting before I felt ready failed to produce valuable results.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE OBSTACLES YOU HAD TO OVERCOME WHEN CREATING YOUR BUSINESS?
MF: There are always obstacles—usually, those come in the form of fear, self-doubt, or a lack of patience. One of my favorite authors, Steven Pressfield, calls this phenomenon “resistance.” For instance, early on in my business, I felt like the most pathetic life coach on the planet. I was sleeping on an air mattress in my friend’s living room of her West Village apartment while I worked on my business during the day, and then spent evenings slinging drinks and waiting tables. The resistance I faced then was persevering even when I felt like I should be further ahead.
When I started MarieTV and took my business online not many people were doing web shows or online courses. At that time, I had to overcome the resistance that said, “You don’t know what you’re doing! People will think this is so stupid! This might not go anywhere!” But now MarieTV has an audience of all ages in 195 countries worldwide, we have over 49 million views and my online program for modern entrepreneurs, B-School, has over 55K members from over 600 industries all over the world.
I still face resistance and setbacks. But the trick is just to keep going. In my new book, Everything is Figureoutable, I provide practical exercises you can use to train your brain so you face setbacks more creatively and positively. If you can master that, you’ll be unstoppable.WERE THERE OBSTACLES YOU FACED THAT WERE SPECIFIC TO YOU BEING A WOMAN TRYING TO CREATE A BUSINESS?
MF: Every woman has to grapple with the fact that we’ve been conditioned to self-deprecate and downplay our abilities. Imposter syndrome is real, and up to 70% of us experience it. It’s also easy to feel like you don’t belong when you don’t see anyone who looks like you in your industry. That’s why representation is so important, because it’s hard to become what you can’t see. Once at a big business conference, I told another attendee (a man) about my new B-School program. I was so excited about making business education enjoyable, heart-centered, and even fun, while still generating results. He laughed and said, “Really? Is that a real business? You actually make money doing that? C’mon now. This is a hobby, isn’t it? Tell the truth. You’ve got a rich boyfriend or husband who pays your bills.”
I’m not going to lie, his reaction made my blood boil. But interactions like that fueled me to make B-School an even bigger success. And his ignorance reaffirmed how important my mission was to help business owners (especially women) control their financial destinies. We have over 55,000 members in B-School and most of them are women. These women are changing the world and their industries with their businesses.
HOW DID YOU FUND YOUR IDEAS?
MF: I’m self-funded. I’ve never had venture capital or investors, because I like doing things on my terms and on my own timelines. Plus, I started my business while I was just out of college, when I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt and had no savings. I chose to grow my business slowly and organically. I had side jobs for seven full years until I felt comfortable enough—emotionally and financially—to leave those side jobs and run my business full time. Today I see a lot of entrepreneurs trying to build something as fast as possible. For some, that works. Burning the bridge behind them and quitting their day job gives them the financial pressure they need to rise up. But for many people, that kind of pressure leads to stifled creativity and crippling fear. I’m definitely in that camp.
We’ve had offers for people to buy our business. People often wonder why I don’t pursue Network TV opportunities for MarieTV. But it’s not a path that I felt passionate about pursuing. Perhaps that may change in the future, but I love creating content that my audience asks for, in the way I want to share it. I get to talk with the guests I’m excited to interview, and do it all on my schedule. It’s not about overnight success. It’s about getting great over time, having patience, and having the freedom to do what you want. You just can’t underestimate that.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
MF: My sole focus right now is on getting my book, Everything is Figureoutable into as many hands as humanly possible. Why? Because if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, this is the one idea I’d want to leave behind. The everything is figureoutable philosophy is the one thing I know, in my heart of hearts, that can make a difference—almost beyond everything else I’ve created. It’s the foundation of everything I’ve made, overcome, and accomplished. And for anyone I’ve had the chance to teach this idea to, it’s made a massive difference in the quality of their life. Whether you want to leave a dead-end job, break an addiction, learn to dance, heal a relationship, grow a business, master your money, travel the globe, or solve world hunger—I promise you—Everything is Figureoutable will help you achieve your biggest goals and dreams.WHAT IS YOUR PIECE OF ADVICE TO ANYONE WHO WANTS TO STOP WHAT THEY’RE DOING AND CREATE THEIR “DREAM JOB”?
MF: Cultivate patience. Don’t believe the myth that if you were a “real” ______ (artist, performer, activist, scientist, entrepreneur, etc.) that you’d make a full-time living from your work right away. There are countless creatives who are legitimate and admired who also supplement their income through a variety of unrelated means—teaching, seasonal work, service jobs, or rental income. There’s no shame in doing whatever it takes to keep a roof over your head. Never be embarrassed about doing honest work.
To say we live in a culture of instant gratification is a gross understatement. To build skills, earn trust, develop a body of work, forge relationships, gain mastery, or solve complicated problems takes sustained, relentless effort. I say this a lot to my students in B-School: there are no shortcuts. If you’re not willing to work your ass off over an extended period of time (I’m talking years, not months), then be honest with yourself: that dream job isn’t really that important to you. That’s okay. Drop it. Dig deeper. Find something you are willing to stick with and work for, no matter how long it takes.