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Why ‘Safe Sucks’ – Start Making Your Own Rules

By: Heather Anne Carson, Co-Founder & President, Onboardly Media Inc.

May 13, 2013


It’s an understatement to say that we’re living in amazing times. In San Francisco, 25-year-old prodigy Danielle Fong just closed a $37.3 Million Series D funding round as chief scientist and co-founder of her company, LightSail Energy. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has been an inspiration to aspiring women leaders.  These amazing women are true inspirations in the power of ourselves.


While stories move us forward, one core fact brings us back to reality. We live in a time of heavy glass ceilings and profound career paradoxes:


  • Women are better educated than ever but earn 23% less than men on average.
  • Women are equally qualified to lead by occupy fewer positions at the top.
  • Education doesn’t necessarily translate into rewarding work or a stable future.


For women especially, the path to success, stability, and personal fulfillment  is confusing at best. Go to college, maybe grad school, get married, work for the government – it’s the safe way to live, but where’s the reward? How do you connect the dots between who you are and what you do? The answer is as simple as it is scary – jump ship from everything you’ve ever been told.


Discomfort Is Your Secret Weapon


I grew up with an amazing upbringing in a traditional environment. My parents both worked extremely hard – my mom was a secretary, and my dad was a labourer at the same place for 35 years. My parents’ dream for me was to get a degree and secure a job in government – work my way up, get a pension plan or 401(K), get married, have a family.


So I did it, and I did it well. I began my career in government. I was a homeowner by the time I was 23, and by 24, I was married. My life was the textbook definition of ‘having it all,’ but nothing felt right. None of it. I was living someone else’s dream.


The ‘dream’ lasted 3 years.  By 27, I was divorced and jobless. Regarding my marriage – I credit that largely to family pressure to marry my college sweetheart, despite not actually being self-aware enough to realize we had no romantic future. I don’t remember the catalyst for quitting my job, but I know it has something to do with bureaucracy and seeing no foreseeable ‘promotion’ or ‘next step.’


What I can say for sure is that the day I had no job and no marriage to fall back on was the day I decided to start taking more risks. Discomfort was my inspiration.


Lead  Naturally, Without Expectations or Fear


My next career move was a startup where I stayed for 2 years. I fully submerged myself in the moment – sparking a trend that would underscore the rest of my life. I’ve worked for small companies ever since – on the front line of all meaningful decisions. I do what I love without second-guessing myself – as it turns out, that happens to be the sweet spot between marketing, PR, and technology.


My most recent venture is Onboardly, an opportunity to create a viable business while doing what I love most: telling a startup’s story. I feel privileged to have had some early success alongside my amazing co-founder Renee Warren and to have had the opportunity to hire and build out a great team together.


I’ve been fearless in pursuing what I love. It’s worked out. I make my own rules and haven’t looked back.


You Can Have It All – Don’t Overthink It


Between kids, family, education, and employment, it’s no secret that women are under a lot of pressure. If you spend your life trying to cope with it all, you risk holding yourself back  – trapping yourself under a permanent glass ceiling.


Do what feels right. Try something outside of your comfort zone, even though it’s risky. Embrace the thrilling rush of doing something truly meaningful and not existing as a cog in a corporate wheel.


It’s something I learned the hard way – that ‘making your own rules’ is the key to success. Now that I know it; however, I’m living my  dream. My personal mission and vision is to do whatever it takes to help startups succeed while building an extremely full and happy life for my husband and me.


I don’t believe in work-life balance – rather, productivity and a work-life meld. I love every moment of what I do. I challenge you to achieve the same plateaus of happiness. It begins with something simple – a core belief in your talents, smarts, and future. Take a risk, make your own rules, and the rest will be history.



Heather Anne Carson is Co-Founder of Onboardly in charge of Public Relations. She believes that good PR is all about good ideas and a ton of hustle; not a hefty Rolodex. She’s helped her clients secure coverage in publications like Inc, Entrepreneur, Shape Magazine, New York Times Magazine, BetaKit, TechCrunch, PandoDaily, TechCocktail, and Mashable among other industry-specific outlets. @heatheranne