Where to find the best business inspiration + what I learned from Marilyn Monroe

business inspiration, Stephanie Holland, the freedom philosophy

When you notice a book whose spine softly whispers “MONROE,” a spotlight blocks the rest of the world out.

One cosy evening in Glastonbury last summer I settled into the sofa, only to emerge hours later feeling more passionate about my own vision. And more clear about how to create it.

And I realised that some of the best business inspiration comes not from the business world, but from the hearts and minds and hero journeys of the people we love & admire the most.

The best business inspiration for me came from Marilyn Monroe.

As I dove into the world of Monroe I found a staggeringly simple tale of passion & hardwork. Of dreams and failure.

Like everyone who came before and after her, the overnight success and enduring phenomenon of her work was a product of pure calling and relentless following that lasted a lifetime.

Discovered by an army-photographer while working to support the war effort, Eastman Kodak recognised the spark that would turn into a raging bonfire when she was only 16 years old, a chance encounter that launched her modelling career.

What went on to unfold between 1946 and 1950 was a string of events that has a rags-to-riches Cinderella feel to it.

But that’s nothing new.

What I didn’t know was how long the road was before stardom struck.

She’s one of those people who is so famous that you can’t possibly imagine her as un-famous.

From 2-second parts in Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! and Dangerous Years through a string of sexy, dumb blonde roles and studios looking for ‘a girl with big bazooms,’ her star quality was consistent.

It didn’t fault for a second.

Turning heads in All About Eve in 1950 was a major turning point. Funny & realistic, she was re-signed by the same studio that had previously dropped her.

But she was cast in B-Grade movies for years afterwards, in unmemorable parts.

Meanwhile she was the THE cover girl on almost every publication in print.

And only by 1953 was she truly a phenomenon. Both on AND off screen.

What many people don’t know is that she studied acting furiously the ENTIRE TIME. The more famous she got, the more she studied.

Years later when asked what inspired that she replied something along the lines of seeing my own movies.

The truth is she just couldn’t hide her luminescence; it mesmerised the camera. And the world. And the harder she worked, the more the camera and the world sat up and took notice.

It took only a second to be noticed, months to be adored and yet years to be truly respected for her art.

While she made a living as a model during the hard years when Hollywood was cooling its heels & slamming her with a million ‘no’s, her beautiful face continued to pay her rent. And she continued to study.

While riding the media wave she studied acting and worked with a coach as she honed her craft.

Her story reminds us to say ‘fuck it’ and keep going.

Regardless of the establishment (who shunned even her Oscar-worthy performances).

And regardless of what other people say (she handled scandal with panache and stylish one-line quips for the paparazzi. Ever charming, always classy).

She reminds us to share our luminescence with every one we meet.

To bring our Self to the table fully, and unapologetically.

Whether lying in a hospital bed (she endured numerous miscarriages and a gallbladder removal) or dodging rumours (of pending nuptials & three marriages).

She reminds us to keep working towards what we want.

To never let go of the dream.

To work hard.

To study.

To find people who can support our vision and help us get there.

But also that not everyone will notice our star quality at first. It takes exposure to many people to find the epicentre that will launch us.

So keep getting your message out there.

Say yes to meetings.

Say yes to podcast interviews.

Say yes to the media, to journalists, to networking events.

Say yes to everything that pushes you out of your comfort zone.

Practice expressing your ideas, beliefs and values.

Practice sharing your star quality.

At some point the right people will notice. And they’ll share it with their people. And their people will share it with their people.

There is such a thing as overnight success.

But it starts today, and happens some time in the future.

Keep going for that dream.

And keep finding inspiration — business inspiration — from the people in the world around you. Their stories light you way.

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Image: Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine