Sit up Straight for Vanessa Van Edwards on Sam's Dream Blog


Vanessa Van Edwards is a published author and a behavioral investigator. Vanessa’s workshops and courses teach individuals how to succeed in business and life. She has been featured on NPR, the Wall Street Journal, the Today Show and USA Today.

This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Vanessa shares how to use pain points to your advantage, how to overcome nerves, and how good body language makes a big difference.

Sam's Dream Blog: From your bio on Udemy, you discovered your passion for teaching about body language from a former pain point of being a “recovered awkward person.”  How important are pain points in discovering one’s dreams or what makes that person come alive?

Vanessa Van Edwards: I think if you want to be successful, you have to be able to relate to your customers, readers, and team members. If you have pain points, you can literally feel their pain. This helps you address needs, be more relatable and tap into what truly inspires us. Pain is also a crazy good motivator. We will do anything to get our bodies and minds out of pain and this will push you better than any motivator.

SDB: Speaking of body language, how do you avoid giving off the wrong signals when you don’t want to be in a situation or when you are really nervous?

Vanessa Van Edwards: Power posing! Sometimes you can't help being nervous. But you can help your body’s response to nerves. When you expand your body--widen your arms, tilt your chin up and forehead back you power up your testosterone and this helps you feel good and perform well.

SDB: Can you give me an example of a before-and-after, so to speak, how improved body language made a big difference in a positive way?

Vanessa Van Edwards: I have a very specific example for you. I pitched a conference to be a speaker. They did not book me. That year I learned how to use my hands as trust indicators and to use the power of leaning (2 body language techniques). When I pitched again I got the gig! One lady on the committee said I was like a completely different person--but it was the exact same pitch.

Learn more about Vanessa Van Edwards and the Science of People here, and check back for the next Sam's Dream Blog post on Tue., March 3

Eren Bali Obsessed with His Dream

Eren Bali is the co-founder of Udemy, a collection of online courses utilized by more than two million students in more than 190 countries. Originally from Turkey and now located in San Francisco, Bali and co-founder Oktay Caglar were rejected 50 times before finding investors. This week on Sam’s Dream Blog, Eren shares about being obsessed, feeling like an outsider and how to keep going.

Sam's Dream Blog: What’s your professional dream? How did your dream originate?

Eren Bali: My professional dream was to be an entrepreneur. I was inspired to start Udemy based on my own personal experience using the Internet to teach myself mathematics. I came from a small village in Turkey where I went to a one-room schoolhouse and eventually found myself learning math via the Internet. My early experiences online led to a successful academic career in mathematics and opened up many doors. Without that early exposure to the Internet, I couldn't have dreamed of becoming a technology entrepreneur.

SDB: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Eren Bali: I am most proud of Udemy's role in helping students learn new skills and enabling instructors to teach millions of students. Our team gets such amazing feedback every day from people all over the world who are learning new skills and instructors who are so passionate about teaching and from connecting with students. It's exciting to be part of connecting people to their own dreams and aspirations.

SDB: What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges to realizing your dream? What advice do you have for others in pursuit of their dreams?

Eren Bali:  Being an entrepreneur is tough almost all of the time. If we weren't obsessed, we would have given up long ago. Most start-ups fail, so the odds of success are really low in the early days. There are so many obstacles and challenges; it's hard to even name them. We made a promise never to quit, so we focused all our efforts on succeeding.

In addition to being totally committed to making Udemy succeed, we also needed to get creative and do unscalable things. We got some great advice about this early on from a successful entrepreneur. If you're focused on building systems and processes for a bigger organization, there's no way you'll understand what customers want and be able to build a company. The systems and processes need to come later. For example, a creative and unscalable tactic we employed in the early days was producing our own courses. We realized that the production process (i.e. filming & editing video content) was a big friction point for instructors. We produced a few of our own courses in the beginning and focused all our marketing capabilities on promoting them. This wasn’t scalable, but it did allow us to build powerful social proof points, which were critical to our long-term success.

SDB: I read that you were rejected by investors over 50 times. How do you overcome that rejection and keep going?

Eren Bali:  When my co-founder, Oktay Caglar, and I first set out to raise money, the online education space wasn’t as super-hot as it is today. Many investors had difficulty believing that people would pay for online courses. We couldn't really point to other successful companies in the space. We didn’t have enough traction or market proof to validate the business. It also didn't help that we were outsiders in the technology world.

What really kept us going was that we believed in what we were doing. To show the world that this could be a real business, we worked hard to bring 10,000 users onto the platform. We worked nights and weekends (we still had our day jobs) to build the first version of the site to get users. We launched officially May 2010. By July 2010, we were at over 2,000 courses and 10,000 registered users on Udemy. Less than a year after universal rejection, we raised a $1 million seed round, led by influential investors, including Yelp's CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and Square COO Keith Rabois. That was a turning point for us. We were able to go full time with Udemy, and our idea had been validated by respected technology executives.

Thanks for reading Sam’s Dream Blog!  Learn more about Eren Bali, and check back with SDB for the next feature on Apr. 29.  Sign up for social media updates and tell a friend while you are at it!