Vanessa Van Edwards is Lead Investigator at the Science of People—a human behavior research lab. As a published author and speaker she runs original research experiments on topics such as the science of attraction, human lie detection, body language hacks, and other people skills at ScienceofPeople.com. Her latest book, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People, was chosen as one of Apple’s Most Anticipated Books of 2017.
How did you get to where you are today?
I am a recovering awkward person. I have always been curious about people, but terrible at interacting with them. In college, it quickly became apparent that I spent far too much time on book smarts and not enough time on people smarts. I had trouble making friends, working in groups, talking to teachers, presenting in class--I had never been given those tools. A pivotal moment was when a professor told me to 'study people like I study for chemistry.' So I started to create conversational formulas, blueprints and frameworks for public speaking. Everything got easier! I realized that soft skills didn't have to be fuzzy, they could be black and white. At the time I was casually documenting my research on a blog called the ScienceofPeople.com. This started to take off and I realized I was not the only person who needed the science side of people. I write for fellow recovering awkward people like me.
What was your toughest obstacle and how did you overcome it?
I know the importance of pivoting in business, listening to your customers, capitalizing on trends, but I think I got too far off the mark. I was told to create a 'niche' and this was the worst advice I could have gotten. I became overly specialized and instead of being able to help everyone, I limited myself. Luckily, I realized it after only a few months and was able to quickly course correct.
What’s the key to staying focused & motivated?
I work on being extremely focused. I believe in The One Thing--which is a great book about focusing on one project at a time. I used to be spread very thin and believed that as an entrepreneur I had to say yes to everything. I try every day to focus on one piece of one big project. I say no a lot, and that helps me have space to say yes.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Say no to more things so you have energy to say yes to the right ones.
What advice do you have for another person who is looking to get into your field, specifically?
Test your ideas before you sell them. If you want to write ebooks, create courses or sell products you must find a way to test it before creating it. I cannot tell you how many times I have spent months working on something and no one ends up buying it! Test the idea and get people to pay up front. Oh, they won't pay up front? Then your idea is not ready and you just saved yourself a ton of time!
How do we get more women leaders?
Often times I am the only woman in the room. Frequently I am the only woman on a panel or speaking at a conference. I address this by making sure my game is on point. Every female is a leader, but not every female knows it. We have to show others that we both want to lead and are capable of it.
Learn more about Vanessa and her book, Captivate, in her interview with Lewis Howes - see video below (22,000+ views as of May 2017).