Innovator Insights: Courtney Young, Founder & Chief Creative Officer of @thinkyoungmedia
Courtney Young is the founder of Think Young Media Group, a professional storytelling and digital consulting firm based in New York City and Southwest Louisiana. She is a Board member of the non-profit Hollaback, a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world. Courtney is also a member of Dreamers // Doers, a highly curated community of high-achieving trailblazing women who come together to support each other on their entrepreneurial paths. The community encompasses a diverse mix of female founders, women working at startups, and other female creators, change-makers, and influencers.
Me: Why are you an entrepreneur?
Courtney: I completed my master’s degree from New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. During my studies, when I thought about what I thought my career may be, I knew it would have many threads — business, film & TV, performance, writing. I was lucky enough to develop a self-directed program of study that took my varied interests into consideration.
I always felt like the career I wanted was one that I would ultimately have to create, which made entrepreneurship appealing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard, demanding and, at times, uncertain but I drive my agenda and my days. I always knew at some point that I would be my own boss and not just start a company, but run one. So this transition for me with Think Young Media Group feels good and I know this is where I am supposed to be.
Me: What problem would you like solved?
Courtney: I’m currently working on the two issues that I’d like to see solved. The first is online harassment. As someone who’s experienced it and seen it happening to others, I know the damage it can do. I’ve maintained a leadership role on Heartmob, an online platform designed to reduce trauma and isolation for individuals experiencing online harassment. When integrated into social media platforms, its aim is to pair those being harassed with a supportive community, ways to track the harassment, and resources to help him or her fight and heal from the abuse.
The majority of my time is spent building Think Young Media Group, digital media agency. My goal is to create a better pipeline for diverse talent in the media industry. My primary focus is writing and developing TV and film projects. I am currently completing the edits on a pre-Civil War miniseries and two screenplays.
Me: Advice you’d wished you’d had or had followed?
Courtney: There are so many things I wish I had been told (or listened to) early on, but a big part of life is figuring out things on your own. If I had to do it all again, I’d focus on the following —
1. As soon as possible, learn how to swiftly distinguish between those you can trust and depend on and those you cannot. Once you’ve made that distinction, direct your time, energies, investments, generosity, etc. towards those individuals.
2. Have fun — lots of it, as much as you can, whenever possible.
3. Make developing superior people skills a priority.
4. Don’t dwell on the past and wish you had done something different or made a different choice. What’s done is done and can’t be undone.
5. You can always walk away.
Me: What does success look like for you?
Courtney: Basketball coach John Wooden’s definition resonates with me more more than any other definition I’ve heard: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” This is the vision of success that guides me.
Me: Who are your heroes?
Courtney: I avoid putting too much stock in heroes because they’re people too and can disappoint. However, there are people I deeply admire for different reasons.
My parents — Both of my parents were born in pre-Civil Rights Northern Louisiana. They were among the first in their families to attend college and surmounted considerable obstacles to get to where they are now. I’ve led a good life and believe in my own ability to achieve even more because of their guidance and example. Plus, it’s a wonderful, humbling feeling to be loved and trusted and to be told so often. If anyone would take the top spot for me regarding heroes, it would be them.
I also admire Elon Musk because he dares to dream big, Oprah Winfrey because she’s all kinds of awesome (and my best friend in my head), Sophia Amoruso because she is boss and Olga Vidisheva of Shoptiques because she is emblematic of the power of hard work and vision.
Me: What is your best discovery?
Courtney: My best discovery is not a product, app, website or anything tangible. Rather, it’s a change in mindset. I believe that opportunities are everywhere, not finite. I have a daily practice of being present and observant and seizing opportunities that may be good for me regardless of how uncomfortable it may feel.
Me: What would the title of your biography be?
Courtney: A Work in Progress
Me: What is your biggest regret?
Courtney: My biggest regret is ever allowing my belief in myself, my abilities or my potential for success to waver. Ask any person who has achieved great success, influence, or fame and they all have at least one trait in common — an unshakable belief in self.
Any goal worth achieving is usually met with roadblocks along the way. In my case, I’ve often been in situations where my worth, intelligence, competence or talent was called into question. As important as it is to celebrate your wins, it just as important to find self-care techniques for managing disappointment, discouragement, roadblocks and failure.
I started to cultivate a strong belief in myself by first developing a strong sense of self-awareness and truthfully answering the following questions: What motivates me? What turns me on? What pisses me off? What does my “shadow self” look like and under what circumstances does it manifest itself? In knowing the answers to these questions I can achieve better clarity on my strengths and challenges and adjust my professional course.
Secondly, I have invested the time to become more power literate. How do I show up to the table? How do my peers, clients, mentors, etc. perceive me? Who are the decision makers I need to reach out to to help me get where I am going? In recognizing and owning my own power, I am better equipped to deal with any and all challenges that may come my way.
My last technique is courtesy of actress Geena Davis. I read somewhere that she said learning a sport helped her develop more confidence and I couldn’t agree more. In focusing on my personal and spiritual health, I feel myself becoming stronger physically. I also feel much stronger mentally.
Me: Anything else we should know about?
Courtney: I do a lot of freelance writing and I post all my pieces on my twitter feed: @thinkyoungmedia. In addition, I am currently working on a crowdfunding campaign that will go live in early 2016. And I’m always open to possible partnerships, opportunities that you deem I may be a good fit for or just a simple hello or introduction! Be on the look out for many projects coming from me in 2016!