Work from home has become the “new normal” for many people. (Yes, it’s totally okay to gag at that phrase, happens to me every time.) Get up. Get dressed. Have breakfast. Scan the news (or Twitter). Roll from the kitchen to your desk (or make the kitchen table your desk). And it’s time to go.
Working from home (or at least working from home on the daily) was not part of the original plan for many people. And I need to pause here first. Many folks don’t have the luxury of working from home. Postal workers, healthcare teams, grocery store staff, mall workers, many more, and even folks in my own field – dubbed the “helping professions” – still head into the office on the reg.
For those people who’ve had their work spaces changed by shelter-in-place orders, there are some challenges that come along with that. Do you have a comfortable space in which to work where you’re not killing your eyes, back, and hands? Are you taking care of kids, parents, or others while also working? Do you have the ability to have quality internet at home, or has your ability to produce at the same level as in the office decreased?
Working from home changes dynamics. It violently tilts the more level playing field of office space where teams typically have the same equipment, surf the same Internet, meet in the same rooms, and shows variances. What space do you work in? What part of your home do you want your colleagues to see? Is your cat the newest Zoom meeting participant?
Ultimately, what I can suggest to employees and employers is the following:
Set good boundaries.
When it’s starting time, it’s starting time. When it’s quitting time, it’s quitting time. Open your computer at the start of the day and close it at the end. I also turn on my work phone at the start of each day and off at the end. I try to stick to my schedule as much as possible. Having little “rituals” like this, combined with a set schedule (when possible) help define work time from personal time when doing both in the same physical space.
Keep communication open with your supervisor and team members.
Check on each other. Set regular meetings to engage with folks. And if you’re not feeling like being on video, it’s okay to express that (virtual burnout is real, folks).
Show everyone some grace.
We’re going to have days when we don’t motivate well. Sometimes the internet might go out. Your six-year-old is going to throw a tantrum during a big meeting (or someone else’s six-year-old is going to throw a tantrum during a big meeting). Be kind – to yourself and to others.
What other tips do you have to make working from home easier? Share them in the comments or tweet us @BizGalz.
I left my job a few months ago. I had been sitting on this decision for a while. I liked my work. I was invested in our mission. I enjoyed interfacing with many of my coworkers. What I didn’t love was a continued expectation for excessive overtime, that work was to take precedence over personal and family commitments, that almost complete projects were upended (more than once), and the repetition of “we’re family” was part of the workplace culture. (It’s not healthy, I promise, and having leadership that uses that language puts workers – you and I included – at a disadvantage with our time and financial value because “family” workplaces expect employees to give more (or all) for less.)
I’ve burnt out before.
Burnout is no joke. Dragging out of bed and through the day bleary-eyed. Difficulty concentrating. Taking hours longer to complete a task because I. Just. Can’t. Move. Any. Faster. Having to bribe myself to go to work. All the signs were starting to show. What was most frustrating for me was that I had tried to address my concerns about unmanageable workload early on (starting more than a year before giving my notice). During one exchange when I asked how my boss would like me to prioritize certain types of tasks, I was (unhelpfully) told, “It all just needs to get done.”
All of these individual things aside, I knew months before I finally left that the time was approaching. It took me a while to get all the pieces in place. Was I in a financial place where I could leave? How long could I manage to be unemployed without incredible strain? Was it the right time? Would things get better? Should I give it another chance? How much longer could I go before burnout really got me? I’m sure there’s a point in my life where I would have up and walked off a job. (Actually, I have up and walked off a job.) But this was not that place or time.
I have value outside my job.
We’ve been conditioned (very much so in the United States and also in other parts of the world) that our job – the type of job we hold and rank within it – determines our value as a person. I’ve been to countless networking events and social parties where the first question I get asked is, “What do you do?” I’ve tried to flip this on its head by replying with my hobbies, but the follow-up question is always, “No, what do you do for work?” I realized probably close to a decade ago that this question is very much a matter of people determining each other’s status and worth in society and have made a concerted effort to flip the script on this question by opening my ask with something else. Really, anything. “Do you have any pets?” “What’s your favorite dessert?” “What are your hobbies?” The possibilities are endless.
Know Your Priorities.
In reality, our work is only a part of us and what we do. For me, work ranks third in what I view as important in my life.
1. Family: Myself, my immediate family, my chosen family, those for whom I would literally drop everything no matter what.
2. Community: The people and places with whom/where I collaborate and in which I invest my time, talent, and treasure in order to leave the world a better place than I found it.
3. Career: A job (hopefully one I like a lot) that allows me opportunities to share my abilities and positively impact our mission as a whole. The vehicle that keeps a roof over my head and food on the table and allows me to fully invest in #1 and #2.
It’s taken time to find my own value (yay, life experiences!), but as my own understanding of my value as a person has matured, my patience for people who don’t respect the autonomy of others (be it in learning or communication style, preferred hobbies, style of dress or physical expression, etc.) has gone down. I am a baker. A pianist. An activist. A bookworm. A yogi. A gardener. A cat mom. And so much more.
Even with all the uncertainty that comes with not having another job lined up, I knew it was time when the time came. I was on the precipice of burnout. I wasn’t feeling valued. When I did set my end date, I gave a statistically long amount of notice. I was honest in my reasons to leave in the hopes that systemic change could happen for others. I hope I set my team up for success. I wish no ill on my colleagues and hope that their work towards the mission continues successfully.
Quitting can be scary and that’s no lie. There’s the aspect of not knowing how others will react when you give your notice, what they will say about you (to your face or behind your back), or if you’ll simply become a pariah for the last few weeks you’re there. And it was scary. But it was also an incredible, empowering step in staying true to myself and doing what I needed to do – for me.
The closer I got to my last day, the prouder I was of myself for making this choice. The closer I got to the uncertainty of what was next, the stronger I felt in my decision.
I’ve carefully selected a handful of fields I feel I will really enjoy. I’ve curated a list of important interview questions to make sure I’m valued from the beginning (including questions about work/life synergy, workplace culture, the cohesiveness of mission/vision/values, and more). I have some incredible friends helping me on this journey and while I really don’t know what’s next, I know I can do it.
For me, hope is one of the most important emotions that we can feel. In times of uncertainty, it can be a rock that keeps us going, allowing us to bounce back from difficult situations. And, in the current social, environmental and political climate, I think that hope has become more significant than ever.
So, how do we define hope?
What is Hope?
With this in mind, I think it’s also fair to say that hopeful people are usually the optimists in the room. But while this can often be labelled as ‘naive’, hopeful people are able to face even the most negative times with a positive attitude. And, because of the many health benefits of optimism, hope can significantly improve our mental health.
What Hope Shouldn’t Be Confused With…
Hope is not blindly expecting good things to happen without putting in some work. If you want the ideal outcome, you have to do something about it and maybe even get others on board. Take climate change for example… if how can you honestly expect people to take it seriously if you aren’t doing anything to prevent it. Hope has to be followed by action and we are all responsible for contributing to the outcomes that we would like to see.
The idea of ‘blind’ or ‘false’ hope comes from wanting an outcome without wanting to contribute to making it happen. And that can be particularly detrimental as nothing can happen from the will of wanting.
Why Hope is Important For Life
Well, life is tough. There are many obstacles and they often come when you least expect it, which also means that having goals isn’t enough. You have to navigate around life’s obstacles while trying to get closer to your aspirations. Hope allows you to approach life-problems with a strategic mindset set up for turning a stressful event into something successful, increasing the chance of your goal being accomplished.
As Psychology Today states: “Hope is much more than a feel-good emotion, it’s a dynamic motivational system. Hope leads to learning goals, which lead to growth and improvement. People with learning goals are actively engaged in their learning, constantly planning strategies to meet their goals, and monitoring their progress to stay on track. A bulk of research shows that learning goals are positively related to success across a wide swatch of human life?from academic achievement to sports to arts to science to business.”
“Those lacking hope, on the other hand, tend to create mastery goals. People with mastery goals choose easy tasks that don?t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. People with mastery goals act helpless and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don?t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. They have no hope”
To put it simply, hope is a driving factor in your success. It allows you to see obstacles as an opportunity to learn rather than the force of the universe acting out against you. Hope is empowering and enables you to tackle the complex issues while setting yourself up for long-term success.
Why Hope Is Important Right Now
I opened up by saying that hope is important, especially with the conversations that are happening across the globe. And, I’ll close by reinforcing that statement.
Whether we are thinking about the potential outcome of Brexit, Trump’s next steps or the devastating impact that humans are having on our environment, hope is the one thing that will not only bring us together but allow us all to have a significant impact. While it is easy to feel powerless, it is important to remember that we all have the capacity to do great things. The amazing leaders of the past did not just end up where they are by chance. They planned, they manoeuvered around difficult setbacks and some of the ploughed right through them. It’s up to us to do the same.
My brother was the first of my siblings to have children, and whenever I think about the legacy that I leave behind, I want to know that I created a slightly better world for my niece and nephew to live in, just as my parents and grandparents did for me. Their success motivates and inspires me, it makes me hopeful as I know that I have it within me to make the future a bit better for the next generation.
My challenge to you? Go out there and do something to create the world that you want to see. Dare to dream. Fight for hope. Create your version of the future.
The person who can bring people to the table and facilitate a consensus has influence and power because the pool of people who already agree with and want what you have to offer is relatively shallow. But, if you?re skilled at persuading those who are undecided or even hostile to your point of view, the pool of people you can work with is deep and wide.
If you?re in business ? no matter the business ? you?re in the business of communication.
In this context, all communication is about persuasion.
Persuasion vs. Manipulation
Everything you say, write, and do should persuade the other party to engage with and eventually work with you in some way, but it’s critical to understand that persuasion is a process that results in them changing their mind from one way of thinking to your way of thinking and that action must be taken in line with that shift.
You can get people to act the way you want without persuading them. People will act against their goals and values when forced or manipulated to do so. We?ve all seen how people who yell, threaten, and subvert can get their way. Force and manipulation are ways to get results and gain power quickly, but that way is never acceptable or a good long-term strategy because as soon as the victim can get away, they?ll revert to their former way of thinking and doing. We all know that once the pressure is off or more information comes to light, the victim of that behavior goes right back to the way they thought about and did things before.
I define persuasion as respectful communication based on pure motives the result of which is an action that benefits all parties.
Why Persuasion Matters
If you?re self-employed or a salesperson, you must be able to articulate the value of your product or service and make sales.
If you?re a leader in a company or the chair of a committee, you must inspire confidence in those who follow you and empower them to act quickly and enthusiastically to get things done.
Unless you?re selling on price alone, this is not a one-time thing. You must continually be engaged in conversations that demonstrate the value of your proposition and partnership to everyone around you.
Persuasion requires mindful interaction.
People, not Facts, Persuade
Persuasive people understand that facts alone do not persuade. It is how the facts are presented and how well they fit with the other person?s perspective that matters because if the other party views the facts as irrelevant to their situation or the solution presented as too onerous, they?ll look elsewhere for a better solution to their problem.
Worse, if they agree on the facts and solution proposed and are willing to take the action required to solve their problem but do not like the presenter or the idea of entering a strategic partnership with that person, they will go elsewhere. The result of that is frustration and lack of results and possibly income for the presenter/would-be persuader.
Therefore, your communication must be strategic, based on shared values, and solution-oriented. It cannot be those things if you don’t identify the most pressing problem the person you want to work with is facing, what motivates them (personally and morally), and exactly where and how you who you are and what you do overlaps those things.
To identify the needs and wants of the other party, you must gather around the table.
Bring People to the Table
The table can be conversations on social media, email exchanges, phone calls, or in-person meetings. The platform doesn?t matter as much as the interaction that happens when you meet there. To attract people to and keep them at your table, you must demonstrate your professionalism and that you have the social skills to be good to work with.
Here are some tips:
? Find common ground.
? Use language that appeals to the person you’re trying to persuade. For example, when I talk to athletes, I use sports metaphors and language that includes “finish line,” “competition,” “win,” etc. When I talk to a new father or mother, I use words and phrases that connect to their concerns and our shared experience as parents.
? View yourself and your offering from the perspective of the person you’re talking to.
? Anticipate challenges and offer options that address the real obstacles the other party may have implementing your solution.
It is during these conversations that you will come to understand the needs and wants of the other party and how what you have to offer can satisfy both. You will also be building a connection and trust with the other party and offering a solution to their problems. The goal of this stage is agreement. However, verbal agreement alone doesn’t get the job done, nor does it mean you’ve persuaded.
The True Test of Your Powers
A call to action is the true test of your persuasive powers because many humans are agreeable by nature, finding it difficult to challenge others in conversation. However, when it comes to a buying or buy-in decision, something that requires them to act in a way that costs them something, people are more likely to say ?no? or put the decision off. This may seem like a failure, but it?s not the end of the discussion. This is an opportunity to ask more questions and to verify that you?ve understood the problem as the other party sees it. It?s an opportunity to creatively solve a problem together using the skills and resources at your mutual disposal.
However, this may also be an indication that you?ve given all you can and should, and now the other person needs time to digest and answer your call to action after they?ve tested your ideas and verified your credibility.
Give People Space to Digest and Reflect
Persuasive people understand that time can be their friend and that high-pressure tactics are the tools of forcers and manipulators. Few people have the stomach to stay at the table with manipulators. Keeping people at the table requires respect and patience.
Always leave a seat at and keep inviting people back to the table because those who return are often the ones who become the most loyal clients and vocal supporters.
Remember, negotiation is a process of communication. Persuasion is a series of small yeses, the result of which is action and long-term, meaningful change.
Whether you?re a board member, executive, committee chair, salesperson, or freelancer, the better communicator you are and the longer you can keep people at the table, the better your chance of creating long-term success for all parties and being recognized by others as a true leader and someone worth working with or buying from.
I?ve never been a fan of the ?How are you doing?? conversation. Don?t get me wrong, I know that people mean well when they ask this question! But, it?s usually a pleasant way to start speaking to someone, when they are in a good place. This conversation doesn?t really set people up for dealing with ?you know what? I?m not so great at the moment?.
Most people have juggled the idea of saying ?I?m fine? to just get the conversation over and done with OR telling the truth and admitting that they aren?t in a great place. A lot of the time there?s an internal conflict because we struggle to ask for help, or want to keep up appearances. But ultimately, that?s not sustainable. We all need to rely on our friends and loved ones when things are tough, that?s what they?re there for after all. The one constant in life is that there will be highs and lows that we all have to go through. However, you do not have to do that alone.
So, if you?re fighting your own battles, here are some tips about dealing with tough times and, hopefully, they will help you to accept that it?s OK to not be OK.
Don?t feel guilty about sharing
Guilt is a strong emotion and when you?re going through a tough time, you become more aware that others are also experiencing difficulties that you know nothing about. This can be one of many reasons that stops us from opening up and sharing with the people who truly care. You have no reason to feel guilty about sharing your thoughts and feelings. There are people in your life who care and want to know when you aren?t at your best so they can step in and be there for you. Remember, you deserve to be looked after too.
Find someone you trust and start talking
When you?ve managed to get past the feeling of guilt, think about the people who you really trust and lighten the load by talking to them about what you?re going through. The closer you are to that person, and the more you feel you can trust them, the more comfortable you?re likely to feel.
Learn to say no
Having time to yourself is equally important as helping others. A bit of time out can do you a world of good, so again, don?t feel guilty about saying no. Taking time out to clear your mind and channel your energy into the things that you care about gives you the opportunity to focus on the things that make you happy.
Pay attention to your self talk
During periods of high stress, you need to be kind to yourself. That means positive self-talk and accepting that you need time to bounce back. Challenge any negative self-talk that you catch yourself saying and offer more supportive ones.
There are many more things you can do to take care of yourself during tough times, but starting with these can put you in the right direction. Stay strong!
We have got to get out of the ?win-lose? mindset and start celebrating each other’s success. Some of us are there, but I still see it as being so incredibly prevalent, particularly in the workplace. If someone you work with succeeds, that?s (not necessarily) a direct correlation to you losing (your job, a promotion, etc.). I?m not saying it doesn?t happen, but I?m saying the chances of it happening must be smaller if we work together instead of competing against each other all the time.
I know, ?collaboration? has become such a (barf!) buzzword. What I?m really talking about is about making space for others to come up around you. We have got to stop stepping on each other and being afraid of others? success. Getting even more specific, I?m talking about white women not being afraid of the success of anyone who doesn’t look like them ? and speaking of women of color and minority backgrounds, in particular. Seriously. If you?re guilty of this, it needs to stop. As a white woman, I am telling you ? other white women ? that you will be amazing if you allow women who are not like you and don’t look like you to enter your spaces, take your place on panels, speak at conferences, and be part of your mastermind groups.
Next time someone is looking for a speaker, recommend a woman of color (and not only to speak on diversity topics!). Are you not sure where to start?
I?ve got some suggestions for you.
(Click through to find each woman on Twitter!)
Amber Lee ? Lifestyle, Blogging, Millennial women, Health & wellness, Entrepreneurship
Angela Hemans ? Twitter marketing, Marketing, Building your brand online
Antoinette Minor ? Podcasting, Entrepreneurship
Contrecia Tharpe ? Branding, Communications, Marketing, PR
Eulanda Shead Osagiede ? Travel, Entrepreneurship, Living your best life
Faiza Yousuf ? Building communities for women, Technology, Coding
Gennette Cordova ? Philanthropy, Activism, Nonprofits, Empowerment
Jade Phillips ? Entrepreneurship, Branding
Jasmine Powers ? Digital Strategy, Marketing
Joy Donnell ? Writing, Branding, Public Speaking
Kavita Chintapalli ? Social media strategy, Ending violence against women
Lisa Fitzpatrick, MD ? Healthcare, Public health, Health literacy, Health tech
Melissa Kimble ? Relationship building, The creative movement, Branding, Writing
Nora Rahimian ? The music biz (production, best practices, etc.), Women?s rights, Activism, Art as a vehicle for social change
Sabrina Medora ? The culinary world, Entrepreneurship, Branding, Marketing
Sherese Maynard ? Healthcare, Healthcare IT, #WomenInHIT
This list barely scratches the surface of the incredible, talented, powerful women of color doing amazing work in the world. Let’s keep it growing! Tweet me at @AnOrchidInBloom and let me know who you’d like to add.
Branding is more than just a concept that large organisations should be aware of. We live in a world where at the click of a button, you can find out what people do for a living, for who and (if they?ve thought about this enough) why they do what they do. Now the real question is, what do you want people to say and think of you? Or even better, what is already out there?
Anyone can now develop a finely tuned personal brand and become established in their field of work. This takes time, effort and thought. You have a voice of your own and have an opportunity to contribute as a leader in your field. Your brand is the recipe for your success as it can be the difference between people genuinely remembering who you are. And it is always worth investing the time in developing your brand so that you?re in control of the narrative. So with that in mind, here are a few tips for shaping your personal brand.
Find the right platform
First things first. If you?re going to start working on your personal brand, you need to understand where your ideal audience is to start working on your online presence. Whether that is through a personal website, Twitter, LinkedIn or events, you need to know where these people come together to speak about the things that matter to them. That way, you can be present and start to build relationships with the people who are sharing their opinions and could potentially hold some influence.
Be a valuable source of information
Every piece of content that you share or create serves a purpose. From the articles that you write to the quotes that you post, they should be adding value to the conversation that you are taking part in. Search engines and social media platforms are already full of a never-ending stream of content. The last thing you want to do is just add to the noise!
Practice what you preach
Consistency and authenticity are key with all brands, whether they be people or large organisations. But before you ask anyone else to follow a particular path or take an action, you should be doing so yourself. The purpose of a personal brand is to amplify the values that you stand for and that can only happen when you are matching the expectations that you have set.
Use your voice
Trying to be something that you?re not, or who you think other people want you to be, is a recipe for disaster. But, more often than not, people do this without realizing. You have to uncover what it is that you stand for and that means taking the time to really think it through and asking yourself thought provoking questions. Ask people around you what they hear when you speak ? often they can see elements that you may miss.
Accept and embrace imperfections
Perfect doesn?t exist for a reason. It?s unattainable, unreal and most importantly unrelatable. People are influenced and inspired by the people that they can relate to; the people who they see a piece of themselves in. And that?s why it?s important to show the unpolished side of yourself. The side that makes mistakes, hits road blocks and occasionally feels demotivated. Because that way, you can show that you overcame all of those challenges to get to where you are right now. People like fighters, and your imperfections can prove that you are just that.
There is a difference between having a lot of things to do and getting a lot done. But, we?re often told that being busy must mean that you?re productive.
Productive by definition means ?achieving a significant amount or result,?while busy is ?having a great deal to do or keeping oneself occupied?. The very difference between the two is that productivity produces results. Being busy just means using (or in some cases wasting) a lot of time and probably not getting the end result that you?re looking for. So how do you know if you?re really being productive? Here are 7 ways to determine whether you?re good at keeping yourself busy, or super productive.
1. Busy people find it hard to prioritize. Productive people have (only a few) priorities.
We?ve all heard someone say ?there aren?t enough hours in the day?, I?m sure you?ve even caught yourself saying it a few times (I know I?m guilty?????). How would you feel if I said there is no such thing as being too busy?
If a task, project or objective is important to you, you will find a way to incorporate it into your timeline. Having three or four priorities allows you to stay focused and work towards achieving the desired result. Having 20 priorities creates a headache and doesn?t give you time to complete anything. So when you find yourself running out of time, ask yourself if you have prioritised too much.
2. Busy people have ?things to do?. Productive people have a mission to complete.
Busy people hide their lack of focus by creating a longer list of things that should be done. There isn?t a sense of direction in their actions, just a multitude of things that consume their time.
Productive people are on a mission. Their actions are driven by the conscious decision to achieve a particular result and everything that they do is geared towards it.
3. Busy people always say yes. Productive people know the power of saying no.
Busy people often over promise and under deliver. In their attempt to fit more into their never-ending to-do list, they take on projects and make promises that simply can?t be kept. They often do this with the best of intentions(after all we can?t complain about the person who wants to help everyone). But you also have to know when it?s time to help yourself, and that comes with knowing when to say no.
Productive people understand that time is of the essence and that, to produce quality work, they need to have time and space. They say no, not to upset people, but because they?re aware of their limits. Because sometimes you have to be a bit selfish to get things done.
4. Busy people focus on ?doing?. Productive people gain clarity before taking action.
Documenting your decisions can be one of the best things that you can do. It allows you to clearly understand how your actions are having an impact on your life and what you need to do in order to progress. Taking mindless action doesn?t produce a lot of results. We live in a world where people are more interested in updating Instagram than they are proactively monitoring their personal growth. Don?t fall into the trap. Make sure that everything you do is inspired by your personal mission.
5. Busy people have too many options. Productive people focus on a few.
Everyone goes through a stage of wanting to do it all: to travel, save money, move out of home, get a degree, learn a language or get promoted at work. However, you do get to a point where focus becomes a necessity. You may want to do all of those things, but it is impossible to do them all at once. If this year, I want to start saving for a deposit on a flat, it?s probably not the best time to book flights to travel the world. So make sure that you know what you have to trade off in order to get what you?re aiming for. Remember there has to be some short term sacrifice for long term gains.
6. Busy people talk about time flying past. Productive people talk about what they?ve achieved.
As they say: work hard in silence and let success make the noise. Busy people might have a lot to do and not too much to show for it. Not because they aren?t capable of doing better, but because they are channelling their energy into for too many things.
Productive people can tell you exactly what they have achieved in the past few days, weeks or months because progress is their aim.
7. Busy people multitask. Productive people find their focus.
Focus can do so much for you.
In theory, multitasking seems like a great idea. Why not kill two (or more) birds with one stone? It sounds like you?re getting double the amount of work done in a shorter amount of time. But, what it really means is that you don?t finish many tasks because your time has been divided. Productivity is completing a task to a high standard and doing that requires focus.
There are plenty of great ways to do this. If you haven?t heard of the Pomodoro technique ? check it out! You set a timer to 20 minutes and the aim is to focus on one thing and should you get distracted (by checking your phone, running off to get water, surfing the net), you have to reset the clock. Brutal? Maybe. Effective? Most definitely.
Think about how much you could achieve when you?re being productive. Don?t allow your potential to go to waste by consuming your time with ?busy?. Instead of focussing on how much you have to do, focus on how completing each task will bring you one step closer to achieving your goal.
Late last year I was about to present my company a sample curriculum at a national training session geared towards trainers. An acquaintance came up to me and said, “Oh, you look taller!” I laughed, knowing it wasn’t a height thing. In truthfulness, it was a confidence and owning my business thing. I told him as much ? I went through a lot and was finally taking charge in my life, and it was showing all over the place.
And then his partner, a woman, laughed and said, “Oh, it’s her hair ? and she?s an actress so she probably is wearing lifts in her shoes.” For some reason, that infuriated me ? I was confident and that?s why I looked taller ? I was carrying myself differently! I said this, and she scoffed again, and said, “Sure, Jen. Maybe it’s your outfit.”
I didn’t let this bug me during my presentation (if anything, it pissed me off and made me work harder). After a few hours, I was still upset. It wasn’t specifically what she’d said, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. In the car on the way home, venting about this, I realized what irked me it was the girl-on-girl crime. She was bitter (I’ve known this since meeting her) and she couldn’t fathom confidence making someone look taller. Being a person who chooses to get active instead of getting mad, I decided to put some good juju out into the world and declare to my husband/venting receptacle: “I’m going to coach 100 women for 100 hours and uplift ladies so they uplift one another!” I think he thought I was crazy ? I had just finished writing a book and was raving about having time again. I think I probably was a little crazy in that moment. Still, I still threw it out on the Internets and waited.
And then my email blew up.?To date, I?ve gotten 289 requests and have coached 59 women since January 1st.
Midway through the project (and still taking more requests! Sessions are only counted when they are complete ? we all know people drop out of things!) I’ve learned a lot about myself, about women and how we are all dealing with the same stuff on different days. From CEOs to tech ladies to coaches to game designers to scientists ? same shit, different life. After every 20 ladies, I’ve been reflecting and looking for the connections we all have ? and my first three were doozies.
Don?t borrow sorrow from tomorrow.
My grandma always said something very, very important to my mom, and my mom always said it consistently to me growing up: Don’t borrow sorrow from tomorrow.
Let?s put it into perspective: How often have you worried two or three (or four?or five) steps down the line instead of worrying? (OR BEING PRESENT!) about what was happening right in front of you? And your worry was about something that hasn’t even happened, something that won’t even happen unless you take action in other areas first?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
One woman worried about waiting too long to start med school ? it might be too late to start a family!
She wasn’t dating anyone.
Another woman worried if her grad degree didn’t work out, she wouldn’t know what next!
She was in her second year of undergrad.
A third woman worried that she would never find a job in the field she wanted, and end up never moving into a leadership position.
She hadn’t even finished a draft of her resume.
We ALL do this ? and it?s OK ? you shouldn’t be feeling any shame if you’re realizing that you worry steps down the time. I was clearly told to not borrow sorrow from tomorrow on a regular monthly daily basis from my mom (and she might still tell me this). Here’s the secret: Worry about what’s in front of you while you keep your eye on the prize. Otherwise you may find yourself worrying about things that haven’t even happened yet and won’t unless you get out of your hamster wheel. Check in. What are you worried about? Too often we stack the chips in the negative pile by brainstorming about the fire and brimstone that MIGHT happen.
Think about what you are worried about. Is it happening now? Is it about to happen? If no, stop worrying about it until it happens. Need more? What does your worry do aside from cause you an ulcer? Take that worry time and put it towards making something great happen.
Failure is never as bad as regret.
In our public improv classes, we talk about being crippled by choice. Sure, we can all remember that stifling moment when we were told “no” and “you can’t” and “you shouldn’t.”
What about those moments when choices are endless?
They can be just as crippling.
This is where worry sinks in. What if I don’t make it as an entrepreneur? (That was my worry when I started.) What if I fail? (I don’t know anything about business. I have no business being in business!) And I wasn’t alone with this ? out of the over 50 sessions I?ve held while writing this, I can safely say 70% of the women I?ve spoken to worry about failing at something they haven’t even tried yet.
A few were miserable with their current jobs.
What if they didn’t get a new one?
A few were nervous about starting their own business.
What if they didn’t have any customers?
And a few were afraid of following through on larger goals to determine what they want.
Why name it if they won’t get it?
While this sounds SO MUCH like “don?t borrow sorrow from tomorrow” ? and while it’s VERY related ? it?s a bit more serious. Imagine this: You worry about something that hasn’t happened yet. You keep worrying, so you choose not to do anything. And you stagnate. And then, years down the line, you look back at that worry, that thing that never happened, that stagnation ? and you regret never trying because now you can’t or the chance has passed.
And if you tried ? if you failed ? you’d at least know versus constantly wondering what if.
Failure is never ever as bad as regret.
What are you not doing because you?re afraid to fail? Define it and write it out. What?s the worst-case scenario if you do it?
Then think about it being 10 years later and wondering for 10 years, what if.
Yep. Go start doing that thing.
F*&# them; you are awesome.
It?s REALLY easy for me, outside of your life to say that it doesn’t matter what they think. Super easy actually. Because you?re awesome. I don’t even know you, person that?s reading this, and I know you are awesome.
Pretty spectacular actually.
You?re taking time out of your life and day to not scroll through Facebook or feel FOMO on Instagram or stalk that ex/current interest ? you are bettering yourself on BizGalz and READING an ARTICLE. You might have also already done your homework, or reflected on the earlier points of this ? which makes you a game-changer who doesn?t want to be stuck in some kind of holding pattern.
The key to this? You have to believe you are awesome.
I don’t need to get into every instance of people letting people treat them poorly, putting up with borderline and crossing the border abusive behavior from coworkers, leaders, friends, family or significant others. Rampant racism, crippling imposter syndrome and inability to hold yourself accountable simply because you are worth it ? I’ve seen that too much. You know it happens. You might experience one or more of those things on a daily basis.
No one is going to respect you unless you respect yourself. We get the energy we put out.
If you walk into your space and you don?t care about yourself, and you think you aren?t worth respect ? you?re going to get that energy right back at you.
Give what you want to get.
Start realizing and owning your awesomeness by taking the following steps.
1. Make a list of the things that make you YOU. This can be anything.
For me, I love to read, I am a good listener, I bake like a badass, and I’m stubborn as all hell.
2. Now take that list of things and, next to each one, write how it helps others or how it helps you.
I am a good listener ? I like being in the moment
I bake like a badass ? My husband gets to eat great cookies
3. Next, check in with what motivates you ? that “how it helps” prompt above? Look closer at your responses. Are they all affirmation from other people? Is it self-motivation? Make sure your motivations aren’t all rooted in other people ? and if they are, ask WHY. Figure out why you care about what they think ? AND how that helps you. Does it matter what they think? Can they be a game changer in your life? (I bet not.)
4. Carry this list with you and keep adding awesome things to it. Check in when you need it. Edit it, alter it, save it, rewrite it. Pocket awesomeness ? because those things that make you YOU? THAT is what makes you awesome. Not one part of it ? the whole.
Remember, you aren?t pizza. Not everyone is going to like you (and there?s always that person out there who doesn?t like pizza anyway). If they still take issue with you and what you are doing? F*&# them, you don?t need it. Stop letting them cram your energy into a box, supernova.
I’m here for all the lessons.
There are easily hundreds more lessons that I?ve gotten ? and will continue to get ? with the rest of this project. One thing is for sure ? when you are feeling like you?re too worried about things that haven?t even happened yet, worried about failing and thinking about what other people think, you aren?t alone. I?ve felt ALL of this. WE are ALL feeling like this, have felt like this, and will feel like this at some point or another.
Take comfort in never being alone, awesome one.
With more and more women breaking into the field of S.T.E.M., it?s natural to feel curious and want to discover more about the field. ?Whether you’re an aspiring scientist or just someone who’s interested in learning more, here are a few things that you can do to get into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics!
It’s never been easier to access content that teaches us more about the world around us and other people’s experiences. Youtube Channels like ASAPScience, Crash Course, Vsauce, SciShow and programs like Khan Academy create stunning and easily digestible content for both students and curious onlookers alike. All you have to do is follow them and wait for their next update. Thanks to the power of the internet, you can get a daily dose of cat memes and fun facts served to you at breakneck pace!
Read and explore
The wonderful thing about S.T.E.M. is that it’s all around us. Fundamentally, Science is what helps us understand the world around us and how it works. It’s made up of theories, discoveries and ideas (and it’s ever changing!). The range of topics are endless and all you need to do to learn more is interest. As someone in Biology, my main area of interest is the environment around me. Whenever I have the opportunity to travel to a new place, I take a little time to walk around and learn more about the flora and fauna that are native to the area. Aside from uploading more information into the fun fact machine, you can share what you learn with others!
Find a mentor
I’ve come to realize that I’m in a rather privileged position when it comes to my own academic career in Biology and Technology. ?Not only did I have the funding the pursue a higher education, I also had the right encouragement. Not only were my parents very supportive once I decided that I wanted to study biology, I was also helped out by other incredible women and men in the science department at my community college and at my university. I realize now that not every woman who chooses a career in S.T.E.M. is surrounded by the positive encouragement from the academic community and their own support systems which is why I urge you to find a mentor if you choose to pursue an education in the Sciences.
I’ve had the pleasure of having many mentors who fed my curiosity about chemistry, physics, and biology. However, when I speak about an excellent mentor relationship I can only think of a dear friend of mine. She was an undecided major that casually joined a physics 101 class and fortunately met Dr A. Harlick. Now she’s graduating with a double major in Biochemistry and Physics. Dr Harlick was the type of person who went above and beyond to see her students succeed and understand the material. She excited hundreds of students about physics with her witty sarcasm and endless movie references. But, one thing that she never held back was the reality of being a woman in the S.T.E.M. field. Though it was difficult, she persevered. I remember her telling us that initially she was in university to study linguistics but ultimately pursued her PhD in Physics to prove someone that she could. Heck, she even tempted me to join the dark side that’s physics. Now I will admit, not everyone will run into a Dr Harlick but there is inspiration out there. You should never step into a field blind to the bad things, so take a mentor with you. It could be a professor, a professional, or someone with a passion for the sciences, a mentor is never hard to find in a field so filled with curious minds eager to share their knowledge.
Whether that means volunteering at a university or practice, opportunities to get hands-on experience is there so long as you have the heart to pursue it! I’ve had the pleasure of caring for harp seals and breeding salmon. All it took as a little patience and scouting for an opening. Who knows, volunteering can lead you to your next degree, career, community, or friends! Volunteer and help programs like Girls Who Code who are bringing S.T.E.M. to our youth. You don’t have to enrol in a 4-year university program to be active in the S.T.E.M. community. All it takes is a little dedication, a willingness to learn, and a curiosity about the world around us.
Encourage others, always.
Remember step 3? Make sure you’re a step 3 for someone else too. Being a mentor doesn’t mean that you know all there is about the world and you certainly don’t have to be Bill Nye the Science Guy. But giving words of positive encouragement and steering people in the right direction with resources that you may have will be enough to get the wheels of curiosity turning.
Learning something new doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money on equipment or completing a degree. It’s easier than ever to access information with videos breaking down complex concepts into easily digestible content. Sometimes all it takes is a little curiosity and hunger to learn more. So get on out and happy learning!