When I asked a group of interns what they wanted to get out of their summer internships, the majority responded with vague answers about new opportunities. But one intern stood out and caught my attention: She stated her specific goal and told me exactly what she wanted next. I happily helped her make it happen, and it made me realize this: If you want specific help, make a specific ask.
Have you ever set a goal that was so audacious you didn't tell anyone for fear that other people would know about your likely failure? As a female empowerment enthusiast, I'm embarrassed to confess I did this two years ago. Disenchanted by my newfound experience with the lack of diversity in the publishing industry I decided that I would do my small part by connecting aspiring female authors with female literary agents in my network. My goal: cultivate enough positive matches to collectively generate $1MM in book deals for women. I'm elated (and a bit stunned) to announce that we did it. Libby McGuire recently negotiated the sale of Elizabeth Wallace and Hana Schank's forthcoming book to Viking Press. It was the final deal that took this experiment over the million dollar mark. While you're patiently waiting for Elizabeth and Hana's literary masterpiece, be sure to check out "The Ambition Interviews," a series of essays they wrote for the Atlantic that the book will be based off of (like the one pictured below). And remember this: audacious goals are probably worth shouting from the rooftops.
This incredible quote from Harper Lee stuck with me: "People see what they look for and hear what they listen for." When you change your lens, the world changes with you. Watch and learn.
I haven't yet finished the final chapters of Tasha Eurich's Insight, but I'm already certain it should be required reading for every human being that will be expected to interact with other ones in their lifetime. The subtitle reads "Why We're Not as Self-Aware as We Think, and How Seeing Ourselves Clearly Helps Us Succeed at Work and in Life" and the content delivers on this promise. I love books with integrity.
Reading Insight ten years ago would have made my drop the ball journey so much simpler because I would have known the questions to ask myself to better manage my overwhelm. I eventually discovered two important ones: What matters most? and What is my highest and best use? but not until reading Insight did I understand the importance of these being "what" not "why" questions. According to Eurich, "why" questions help us understand our environment whereas "what" questions help us understand ourselves. Insight is an incredible read for anyone who has the appetite and the courage to jumpstart her own evolution.
Other people usually see us more objectively than we see ourselves. Even when they're not the perfect messenger, understanding someone else's perception of us can often lead to important insights. Watch and learn.
As I've said, my village means everything to me. I have only gotten to where I am because of the sage mentors, mentees, sponsors, peers, friends, and family who surround me and help raise me up. Every month, I will be highlighting one of these incredible women, my fellow drop the ballers, who are achieving more and recognizing the need to do less.
Gretchen Rubin is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project, a wife, mother and the real deal when it comes to women elevating other women. After reading Drop the Ball she featured me on her blog and invited me to her home for a FB Live soon after its release—an enormous demonstration of support from a woman who already has a lot on her plate.
One of the things I love about Gretchen is her authenticity and honesty about the things on her list that don't get done: "I consistently drop the ball about making appointments—doctors, the dentist, hair cut, and so on. I have used all kinds of strategies to push myself to do this (not difficult) task, but it’s a struggle every time. For some reason, I dislike making the appointments even more than I dislike going.” We hear you, Gretchen. To get a jump start on understanding why you might drop the ball on some things and not others, be sure to preorder The Four Tendencies, Gretchen's forthcoming book, which is sure to be another bestseller.
There's only one thing you need to do over the next 48 hours to advance women's leadership: Go see Wonder Woman. And if you need to #droptheball on viewing, just go online and buy a ticket. I've spent most of my career focused on strategies to get more women into the highest levels of leadership, and the biggest barrier remains a culture obsessed with women primarily occupying two roles—wife and mother. I occupy these roles myself and I love them, but I also relish being an executive, an entrepreneur, a writer, a lover, and a catalyst for change. Unfortunately we don't see enough women on screen who are simultaneously strong, complex, sensual, intelligent, and comfortable wielding their power. Not only do our girls grow up thinking they must be one dimensional characters, the public doesn't get practice rooting for badass women. Insidious bias against female leaders is the biggest reason we lost the Oval Office. Let's win at the box office this weekend.
It's not always obvious when other people are trying to help. Have you ever given feedback to an employee who can't seem to read between the lines? That happens to all of us. A lot. Here's how to stop being oblivious to what people are trying to communicate.
When my daughter was a year old, I remember observing that most of her behavior involved imitating the adults around her. For example she loved pretending she was talking on a cell phone. Soon after, I decided that I'd alter my parenting strategy to focus 20% of my energy on things like her healthcare and schooling and 80% of my energy on simply trying to be the kind of person I'd want her to grow up to be. She's in the second grade now and somewhere along the way I'd lost track of this 20/80 parenting strategy.
This week we participated in the last session of a Girls Leadership program at her school. I enrolled us in an effort to build her confidence, but it girded mine, too. At one point she expressed surprise that I had felt sadness over having been left out of a friendship group. "Whenever I feel left out I cry, but I've never seen you cry, Mommy. Ever." I was blown away because I realized that she was right. I'm often asked what we can do to help our girls grow into strong and vibrant women. The answer is for us to be strong and vibrant, which means expressing our full humanity and crying sometimes, too. After all, our girls are watching.
Most people are terrified of being on a stage—even I get butterflies every time I get up there. Here's a secret: Everyone in the audience wants you to do a phenomenal job. You just need to learn how to thrive off that positive energy.