This week I’m introducing #ClimbYourOwnLadder - an initiative on my blog to highlight and promote women who are the CEO of their lives, believe in the power of community, and shine in a big, big way. Forget the Fortune 500. We are the Fortune 3 Billion, ladies. We are 3 billions stories. We are 3 billion choices. We are 3 billion strong.
While each woman has her own answer to what #ClimbYourOwnLadder means to her, I am introducing six concepts central to this initiative. I will take a deeper dive into each of these in separate blogs and interviews. Let's get started.
Follow your own compass.
Steve Jobs told us not to waste a single minute living someone else’s life. This is an important piece of advice that makes the assumption we have already found our own compass to follow. So, first thing’s first, tune out the noise and commit to hearing your own heartbeat. Once you can hear it, start listening. You are going to find the thing you must do, and you will probably feel scared. Congrats! You’ve found your edge and your purpose. Get up and get brave and follow your own compass.
Learn to love ambiguity.
Okay, if you cannot love it, at least learn to tolerate ambiguity and change your approach to play. A sandbox has a million possibilities. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg gives an excellent example of this when she recounts her decision to work at Google when she was offered the very ambiguous position of Business Unit General Manager (yes, really).
"But there were no business units to manage and I was just like, 'Eric, I- I love Google. I want to take this job. But I don't know what this job is.' First he said, 'Sheryl, don't be an idiot.' Which is excellent career advice. But the next thing he said was, 'If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, get on, don't ask what seat.’” (Sheryl Sandberg)
When you start looking for your compass, that heartbeat, you will be living in ambiguity. Then, you will listen and hear what you need to know - you will get your invitation to the rocket ship - but you won’t know how it is all going to work out. Approach your journey with playfulness, instead of fear, and learn to love the opportunity that lives in ambiguity.
Authenticity is not emotional intelligence.
I’ve heard from coaches many times that we need to be authentic - that is, to align who we are with our actions. Authentic people are sincere and honest. Emotional intelligence (EQ), on the other hand, is more related to our ability to be aware of and manage our emotions and relations with others. You are not your feelings (feelings are fleeting, as any meditation teacher will tell you). Authenticity is not emotional intelligence. The practice of being authentic requires development of EQ; however, you do not necessarily need to line up your actions with your emotions. Who of us only experiences one emotion at a time? We would be all over the place if we acted on all of our emotions. Remain mindful of your emotions, and act authentically. (Easier said than done. This is why authenticity is a practice.)
It’s okay to quit.
We live in a world where dreams come true, hard work is valued, and inspirational posters tell us that quitters never win. Alternately, if you’re not following your own compass, you won’t win unless you quit. Every ending is a beginning (it’s so cliche!) and you have my permission to quit. Not because it is too hard, or because you do not believe in yourself, but because you know deep inside that this isn’t the path. You have my permission to believe in yourself and do the hard work for your journey. The world doesn’t need 3 billion copies of the same woman - we need the true you. Sometimes we need to drop the baggage and retreat to move forward.
Find your tribe.
This is about your community - we are nothing without each other. Madeleine Albright said there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women. I promise you there is a special place for all of us in heaven for those of that do help other women. Some of us are climbing ladders with rungs missing or destroyed because we are not all born with the same privilege. We need to have a tribe that cheers and supports us, understands the journey is not the same for everyone, and will move mountains alongside us. Find that tribe and lean on it.
Community thrives on a delicate balance of give and take. We have all fought so hard for our success, up against many odds in most cases, that we fear generosity. I understand the fear - it happened to me when I shared some knowledge and my words and thoughts ended up verbatim in another person’s white paper the very next day. Give generously anyway. Summon your courage, gather your tribe for support, and share with others. Your work, your spirit, and your path will prevail. Your generosity will be rewarded when someone else generously gives back to you, too.