Recently I received an email about what advice I would give to today’s young women. The young women asked me to answer a series of questions to help her learn and improve.
Here are my answers, which I hope can benefit our women readers and their male colleagues, too.
How do I maintain my “strength” in a still mostly male industry?
Having worked in many business settings throughout my career that were primarily male, I’ve found that it is easy for women to believe we have to be something we’re not. We have to live up to standards that are put upon us and standards that we put upon ourselves. One common standard is “being strong.”
Being strong to me is simply showing up exactly how you are each day. It’s not being perfect. It’s not always getting it right. It’s not always saying the right thing at the right time.
But does mean being brave enough to let people see the true, imperfect you. Wear what you want to wear, talk the way you want to talk, but mainly, be kind and compassionate.
And, when things don’t go your way, take it in stride and don’t over react. There is little you can control.
Remember, it’s not a failure if you learned something. Learning is how you become immeasurably strong. Let it all be … a learning process.
What advice would you give the younger version of yourself?
I would tell her two things:
First, getting to your dream is hard and it hurts. It’s hard because it takes a lot of work. It hurts because it takes a lot of time.
As you go through the journey, have fun along the way. Don’t work all the time. It will exhaust you to the point of not being able to keep working toward your goals, passion and purpose.
Second, I look back to my first article on the business, which was the cover story of Investment Advisor magazine. A reader (male) responded with the following letter to the editor:
“Your article, “The Great Divide” brings to mind the old saying about the four stages of one’s career. The first stage is “incompetent and don’t know it”, the second stage is “incompetent and do know it,” the third stage is “competent and don’t know it,” and finally, “competent and do know it.” I would have to conclude Ms. Herbers is still stuck in the first stage of her career.”
Based on that letter, I would tell my younger self that to be successful, you are going to have a portion of people who simply do not like you. There will be some who will go to great lengths to make sure their dislike of you is heard. They may not like you for many reasons, and it’s unfortunate that they will make it personal.
But, it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t take anything personally, and don’t try to please everyone.
What women have inspired you to be the woman you are today?
There are thousands of women who inspire me. I encourage women to read a lot to gain wisdom from other women and their experiences. This question reminds me of a quote by Marianne Williamson in her book, A Return to Love:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves: ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you to not be?’”
If you pick up the right book online or at the library, you can find a wealth of experience and knowledge to inspire you.
How do I keep believing in what I am doing, despite the challenges?
We all need to find our own solution. What you say to yourself determines what you become and determines what you say to others. Start with being kind to yourself and believing it.
When I started my first business at age 14, sold it at 21, and then started my current consulting business at age 23, there were few who believed in me. There were all sorts of comments: “You are too young,” “You need experience,” “You need more capital.” And so on.
All I “needed” was one person to believe in me. That person was me. I was determined to never stop believing in what I was doing.
I’ve had to make some very hard (and heart breaking) decisions in my business and my career. Writing for 10 minutes a day and listening to what I say, keeps me believing in what I am doing.
I believe in you too — all of you women and men out there working to help others. Keep doing what you’re doing, learn from it, and don’t stop believing. You’ll be fine no matter what happens.