Tips from Symposia 2017

I had the honor and pleasure of speaking about connections at Symposia, a conference for women entrepreneurs. This was my third time attending and Julie Gordon-White hit it out of the park.

While I spoke about the importance of connecting (not just networking), I concluded my talk with some tips for the women in the audience that were broader in nature. I later learned I was supposed to limit it to three but as a typical overachiever, I had to do nine. Here they are.

  1. Be unapologetically you. I read Feminist Fight Club this past fall and realized that I have spent the last 20 years trying to conform, adapt, and fit in and that I no longer needed to. The first 60 pages of the book were a revelation to me in that I was not alone in experiencing subtle sexism and that I was not crazy. Right then and there I started removing the adaptations and accommodations to begin to stand taller and prouder of who I am. I am loud. I am assertive. I am smart. I am a force. And I am also a kind, generous and fun person. So stand tall in who you are without apology.
  2. Start breaking your own rules, especially your own. We women tend to be rule followers and we are limiting ourselves by following rules. Men do not follow the rules the way we do and have many more opportunities available. We need to make more of the these opportunities available to us and stop setting rules for ourselves which only serve to limit us and our opportunities.
  3. Don’t ask for permission. Far too often we women tend to ask for permission for things that don’t require it or think that we need permission when in fact we don’t. When I was on Mosquito Island in May while visiting Necker Island, I saw a beautiful, empty, sandy beach across the channel from where we were hanging out. I wanted to swim over to it so I slipped into the water and slowly started swimming. I kept looking back to the beach to see if anyone was flagging me down to tell me to stop. After getting halfway there, I said to myself, just go, and started swimming without looking back. As I got closer I realized I probably wasn’t going to be able to swim back and then saw a small boat approach the beach. I flagged it down and when I got there, I asked the guy for a ride back across the channel and thanked him when he dropped me on the other side. I felt so liberated and exhilarated. The only permission I needed was my own.
  4. Stop planning for every eventuality. We are capable women who need to learn to rely on ourselves more. Thinking through every possible outcome and preparing for it consumes cycles that could otherwise be spent on more productive or fun things. Add in a credit card and you are pretty much covered. Think about this when you next pick up your purse. Do you really need everything in it? Lighten your load and free your mind.
  5. Let go of doing and delegate or let go of low value activities. Often we think we are the only ones who can do something or do something well. This is not true. Others may not do it the same way we do it but that doesn’t mean they won’t meet the objective. I recently hired my 15 1/2 year old son to do my data entry and start paying our bills. I am turning him into my bookkeeper. This is something that used to consume 15–20 hours a month and now consumes about 4 hours a month for me in oversight and analysis. Because he is now doing the work, I can focus on the bigger picture. And as for the low value activities, just because you think it needs to be done, doesn’t mean it really does. Start with little things and move to bigger things once you gain confidence. Let it go!
  6. Stop giving a fuck about everything. I recently read the book The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck (and wrote a longer post about it too) and came away with a few more revelations. We only have so many fucks to give. In other words, we can only care about so much. And we must establish a ‘fuck budget’ and adhere to it. We often care too much about things that we really have no business caring about and it consumes energy that can be better spent. So set your budget, assess against it frequently, and challenge yourself to stay within your budget. But be kind. This doesn’t give you license to be an asshole.
  7. Take bigger risks. We women tend to limit ourselves by not taking risks. We are much more capable than we think. While failure is an option, the fear of it should not be something that keeps us from doing something. We limit ourselves by not taking risks (I am starting to see a theme here) and limit our opportunities. And if you do fail, don’t automatically assume that it was something you did. Studies have shown that when men fail, they attribute it to external forces and when women fail, they tend to internalize it. Conversely, when women succeed, they tend to attribute it to being lucky or to external forces and men take all of the credit. We don’t set ourselves up for confidence building this way so take bigger risks, take the credit, and stop blaming yourself when something goes wrong.
  8. Say yes to other women. Studies have shown that women tend to calculate the impact of a request on their reputation before they agree to do something. Men do not. Right now it is even more important to support other women so when a women asks you for a recommendation, referral, connection, or support (and it doesn’t impact your fuck budget), say yes and do it.
  9. Be fearless. And if you can’t be fearless, be courageous. Enough said.