Uplifted. Inspired. Emotional. A little shaky.
That’s how I felt while walking to my car after spending the day at the first-ever Leadercast Women event. The theme of the conference was “Powered by Purpose” and the day featured nine inspiring female leaders who each offered advice on how to achieve your dreams. Listening to each speaker discuss her successes and failures was a profound experience that I will never forget, and I wanted to share some of my biggest takeaways from the day with you.
But, before I get into it all, I want to take you back and explain why this event was so meaningful to me.
This blog, The Realness Factor, was a solution to my problem. I had this strong desire to be myself but I was facing barriers to doing so. It all came down to feeling pressured. I felt family and social pressures to be a certain way, achieve certain things and follow a certain path. I felt pressure as a daughter, as a sister, as a girlfriend, as a woman and as a millennial.
It originally seemed to me that these pressures were external and out of my control: that they came from the world and people around me. When in fact, it was all internal. It was the pressure I had put on myself: the pressure to conform to what I thought others wanted and expected from me.
I, like so many of us, had a fear of failing. I was afraid of what people thought of me. I was afraid to display my vulnerabilities to the world.
Note the past tense.
What happened to my fear? I could tell you I had some noble epiphany on top of a mountain or some amazing life-changing experience, jumping out of a plane and skydiving. But it was nothing like that.
You know how some people say that when you’re really hungry, you’ll eat anything? That’s because your survival instinct becomes more important than your taste buds.
For me, I just became really tired. More tired than afraid.
I know, it’s not all that noble, but it’s the truth. I achieved a level of exhaustion and impatience in my life where being afraid just didn’t matter that much. Suddenly, my energy became more important than what other people thought of me.
You know what takes a lot of energy? Suppressing yourself. Hiding yourself. Pretending you’re someone you’re not. Forcing yourself to get out of bed in the morning for a life that you don’t really enjoy because you’re not living it for yourself.
I was tired of painting my face with makeup everyday. I was tired of forcing myself to keep up with the crowd, when, deep down, I didn’t even want to be running the same race as them. But more than anything, I grew tired of wishing. Wishing is what Mark Manson (one of my favourite authors) might call “victimhood chic”: where you believe that things always happen to you rather than you having the ability make things happen. For a long time, I waited and wished for things to “happen to me”, but I’ve since realized that we all have the power to execute. We have the power to create something new, to shift things in the universe, to flap our wings and see a ripple effect.
And with that, I vowed there would be no more “I wish”.
Wishing is the single, most useless thing on the planet. A wish is a dead dream. Every time you wish, you let your dream die. A wish is, in and of itself, a statement to yourself that you are unable do something, that you will never achieve something because it is impossible.
Instead of wishing, just do. Execute. Act. Be. Get out of your head.
The Realness Factor is my decision to create; to practice something active; to be a blogger, rather than to just wish I were. I do it regardless of whether it “fits the box” and regardless of internal or societal pressures.
“There’s no such thing as a bad purpose. The only bad purpose is one that isn’t yours.”
− Dana Barrett, host of The Dana Barrett Show and founder of DB Media, LLC
That’s why attending the inaugural Leadercast Women event was so meaningful to me. The event was all about being yourself, finding joy and achieving your dreams. It was about using your purpose as fuel, to take you where you want to be.
Incredibly successful women took to the stage to discuss finding purpose. The women also each spoke about failure and how it was facing failures, struggles, mistakes and challenges that propelled them down the path and lead them to where they are today.
The Leadercast Women event took place on October 5th, 2017. The conference was broadcast live from Atlanta, Georgia, to more than a hundred countries. I attended the live broadcast in Ottawa, Ontario, organized by an incredible team, the Ottawa Women Leadership. I am very thankful to them for the opportunity to attend this unforgettable event.
Below, you will find some of the invaluable advice the women shared during the event. So read it carefully. Hold them with you, and use them to help guide you through life and navigate the highs and lows. Let each point sink into your brain, skin, and heart. And watch change happen.
Overcoming Challenges and Failure: Neeta Bhushan
− international speaker, host of the Revolutionary Leadership podcast, best-selling author of Emotional GRIT, founder of the Global GRIT Institute
Neeta has interviewed hundreds of leaders across dozens of countries and she explained that what these leaders have in common can be boiled down to four main characteristics, which she calls the 4 keys. These 4 keys will help you overcome challenges and build your business:
- Authenticity: you must “quiet the sideline noise” and “embrace your gifts.” In other words, don’t let pressures from your family, friends, or society dictate your decisions. Stop comparing yourself to others and worrying about what everyone else is doing. Embrace yourself and live life for that person, not someone else.
- Resilience: some of the worst circumstances can be your greatest blessings. Your challenges, setbacks and failures are lessons that you can learn from and use to help you find your path forward, or “fail forward.”
- Self-compassion: “Greatness is not built over time, it’s a marathon.” Stop hating yourself for where you are on your journey. Be compassionate with yourself, and accept that “if you want to change the world, it starts at home.”
- Courage: make your mission more important than your fears. Be brave enough to get up and do something, knowing that failure and mistakes will happen. “Stop living in your head and criticizing your next move.” Instead, have courage and move forward.
Be Yourself: Dr. Bernice A. King
− CEO of the King Centre, international speaker, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King
When Bernice was a child, her mother told her “You don’t have to be your dad. You don’t have to be me. All I need you to do is be your best self.” This is something Bernice lives and breathes everyday. She focuses on being herself, without comparing herself to others. It’s easy to start comparing ourselves to the people that surround us or the people we see in the media: what we look like, what we have and what we lack, who we are and what we haven’t achieve. Sometimes we start to wonder why we’re not more like this person or that person. To that, Bernice has a very simple response: “Who cares.”
It doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? Because “there is no one else who can be a better you than you and outdo you.” Life is not a competition or a race. We each bring something unique to the table, so find what role you want to play and get in the game. Live out your purpose, not someone else’s. If you face adversity, let your “haters be your motivators” and the haters “fertilize you further into your purpose.”
Time Management: Laura Vanderkam
− best-selling author and blogger
“Whoever you are, whatever you have going on in your life, you do have time for what matters most to you. You can build the life you want in the time you’ve got.”
Laura gave a simple tip for time management that makes a lot of sense. We tend to plan our future out in days, especially when we have a goal, but planning life in 24 hour increments can be limiting.
How often do you hear someone say they don’t have enough time or “there aren’t enough hours in the day?” How often do you put things you want to do on the back burner because you simply “don’t have enough time”?
Laura argues that you can make time for what you want by simply switching your mindset. What’s her tip? Lose the 24hr time-unit and replace it with 168 hours (a week).
Things don’t have to happen daily for them to matter. Maybe you don’t have time to work out today or tomorrow, but do you have time to workout in the next 168 hours? I thought so.
So take 168 hours and remove your work (≈ 40hrs) and sleep (≈ 8hrs/day), you’ll be left with, more or less, 72 hours for what matters most to you.
72 hours! Voilà. So now, use those precious hours and prioritize your to-do list by what’s most important to you. and don’t be afraid to say “no” to things you don’t want to do.
The Power of Joy: Shabnam Mogharabi
− award-winning journalist and former magazine editor, CEO and executive produce at SoulPancake, co-author of best-selling book SoulPancake: Chew on Life’s Big Questions
Joy is a powerful and driving emotion. Shabnam gave 5 tips for “harnessing the power of joy”, applying it to your life to give you purpose. Her tips are simple and to the point:
- Spread joy: share your positivity and uplifting experiences, and be a source of joy that influences others.
- Practice gratitude: studies have shown that helping another person and doing good deeds actually fuels us with happiness. Shabnam had a simple suggestion to get you kickstarted: think of someone in your life who you’re thankful for, maybe someone who maybe taught you something or helped you through a tough time. Now pick up your iPhone and call them to tell them how grateful you are and how much they mean to you.
- Authenticity: knowing yourself and being authentic are essential to finding your purpose.
- Take risks: you’re not going to find your true self without getting a little uncomfortable. Remember that. You’ll be vulnerable, it might be scary, but find a way to push through.
- Stop comparing yourself: comparing ourselves to others has become as common as our morning commute, when we whip out our phones and scroll through social media. In fact, comparing ourselves has become a distraction. But the minute you start comparing yourself to someone else, you actually “deprive yourself of joy”. Why not close Instagram, open your Reminders app and create a gratitude list instead?
Foundation of Your Purpose: Molly Fletcher
− the first female sports agent, author of 4 books, motivational speaker and consultant to Fortune 500s
In order to find your purpose, you must first determine the absolute, most important things in your life. These are the things that will become the foundation upon which you can build your purpose. So, how does one identify the most important things in their life? Grab a pen and paper. Molly had the audience write down 5 things that we could not live without. She then had us cross them off, one-by-one, until a final item was left on the list.
A seemingly simple exercise, but it was actually pretty hard. Especially since I wrote down my family and my boyfriend as two separate items. Yikes. Although I wasn’t able to choose between the last two things, it was eye-opening to see what I’d be willing to give up in the name of the people I love.
Follow Your Purpose, Not Your Dreams: Mama Jan Smith
− Grammy-nominated vocal producer and instructor, George Music Hall of Fame inductee, Billboard top 100 women in the music business
“Good leadership is a lifelong learning process and the best leaders know the difference between a dream and their purpose and they learn to follow their purpose.”
Mama Jan explained how a purpose is different from a dream. Many of us have dreams. Some we achieve, some we don’t. But a dream is not a purpose.
“A purpose is something you discover over a period of time. Once you know what your purpose is, there is no denying it” and all of the pieces of your life will seem to fall into place.
In life, you’ll “continuously need to decide what you’re going to do and where you’re going to land during difficult circumstances.” The person who has to live with those decisions is you. Yes, if your parents could have chosen for you, maybe they would have decided differently. Maybe they remind you of that every time you visit for Sunday dinner. Maybe they want to make the decisions for you, but they’re not the ones who have to live out your life with those decisions. You do. Not your parents, not your boss, not society, not anyone else but you: “You have to wake up tomorrow and live with the decisions that you make today.”
So how do you make it through the tough decisions? By living your purpose. By staying true to who you are. If you do that, and someone doesn’t agree with you or doesn’t like your decision, it doesn’t matter. They’re not going to live the consequences of it. You will. And for every person that fires you because of who you’re not, “someone will hire you based on who you are.”
So, “surround yourself with wonderful people who love you and people you can really trust to run alongside you.” These people will help you discover and live out your purpose. They will support you, will help guide you and will help you make the tough decisions.
I hope you found some the above advice helpful. At the end of the day, many of the women delivered a similar message. When it comes to finding happiness, purpose and success: there are no-quick fixes and you certainly won’t find the answers by flipping through a magazine.
You have to live life on your own terms. You have to determine what’s important to you, and use that to help guide you through life: through the ups and, through all the decisions you’ll have to make and in moments of uncertainty. Don’t be driven by what everyone else is doing, what people say you should do, or who they think you should be.
Let it all go and instead, choose to be powered by purpose. Your unique, individual purpose. Accept yourself. Find what makes you come alive. And live your life each day based on what’s important to you.