I couldn’t help but notice all the positive energy that’s been flowing around lately. Oprah Winfrey was on the cover of O writing a letter to her literal mini-me self, steering her along a bumpy path. The positive response of that letter led Lady O to resurrect a letter that Phylicia Rashad had written to her 21-year-old self for the April 2006 issue of O (can you believe she didn’t think she was beautiful?!) Glamour Magazine has also been on a share-the-wealth kick. In anticipation of their publication of “30 Things Every Woman Should Have” and “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know By the Time She’s 30,” they released a list that quickly went viral (again.)
In that spirit, I give you my top ten lessons (you can find others here) for getting thru this thing called life (like Prince.) I encourage you to help your Sisters by adding to the list in the comments section.
My God Mother used to tell me, “a smart woman knows a little bit about a lot of things.” You never know when some obscure factoid will come in handy. I prefer to read the biographies/autobiographies of highly successful people in different industries. I’ve started to notice common themes in their stories, and take comfort that everyone cluelessly began somewhere, and getting to the top hasn’t been a smooth ride for anyone.
Know When to Be Quiet
Seemingly every Caribbean parent I know told their children some version of “You have two ears and one mouth” as a way of encouraging them to listen. It’s advice to take into adulthood. If you’re always talking, you’re always telling too much. Sit back and observe more. Let other folk yammer on. You might be startled what you discover.
Be a Do-er
Big ideas are great, but you need to be able to execute them. People respect folk who get things done, period. Doesn’t matter how big or lofty it is, it can always be broken down into baby steps. When I am overwhelmed by an assignment or new task, CBW (my significant other) has become fond of asking, “And so how do you eat an elephant? Bit by bit.” (Think about it.)
Ask for Help
You can do alone, but why should you? Some women think asking for an assist is somehow a sign of weakness. If you are one of those women, abandon that mindset now. There are no bonus points for doing it alone, only getting it done right and on schedule. Rally the troops to tackle the big assignment at work, to assemble that confusing Ikea furniture, or to raise your kid. It takes a village to do a lot of things well.
Go Out Alone
You should know how to enjoy your own company, whether it’s taking yourself to a movie, a concert or across an ocean on a trip. If you don’t treat yourself well, why should anyone else? And if you can’t stand to be alone with you … Again, why should anyone else?
Feel Entitled To Have Your Needs/Wants Met
It’s a somewhat annoying trait on the receiving end, but the for the doer, it works pretty well. Have a bottomline of what you want and what you will and won’t put up with and operate like you deserve to have it all. Continue to work hard for what you want, but expect it to happen and be appalled when it doesn’t. You’ll be amazed at how the spoon will seem to metaphorically bend to your will. Let other people question if there is something wrong with them for not sharing your world view.
If you’re over the age of 18, you don’t have to be a “good girl” anymore. Be a lil naughty, and don’t beat yourself up over it. Skip work and head to the beach. Tongue down a stranger for no other reason that the moment seems to call for it. Wear the “freak’um” dress. Don’t answer every time your parent calls. Say “no” when you don’t feel like doing something and don’t explain why.
Be An Owner
I went to an awards ceremony once and the second person to get an award, a CEO, spent his whole acceptance speech talking about how great the first person recognized, an innovator, was. The first person had been his employee for years, had pushed boundaries and innovated the business. The first recipient beamed with pride. The CEO was so flattering, and why wouldn’t he have been? That CEO made hundred of thousands off the innovation of the man he employed, and those great ideas by the worker bee set the foundation for the CEO to start other businesses. He became a millionaire off of another person’s great ideas.
Be An Innovator.
Find a lane that no one is driving down and get in it. If you want to get somewhere faster, carve out a niche and own the space. I’m clearly an advocate of entrepreneurship, but if you’re not in the position to venture out, always choose to be an innovator wherever it is you are. The innovator I described above may not have been an owner, but he was never jobless or struggling. Anyone can be a worker bee; they are necessary for running a business, but they’re also easily replaceable, even the good ones. (Schools/colleges train you to work hard and well for others. If you’re super smart, you figure out how to deprogram yourself).
Don’t Chase Money or Accolades
If you make great money and love what you do, gold star for you. Too many people chase the money or the attention. They will leave you empty. Find something you love to do and figure out how to monetize it so you can pay your bills. Life is too short to spend being unhappy 8-14 hours a day no matter how much you are paid. Oh, and accolades will leave you empty. Chasing them is like being a hampster on a wheel. If you are good at what you do, they will come. (I pinky swear that.) Say “thank you,” don’t let it go to your head, and keep doing what you love.