This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend an intimate interview with Jane Wurwand. I knew that she was the founder of the industry's #1 skincare company. I knew that she had a great accent. I knew that she was a believer of pushing it harder when you're the most exhausted. What I didn't expect was to discover so much about myself by meeting her.
As the youngest of four girls raised by a widowed mother, Jane was driven by a unique strength to pursue a career that would allow her to provide for her future family. Her mom was proof that the worst thing in your life could happen when you're only 28. Despite her loss, she was still a mother with four mouths to feed and four women to raise, so she kept going. Of course, that's when we all reached for a tissue. Thankfully, Jane lightened the mood with a few laughs over a bikini wax.
She was discussing her ritual of visualizing her goals when one woman asked the question that we were all afraid to ask: How do you find your vision if you don't have one? We all silently applauded this woman who exposed the ambitious woman's ultimate fear. Because, really, how can we be successful if we don't know what our success should look like? How can we be fulfilled if we're not sure what's supposed to make us happy?
The brave woman questioned Jane about books or meditation practices that might help her hone in on her purpose. Instead, Jane gave her very simple instructions: Think back to when you were 12. What did you love to do? I had to refrain from standing up and yelling, "Yes! Exactly! Thank you!"
Start asking the kids you know if they know what ambition means; you'll see why I invest so much energy in finding 101 ways to define and exemplify the concept to my 8-12 year old Finding the Fabulous girls. Not only are so many girls unfamiliar with the word, but they struggle to develop goals when we ask them what they'd like to try or accomplish in the next week, month or year. Too many girls float through high school worried more about what they're wearing, and thinking that math, English, science and history are their only career options. Our message is that it's never too early to tap into your passion.
Between media exposure and technological accessibility, this rising generation is becoming increasingly savvy, so why shouldn't they have the opportunity to use their smarts for social good? Who better to solve issues of bullying, childhood obesity or ineffective educational curricula than the demographic experiencing its effects?
While I listened to the amazing panels at this past weekend's WIE Symposium, I wondered why so many women in attendance were only just engaging with their true purpose at age 30 or 40. Here is what they wish they'd known, and why sixth graders should be empowered now:
Girls Are Their Own Worst Critics
When I was 12, I was having a breakdown that I wasn't doing enough to make it into a good college. When I say that girls are their own worst critics, it's an understatement. I wouldn't try anything that I wouldn't be perfect at and I always undermined my accomplishments. How then, can we develop the confidence to run businesses, raise children or fulfill the potential we've been granted? As Joy Marcus, partner at DFG Gotham Ventures said, "Sometimes all it takes is being in the room." Even your presence can be a strong voice. And when the voices of so many women unite to encourage and inspire, that's when you will become bold. That's when you'll know you have what it takes.
"You can't be what you can't see" - Marian Wright Edelman
An audience member aptly pointed out, "You have as much power as you choose to take...you will be a role model whether consciously or not, whether you want to be or not." But how can you decide who you want to be or what you want to represent if you're not able to discuss what's important to you or hear from women who have already found the confidence to take the risks? Imagine how many more little girls would dream of being CEOs if they actually met one before they joined the workforce.
You're Never Too Young to Invest
Being in a room full of one-woman shows makes it clear that even the best multi-tasker needs a network of support to bring their dreams to fruition. Being a perfectionist and multi-tasking extraordinaire myself, I know that this can sometimes be hard to admit. It's even harder to find the right people for the job and to battle doubts about whether your goals are worth the risk. If women helping women succeed is as important as we make it sound, but we're too afraid to share our ideas or don't have anyone to share them with, how much progress can we expect? As Kay Koplovitz, Founder and CEO of Koplovitz and Co. said, "Human capital is the most precious resource you can have." How crazy it would be if you had met your future co-founder, vice-president or mentor when you were 12? Most sixth graders only have a $10 allowance to work with, but it's never too early to invest in your relationships.
What if girls experienced this self-realization sooner rather than later? Imagine the rock stars that would be changing the world.