A few weeks ago I was being interviewed about being a woman in an executive leadership role, and the interviewer asked me, "What were your most defining moments in your career?"
Without hesitating, I stated, "It was when I took advantage of stupid bold moments!"
Since that conversation, I've been reflecting on those times and can clearly see how each one was a significant catalyst to who I am, what I am doing professionally and even who I married. (Yes, even that was a bold moment!)
I love those moments!
I define a "stupid bold moment" as a time when I don't have all the information, my intuition or emotional energy outweighs the data, and I have a short window of opportunity to decide. However -- they only become bold moments when you allow yourself to be open to them and you seize the opportunity.
These opportunities offer incredible stretches. They are uncomfortable times. It is a time of bravery. You see the risk of failure as extraordinarily high. You are daring -- willing to "show up" even when you don't know the consequences. But you can also glimpse the incredible "gifts" those moments could give you. So they are not really "stupid" moments but rather significant "leaps of faith." Where I envision the future possibilities and the potential upside to be too great to pass up. I believed in in the future.
So why are these bold moments amazing and challenging for women in particular? Because remaining inside our comfort zone is thought to be the #1 way that women unknowingly limit their own chances of being promoted.
In my career I must have interviewed over a thousand candidates. It was not unusual for the male to put his "name in the hat" for roles he was not yet qualified for based on the job spec. He believed in his future "potential" -- not limited by his past successes. I would say less than 15 percent of the women would do the same. Women tend to evaluate themselves on past performance and current skills -- asking themselves, "Can I do the whole job today?" This thought process stops many women from taking that next bold move.
Getting outside your comfort zone can be challenging. I know. But if you thought of it as an adventure -- would that make it easier for you? Seize the opportunity -- stretch and grow. Reap the rewards -- some that you seek, others that just show up.
So as I reflected post that interview on my own bold moments a few memories just jump to mind. At the age of 28 I had talked a pharmaceutical sales leader at Merck into taking a chance on me (an HR manager at the time) and giving me a job in sales. (BTW -- I had neither pharmaceutical sales experience nor a science background.) My rationale: I wanted to have greater business acumen. I convinced him that they needed me.
Now here's that bold moment: He asked, "How serious are you? Would you be willing to move if I gave you an opportunity?"
I said, "Yes! Of course." (I didn't believe he literally meant what he said...)
He then told me, "Great! Fly out to Los Angeles tomorrow, report to Ray and we will move your stuff."
"OK! I'm in!" Goodbye, boyfriend. Quick call to landlord and my dad. Last call to corporate travel -- booked my ticket and never looked back.
Result: I stayed in sales for two years, got promoted once, and even though I ended up moving back into HR -- I never left California. That experience not only gave me that business acumen, it helped accelerate my career and it gave me a foundational confidence that I lean on today.
Next bold moment on a personal side. Picture the scene: new to California, new to my job... trying to find an apartment. Met an amazing couple and they introduced me to a great guy (FYI: day 2 in CA). We dated for three months -- had a ton in common. One night at dinner he asked me to marry him. I asked "When?" He said "Tonight!"
Then he said I was his best friend, that we would be amazing together. Remembering that my mom said she was lucky to marry her best friend, I said, "Let's go!" Four hours later -- married in Vegas (not in a wedding chapel with Elvis, in case you were wondering) and am still happily married after 21 years and three amazing kids.
Clearly I didn't have enough information for that decision! That decision/bold moment gave me confidence in life and it also provided me with a partner who appreciates and supports my bold moments.
My current bold adventure? Joining LinkedIn, speaking publicly and beginning to blog. I'm an introvert. Sharing my thoughts and personal stories in such a public way is scary. Why do I do this? Because I believe that others can learn from my journey, my mistakes and begin to challenge themselves.
Now what about you? What have been your bold moments?