I’m working on my Success Steps—lessons from thirty-three ultra-achieving women in What I Know Now About Success. Each woman picked a time in her life when she was struggling, or when success seemed very far away. Then we collaborated on a letter to her younger self, containing a message about success that she wishes she’d known at that moment.
Now I’m taking these lessons to heart by trying to apply them, week by week, to my life and my small (but fun and growing!) company. Where will I be at the end of thirty-three weeks? Keep an eye out here and let me know how I’m doing….
The inaugural lesson for this week is the idea in Sharon Allen’s letter: “You can expand your network and visibility within the firm no matter where you are.” As Chairman of Deloitte, Sharon sits at the tippy-top of a corporate giant with nearly $11 billion in revenues. As founder of What I Know Now Enterprises, I’m perched at the peak of a tiny company with, um, less than $11 billion in revenues.
But, so what? That’s exactly the point that Sharon, now 58, is making to her younger self—the young woman who spent 24 years in Deloitte’s Boise, Idaho office. Floating in an eddy of a big-deal consulting world, she’s pointing out, should not prevent her from developing a big profile.
So, for me her message meant that being little shouldn’t limit my thinking about growing my network and elevating my brand. How’d I do? I conscientiously met with the founders of www.busybeelifestyle.com, a fun website about entertaining and decorating; I hired an out-of-work teacher and friend who’s not afraid of anything to market my LTMYS Seminars and Workshops; I updated my press kit, I gave a speech at NovelTeas in Red Bank, NJ; I asked Bonnie St. John, a wonderful speaker and new friend, if she would share her marketing approach with me.
Pretty good, but the real revelation wasn’t all this activity. It was making the statement that I was seeking to expand my network and visibility. I want to cringe when I write this, even now. Why? It’s puzzling. I don’t shy away from laying out certain lofty ambitions. For example: I think every woman in America should have a “what I know now” moment with a Letters To My Younger Self product or service. I know how much those moments mean to women, so I feel I’m bringing a gift to them.
But revealing this kind of mechanical, behind-the-curtain objective–”I’m trying to expand my network and visibility”– makes me feel naked. And asking for help feels like weakness. If you have to ask for fabulous new relationships and a high profile, well, maybe you don’t deserve them. Or so says some snotty voice in my head.
So, it was with a wince that I tweeted and Facebooked my objective…with trepidation that I disclosed my objective to Bonnie in an email…with discomfort that I said the words out loud to the women gathered at NovelTeas on Thursday night.
Here were the reactions. FB comments: “I like the honesty and vulnterability” and “I know you are a win-win type person who is eager to help others, so I don’t consider this ambition to be crass or one-sided.” Bonnie said that she was honored that I’d ask. The ladies at NovelTeas listened to me explain this project and watched me muster my courage. After I bravely pronounced the words I’m trying to expand my network and visibility they looked at the apprehension on my face and burst into laughter.
A week is not long enough to find out if I’ve expanded my network and visibility. But the great news is that a week is the perfect length of time to try a new approach, especially if you think of it as trying it on for size rather than a permanent part of your repertoire.
I learned that adopting a novel habit can expose an internal impediment, a hidden fault line in my assumptions. I learned that stating plainly what I’m after does not cause people to point their fingers and howl with laughter—except when they find my self consciousness about it ridiculous. I’m trying to learn that asking for help humanizes rather than weakens me.