Tag Archives: Success

Fighting the Double Standard with a High-Visibility Cocktail Party

 

     One of the unspoken struggles that flummox many women’s leadership initiatives is a double standard in perception.

     As research reflects, when a woman executive keeps her head down, performs well and waits to be rewarded, she’s perceived as unambitious and lacking drive. If she’s aggressive and makes tough decisions, she may be viewed as a cold, calculating shrew. Continue reading

Thank you David Brooks

I’m privileged to look behind the curtain and I know it. Working with executives, celebrities, neighbors, friends and women everywhere on writing letters to their younger selves gives me a glimpse into what I think of as their interior landscape. It’s emotional territory, but studded with distinctive landmarks, just like the earth’s topography: shining pools of pure, intense feeling, hills containing sedimentary layers of inchoate sensations and stands of giant trees clustered around supercharged memories. Continue reading

A Letter to My Younger Self About Fulfilling Someone Else’s Dream

This letter was created for a 2011 Letters To My Younger Self Seminar conducted for Deutsche Bank in New York City

Mary Chen-Eng joined Deutsche Bank in November 2009. As Head of U.S. Regional Finance, she’s responsible for overseeing all of the financial, regulatory and head office reporting for the various legal entities in the United States.  She is the key contact for regulatory bodies and external auditors, and plays several other important roles in the organization.

Prior to joining DB, Mary was a Managing Director and the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer in Regional Management at Societe Generale for four years, as well as held various finance and accounting roles for 11 years.

This illustrious career was launched when Mary took her first job as an examiner at the New York Stock Exchange. It was not exactly her heart’s desire, but it was Wall Street. And it was the direction Mary’s parents wanted for her. Both her mother and father emigrated from Hong Kong, but met here in the United States.  Mary’s father had been an engineer in China, but was unable to pursue that career here, so he worked in laundry in Brooklyn, where Mary grew up. Her mother, from a well-to-do family in Hong Kong, got a job as a seamstress in Manhattan.

Mary’s parents had high aspirations for their four daughters and, as the oldest, Mary felt the pressure of setting a good example. “In everything I did, I tried to excel,” she told Ellyn. Although she was eager to experience campus life by going to an out-of-state college, Mary complied with her parents’ wish that she live at home while attending New York University. Mary chose to write to her younger self at NYU, when she was trying to decide upon her career direction.


Dear Mary,

You are such an excellent daughter. So far you’ve followed your parents’ wishes willingly, despite some show of defiance. After all, they immigrated for a better life and they work so very hard. It doesn’t seem too much to ask that you conform to their choices for you.  They have given you everything possible.  You carry their hopes, dreams and aspirations.

But still, inside you, other desires beckon. You used to want to be a teacher or an engineer. And now you have chosen to major in business.   You have taken your first business law course and now you want to be a lawyer. But your parents are saying, ‘No. That’s not for you.’

It’s hard to step outside the mold. It feels impossible to go after a career you are passionate about. Your parents wouldn’t understand.  How would you even explain it to them? And so, even as you aspire to something that speaks uniquely to you, you know that you’ll take the safe route, the careful, secure path they are pointing you toward.

Mary, you’re not doing the wrong thing. But you don’t have to shut the door on passion forever. Do not let the safe choice today stop you from risk-taking and challenges tomorrow. Cultivate your desires to excel in your life. Try different activities, interests and jobs as you go along.

Also, know that your willingness to be the responsible first-born will bring you intense personal gratification later. You’ll be able to persuade your parents to let your next oldest sister go out of state to college. You’ll influence your younger twin sisters’ decisions to go into non-traditional careers like social work and occupational therapy.

Most importantly, your father will be so proud that he’ll carry your business cards around to show to acquaintances. The two of you will develop an even deeper relationship when he elects to live with you.  He will choose to care for your kids while you focus on your career. And then, by the time cancer takes him so quickly at age 67, there will be nothing that is left unsaid between you.   You will have lived up to your parents’ hopes, dreams and aspirations for a good life, as well as your own.

With pride in you,

Mary

 

What Men Say When They Talk To Their Younger Selves

What do male executives say in their letters to their younger selves? Frankly, I was recently blown away by the experience.

On May 10th I conducted a standing-room-only Letters To My Younger Self® Seminar with five managing director panelists—three women and two men—for Deutsche Bank at its Wall Street headquarters. Because this event served as the kick-off for the Aspire Project, sponsored by DB’s Americas Finance Diversity team, it was well-attended by more than 150 male and female bankers from various disciplines and backgrounds.

Continue reading

Jean Chatzky’s Letter to Her Younger Self; Success Step No. 5

“It’s only in looking back that all the pieces, including the detours, fit together with wonderful logic,” says Jean Chatzky

Detours unnerve me: the unexpected roadblock to my carefully laid plans; the panicky feeling of not knowing where I’ll end up or how long it will take get there. The road not taken—once you take it—is potholed and bumpy as hell. Continue reading

Success Step No. 2 for Women: “How wide a frame can you put around your future?”

Wow—this week’s success lesson from Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines, could not have been better aligned with my schedule.

Cathie chose to write to her younger self when she was working with Gloria Steinem at the recently launched Ms magazine. Continue reading

Success Steps for Women – Step 1

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…. Continue reading

How to Succeed: Lessons from Powerful Women

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 we be at the end of thirty-three weeks? Keep an eye out here and let me know how I’m doing…. Continue reading

Reflections on Women Sharing Wisdom

I spent Thursday afternoon in Annapolis at the fourth annual Microsoft Mid-Atlantic Retreat for C-level women who are clients of Microsoft. The program was perfectly designed to allow for retreat in the best senses of the word.

In other words, for two days the Marriott in Annapolis became a place where: Continue reading

Letters To My Younger Self Parties!

Three Party Kits ready to go My grand experiment is underway. To spread the word about What I Know Now About Success—and to enable women to share the letter-writing experience—I recruited nearly 50 women to host Letters To My Younger Self Parties all over the country. Each woman invited 10 friends and, using materials supplied in my Letters To My Younger Self Party Kits, led them through the process of writing and sharing their letters to their younger selves.

Most of these parties took place over the weekend of April 30 – May 2nd and I could not be happier with the feedback I’m getting. Continue reading