When you look at the stack of expectations our culture puts on us women entrepreneurs–beauty, athleticism, motherhood, billions–girl, that game was over before you began to play.
Our culture–our set of mutual beliefs–is a construct. If it can be constructed, it can be unconstructed.
Find the real you.
We are too often looking from the outside, in at ourselves. We make ourselves the objects of our own consciousness instead of the actor. That’s backwards. Better is to become the center of our own soul, to inhabit our bodies as our true homes without judgment, without excuse. That’s power. That’s the world we need to rule first. The rest follows.
Our world order is all about perception—what we think is true, which is what we are told is true. Which is more real?
As a culture, what we think is true is what we have been told.
What we think we should do about it is also a perception. Just because it can appear in the quasi-manufactured reality we live in that it’s true, doesn’t mean it’s true for you. Much of our day is programmed by culture, that voice that says, this is what you “should do.” Very little of our perspective flows from inside ourselves, from a pure well of personal intention.
Rather than bemoan this reality, that much of our day and the days of those around us are programmed by our culture, we can embrace the rich opportunity this situation offers.
There are two key opportunities.
1) One is to take the opportunity to sift through our insides and make sure we are who we want to be.
2) The other is to use this cultural platform to share our side of the story.
It seems hard to fathom that we can expect to build organizations of significance when our teams aren’t even mentally or emotionally free to think for themselves too much of the time.
Mostly through eduation, I’ve been exposed to lots of great thinking but no real answers. I’ve put away countless books like The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, 4 Hour Work Week, Switch, Drive, Dare, Predictable Revenue, Rockefeller Habits, Blink—the list is long and always growing. Books like these have made contributions that have informed how I see leadership, the leader I am becoming, and the kind of workplace I’m striving to create.
But they didn’t begin to scratch the surface of giving me a day-to-day working framework to answer the tough questions my team can have about how they should feel about making their way in the world. Not the questions over profit, but the questions over personhood. Is it okay to pay people differently— really? Because a lot of times, while the value of the work done certainly differs, the persons doing work aren’t of lesser or greater value. In fact, those that do “high value” work may even be often lesser persons. Do I go on cruise control and simply accept, taking the fast path to the biggest reward, or do I try to think about it a bit?
Reading a hundred examples of how guys did it didn’t always land.
I could appreciate the stories of today’s business barons, but not actually see myself living them—partly because absolutely everyone in the narrative was a guy, a father, a base ball guy, a former pilot, a golfer, a hunter … and I lived a very different life. It’s great to be told “rise above” or “lean in,” but the fact is, since women like me are part of the culture, it’s simply hard to untangle ourselves, feeling by feeling, thought by thought, pocket by pocket and sock by sock, from the larger web of expectations around being women.
The good news is, any headwind can give you tremendous lift if you set your wings at the right pitch. For those of us leading from minority positions, we just have to learn to tilt our wings a little differently—and that has some advantages. But first, we have to overcome the tendency to want to hold our “wings” like everyone else does. We need new rules to win new heights.
There are many examples of strength and power that comes from synthesizing a powerful personal culture against a very powerful outer culture, including:
- Alexander the Great
- Oprah Winfrey
- Nelson Mandela and
Synthesis is the solution.
We can’t go against our dominant culture—it’ll crush us. We can’t go with it either—it’ll hobble us. But if we dare to develop our own personal culture, we become an army inside. Then, from that strength of our own intern perspective, we can engage in a “conversation” with the outside culture. Not only does it work, it results in creating our own original, inspiring world.
This is an excerpt from How You Rule the World: A Survival Guide for Female Founders, available on Amazon Kindle.