When I hear talking heads predict “The Year of The Woman”, they are projecting a new era for all women because of something one woman accomplished. Why is that? It’s too easy to pick one woman and say she’s going to help all other women — this overlooks what women do daily to help each other.
All across the globe, I talk with women about the zigzags of my career path. I want to share these experiences because I can say with some emphasis: you never know where the next prompt in life is going to come from — but be ready!
So how should women be ready? Here are some lessons from my life that describe why I took risks and how I found the courage.
First, women need to hear that they can direct their destiny. It seems to me that women need to tell each other to be more daring. Women need to dare to be the person they want to be. And in order to do that, we need to seek opportunity and to seize it when it comes our way. Saying “yes” to something new can produce changes that are both positive and powerful. Let’s encourage women to be daring.
Second, we need to recognise risk and boldly look it in the eye. You will always encounter risk when you step off a path you have been trudging along for some time. But taking that new direction, or extending your reach into a different area, is both exhilarating, occasionally terrifying…and fun! Let’s encourage women to recognise risk, to assess it, and to weigh the rewards. This is how you forge your path ahead.
Third, we should value optimism. Optimism opens our eyes to what is possible, and to more opportunity, despite seeing risk along the way. I inherited my sense of optimism from my father. I learned from him that a sense of optimism would keep me moving forward even when an outcome looks bleak. I had to decide if I was going to accept a negative view of the goal, or if I was going to propel myself ahead. Those times in my life when things looked bleakest, in fact, turned out to provide the best opportunities and lessons for me.
Fourth, another aspect of optimism is flexibility. I view flexibility as the manifestation of the belief that there is another route. This flexibility is particularly necessary when a woman needs to find a new solution because a door has been shut in her face. In business or in life, there is always another door, another path, another solution, and flexibility and drive will pay off.
I have been a rancher, public servant, entrepreneur, and advocate. I believe anyone who wants to be successful in whatever arena she chooses has to be a mixture of seemingly opposing styles: a risk taker, a thoughtful analyst, a dreamer, a pragmatist and an optimist. I knew this about myself, but I thought it was a problem. Turned out, it was my strength.
Upon graduation from college, I would never have imagined I would end up in politics, being elected four times in the second largest state in the United States. But I was optimistic, daring, and flexible. Along my life’s journey I acquired skills and talents that helped me reach my varying goals.
If we want to enter a new era for women, we must encourage women. Let’s teach women to direct their destiny. Waiting for the next “Year of the Woman” is too passive. Encourage all women to blaze a trail, to be bold and to take risks. When they do, they’ll find lessons and rewards.