Conquer Your Goals with This Career Guide for Ambitious Women
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Conquer Your Goals with This Career Guide for Ambitious Women

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Conquer Your Goals with This Career Guide for Ambitious Women

Kathleen Griffith is an award-winning entrepreneur, business strategist, TV producer, and leading voice in the women’s space. Her media company advises Fortune 100 brands on women-oriented content, strategy and experiences.

Below, Kathleen shares five key insights from her new book, Build Like a Woman: The Blueprint for Creating a Business and Life You Love. Listen to the audio version—read by Kathleen herself—in the Next Big Idea App.

Build Like A Woman Kathleen Griffith Next Big Idea Club

1. Fear Means GO!

Fear is a very real variable in a business’s day-to-day success (or failure). After studying the most successful people on earth, it became clear that risk-taking became possible by changing their relationship to fear—instead of avoiding fear, they engaged with it. They are just as afraid and fearful as you or I initially. But instead of avoiding fear or running from it (which ironically means being ruled by it), they embrace it, stay with it, dialogue with it, and make it a familiar friend. They look at fear with curiosity: There is something here to teach me, something to learn.

For a front-row seat on managing fear, Pulitzer-prize-winning war photojournalist Lynsey Addario and I discussed her going on assignment, leaving behind two young children and her husband. She’s been in conflict-ravaged countries like Ukraine, Iraq, and Afghanistan and continues to run in when everyone else runs out, despite having been kidnapped twice and held hostage. She explained how she works through fear—and you can too:

“I’m often very scared, but I think part of my job is knowing how to handle that fear and what to do with it. So when I feel that sort of paralyzing fear come on, I have to say, ‘Okay, why am I scared? Am I scared because I have PTSD and it’s natural for me to be paranoid? Or am I scared because legitimately we are doing something very high risk.

Sometimes if I’m in a gun battle and I’m face down in the dirt, I have to speak to myself out loud, you know, in a voice and literally say, ‘Okay, you have to get up, have to get cover,’ because sometimes I’m so scared I don’t even run away.”

If fear takes you out, shake it off for a second or two, analyze it (could this actually kill me, or is it just a passing bodily reaction?), and talk to yourself sotto voce. Say things out loud like “You got this” or “You’re going to be okay.” Remember, managing fear comes from close analysis. Ultimately, a knock on the door from fear should be seen as a positive sign. By changing your relationship to fear you are able to take risks, again and again.

2. From breaking down to breakthrough.

Breakdown is a nasty word, used to feign concern, often wielded deliberately to provoke. It suggests we’ve melted into a puddle on the floor, a puddle to be avoided or cleaned up. It feels like a sign that you are either a failure with horrible judgment, poor decision-making, or ill-equipped to properly direct your own life. Breakdown means wholly unstable. Or does it?

Breakdown can often be one of the best moments of your life. What if I told you a breakdown is a breakthrough for you? Whether a breakdown is a Big B—think cataclysmic life event like a divorce, cheating, losing your job—or a little b—a feeling, for instance, that something is not quite right—a breakdown can be the realization that you’re done with the status quo and are ready to start a business and change your life. Breakdowns are where you see something is not operating well, so you are moved to create a new solution. You move anything standing in your way out of the way. As it turns out, breakdowns are here to help us destroy what is no longer meant for us.

“Breakdown can often be one of the best moments of your life.”

Take media mogul Arianna Huffington smacking her head on her desk from fatigue, a broken cheekbone, stitches required, which led her to create the wellness company Thrive. This was the wrong path leading to the right one. What was broken sparked a new enterprise.

So many businesses are born out of a breakdown, with its shift in perspective pointing you toward exactly what you are supposed to build. Breakdowns walk us to our breakthroughs so that we can break ground.

3. Imagine a vision.

Starting a new business without a vision is not good; it’s like skydiving without a parachute. A vision is what gives direction. It represents your future dreams and goals for your business (and beyond). It signals where you are going and what you want to achieve and become ultimately.

Before any real action steps are taken, an established vision helps you build towards something crystal clear and keeps you inspired and motivated. Otherwise, you start off all over the place: too practical, too realistic, too simple, too static, too small, and frankly, just end up with something pretty basic. So, do you want a basic business (and life) or a supercharged one? I’m guessing the latter.

“An established vision helps you build towards something crystal clear and keeps you inspired and motivated.”

That starts with a GARGANTUAN vision. I’m talking so big you probably couldn’t do it in five lifetimes. A vision can take hold at any age and with unexpected zigs and zags and zings along the way. Some examples:

“One day I’m gonna sing the national anthem at a super bowl. Onnnee dayyy,” she wrote on Twitter.

“I’m going to be a comedian,” said the spunky, nerdy middle-schooler.

“Maybe it’s just too late for me,” she trepidatiously told her dad when considering starting a wedding dress line at 40.

Meet in order: Demi Lovato, Tina Fey, Vera Wang. They all make their unique visions a reality. And you can, too.

A vision is what you would create if all constraints, fears, limits, and negative beliefs were removed. Really, if you could think/feel/do/become/create anything. When all else is equal, usually the person with the clearest vision and the greatest will wins the day.

4. Step into your authentic power.

Amplification is the path to authentic power. It’s a widely propulsive force. It is unique and different for everyone and the single greatest X-Factor to our success.

Amplification presents as charging into places and taking up space. It involves bringing your total self into a room and doing things without permission. It allows you to claim all you desire, as weird or improbable as it might seem. It also means letting go of all the knotted fear that you will get it all the way wrong. It means taking decisive, deliberate action, having a center that is so strong you cannot be moved.

Like a light switch, from deep integration comes amplification. Your power button naturally turns on. This becomes your natural state of being. It’s like you meet the person you always wanted to become. You radiate brighter and vibrate at what seems like a higher electrical frequency. While humming “‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” they think, What good shit is she on?

“The point is to design a life that is a total reflection of you.”

In my case, amplification looked like jumping in without a formal MBA, intending to build as I went. From the first Google doc titled “new business” to that Hail Mary email putting out my newly inflated rate. That’s where I unapologetically claimed and went after what I wanted. Stopping for no one and nothing.

The point is to design a life that is a total reflection of you. A near carbon copy of everything you think, feel, and desire. Not what another goddamn person on the planet wants or thinks. That’s when amplification happens.

5. Embrace mindful leadership.

As you step into the gloriously challenging, high-wire act of being a leader, you will need to embrace your one-of-a-kind, unique leadership style! Let’s examine two types of leaders.

Wounded leaders may create business “success,” but in equal parts burnout, breakage, and crushed crewmates. Some wounded leaders have certain textbook toxic traits—bullying, lying, gaslighting, arrogance, hierarchy obsession, discrimination, and self-interest. But in most cases, wounded leaders just don’t know who they are, so they steal this leadership style or that business process to get things done. They are half-baked, unsure, insecure folks running too fast with super-sharp scissors.

In comparison, mindful leaders have taken the time to do the hard work to know who they truly are. This leadership, by definition, isn’t about a new prescribed “right way” of leading. It’s about figuring out your way of leading. To do that, you must first know your truth, vision, and values. You need to know what makes you tick, your traits, and what triggers you. Usually, this means deep introspection or healing work. By embracing yourself fully, you can then step up and into your own leadership and mindfully maneuver.

Here’s the twist: This isn’t about trading out a set of “wounded” qualities for “mindful” qualities. Mindful leadership isn’t at odds with ambition, being decisive, or making money. It also doesn’t necessarily mean embracing a soft style. This isn’t a value judgment. You can be whatever you want to be—even stand for values society doesn’t deem “good”—so long as you are aware, honest, and let people know what you are all about. It’s about owning it and being consistent. It takes personal accountability internally versus blaming others externally.

Mindful leadership just comes down to the fact that you embrace and govern yourself fully. It means you are being truthful about who you are, what you do, and what you offer. It’s not about pretending to be anything else. A mindful leader is someone people want to follow to the ends of the earth—or at least till the end of a project—but you must first know yourself.

To listen to the audio version read by author Kathleen Griffith, download the Next Big Idea App today:

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