I had the privilege of attending S.H.E. Summit two weekends ago as press. My attendance at the event was the culmination of a two-year promise I made to myself to get there. I stumbled upon this event a few years ago while on Twitter. I saw the hashtag trending and it immediately peaked my interest. I started reading all of the goodness on the hashtag which lead me to Claudia Chan’s website and from there I was hooked.
I have been to quite a few conferences over the years – each of them with a different mashup of pros and cons. Here’s what I appreciated about S.H.E. Summit:
1)The speakers were relatable. Each speaker shared their stories honestly and ended with sincere calls-to-action that spoke to their dedication to seeing all women thrive. Part of what energizes attendees to take action with any information acquired from your event is: Their ability to see themselves in the speakers and/or the stories being told.
2)They didn’t miss the opportunity to include men in the discussion. From the men who attended as a attendees to those who graced the stage, there was an important dialogue at S.H.E. Summit around how the empowerment and progression of women is affecting men. This is a conversation that is usually scoffed at by hardcore feminists, but I appreciated the difference in perspective.
3)Their programming was designed to address the whole woman, not just parts. When have you ever gone to a conference where you can get professional inspiration while finding out that there is underwear that exists to eliminate the god-awful maxi pad all women have to endure during that time of the month? Yes, this happened. We had the privilege of hearing from dynamic founder and serial entrepreneur Miki Agrawal of Thinx, Period Panties ( sorry not sorry, guys). Miki has created panties that are powered by technology that allows women to ditch the pad. Not only were there unanimous gasps in the room by the women in attendance, but we were all so captivated by her charge to remove the shame that is often synonymous with menstrual cycles for women around the world.
Miki wasn’t the only captivating voice that day. We also had the pleasure of being introduced to Tiffany Dufu, Author of Drop The Ball ( due to be released in Feb. 2017). Tiffany spoke to me personally because she shared her story of striving to be a perfect mom. She called her particular condition “Home Control Disease” (HCD). HCD is a condition that she defines as “having the need to have everything done a certain way – her way”. After her attempts at perfection failed her consistently, she started to redefine what success looked like.
For Tiffany, success boiled down to these three things:
1) Having a purposeful career
2) Cultivating a juicy partnership
3) Leading a healthy lifestyle.
With a new definition of success and letting go of perfection, she decided that it was okay to “drop the ball”. This meant that she would forgive herself if she missed responding to birthday party invites. It also meant that, she only manages what she can and lives with the imperfection of everything else. This is something I personally grapple with as I try feverishly to manage my three children, wife duties and my business.
Although I well know that I’m not alone in my mommypreneur plight, it was reassuring to know that it was okay to “drop the ball” if it means more peace and less pressure in my life.
Claudia Chan, Founder of S.H.E. Summit
If these two ladies weren’t enough to whip us in shape, we got hit over the head with the “Women & Money: Why We Struggle in the Relationship & Practical Steps to Financial Empowerment” panel. This panel encompassed Judy Dougherty, VP and Head of Strategic Initiatives at Prudential, Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group, Lisa Nichols, CEO of Motivating the Masses, Silvia Tergas, Financial Planner at Prudential and was moderated by S.H.E. Summit Founder, Claudia Chan. Their message to us was to not leave our financial futures up to chance. What I appreciated about the discussion was that it talked about the difference between wealth versus income. Deborah Owens of Owens Media Group cited that “wealth is an inside job”.
Typically when we hear about acquiring wealth, it is spoken about as something tangible that we can go out and conquer. It was refreshing to hear them encourage us to do the internal work first so we know how to sustain and build upon the income when it comes.
As you can tell, S.H.E. Summit was chock full of inspiration and activation to get you moving towards chasing your dreams. My overall takeaway was: Success should be defined individually. Much of the pressure and shame women and men feel around how well they are doing in life stems from very general definitions of success that are rooted in how much money you have in your bank account or the items in your closet. Walking away from the S.H.E. Summit I felt empowered to help the women in my life and my clients to redefine success on their own terms. When you are focused on the things that are important to you and you are actively taking steps to achieve your goals – you are indeed a success.
I was a Snapchat and Instagram beast that day. Check out some of the highlights of my day below:
I was on Facebook last week and happened to see a headline that actor, Will Smith had some choice words for “The Donald”. I clicked on the headline and watched the video of his press conference in Dubai for Suicide Squad. When probed by a member of the Dubai press about the negative reviews of Suicide Squad he said the following:
” I feel like at this point in my career I’ve earned the right to fail. Right. So, I’m going to take shots and I’m not going to hit them all; because I’m going to be trying really wild, aggressive, creative things. Some of them will be critically-acclaimed, some of them will make money and some of them will be Wild, Wild West.”
It resonated with me, because it reminded me of my own journey and relationship with failure.
Perfection be damned!
We are the most imperfect-perfect society. Most people are so broken, so lost, still learning, still striving and yet we will do everything in our power not to appear to be an overall failure. It starts when we are young. We are coached, molded and forced to put on appearances whether at church, family functions and school. The messages we receive are that mistakes are okay, but don’t make too many of them. How does something as imperfect as a human rise to such a level of perfection?
We rise to the occasion as much as our spirits can take us and eventually we all fall short. It is in those moments of imperfection that we recognize that we are fighting an uphill battle. Those messages of “failing just enough, but not too much” feel inhumane; but still we have appearances to upkeep.
Why does failure feel so permanent?
The funny thing about failure is: It isn’t permanent at all. When I look back at my failures, there isn’t one that completely destroyed me. You couldn’t tell me that while I was going through it, but not one destroyed me.
I’ve been through a lot. Once you have overcome the fear of failure, you figure I got this. That is until your dreams and aspirations grow even larger in size. So, here I am again wanting to expand and reach for the stars and guess who is back to torture me – our frenemies, fear and failure.
To be honest, failure is uncomfortable. It doesn’t feel like comfort food on a rainy day. It’s like the night you drank too much and prayed to get past it; while also promising never to get drunk again. In this way, much of how we approach failure has to do with mindset and approach.
Let’s explore why failure feels so permanent and what we can do to change it.
Reason 1) “If I fail, everyone will know I failed and judge me for it.” Oprah once said that every guest she had on her show from celebrities to the KKK had one thing in common- they wanted to be understood and seen for who they are. We all worry about others seeing us fail and the opinions and/or judgments that will follow. Particularly in this digital age where everyone is so visible; failure feels very public.
Newsflash: Time fades everything – especially memory. What you think people remember about your failures is very unlikely the case. No one person should have that much power over you and your climb to success.
Reason 2) ” I feel like everything is crashing down on me in this moment of failure.” I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss the feeling of failure and how this exacerbates the whole experience. As humans, we generally set out to do something and in return we expect our efforts and intentions to yield the perfect outcome. When things don’t align in the way we imagined, we generally feel like nothing can ever be better again because of that failure. Depending on the magnitude of the failure, those feelings of sadness, guilt, pessimism can last for a long time.
Newsflash: It’s important to go through those emotions, but you can’t live there forever. It’s the whole “being tired of being sick and tired”. The woeful feelings get old. Ultimately, things do get better. It requires a change of perspective and working on your approach to failure.
Reason 3) “Failure is bad and in return what I set out to do was bad.” Let’s be clear most of us don’t know how to fail and recover from it. No matter how many times we try to re-frame “failure” it is still ingrained in us as something negative. Most of us want to be seen as a success. Until recently, success was the positive end of our efforts and failure was the negative outcome of our efforts. It sounds easy enough to say we should revise our definition of success to include a healthy helping of failure, but our prior conditioning doesn’t want us to be great.
Newsflash: Let’s not romanticize failure as if all failures are equal. There are failures that result in casualties and some that are rather benign by comparison. Sometimes it really is as bad as it feels. Still, there is a lesson to learn and a wrong to make right. The grit and strength you have to use to get there is what success looks like.
Like Will Smith, I feel like I have earned the right to fail. It is a revelation you have when you have spent much of your life trying to walk a straight line. Perfection doesn’t exist. While we are all out here trying to figure out our purposes and life missions – we might as well let the failures teach us and lead us to success.
Share your feelings about “failure” with me below.