Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my mark on this world. Don’t misunderstand. I love what I do—it’s a joy and honor to work with clients all over the world, helping produce meaningful content that can impact others.
I’ve also had some extraordinary opportunities. Being executive editor for the Sam’s Club publication Healthy Living Made Simple, working with a Nobel Prize winner, and publishing my first book are experiences I’ll always be thankful for.
But what is my mark?
What am I doing on a grand scale to change something about this world? Where are my current projects leading, and what am I doing to make life—both for others and myself—better tomorrow than it is today?
This question isn’t about me, really. It’s about focusing on being bigger than me, on creating a real change on a national or global scale.
Sure, I’m just one person in a world of billions. But Maya Angelou, Marie Curie, Malala Yousafzai, and Elizabeth Holmes were, or are, too. (And no, I’m not suggesting that I’m anywhere in the same vicinity of awesomeness that they are—my point is that they are simply humans who did something extraordinary. And I believe all humans have promise.)
In fact, there are thousands of inspiring women out there changing the world. And as I’ve considered my own mark, I’ve thought of the many lessons I can learn from them: the women I know and love, the women I admire from a distance, the women I read about in the news, the women I listen to and watch and absorb every last piece of wisdom they can offer. They are the people I should be looking to when I think about my mark, because they are surely making theirs.
So, with that, here are some insights I’ve learned from inspirational women:
1. Dream the biggest dream you can.
Believe that every dream is possible. When Elizabeth Holmes started her company at age 19, she sought to completely revolutionize health care. “I don’t want to make an incremental change in some technology in my life,” she said. “I want to create a whole new technology, and one that is aimed at helping humanity at all levels regardless of geography or ethnicity or age or gender.”
2. Be authentically you.
Our culture is built around sameness. Dress a certain way, talk a certain way, fit into the crowd. But there’s a reason for the quote, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” It’s authenticity that matters. Be uniquely you. Don’t be afraid to be bold and brazen. Don’t fear the consequences of being yourself.
3. Follow your passion!
I love how co-founder and CEO of the genetics testing company 23andMe, Anne Wojcicki, puts it: “You have to wake up and do something every day. So, you might as well do what you love, and you might as well try to make an impact.” The women who inspire me are living what they love—they’re making an impact, whether it’s in their own homes, in their communities, or on a global scale.
4. Take risks. And then take some more.
“Women don’t take enough risks,” explains Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook. “Men are just ‘foot on the gas pedal.’ We’re not going to close the achievement gap until we close the ambition gap.” It’s true. And it’s easy to be safe. But nothing about this world will change without someone being daring enough to try. Why can’t that person be me? Why can’t that person be you?
5. Work harder than anyone else.
Most of us only see the results of hard work: the success, the prestige, the impact. But we aren’t there, day by day, watching the person attend funding meetings or write a dozen more e-mails or toil into the wee hours of the morning to achieve a goal. Greatness doesn’t come suddenly; it is built slowly, over many months and years. Someday, the hard work will pay off. But first, you have to put in the work.
6. Don’t give up—no matter what.
It took J.K. Rowling five years to finish the first Harry Potter book, and then two more years to get it published. It took Elizabeth Holmes ten years to build her company. How long will your impact take? Be prepared to stay in it for the long haul—even if the haul is even longer than you could have imagined.
I wrote this as much for me as for you. I think I’ll bookmark it and reread it every time I need reminding of what the women I admire have taught me. I’m putting these into practice—or at least trying to. How about you?
What have you learned from the inspirational women in your life?
(Image courtesy Jussie D.Brito | flikr)