Sistahs Doing it for Themselves
Amazing women who inspire and motivate me to keep achieving
I recently had a birthday that left me with that panicky time-is-running-out feeling. Though it didn’t end in a zero, it still gave me a vision of an ever-aging me and my sloth-like progress against my ‘To Achieve’ list. I have been building and ticking things off that list since I began my (early!) mid-life unravelling several years ago.
Making a success of my startup is high up on that list. I was feeling especially sorry for myself for hitting a wall with some of our technological development.
I was frustrated with not being able to do what I thought should be simple things. I was tired of fighting my own “what’s the point” demons that whisper to me between me beating myself up and bigging myself up in order to tap into that fire of motivation that keeps a startup founder going.
I did what any sensible woman would do
I called on my Superwoman Friends to share the love and give me an inspirational kick in the backside.
Here’s what I learned from these amazing women that got me out of my pity party and into action.
Make it the way you want it rather than despairing that it ain’t so
I made a new friend recently. This already feels like a minor miracle when you get to your 40’s, so when the friend you make is as inspirational as this one, you regain some faith that the universe is looking out for you.
She is about the same age as me and is getting into UX after taking years out to raise a family. She has been taking courses, self-learning, getting out there, and making connections in order to fulfil this ambition.
Her ambition to work in UX started when she found herself too often in the Apple store trying to get the attention of a 20-something for whom she was invisible. Who when she finally them pinned down for help treated her as though she were a doddering old biddy.
One day she decided to speak her mind and asked to speak to the manager. She made it clear she held the purse strings in her family and that she was the one who forked out to buy herself and her kids the latest gadgets. She described how she would like to come into a store and see people who looked like her, who understood the kinds of decisions and dynamics she had to navigate, and who didn’t treat her as invisible or as a ‘bother’.
Whether sincerely or not, the manager acknowledged that they didn’t generally hire middle aged women and that that was a valid concern he could understand.
Now she is becoming what she wants to see for herself: someone who can inform the design of products for people who will soon need reading glasses; who want to make good decisions for spending sizeable chunks of the family budget on this or that latest gadget; who wants to create things that make it easier not harder to discern what device or software is best for what purpose. In other words, to make older women (and everyone else) feel empowered and not helpless when it comes to making decisions about tech solutions.
Pass it on and pave the way for others
Then I met up with another friend of mine, who is also about the same age as me, for a commiseration/celebration dinner. She works is a product manager in software development and got so fed up with almost always being the only woman in the room or on a product that she also took matters into her own hands.
She now runs code classes and clubs for women in our local community. She has also been instrumental in setting up a Women in Tech network to create an opportunity-and-support forum for other women who are struggling to get into tech because they don’t see anyone who looks like them, or who could use the confidence-building atmosphere of a place for women to see what they want to be.
She managed to get into the tech profession she dreamed of, even though it wasn’t easy. Rather than coasting on the payoff of her own hard work and good fortune, she resolved to make it easier, or at least more comfortable and congenial, for others. And of course I have connected my new friend with this friend!
Create your own empire when they keep you out of theirs
Finally, I skyped with an old school friend of mine who I still keep in touch with and who never ceases to amaze me with how she plows through her ‘To Achieve’ list.
She had recently lost her healthcare related job because her boss decided he didn’t like his employee outshining his status. As a renowned blogger with the pedigree to back it up she had patients flocking to see her. Before she lost her job he often put up barriers that prevented her from following her passion by making her take the the everyday run of the mill cases.
In the end he had to fire her due to “cutbacks” as he couldn’t overcome the positive word of mouth that she had created through social media and her practice.
The very next day she set out to set up her own practice specialising in her area of expertise.
She created the domain she needed, in order to serve the people she knew would benefit the most from her skill and experience. Her life would have been so much easier if she had simply gone to find another source for a pay check. But she knew there was a gap in service for the people who needed the specialist’s attention she could give. So she built what was required to fill that gap, rather than relying on someone else to provide it for her.
Share the motivation
These women, who are doing it for themselves, have helped me shake off the gloom and panic I was feeling. I am fired up again, and I know I can always call on them to share a bit more of that motivational magic if I start to flag.
One of the many reasons I fall out of love with my achievements is that I start to look outward and blame external forces for scuppering my efforts. But I can think of these women and how they are chipping away at that idea and building what wasn’t there for them to get moving again.
I have learned that giving out the motivation is just as powerful. I met with a colleague earlier this week who was struggling in a new leadership role and I shared some tips and tricks from my own 20 years of experience. It helped bolster my sense of value and boosted my confidence in my own abilities.
It also felt good to make a difference for someone else and give forward.
Sistahs are doing it for themselves, but when we also do it for each other, we can achieve more than we ever dreamed.
So don’t be shy about asking for the boost you need, and don’t be stingy when giving it back. Everyone wins!
My first book, Becoming a Fearless Leader: A simple guide to taking control and building happy, productive, highly-performing teams is out now. You can find access to a free pdf workbook that accompanies it on my website. If you do read my book, I would love to hear your comments.
I write about how I became the founder of a tech startup as a non-techie, over-40 female with no entrepreneurial experience, and all I am learning along the way. You can see more here. If you think this might be helpful for others on their entrepreneurial journey, please recommend and share.