We are Just Getting Started!August 18, 2018
Is Market Volatility Driving You Crazy?January 21, 2019
Fearless Girl - Meet the Real World
When the Fearless Girl was unveiled in 2017, I was working at the company that had
commissioned the statue. Rather, I was looking for my next opportunity having
determined pretty quickly that I was too strong and outspoken for the company’s
repressive culture. As I watched people’s reactions to the statue, I tried to
understand the reasons behind the strong emotions she evoked and the almost
universal endorsement by women of this little girl standing up to the bull. It was
obvious to me that women took her as an inspiration and the confirmation of the
message we continuously receive – if you only stand up for yourself, if you only stop
being fearful and get out there and demand what is yours, everything will fall into
place. So get out there, face your fears, lean-in and own your success.
But is that really true? Is the only obstacle we face our own fear and our
unwillingness to grab the bull by the horns? We all know that is not the case. Yet
there are no schools that teach you how to be fearless. There are no courses where
you learn about the obstacles and how to overcome them successfully.
Every time I look at the girl staring down the bull, a different image comes to mind -
a Spanish bullfighter fighting the bull in the arena. The Spanish know a thing or two
about taming that proud beast so why not learn from them? The bullfighter never
faces the bull directly until she has worn him down enough to go for the kill.
Because she knows that the bull will win if she is not smart, careful, and skillful in
weakening its defenses and devising the right strategy to prevail.
Fearless girl is seeking equality and power, but nobody is going to give up those things without a
fight. No matter how many diversity committees the incumbents create and sit on
alongside you, make no mistake – it is a war and you must fight like a general to win
No general will go into battle without the right weapons in his arsenal. And no
skillful general will expose his troops to a direct confrontation with a stronger, more
powerful enemy without a proper plan. So why would we? Every woman needs an
arsenal of weapon at her disposal before she embarks on her fearless fight. I
learned this the hard way, through many mistakes and some successes during the
past 20 years in the financial industry. I want to share some of the rules I have
made up for myself along the way.
... She knows that the bull will win if she is not smart, careful, and skillful in fighting the powerful foe.
So how do you do this fearless thing?
1. Know what you are after
You have a much better chance of succeeding if you know what you want.
What is the ambition that drives you? Are you pursuing a big dream that is
worth every sacrifice? Fearlessness for its own sake won’t get you anywhere.
You must know what you are fighting for.
Nobody is fearless. We as humans experience fear in situations that we
perceive as threatening or dangerous. It is a healthy psychological response
that helps us survive. It is not that you do not experience fear, it is how you
act despite fear. It is courage much more than lack of fear that gets results.
Nothing in life just happens. You have to work at it to make it so.
2. Develop thick skin
Practice makes perfect. Getting better at anything requires repetition and
learning from experience. You cannot assume that your fearlessness will be
taken well when you try it. When something goes wrong, you will suffer
consequences. Do not be afraid of consequences. That is the best way to
learn that you will survive adversity and come out stronger and more
resilient than ever. You will learn a lot about yourself along the way and
develop the personal power to withstand any storm.
Thick skin will be the best armor to protect you from getting hurt
emotionally and help you to see a situation for what it is. When people treat
you unfairly, the worst thing you can do is to take it personally and blame
yourself. When I was younger, I assumed that it was my fault that my male
colleagues got all the promotions for doing very similar work. It took me
years to clearly see the disparity in treatment, the subconscious bias I faced
every day. This is not going away any time soon. How you view a particular
situation will determine whether you will find a way to still get what you
3. Anticipate consequences
Intimidation is the weapon of choice of your detractors. You need to be
ready to face criticism, attempts to scare you, discourage you, blame you for
things you did not do. When your boss expects you to behave unethically and
then tells you that you have performance problems because you refuse, you
need the presence of mind to fight back.
Retaliation is another favorite of the powerful. If you stand between them
and their ego or greed, you will pay a price. As a woman, you are not
supposed to get up and demand your rights. People will instinctively try to
bring you down. Do not let them. Understand and be comfortable that there
are many opportunities in life and that you are not stuck. You will only be
stuck if you accept defeat and do not pursue your ambitions. Nobody said
that being fearless was comfortable!
4. Pick the right strategy
When you are pursuing your dreams, you are inevitably dealing with people
with their own interests and ambitions. Whether they help you or hurt you,
depends on how their interests interact with yours. You have to understand
that and devise a strategy to either get them on your side or move them out
of the way. Be a careful observer of people around you and understand how
to work with them successfully.
Create opportunities to practice your strategy. Put yourself in uncomfortable
situations and test your thinking. It is very counter-intuitive but that is the
only way to learn how to think on your feet and get mentally and emotionally
strong to withstand any challenge.
Be your own general. Strategize before each battle. Day in and day out.
5. Never Give Up
You only have one life, make sure you are living your life. You can spend
your years doing others’ bidding and letting everyone claim your resources –
your time, money, energy, thoughts, emotions, inner strength, until there is
nothing left. Or you may own all of the above by having big dreams and
doing the hard work to achieve them.
Self-knowledge, self-confidence and self-belief are indispensable if you are
going to fight for yourself and win. Do not doubt or second-guess yourself
on important decisions. Do your research, develop a strategy and execute to
the best of you abilities. If you fail, try again and again until you succeed.
I have learned these lessons through my share of battles that I fought partly because
of inexperience, partly because of my strong personality. Looking back, I probably
would have done a few things differently. But having gone through some pretty
tough battles, I have come away with an extremely positive outlook on life – that no
matter what life throws at me, I am prepared.
Be courageous, be deliberate in your approach and skillful in dealing with the bull
that must be tamed. The arena is awaiting its victor.