Watching the movie Suffragettes made me into a feminist. Of course I always believed in women having completely equal rights and security as men but I never gave it much thought. But watching that movie brought me to the horrifying understanding of the alternative, which isn’t a fantasy. It is how it was in the past, with women working for substantially lower wages, working harder, dying from diseases they developed from terrible work conditions, having no protection against rape by husbands, having no rights on their kids, etc. etc. Horrifying.
Since I saw that movie I’ve become much more sensitive and conscious of potentially being treated differently because I’m a woman. I currently live in a very male-dominated world – working in a coworking space where I’m often the only woman and a lot of my friends today are wonderful men.
And one thing I seem to notice is that many men shake hands with each other but not with me. Like, within the same 30 seconds two men might shake hands and then nod at me.
I don’t know how to feel about this. I have felt a little annoyed by it but I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing. Men and women are different and no matter what we do, I’m pretty sure there will always be that awkward tension between the two sexes (well, besides with gays which is a different story, of course) and although I do prefer to shake hands in most cases, there is something nice about having that little bit of distance.
At the same time, it’s just a hand shake. If the person is religious then that’s completely different but there are many non-religious (or at least not outwardly religious) men who have that extra distance and that is a little strange to me.
Entrepreneurship is very important to me. It is this lifestyle that opens up the opportunity for me to develop the ideas I have, work with the people I want to and influence the things that really matter to me.
But it’s also a very difficult lifestyle. I am often trying to figure out not only how to put one foot in front of the other, but which direction to put that foot in. I am forever competing with self doubt in a lifestyle that demands constant decision-making, a balance between ideas and practicality and, of course, all this with the infamous uncertain and unknown future staring right back at me.
I’d like to share some of the philosophies that, when actually practiced, give me the strength to get through the day-to-day life as the woman roaming the streets of Jerusalem, consciously (and self-consciously) offering narrowly-defined services, dreaming of an innovative business with a colleague and almost always juggling too many things at once.
I hope you find this list useful.
1. The impostor syndrome isn’t only bad (most things aren’t only bad)
Many of us are walking around life sure we’re about to be found out as the frauds that we are. We feel like we don’t know enough and we aren’t professional enough and we marvel at the fact that people take us seriously at all.
But recently I saw a new way to look at the impostor syndrome which made me realize the upside of this painful phenomenon. Namely, that if we feel like we don’t know what we’re doing, it is a sign that we’re pushing our limits and trying new things. So, maybe we’re feeling like a newbie because we really are always learning and trying new things, which is a good thing!
Here is the animated gif which I love that inspired this thought:
2. Be really forgiving of people
While working on building up my own thing, there is little space for pettiness. It’s a world of imperfect people and being suspicious or feeling resentment towards them for making mistakes or being inconsiderate, dooms me to a life of tab-keeping. It takes too much energy and people really aren’t usually that bad.
Of course that doesn’t mean we’re never going to get upset and that there aren’t times when it’s important to get upset. But I often experience first hand the benefits of letting things slide and moving on.
3. Keeping self-absorption to a minimum
Working for myself, being my own manager and having to make decisions constantly, are all things which bring up a lot of feelings about myself. I am so aware of the responsibility I hold all on my own that my successes and my mistakes hit home very hard.
And I find it best not to dwell.
I love how my latest blog post came out? Yay! Next. I made a big mistake with my taxes last year? Oy veis mir! Learnt my lesson big-time. Moving on. I think I came off sounding a little stupid in that meeting? Ugh. Anyway… That excellent piece my colleague wrote was based on my idea? Clearly I do know what I’m doing! Woo hoo! MOVING THE FUCK ON.
Because, like in #2, we could spend our entire lives keeping tabs, trying unsuccessfully to figure out if we’re the bee’s knees or impostors indeed, and that’s a waste of a lot of perfectly good energy.
4. Be happy for (and learn from) others
I grew up being taught to “fargin” people their achievements and successes. Only in my adulthood did I find out that fargin is a Yiddish word, not an English one (and it is also a popular Hebrew word – לפרגן). It means to be generous of spirit and to feel truly joyful for people and their accomplishments and good fortune.
For some reason it scares me when others do good work, as though it is a sign that I missed my own boat of success. But I’m aware of the fact that this is a narrow-minded view of the world and so I think it’s good practice to show support to people in their work and celebrate their successes with them. And, of course, we can always use their successes as learning opportunities for ourselves.
5. Always on the lookout for excellent people
Work relationships are intense and important and one of the benefits of independence is having more control over who we work with. Namely, I want to be with professional, kind and idealistic people who I truly respect, trust, enjoy, admire and can relate to.
This might sound like a lot to ask for and sometimes I feel like my pickiness might hold me back, but I also realize that this is of utmost importance to me. And when I do meet people who fit my criteria, it is often exhilarating and with (relative) confidence we can move forward together.
6. Doing things I enjoy
Sometimes I could spend an entire week trudging through annoying work. But this isn’t the reason I’m where I’m at and at those times, I like to ask myself, “What could I choose to do with my time right now that I’d enjoy?” and I try to do that work instead.
When we stop for a moment and make sure to spend time on things we enjoy, that means we can still be productive but also create something which wants to be created and and it will inspire us to continue on.
7. My support network only goes so far
I have a wonderful support network of colleagues, friends and family. I rely on these people often and often heavily, but I have understood over time that the buck stops somewhere. In every situation, at some point we must stop talking, take control, believe in our abilities to make good decisions and move on.
8. Finding inspiration
As many people close to me know, I am in a near-constant state of asking “Why?” Why am I doing what I’m doing? Does it even matter? What does anything matter? Is this where I want to be putting my time? How do I make that decision?
To say the least, this is a strenuous place to be and I’m always looking for ways to either answer the questions, quiet the questions or give a constructive place for them. This is very personal and each person needs to find their own sources of strength and inspiration but here are a few ways in which I inspire myself:
b. I listen to talks and read pieces which touch upon the philosophical and psychological issues I deal with. For example, Krista Tippett’s interviews on “On Being” with deep thinkers from around the world (like this one with David Steindl-Rast where they talk about what gratitude really is) give me the opportunity to find insight into the issues that often sit in my subconscious and not feel alone with my questions.
c. I talk to people who either can relate to my internal process helping me understand and appreciate them more or can offer me different perspectives on them, helping me evolve over time. For example, it is one particular friend who has helped me respect my questioning and understand how it contributes to the work I do, taking mine and my colleague’s ideas to deeper, more innovative places.
d. I remind myself that this is not the last dance but instead just one movement in the composition of my life. Everything has worked up to this point and is continuing to work up to some future unknown point.
9. My personality isn’t a hindrance
Sometimes I get upset at myself, for certain personality traits I possess, and I think that they hold me back. For example, my constant questioning of “Why?” mentioned in #8 has often infuriated me since it makes me lack the carefree spirit which I have idealized in other entrepreneurs as their way to move forwards without always looking back or thinking too much.
But I am reminded, also via the tools I mentioned in #8, that who I am is the reason I do what I do, not the thing that gets in the way. For example, my sensitivity and awareness towards others, though tiring and intense, often allow me to connect with people in wonderful and inspiring ways.
I think that when we’re upset about certain things about ourselves, it’s a good idea to stop for a moment to ask ourselves how these traits might also contribute towards our goals, hopes and dreams, not only holding us back. Because the more we respect who we are, the more we can tap into our unique selves and create our own unique work.
How about you?
If I had written this list a few months ago, it would probably look different. It’ll probably look different in a few months from now too since the things I’m dealing with change and I’m always looking for new ways to deal with the challenges and continue to grow. What helps you stay strong, persevere and carry on?
I think that one of the things I don’t like about networking is that most of us feel the need to act perfect while doing it. Since the supposed goal of networking is to help get yourself business or, at the very least, leave a good impression, being clumsy, acting with a lack of self confidence or, worst of all, acting clueless, is a big no-no.
Lets see some rules for networking that make me want to hide at home. These rules have been paraphrased for anonymity and brevity:
Say something memorable so you’ll be remembered later.
Although I might remember someone who had something interesting to say, the people I’ll remember actively will be 1) nice and 2) have something to say that connects to me in some way. If you try to impress me, I’m outy (and annoyed).
People qualify either as: Potential clients, source of referrals or interesting-but-nothing-more. Realize that not everyone will be a prospect. People can also be useful in other ways.
I really hate the using aspect of networking. I guess it’s the same reason I dread singles events. Instead, be nice, be friendly. Let us learn new things from each other. Don’t treat me like an object through which you can acquire something and I won’t treat you that way.
Always act like you’re on a first date. (From here)
Sounds too difficult if you ask me. And misses the point. Again, you want to be a trust-worthy, kind and professional person. So be that person and then be yourself. OK, a little more difficult than dressing up and waxing the car, but much more to the point.
OK, so what tips would I give for networking? Here ya go:
Be a nice person (not a bad idea for any area of your life). In general, people want to work and associate with nice people.
Act and speak honestly. Don’t be fake and don’t suck up. Try to give an honest picture of who you are and not to put on too much of a show.
Talk to people, and look them in the eye, even if you don’t think you’re going to get anything out of them.
Don’t forget your business (or personal) cards. They are so useful.
Know how to explain what your company does and what you do in not too many words.
Don’t talk about yourself too much.
Those are my rules for networking. They basically comprise being a mensch and carrying business cards. I made it easy so you can remember them easily.