Fuck Getting it Right

I woke up this morning thinking about what ambitious people really want.

We want to feel confident and clear. We want to know that focusing our attention in one area will create the impact we wish to see.

Most of us have been socialized to believe that our role in life is to please others, to get “it” right, that our responsibility is to make other people happy. This tends to be taught to us in so many ways, so imperceptibly, that for most people — and particularly women — we don’t realize that this is simply one version of how things can be.

How this shows up in many of our lives is that we ignore or discount our needs and our boundaries in order to do what we see as necessary to keep the peace.

So here’s what I want to help you to create. I want to help you see that the fastest and most effective route to success, joy and happiness is not by jumping through hoops or doing things the way you might think other people want them done, but rather by digging into your own unique superpowers and deep knowing and by showing the world what true leadership looks like.

Let me tell you a story. About five years ago I was working in one of Canada’s leading venture capital firms. I was, in fact, working so hard that I burned out within the first few months of being there. I had been given a huge workload and tight deadlines: leading the PR on a fund announcement, planning for a 10 year anniversary celebration for the firm, plus taking over a rebrand that was in progress when I started but needed to be completed before the fund announcement and big celebration.

What perplexed me and led to the burnout was that I encountered roadblocks at every turn. I went into these projects with excitement and energy and was met with resistance. I had been given the impression that I would have leadership and control over my projects and yet I was met with challenges on even the smallest details and aspects of what I was doing.

I remember waking up at 4 o’clock every morning in a panic as I got closer and closer to my deadlines, unable to fathom why the people I was working with needed to make everything so difficult for me, why rather than feeling supported and empowered, I was having to fight for my ideas and in just about every case I was losing the fights and needing to change tactics every few days as our managing partner had changes of heart and came up with new ideas he wanted me to implement.

I finally did pull it off, but only because I worked insane hours and lost a lot of sleep over these projects. I had gone into survival mode: I was doing everything I could to please our managing partner who, at the time, needed to put his stamp on everything and was constantly rethinking everything so that what he approved one day he would fight or question a week later.

Fast forward a couple of years and we were doing 360 reviews at work. When I got my review back I learned that my boss, our managing partner, had assessed that I had no integrity or creative courage. From the answers he gave to the survey, the results were tabulated at zero for each of those attributes.

Now, I have always seen myself as a person with inspiring creative ideas and a lot of integrity. To say that this stung is a massive understatement. The feedback I got from my coach was to remember that this didn’t just reflect on me but on the relationship I had with the person reviewing me. With deeper reflection, it was clear that in this particular relationship, I had learned to make myself small, to defer to what he wanted, and to always favour his ideas because it honestly didn’t feel like it was worth the fight to push back.

This realization was a huge because it helped me realize that I actually would have gained more respect from my boss and likely my other colleagues had I been more outspoken and less accommodating. By trying to keep everyone happy, I was compromising across-the-board and they didn’t respect me for it.

That was the beginning of an incredible period of growth for me. While the review felt like a slap in the face and part of me wanted to climb into a hole and disappear, after I realized just how much I was seen as an approval-seeker (which I was) and that this wasn’t actually serving me or the firm, I was able to give myself permission to step into being truly creatively courageous. I had nothing to lose. I had already seen that my attempts to “get it right” and the lengths I went to please others and keep myself “safe” were not really working.

From that time, I started to take responsibility for how I was being at work and home. With a lot of reading and introspection, plus the invaluable support of numerous coaches and training programs, I began to let go of the stories I had about how I was supposed to behave, what I needed to do, and how I needed to be in order to win approval.

I learned how to source approval from within. I learned in an embodied way what it feels like to take responsibility for yourself and not to try to manipulate others’ responses or impressions. For the first time, I learned that by showing up for myself I was better able to show up and be a stand for other people and their growth.

It changed everything. While I had always known that I had great ideas and I am eminently capable, the type of confidence I developed was not arrogance, but stemmed from a deep source of self trust and self knowledge. I learned to hold my ideas lightly and simultaneously to bring others into my vision in a way that inspired them and fostered collaboration.

I learned how to set strong boundaries around what I was willing and unwilling to do. One of my responsibilities at that job was our content creation and thought leadership — I was often ghostwriting articles for our partners. At the beginning of my tenure I would bend over backwards to make things happen within certain time periods. But I learned that if I was always accommodating the partners and letting them miss deadlines, and not being honest with them about how it impacted me, I would always be behind and feel hugely stressed out because they didn’t recognize that their poor time management made my work impossible. While it felt really scary to stand my ground, I believe I helped the people I worked with by modelling what it looks like to follow through on obligations and be truly accountable.

This is what I believe leadership looks like. And knowing that my superpower is to help others to see things differently, I left that job to teach and coach others to really show up for themselves so that they can show up for others too.

Really showing up means trusting yourself in situations where others may have louder voices or more perceived power. It means learning to love all of the parts of yourself and rather than hiding the bits that feel like they’re too much, practicing acceptance and self-compassion so that you can harness all of your energy and direct it toward doing the good you want to do.

I meet with so many women, in particular, who feel stuck because of perfectionism or because they don’t trust themselves or because they have spent so much of their lives trying to “get it right”. Fuck getting it right. The people who make the greatest impact in the world, the people who live the most fulfilled lives, the people who make real change are not typically concerned with what everyone else thinks. They are following their own inner compass. By learning to trust yourself, by learning to step into your purpose, by taking leadership, by taking full responsibility for how you are being in the world, you can create the impact, change and prosperity you want.

The first step? Recognize that despite the fear, you know you’re ready to lead.

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