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Open letter to first-time female entrepreneurs

So many times we think we have our lives figured out and then life throws us a curve ball. You feel the urge to do something different, go somewhere different, or be someone different. You have a great idea for a new business, something that feels one hundred percent right, but you don’t know if taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is right for you.

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Is entrepreneurship right for you?

So many times we think we have our lives figured out and then life throws us a curve ball. You feel the urge to do something different, go somewhere different, or be someone different. You have a great idea for a new business, something that feels one hundred percent right, but you don’t know if taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is right for you.

It is. If you feel it in your gut, it is.

Some things in life are worth the risk. The absolute worst thing that can happen if you try is that it doesn’t completely work out and you come up with a new plan. The absolute worst thing that can happen if you don’t try and you place your dreams on the back burner is that you never know what could have been. Life is full of regrets that we cannot avoid; don’t let your dreams be one of them. If you think about your idea constantly, do something about it.

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Find balance in everything

The best advice I was ever given was by my favorite professor. He said, ‘find balance in everything” when we were discussing my career as a scholar and my future as a writer after graduation. Being younger, at first, I wondered what this meant, really. I mean, I was balanced. I worked full-time, went to college full-time and still managed to see my friends and family on the weekends. That felt like balance to me and it probably was at that particular point in my life. However, now that I’m older, I know exactly what he meant (and this is why he was and always will be my favorite professor: he gave students the knowledge, but let them find their own way to the answer).

By “finding balance” he meant don’t let one thing consume you. It’s so easy when you’re just starting out to keep your eye on the prize and not want to give up working on a project to do other things. Those other things are equally important.  Starting a new business can consume you. You’ll forget prior commitments. You’ll forget to eat. You’ll lose sleep. Don’t let it consume you. Instead, schedule breaks and stick to them. Pick a day or time to connect with family and friends. You don’t want to lose sight of “you” outside of work.

Take it step by step, and don’t be afraid to reach out

Starting a business is hard. There will be days you want to give up. You’ll wonder why you ever decided to do this. There will be days you cry. You’ll stress out and shut down. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Start with your idea. Do some research. Develop your plan. Talk to people who have been in similar situations. Use those social media channels to network with like-minded entrepreneurs.

Then, one day, you’ll see part of your plan working. You’ll make progress and you’ll realize you CAN do this. Along the way, if you find there is something that you can’t do, or don’t know how to do, ask for help. Help can come from a family member, mentor, friend, or expert.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. In fact, asking for help can often save you time and money. If you need a professional website and don’t have a great deal of experience, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. I did this many times when I started as a freelance writer.

Believe that it’s possible

Prioritize what matters and don’t worry about what you can’t control. Stress is always the enemy. Believe in yourself. Believe in your idea, your team, your project and your goals. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t do it. You can. The risk of failure is minimal when you finally realize your dream. Every champion was once a contender. Every pro was once an amateur. Every expert was once a beginner. So dream big and start now.

#WhoRunTheWorld

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Opinion Editorials

You already blew your new year’s resolutions, but it’s not your fault

(EDITORIAL) Your new year’s resolutions are already making you feel like a failure. The whole process is flawed – let me tell you why it’s not your fault (yet).

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It’s estimated that only about 8.0 percent of people keep their new year’s resolutions. Most fail by the end of January, and here we are – almost at the end of the month. But it’s not your fault (yet) – let’s discuss.

Face it, you’re doomed before you ever get started. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, if you don’t approach it the right way, you’ll never reach it. If you really want to change your life in 2019, you’re going to have to get serious.

Here’s my innovative approach. Stop making resolutions.

Making new year’s resolutions sounds good in theory. But they’re really problematic. New year’s resolutions often don’t take into account what is realistic. Resolutions don’t let you adjust when life gets in the way. You’re setting yourself up for failure when you make resolutions. You may have good intentions, but you know you’ll fall back into your old habits.

What’s the solution?

A resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” Changing your behavior isn’t that easy. Psychology Today offers eight different reasons why it’s so difficult to make long-term sustained change.

The all-or-nothing thinking of resolutions traps you into a no-win situation.

To really make change, you’re going to have to approach it differently. Resolutions tend to come from negative emotions. Real change comes from place of self-edification. Resolutions tend to be sweeping changes. You determine to completely change your lifestyle. Small habits are easier to implement. Over time, those small changes can become big changes.

Setting goals is good. Breaking down your goals into bite-sized pieces helps you reach those goals. Want to lose weight? Instead of jumping in and throwing out all the sugar in your cupboards, work with a dietician for a month to see where you can make changes to your meals that fit your lifestyle.

Failure is a given.

Know that you’re going to mess up. Failure is part of the process. It helps you learn where to put your attention and energy. Coming home late and eating a pizza instead of something healthier isn’t a reason to stop trying to lose weight. It just means that you need to think about the reasons that caused you to blow your diet. Was it lack a planning? Did you just need comfort food? Was it just convenient? Look back at why you indulged to meet the challenge next time.

Give yourself a break.

Change isn’t easy. Don’t keep kicking yourself when you don’t hit your goals. Consider what’s keeping you back. Maybe the goals aren’t a priority right now. Maybe you’re taking on too much. Maybe the timing isn’t right. Maybe you have other commitments that need your resources.

Make 2019 your best year by not setting resolutions, but by making small changes in your life.

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Opinion Editorials

Do women that downplay their gender get ahead faster?

(OPINION) A new study about gender in the workplace is being perceived differently than we are viewing it – let’s discuss.

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The Harvard Business Review reports that women benefit professionally when they downplay their gender, as opposed to trying to focus on their “differences” as professional strength.

The article includes a lot of interesting concepts underneath its click-bait-y title. According to the study by Professors Ashley Martin and Katherine Phillips, women felt increasingly confident when they pivoted from focusing on highlighting potential differences in their perceived abilities based on their gender and instead gave their attention to cultivating qualities that are traditionally coded as male*.

Does this really mean that women need to “downplay” their gender? Does it really mean women who attempt this get ahead in this world faster?

I don’t think so.

The article seems to imply that “celebrating diversity” in workers is akin to giving femme-identified employees a hot pink briefcase – it actually calls attention to stereotyped behaviors. I would argue that this is not the case (and, for the record, rock a hot pink briefcase if you want to, that sounds pretty badass).

I believe that we should instead highlight the fact that this study shows the benefits that come when everyone expands preconceived notions of gender.

Dr. Martin and her interviewer touch on this when they discuss the difference between gender “awareness” and “blindness.” As Dr. Martin explains, “Gender blindness doesn’t mean that women should act more like men; it diminishes the idea that certain qualities are associated with men and women.”

It is the paradox of studies like this one that, in order to interrogate how noxious gendered beliefs are, researchers must create categories to place otherwise gender-neutral qualities and actions in, thus emphasizing the sort of stereotypes being investigated. Regardless, there is a silver lining here as said by Dr. Martin herself:

“[People] are not naturally better suited to different roles, and [people] aren’t better or worse at certain things.”

Regardless of a worker’s gender identity, they are capable of excelling at whatever their skills and talent help them to.

*Though the HBR article and study perpetuate a binary gender structure, for the purposes of our discussion in this article, I expand its “diversity” to include femme-identified individuals, nonbinary and trans workers, and anybody else that does not benefit from traditional notions of power that place cisgendered men at the top of the social totem pole.

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Opinion Editorials

Why I paused my career to raise our child

(OPINION) Our children are like tiny little sponges that absorb everything that we give them — your job and the sentiments it produces and evokes included.

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I never dreamed of being a stay-at-home-mom. Not in a million years did I think I’d find myself choosing to press pause on my career, but here I am, a mother for just nine months, doing just that.

HBR recently published an article about how our careers impact our children focusing on parental values and the emotional toll of our career involvement on our families. It got me thinking about my own childhood.

Growing up, my parents’ discussion of work was almost always negative. A job was something you had to do whether you liked it or not. As a child, I listened to my parents fight over money; I observed them in constant worry about the future. I watched them stress over unsatisfying jobs.

There was never any room for risk, no money to invest in a new career path, and no financial cushion to fall back on to give a new career time to grow.

Later, when choosing a path of my own, I would often wonder what my parents had wanted to be or who they could’ve been if they would’ve been able to choose careers they might’ve thrived in. All I ever knew is that my parents hated their jobs. While they’re on better financial footing now, the residue of their negativity persists in the career choices of their children.

While I was pregnant, I was working at an international tech startup in Silicon Valley. The company suffered from poor leadership; the week I was hired, my team quit and I was left to piece together a position for myself. The company continued to flounder, its culture unable to recover from interim toxic leadership.

I constantly worried about my son and the stress of a toxic culture on my pregnancy. Going into the office made me anxious. Leaving left me feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Instead of imagining a bright, beautiful baby boy, I closed my eyes and saw a dark and anxious bundle of nerves. Of course, I blamed myself for everything.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, I promised my baby that when he arrived, I would do things differently. This would be the last time I accepted a job that I only felt lukewarm about. Never again would I participate in a culture that could diminish my talents and self-worth. I’d seen this kind of thing during my childhood and I’d be damned to repeat it.

During my career, I’ve watched coworkers hire full time live-in nannies, missing their baby’s developmental milestones and their children’s school events. I listened as one CMO talked about moving into his backyard yurt when the pains of parenthood became too much for him. He left his three preteen sons alone to fend for themselves in the mansion they shared in Silicon Valley.

We pride ourselves on the amount of work we put into our careers, but we rarely measure our success through the eyes of our children.

Children are mimics, they absorb everything we do, even during infancy. So, what are we offering them when we abandon them to make conference calls from yurts? What message are we sending them when our eyes are glued to texts, emails and push notifications? What are we teaching them when we come home stressed out, energy depleted and our values compromised?

We try “disrupting” anything these days so what about the working parent model? Would it be worth it?

My husband and I decided that it was and we’re doing things differently.

My husband works in the service industry. He doesn’t leave for work until late in the afternoon which means he spends all day with our son. At nine months old, my son has a strong emotional relationship with his father.

I carve out time during my days and nights to schedule writing work. I’ve recently returned to freelancing and I find that when I’m working with clients I believe in and doing work that I enjoy, we’re all much happier.

Everyone who’s ever had children says the first year goes by incredibly quickly. It’s true. My career will be there next year and for years after that. My son is only a baby once and I wouldn’t miss it for all the money in the world.

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