Continuing the series of asking women I interviewed when I was writing No Excuses “What have you learned about your relationship with power since we talked?” here is a beautiful essay from Kristal Brent Zook explaining her answer about a very personal choice.
How Gloria Feldt’s No Excuses Reminded Me of My Power
Not long ago, my friend Gloria Feldt, author of No Excuses, asked me to take another look at her 9 ways women can embrace power to see if any of the strategies had resonated lately, in the year or so since the initial release of her book.
Since we all know how political the personal will always be, I thought immediately about the upheavals of the past year in my home life.
Last February, my husband and I decided—on a whim, really—to relocate from Manhattan to the suburbs of Long Island.
“Why not leave the city?” we asked ourselves. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Get some fresh air. A yard. A real house. It would shorten my commute to Hofstra University; and of course, we would be saving all that money.
A charming, two-story 1923 Colonial about 30 miles east of the city caught our eye: it was more than 5,000 square feet, with two sun rooms and front and back yards. The rent was $1,200 less than our midtown high-rise, and ditching New York City taxes meant another $1,000 a month in savings.
“Let’s do it!” we agreed excitedly, handing over a check for the first month’s rent.
Are there generational differences in women’s relationship with power?
When I started writing No Excuses, I wanted to interview young women in their 20’s to learn about their relationships with power. Media relations professional and digital strategist Jen Nedeau, then 24, brought together several of her friends for a frank and far reaching conversation.
Jen, who seems to have been born knowing her power, blew me away with her poise, sense of balance, and that power of intention that many women of all ages need to be urged to pursue. See what I mean in her update—she must keep those power tools in her purse, because she uses them so proficiently to deal with the ups and downs of life. (As befitting a digital strategist, you can follow Jen on Twitter @JenNedeau.)
Gloria Feldt: In No Excuses, I asked, “When did you know you had the power to_____?” What have you learned about your power to ______ during the past year or so?
Jen Nedeau: When I spoke to you for the book, we talked about finding the “power source. ” For me, few experiences have been more profound in discovering my own source of power than the past three years I’ve spent in New York. Since moving here, I watched a company I once worked for go bankrupt, I’ve been robbed three times, lived with far too many random roommates and I had to stare down an army of cockroaches on a regular basis in my old apartment in the Lower East Side.
But if the company I worked for hadn’t gone bankrupt, I probably would not have started my own consultancy and secured a variety of clients in the arts, media and non-profit worlds—proving to myself that I could make it on my own—before taking a job with a major magazine publisher. After two years of living here, I was able to move out of my cramped apartment in the Lower East Side and into a studio apartment, which I am glad to say is thus far, free of Manhattan’s favorite pests.
All of these challenges, big and small, helped me learn that I have the power not only to survive life’s challenges, but succeed despite them. Now, at age 27, I can say that even a bit of struggle can reap big rewards. I am enjoying my life here, meeting amazing people and working on interesting projects, but more importantly, I know that no matter what happens, I have the ability to make it on my own. And independence, in any form, is one of the most empowering tools in the toolbox.
GF: Was there a moment when you felt very powerful recently? Was there a moment when you felt powerless?
For the first year in over a decade, my husband Alex and I won’t be with our large blended and extended family in Arizona. We’ll miss them, sure. And we’ll miss family traditions, like debating whether Alex’s white bread stuffing or my cornbread dressing is better. Then there’s my daughter’s insistence that we serve the green jello mold my mother used to make, the one that packs more calories and cholesterol into anything else you’ve ever called “salad.”
This just seemed like a good year to shake things up. Perhaps it’s the influence of unpredicted social changes like Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street that are shaking up the political world. (Read my recent post on what OWS has accomplished.) Or maybe it’s simply that we felt we were getting into a rut…
I can’t wait to read Joanne Tombrakos’s new and first novel, The Secrets They Kept and you are going to see why below. After reading Joanne’s story, I think you’ll join me in running out to buy her book. At least I hope so.
Joanne and I met at an 85 Broads breakfast a couple of years ago when we shared our stories of making purposeful life transitions. I’ve admired her writing on her blog ever since. And just look at how she’s applied the 9 Ways Power Tools!
When Gloria Feldt extended the invitation for me to be profiled in this column I quickly accepted. And who wouldn’t? After all this was Gloria Feldt. Best selling author and activist for whom I hold such high esteem.
I was honored. I was excited. Until the waves of nausea washed over me. What was I doing that was worthy of a profile in this column? Certainly not curing cancer or feeding the starving in Africa.
Not a particularly commanding statement when invited to write on a blog whose subject matter is about women and power.
But forced, as I have been to think about it, the truth is I am doing it. My way…
I had the honor to meet Sergeant Bernadette Smith at the YWCA Women’s Leadership Conference in Tucson. We had written back and forth, as she had contacted me via this website after discovering No Excuses in a local bookstore. Once I met her in person I knew she was someone you had to meet. She is the epitome of “Power-To” utilized gracefully in a very male-centric profession. As you’ll see she also has a keen sense of humor about it.
Here is her inspiring story for this week’s “She’s Doing It.”
“Get real,” several readers e-mailed. It reminded me of the cartoon a colleague once gave me, bearing the caption: “When you’re up to your a** in alligators, it’s hard to remember your goal was to drain the swamp.”
In a time of economic chaos, when many people are desperately trying to keep those writhing reptiles from nipping off their knees, lofty vision talk sounds unrealistic.
It’s difficult to keep your eyes on the prize, your focus on the vision, your hand steady to the wheel when the assumptions you thought were well grounded turn out to be quicksand. But a counterintuitive skill that can help you thrive in times of change and disruption is to embrace chaos as opportunity…
The big presidential “Jobs Speech” has been delivered, and Obama’s now on the road to garner support.
Expectations were high for this speech. The most important takeaway from my perspective was that Obama’s passion had returned, and his energy was higher than we’ve seen in a long while. Finally, after years of tossing the agenda setting responsibility to a Congress functionally unable to lead, he presented a specific proposal and exhorted Congress in no uncertain terms: “Pass this jobs bill.” Thank goodness. Even the Republicans responded with a more respectful and measured rhetoric afterward. This week’s Round Up offers a selection of pieces that respond to the speech. What did you think about it? Please share…
It’s been quite a week between the lawmakers in Washington taking the debt-ceiling deal to the 11th hour and yesterday being one of the worst days in the financial markets since 2008. Yet despite all the chaos, this Friday’s Round Up is going deploy Power Tool #5 ‘Carpe the Chaos’ and keep marching forward to highlight some of the good, not just the bad and the ugly – we’ve had quite enough of that…
Wednesday, Oct. 2-Nov. 13, 2013Gloria will teach a 6-week online course "9 Practical Leadership Power Tools to Advance Your Career".This is a Take The Lead event in partnership with Arizona State University Online. Participants will receive a certificate to enhance their resumes along with practical skills and understanding of power dynamics in the workplace. Don't miss this opportunity and register today!