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.
Since a military junta grabbed power of the country in 1962, it has secured its power by rigging elections and suppressing opposition. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi spent 15 of the last 20 years under house arrest after her party, the National League for Democracy, won an overwhelming victory in the 1990 elections but was denied power. In November 2010 elections, Myanmar’s main military-backed party won in a vote again engineered to assure the military’s continued grip on power. The National League of Democracy boycotted this election and called it what it was—undemocratic.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi—who was released from house-arrest November of 2010—and her party, the National League for Democracy, have chosen to participate in elections this time around. On April 1 of this year, Suu Kyi and other pro-democratic candidates will run for 47 of the 48 open seats in Parliament.
Her campaign speech, which will appear on National TV, will mark the first time the Nobel Peace laureate has been given the opportunity to use state media to promote her party’s platform. She calls for amending the 2008 constitution,
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?
“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…
Did you know women are the fastest growing group of armed forces veterans with estimates of growing from 1.8 million in 2010 to 2.1 million by 2036? I didn’t until I read some recent reports.
Women have made great strides throughout the U.S. Military, serving in almost every position now. This is a big change in an organizational culture designed by men for men. Change as we know, can create chaos, or at least the feeling of chaos. This week’s “She’s Doing It” celebrates those brave women in uniform, and looks at how they are using No Excuses Power Tool #5, “carpe the chaos” when Janie comes marching home.
Had you noticed? Today is the 51st anniversary of the U. S. Supreme Court Griswold v Connecticut decision legalizing birth control for married couples under the Constitutional principle of a right to privacy. Nah, probably not.
Figure the odds that anyone is going to pay an iota of attention today to the Griswold anniversary or the new poll that also found voters angry about the Republicans’ attempts to defund Title X family planning services for low income women. Not when they have Weinergate. Talk about someone who has not just lost but thrown away his privacy!
I chose to write about 5 tips for using chaos as opportunity, or as I’ve put it in No Excuses power tool #5: Carpe the Chaos. I recently spoke on this topic to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Women’s Roundtable and the International Museum of Women. In my experience as a leader, it’s a useful concept that got me through tough times when many people thought there was no way to succeed.
There IS always a way, and it really helps to see the opportunity when others see only negativity in change and chaos! Here’s the post:
Gloria Feldt’s No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power has stood near the top of Amazon’s leadership booklist since it was published last October. A teen mom who became CEO of the world’s largest reproductive health provider and advocacy organization, Gloria learned leadership on the job. Now she’s a sought-after speaker, author, and consultant. Here are her tips on how to turn chaos into opportunity:
1. Think positive. Be like Monty Python: Always look at the bright side of life. You might as well. Chaos is inevitable because change is inevitable. And whoever is most comfortable with the ambiguity change creates is most likely to thrive, not just survive.
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!