How do women move up the rungs of the success ladder? On the road to a successful career and a fulfilling life, it’s important to stop now and then and embrace wisdom from those who came before us. The quotes below are drawn from powerful women who work hard to create the lives they want to live. How do these lessons apply to your own career journey?
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
“Option A is not available … So let’s kick the s*** out of Option B.”
Sheryl Sandberg is well known for her entrepreneurial accomplishments and empowering speaking engagements. In this case, her quote specifically addresses the courage she felt after the death of her husband. When we want something that simply isn’t available (like the presence of a loved one we’ve lost), it’s time to find a new path.
Mellody Hobson, President of Ariel Investments
“If we can deal with discomfort and just relax into it, we’ll have a better life.”
As the President of Ariel Investments and the chairwoman of several boards, Hobson offers this counter-intuitive, yet valuable, tip. Fearing discomfort and expecting constant perfection can mean avoiding risk and sitting still. In order to change and grow, we have to accept that a certain level of discomfort is healthy and normal.
Melinda Gates, Co-founder of The Gates Foundation
“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”
According to the Co-founder of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (and the former general manager of information products at Microsoft), Gates reminds successful folks that empowerment should be paid forward. Imagine how the world could change if all women made an effort to help a less fortunate lady along the way.
Sandra Day O’Connor, First Female Supreme Court Justice
“It became very important that I perform in a way that wouldn’t provide some reason or cause not to have more women in the future.”
Sandra Day O’Connor—who was appointed by former President Ronald Reagan—stresses the value of considering the larger picture as you pave your own way. When O’Connor graduated from Stanford Law School in 1952 (as third in her class, no less), she had trouble finding a job because firms refused to interview a woman. Don’t forget your struggles—or your peers’—and use them as motivation.
Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Former Secretary of State
“What you know today can affect what you do tomorrow. But what you know today cannot affect what you did yesterday.”
The lessons we learn can change our decisions on the path ahead, but nothing can erase or rewrite what we’ve already done. Don’t dwell on the past, but remember the lessons it taught you. And coming from Dr. Rice—one of the most driven women in recent history—that means a lot.
Sophia Amoruso, Founder of Nasty Gal
“Entrepreneurial people are passionate about what they do, comfortable with taking risks, and quick at moving on from failures.”
This fearless entrepreneurial attitude helped Amoruso forge her way from shopping assistant to founder of Nasty Gal, a highly successful and fast growing clothing empire. Imagine all you could accomplish by moving one quickly after a failure.
Georgia O’Keefe, Artist
“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life—and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”
This brilliant visionary artist transformed the way we see the world, and even she sometimes felt uncertain and faced doubts. But she didn’t let them hold her back. Similar to Mellody Hobson’s advice, never forget that it’s okay to feel intimidated or uncomfortable.
Ariana Huffington, Founder of the Huffington Post
“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes—understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”
Ariana Huffington has led a fascinating life, and her online media empire is a respected eminence. But her rise—like almost every rise to success—has been far from easy. With this perspective, overcoming failures is much easier.
Oprah Winfrey, entrepreneur, media personality, actress
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
Few people know more than Oprah about channeling passionate energy into successful business ventures. When you know what you want, go after it with everything you have. Don’t know what you want? Take note of what topics elicit your enthusiasm, and explore where those roads take you.
Anne Sweeney, former President of Walt Disney
“Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”
Like every other woman on this list, Sweeney understands the value of putting your ego aside and committing to an enterprise that’s bigger than yourself. To get where you you’re going, forge your own path and don’t let anything stand in your way. Avoid comparing yourself to other people.
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