The Pivot That Turns Challenge Into Growth: What These Inspiring Women Know

Portrait of group of businesswomen standing together in office

Some people know how to turn lemons into lemonade. My grandmother was one of those people until the end. She died a few months shy of 101 years old, and although she was in severe physical pain for her last decade of life, she never stopped living. I could feel her can-do attitude in the face of her adversities, her determination to show up at her best no matter what the circumstances. She met challenging situations with an unshakable optimism, and that was her formula for growth.

We can all learn something from my Nana. At least, I know I can.

I’m inspired by the people who walk down this path of thriving. Because, we all have plenty of challenges, a fact of life that isn’t going to change. Yet we also have the power of choice.

Just this week, stories of three women leaders reminded me how important it is to choose growth. They are examples of turning frustration into fuel for connection, of actively using tools already at our disposal to make positive change, and of never letting age define the meaning that lies ahead. These women are willing to uncenter themselves to define who they are, and to take actions that hold themselves and others in the highest regard. I hope they inspire you as well.

  • Jennifer Maddox—As a black female police officer in South Side Chicago, a place where she was also born and raised, Jennifer has seen her share of crisis. A level of shootings that made 2016 Chicago’s deadliest year. Friction between residents and the police at an all-time high. Young people who are fearful to go outside. So, Jennifer recently created Future Ties, an organization with a vision to provide a free, safe space for 1,200 South Side children to learn and succeed. The organization helping kids gain a sense of belonging, and it is strengthening bonds between disparate factions of the community. “I saw lack of opportunity, lack of resources, lack of community spaces for young people, and it sparked something inside of me,” Jennifer says. Rather than ignoring that spark, she listened to it, turning her frustration into fuel to build something worthwhile. (Want to know more about Jennifer’s story? Listen here.)
  • Sallie Krawcheck—Sallie is known as one of the most powerful women in the financial industry. After quite public divorces with CitiBank and Bank of America’s then new division Merrill Lynch, she started Ellevest, a digital platform with a clear aim to close the gender investing gap. When it comes to advancing women, however, Sallie hates “empowerment” because the definition of the word—to give someone power—implies women are already lesser or lacking. She also doesn’t believe women should act like men to fit into male-dominated corporate structures. In our technology-enabled world, she advocates they achieve their goals by taking hold of the power already at their fingertips—women today direct 80 percent of consumer spending, control $5 trillion in investable assets, and represent more than half of the workforce. Women can more actively purchase products and invest money in companies that align with their values, and they can carve out innovative work paths, from freelancing to startups, if they can’t find a good fit in traditional corporations. Easy? No. But it’s a necessary pivot for redefining power from within rather than from without, plus to make a meaningful impact. (Check out Sallie’s new book, Own It: The Power of Women at Work.)
  • Mary Higgins Clark—With 52 mystery novels authored, at age 89 Mary is the queen-of-suspense. But little do most folks know: her father died when she was a child making her one-parent childhood, in her words, like “flying with one wing.” She lost her first husband early into their marriage yet still had five children to support. And she received 40 rejection letters at the start of her writing career. One letter even said, “Mrs. Clark, your stories are light, slight and trite.” To which she thought, “I’ll get you, girl.” Mary’s tenacity to confront criticism with “just watch me” boldness makes me smile. (Her new book, All By Myself, Alone, is in stores now, with another book coming soon at age 90.)

If you’d like to learn more about how to activate growth and thriving in your life, leadership and organization—and contribute to the growing movement to accelerate thriving globally—please contact me at renee@wisdom-works.com.  

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