This week I have a special 3 Gifts from Whitney Johnson, my co-creator in 40 Women to Watch Over 40 and a true embodiment of a woman disrupting after 40 as an investor, entrepreneur, author and coach. Her class Fundament
1. Take the job / opportunity that will open more doors, not less. The experience and credentials you accumulate in your twenties, will make what you want to accomplish in your thirties, forties and fifties possible. A rather simple example. In high school, I didn’t take calculus. Because I was afraid I couldn’t get an ‘A’. Maybe I could have gotten an ‘A’, if I believed I could have. But, even if I’d had gotten a ‘B’, I still would have gotten into the college that I went to. (And research now suggests that the most successful people in life, haven’t necessarily even gone to the best schools). But by not taking calculus, I made it much more difficult for myself when I was learning to become an equity analyst. And more importantly, by not walking through the more difficult door, I bought into a view of myself that I’m not quite ‘up to it’, that I am working very hard to reverse. All that said, if you haven’t figured it out by your twenties, don’t despair. Research suggests women, in particular, don’t even begin to hit their stride until their 40’s, which is why Christina and I started Forty Women OVER 40 to Watch.
2. Get a coach. You spend thousands of dollars gaining the domain expertise needed to get a job. What I discovered is that once I had gotten in the door, I didn’t know how to get buy-in for myself, and my ideas. So much of my early career travails were not because I wasn’t willing to work hard — or even because I didn’t know what I was doing (though calculus would have helped!) — but because I didn’t know how to navigate the professional terrain. Nothing in my life had prepared me for this. This MAY be something that you learned how to do in college via extra-curricular activities, but probably not. If you want to be successful whether inside a corporation or an entrepreneur, there are organizational maps you need to have, and know how to navigate. None of us would dream of showing up at the Olympics without a coach, why would we show up to our personal professional Olympics without one?
3. Learn to be a ship and a harbor. For most of my twenties and even thirties, even after I had children, I was still overly focused on being a ship, rather than learning to also be a harbor. What do I mean? According to Jungian psychology, every woman and man comes equipped with traits characterized as feminine and masculine, harbor and a ship. Relatedness and nurturing are feminine, while the ability to wield power and control situations are masculine. To become a complete person, we need to develop both. In our society, men tend toward being a ship, women a harbor. And, historically men, have been comfortable delegating the harbor piece to a woman, wife or secretary or COO or both (look at the role of Paige in CBS’ Scorpions). For women, it is much more difficult, because we feel the need and want to set sail to a ship full of dreams even as we struggle to keep our foot on the dock of a personal and family life. Point being, there will be tremendous pressure to choose between one or the other — from lots of stakeholders, including yourself. In part, because it’s hard. In part because, people like us right where we are. It’s important to work through the messiness of doing both. It is harder, but now that I am focusing equally on being a harbor (our children are teenagers) and a ship (chasing career dreams), I am — we are — happier.
Topics include: finding your idea / problem to solve, getting your first customer, writing a business plan, constructing a simple financial model, deciding on a legal structure, marketing your business, building a website, minding cash, managing stress, funding growth, balancing entrepreneurship and life.
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About the author
Whitney Johnson is Managing Director and Founder of Springboard Ventures, investing in high growth women-led businesses. Previously she co-founded the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard’s Clayton Christensen, and was an award-winning equity analyst on Wall Street. She is the co-founder of the list Forty Women OVER 40 to Watch, the author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream, a wife and mother of two teenage children, and is on Fortune’s 2014 list of the 55 Most Influential Women on Twitter. You can follow her on Twitter at @johnsonwhitney.