Supply chain slowdowns. Inflation challenges. Whiplash-inducing markets. Workplace turnover. Return-to-office turbulence. Work-life balance (or lack thereof). Just a few of the issues creating chaos in today’s business marketplace.
Then add in personal challenges such as racism, ageism, sexism, illness, disease, disability, inequality and more, and we’re facing more career and life chaos than ever before. And it’s not going away anytime soon.
Navigating Your Career as an Outsider
If you’re like many women in the workforce today, you’re wondering how to navigate your career through all this fire. Especially because many of us “outsiders” have bought into the myth that big success is reserved for those on the inside, which is to say, people who are born to it or who easily fall into it. That’s because we have been told — either directly or indirectly by employers or bosses, by investors or our own friends and families, by the media or even whispers on the street — that success is for those with the “right” gender or skin color or religion or sexual orientation or socioeconomic status or abilities or connections. Since that is not us, it’s easy to believe success is not for us.
This is especially true for women and those who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), who often have to work much harder than their male or white counterparts in order to get the same opportunities. For example, according to the 2021 “Women in the Workplace” study by McKinsey & Company and the Lean In organization, there is still a “broken rung” at the first step up to manager: “Since 2016, we have seen the same trend: women are promoted to manager at far lower rates than men, and this makes it nearly impossible for companies to lay a foundation for sustained progress at more senior levels … Women of color continue to lose ground at every step in the pipeline – between the entry level and the C-suite, the representation of women of color drops off by more than 75 percent.”
This is unacceptable, and drastic change is needed to achieve parity. Yet the unfortunate truth is that this is our current reality. That’s why important to navigate our chaotic society as it is today.
Overcoming Chaos Makes Us Stronger, Wiser and More Resilient
The good news is that we can use the strengths and skills we have learned as outsiders to our advantage and shift the power dynamic in our favor. We can achieve big success precisely because we are outsiders. We have been made strong by our experiences.
All of us experience chaos, challenges, friction — whatever you want to call it — in our lives. However we label the chaos, it happens to all of us in some way or another. Although it shows up in unique and personal ways (racism, ageism, sexism, abuse, illness, disease, disability, divorce, disconnection, inequality, injustice, and more), everyone deals with chaos. But women and BIPOCexperience it even more intensely, and overcoming chaos makes us stronger and wiser. We become more resilient.
When chaos keeps coming at you from every direction, you develop certain skills, such as situational awareness. Not only can you read the room (or the street or the person or the threat or the opportunity) faster and more accurately than other people, you also may see things that other people don’t see. This gives you the type of vision that ultimately allows you to see what’s around the bed – an incredible gift. You have this strength, though you may need to exercise your muscle a bit before you’re able to fully use it.
We Can Stop Being Burned by the Fire and Become the Fire Instead
I have a code word for the chaos, challenges, and friction. I call it fire.
Why fire? Because throughout the years, there have been many times when the chaos of my life was so bad, it felt as though I had been thrown into a fire. Flame after flame the chaos came, unrelenting in its desire to singe and sear. But by battling each blaze, I became stronger and wiser and less afraid. By rising up to face that fire, and not allowing the flames to engulf me, I took on their strength and engulfed them instead.
Through this process of overcoming, I learned that fire has an energy that can be destructive or constructive. It’s a powerful force that can burn us or forge us. As I tried to avoid getting burned, eventually I simply stopped trying to get out of the fire. Instead, I figured out how to become the fire.
What does this mean — become the fire?
When you become the fire, it means not being in the fire, getting burned, but instead using the fire’s energy to ignite our motivation and drive, passion and grit. It means:
- not waiting for a lucky break, but instead making our own luck by preparing for and creating opportunities.
- not focusing on what we don’t have or can’t do, but instead leveraging what we do have and what we can do.
- that our mindset matters; our choices matter; what we focus on matters; what we do with our time matters.
- that instead of letting the fire burn us, we harness the flames within and use them as opportunities to grow stronger, wiser, braver, and more resilient.
It’s about seeing the fire as fuel to propel our success.
Success in career and life is not dependent on how smooth a path we have. It’s all about mastering our own transformation — from being thrown into the fire to becoming the fire — every single day. By channeling the fire into our passion and purpose, we can literally change our lives.
So, right now, let’s set some intentions
Beginning right now, we will stop thinking-
- of ourselves as lacking or unable or undeserving of success.
- of our differences as weaknesses or traits that hold us back.
- that being outsiders is preventing us from achieving success.
- that the fires in our lives are burning us.
Instead, we will think of:
- ourselves as equipped and deserving and capable of achieving success.
- our differences as strengths and assets to help us move forward.
- our otherness as a vital tool to help us achieve what we want in life.
- life’s chaos as flames helping us become stronger and more resilient.
We will see ourselves engulfing those flames as energy to fuel our success. That we are not being burned by the fire. We are the fire.
This guest post was authored by Elisa Schmitz
In her new book, Become the Fire: Transform Life’s Chaos into Business and Personal Success, Schmitz — a trailblazing Latina entrepreneur — shows how to transform obstacles that can block the progress of women and BIPOC into the unstoppable fuel of success. Schmitz shares her journey of how she sold her first business, iParenting, to Disney; started her current venture, 30Seconds.com; and how other “outsiders” can achieve life-changing success. Learn more at ElisaSchmitz.com.
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