How I learned not to make my weaknesses my strength, and the surprising routine that can hold you back.
When I began in this industry I had two things going for me. I was curious and had a fierce work ethic. I would volunteer my nights and weekends to learn from amazing people with varied backgrounds who were willing to teach me their craft. I observed how different creative directors would approach a project. Different writers would script a promo. Different executives would run a meeting or assemble their teams. When onset, I witnessed first hand Directors, Directors of Photography, AD’s and Gaffers all moving about independently to create something magical together.
I was a sponge. A thirsty one. Like one of those freakishly large ones that you use to wash your car. I took in everything. But my one problem, and it’s a big one, was that I lacked the confidence to wring the water out. I bottled up a lot of what I learned because I was too nervous to speak up in meetings. I think this is a common problem for many women in my field (and likely all fields). I was taught from an early age to be polite, quiet, act like a lady and not to be too aggressive. I was patterned not to trust myself or my instincts and it was eating me alive. But worse, it was starting to compromise my ability to flourish. And I had actual female role models who were not shy to speak their mind. So, why did I find it so hard to bare my ideas and place them at the feet of the decision makers?
One word: Judgment.
Creatives are sensitive people. This isn’t new news. I have been one, managed many and looked up to hundreds. But, I didn’t actually transform into a true creative until I shed my insecurities and bad habits and instead trust my instincts. For me, this finally happened when I became a manager to other creatives. I knew that I could not encourage them to be fearless if I myself wasn’t fighting for my own ideas. I saw that they needed to see a warrior in those pitch meetings and not a waffling weakling. They needed to see true confidence. Don’t just Lean In. Study outside of your comfort zone.
Don’t just lean in. Study outside of your comfort zone.
So, little by little, I practiced how to present myself and my concepts in a way that would inspire and excite those top executives making the decisions. I learned to listen. I collaborated with my partners in strategy to position ideas steeped in research. I branched out and explored more authors, visited more museums, studied architecture, picked up a camera and devoured color theory. And one day I looked in the mirror to find a pretty bad ass butterfly staring back.
It was not an easy process. Not a quick one either. But I successfully evolved by identifying a range of positive traits and pushing hard towards them.
And I owe it all to hard work and curiosity. So. I leave you with this rallying cry – Never stop learning. Never stop pushing yourself. Never stop believing you can evolve. Fly free from judgment. Friend and colleague, Joel Pilger, recently posted a great quote from mentor Dan Sullivan that sums it up nicely. “If you spend too much time working on your weaknesses, all you end up with are a lot of strong weaknesses.”