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Thought-Provoking Questions

Often, when I am booked for lectures or radio and television interviews, I am provided questions in advance to help me prepare. Some of the questions are provocative, the kind that make me stop and think. So much so, I am sharing a few here with my replies.

1. What are three principles you live by?
a) "Identify the fear and then go there." Usually I'm afraid because it is something I have never done before, and so I figure I will at least learn something new. I always ask myself: What is the worst-case scenario? If it's one I can deal with, I go for it.
b) "Not everything worth doing is worth doing well." Being stuck striving for perfection will not allow you to move on. For me, this pertains to writing. It is never finished and can always be improved upon. But at some point, it must be abandoned. Of course, this does not apply to everything; be sure to use discernment.
c) "Maintain an open mind." I try to not be judgmental or assume that I know best. I listen and attempt to understand other points of view, seeing them in the contexts of culture and personality. When presented with a new opportunity, I ask myself: Will I learn something?

2. Do you believe nature or nurture has more impact?
People are born with specific tendencies; some children are shy, some are outgoing. This is a natural component of our genes, but then life experiences also impact our brains. Successes can reinforce behavior while failures discourage future attempts. So it is both. First it is nature, then nurture. Both have an equal influence.

3. What do you wish you knew then that you know now?
I wish I had not cared so much about what other people thought of me. As women, we try to please others more than necessary. Speak the truth as often as possible and be willing to be disliked, but respected.

4. What did you wish to be when you were a child?
My childhood dream was to be a poet. I won a poetry contest for a poem I wrote when I was eight. This early success inspired me to continue writing poems, which I still do today.

5. What role does luck play in success?
Obviously, luck plays a part--you have to be at the right place, at the right time, with the right people. However, success is also "opportunity meeting preparation." I am always scanning my environment to look for ways to make a contribution and a difference.

6. What are the barriers to female leadership?
"MEN!" There is still gender discrimination, both conscious and unconscious, even by well-meaning men. Our culture continues to be dominated by male values, and, in the majority of cases, even when shown the same resume with a male or female name, men are chosen over women for both promotions and as new hires.

7. What was your biggest challenge?
a) Acceptance. As the only woman on the faculty of a business school, the first woman in a Rotary Club, the only female consultant in all-male organizations, I faced issues of acceptance. I did not try to blend in, as I knew this was not possible, so I stood out by wearing red suits, sitting on the arms of chairs to make me look taller (I am barely 5 feet tall).
b) A close second was being ignored--not only feeling invisible, but, also, not heard, and (when earned) not rewarded.

8. What changes in the workplace would you like to see?
I would like to see flexible working hours as a norm at work. This would permit time off not only for child-related needs, but, also, for the increasing needs of aging parents. Men must be provided with the same opportunity to take an equal share of these responsibilities without negative consequences in the workplace. What do you attribute your success to?
The willingness to ask the first question, using an assertive voice, looking others in the eye while conversing, giving credit when credit is due, looking and sounding confident (even when I do not feel that way), being well-prepared by knowing the agenda and relevant facts, and lastly, believing in myself.

9. What are the three rules you live by?
a) First of all, have fun. b) Do no harm. c) Be as helpful to as many people as possible.
I am urging you, my readers, to do the same. Think of each question as it relates to you, your values, philosophies, experiences, your life overall. Take time to answer these questions honestly and you might gain new insights--perhaps discover some unconscious motivations.

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