The Sum – Meaning of the Week: Light

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.” — Warren Bennis.

Word of the week is LIGHT.

As in seeing a path where others have not walked.

As in illuminating big intentions.

As in shining the light that only you can.

Seeing a Path Where Others Have Not Walked

Time Magazine chronicled 45 living female firsts this week and I started to worry. Some of their trailblazers you know well, like Hillary Clinton and Oprah Winfrey; others are less famous but created new paths just as difficult, like Lori Robinson, the first woman to lead a top tier combat command. (BTW, congrats to Rosalind Brewer, just announced as the first woman and first African American COO and Group President of Starbucks though not in the Time article)!

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Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

I Myself Am The Lathe

Introductory note from Gloria: When you write a book, you never know how who will read it or what impression it might make. Imagine how moved I was to stumble across this post by someone I had never met and read her words about how No Excuses had inspired her. Elin Stebbins Waldal really takes the power tools to heart . . . read on and see.

A Twitter post has got me thinking today.

Although I have not met Gloria Feldt—I almost feel I have. After perusing her website and reading a few of her blogs—I feel it in my bones, there is a common ground that we stand on.

I happened upon her Twitter feed this morning and opened her link and read this:

“In No Excuses, I say women don’t yet know what to do with the power everyone else knows we have. That the time has come for women to embrace that power. What are your thoughts? What examples in your own life or your observations about others makes you think this is or is not women’s moment?” –Gloria Feldt

It’s quite possible that I have read Gloria’s question above about a thousand times, seriously, at least a thousand…or that is how it feels. I should state first that I have not read her book, No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Poweryet.

I have however, read her 9 Power Tools, love that—power tools, makes me feel as if I have a Lathe at my disposal—or is it that I myself am the Lathe, capable of re-shaping anything beginning with the way I think about power.

Yes, I myself am the Lathe.

Power, there are a number of definitions that are attached to this word but what I am cleaving to is this:

“A person, group, or nation having great influence or control over others.”

Having once been on the receiving end of being controlled I feel myself recoil at the thought of controlling others. Yet, as soon as that sentence is written my eyes slide back up to the word influence—women possess an innate ability to influence others. I know that Gloria is not suggesting power-over, at all. In fact quite the opposite she is stating that shifting power-to actually equals liberation.

Power tool #2: define your own terms—first, before anyone else does.

Whoever sets the terms of a debate usually wins it. By redefining power not as power-over but as power-to, we shift from a culture of oppression to a culture of positive intention to make things better for everyone.

And therein now lays the unfolded beauty… “A culture of positive intention to make things better for everyone.” Not a person, an entire culture, -talk about powerful.

So back to the question…is this the moment and do I have an example? Yes, I think to myself. “Yes.” I say out loud, I do.

Power Tool #1: Know your history and create the future of your choice.

My history, or the trail behind me, is one nearly void of erudition; my path was blazed by doing, experiencing, living. There was a time when I was over powered and lacked any sense of control—but guess what—it didn’t become the excuse to prevent me from making something out of my life.

The future of my choice…it is hard to describe the drive I have felt to make a difference in this world. Some have described it as a calling. And maybe it is. What I do know is this, I have the power to make a difference in the world—one person at a time and that power comes from sharing my story.

Being born with a gift is a privilege not one to be squandered—my gifts are in writing, in listening, in sharing, in caring, and in being so hell bent on helping people to see that a life that has been beat down, can get back up. That no one is rendered damaged goods without their consent.

Power-to Tool # 3: Use What You’ve Got. What you need is almost always there, in your hands or within reach, if you can only see it and have the courage to use it.

Courage is vital. I think back to the conversation that my husband Jimmy and I had when deciding to independently publish my book. Should I wait for validation from an outside entity to grant me permission to publish my book? For me, the answer was no—because put simply, I was (and still am) convinced the world needs this story now. The risk has been in the cost to develop my book professionally; the hiring of an expert who understood the importance of having key partners to help guide the process—a designer, editors, publicist, distribution…all people who possess the ability, skills, and knowledge to help.

The rewards have already come in—and no I am not talking about money right now. I am talking about something so much more significant. The rewards have been in the responses I have received when speaking, the testimonials written from individuals who have read my memoir, and most of all the comments that come back to me from parents and young women with whom I have had an impact. That has been and will continue to be, powerful.

So thank you Gloria for your words which urged me to think about my power this morning —the manuscript for Tornado Warning, A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect On A Woman’s Life is being uploaded to the printer this week and the timing of your Tweet feels quite serendipitous.

Yes, the time is now for women—

Power Tool #9: Tell your story. Your story is your truth and your truth is your power. Others need and want to hear it as you want and need to hear theirs.

As I read those words again—I smile—we all have a story. Embrace your power. Live a life that has meaning. The time is now women, we must recognize our power, share it with the world and shift from a culture of oppression to a culture of positive intention.