On my 13th birthday, I came home to a huge present, which was rare because my parents never gave me gigantic presents, usually just small gifts.
I was so excited about what was in the big box. I opened it to find just one small envelope. In it were all the local bus schedules, a bus pass and a note that said, “Happy 13th birthday! We’re done driving you around.” I hated it but had no idea at the time that what my parents had really given me was a toolbox full of tools to teach me independence and ultimately, confidence.
These are some of the tools that made me who I am today.
Be an individual.
Nobody ever made history by being quiet or by being a follower. Being “nice, not necessary” doesn’t make a difference, but showing up every day to every meeting with a voice does. To lead the way, sometimes you have to stand out from the pack to do what needs to be done. Don’t be afraid to take a different path or say what others won’t. Being an individual isn’t always easy and it definitely doesn’t mean everyone will like what you have to say, but if you do it with gratitude, vision and wisdom, your intention is good and that’s how you make a difference.
Own your expertise.
Have a point of view, and bring it everywhere you go. At work, it’s your job to have a point of view, so don’t be shy about voicing it. And simultaneously spend just as much time, if not more, listening. You can learn so much from being curious and listening to others. Curiosity keeps you smart, relevant and expands your wealth of knowledge. I live by the motto, “I know what I know. I want to know what you know.”
Fail and learn.
It’s not about failing harder. The prize is learning from failure and moving forward. If we aren’t making mistakes, then we’re not trying very hard and definitely aren’t growing. Don’t be afraid to fail. Fess up when you mess up, learn and keep going.
Put yourself out there and raise your hand any chance you get. When I was 25 years old, I quit my job, sold my car and used the money to travel the world for a year. It changed my life and not just for the experiences, but because of the lessons. It taught me to be a better employee, a problem-solver, to be brave and to chart unknown territory with confidence. Replace your fear with ambition. It will take you further.
Confidence means something different for everyone. You have to find what’s right for you and discover what works best for you as an individual. It takes time to get comfortable in your own skin and to discover who you are and what your unique point of view is. But the fast track to figuring that out is taking chances, raising your hand, being curious every single day and learning when you fail. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it and a hell of a lot more fun than playing it safe.
Today's Woman to Watch is the president of the Austin, Texas-based advertising firm GSD&M, Marianne Malina! She brings an entrepreneurial spirit to the agency, driving the agency’s core purpose: to create ideas that make a difference. Marianne is also a founding member of Times Up advertising whose core mission is dedicated to driving "new policies, practices, decisions and tangible actions that result in more balanced, diverse and accountable leadership; address workplace discrimination, harassment and abuse; and create equitable and safe cultures within our agencies."