The Secret of the World’s Most Confident Women
Contrary to what you might think, the research in UNDETERRED: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies reveals that the world’s most confident women — the women with the least fear of “failure” — are in developing countries, NOT in the most advanced economies. Western women, women in the richer, more developed countries, are the ones who are more easily set back by perceived failures.
In many regions of the world, however, shame is a powerful motivator, so the potential not to succeed is avoided at all costs. It takes strong, determined, confident women to risk social stigma from undertaking their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Many women in our community have found success on paths that led them first through failure. Their experiences show that their “failures” have helped them reach what they now define as their success.
‘Plan A’ is not always Plan Success
Melek Pulatkonak, founder of Turkish Women’s International Network, had specific academic plans and professional goals as a young student. She studied abroad at the London School of Economics, and wanted to complete a PhD in gender studies to equip her to be a leader in Turkish economic policy. However, she didn’t receive the funding she needed to enter the program she planned for.
Melek refused to be deflated and moved to the U.S. with a family member. She diligently applied to a wide variety of jobs, landing one at the New York Stock Exchange. From there, her career took more twists and turns, and she got a job Microsoft’s Global Startup Group based in Istanbul.
Sharing her story, Melek relates that plan A is often not the success plan–it’s just a starting point. She learned to stick to her values, but to be constantly open to new ways of achieving success. This resilience comes from a belief that there are many ways to reach one’s definition of success. “If plan A doesn’t materialize, something better often will.”
Choosing Failure to find Success
Unmana Datta, marketing professional and blogger found that her endeavors as an entrepreneur helped her achieve her own success in ways she would not have planned for herself. After several years of work, she chose to shut down her startup company because it was not bringing her closer to the success she wanted or the values she had defined for herself.
Now having left the startup, she is finding herself successful in pursuing the values her startup didn’t allow for: living in a bigger city, reading and writing more, getting involved in her community, and having a steady paycheck. Working on and eventually shutting down her start up also taught Unmana valuable lessons about herself, her skill set, and her personality, all of which are now contributing to her more successful lifestyle.
“All of this helped me figure out so much about myself. In a job, you specialize at doing one thing, or at most, a few things, well. As an entrepreneur, you need to do so much more. This helped me figure out what I am good at and what I am not, and when I started looking for a job, I looked for something that fit not only with my skills but also with my personality.”
Failure is the Only Way to Succeed
Hope Mwinzi is a Kenyan entrepreneur, magazine publisher, business speaker and blogger at Afropreneurdiary.com. She believes that going through failure, even big failures, is the only way to succeed. As a young professional, she never expected that she would experience “outright failure” more than once as she formed her now successful entrepreneurial career.
“My business has evolved so much over the past years. I have dropped business lines, set up new ideas, failed again, re-adjusted my path, fallen out with partners in the business, fired an entire team overnight, lost an entire magazine a week before a launch, had months where meeting my payroll was more of a vision than a reality and many more terrifying stories . . . In the past two months, I have been looking at failure with a new set of eyes and begun appreciating the key things I have learnt out of failing several times.”
While a new entrepreneur might think that running with the newest, coolest idea is the way to go, Hope points out that your own passion is the only thing that will keep you working through the difficulties of entrepreneurship. For her, the path to success has meant moments of throwing out ideas, letting go of an entire magazine, losing partners and employees, and sacrificing personal time. Hope further believes that if you pursue something that you believe in, the failures will simply help you hone your focus and that focus will bring you through.
Women entrepreneurs often feel heavy social pressure to succeed at first try and to maintain face in the public eye. However, if you find yourself working through a series of failures, realize that those may be actually pulling you closer to the success you’ve defined for yourself. As you define your own values and motivations for success, you can, like these three women, embrace the moments of failure as they lead you closer to your success.
“As you encounter failure, remind yourself of its inevitability. Think instead about how you are building self confidence from being realistic about your capabilities and how your goals are taking you beyond what you achieved in the past.” – UNDETERRED, Habit 3: Focus, p.175