Business 04 April 2018
Failing is one constant in life that even the most successful of people face. In fact, I have spent the majority of my 20s failing. But there is a simple three step process to overcome it.
Around the end of 2010, I received an eviction notice. This was after I had stopped paying my electricity bill for six months straight. I was microwaving my burritos from 7-11 in the hallway of the apartment complex because my fridge didn’t work and there were no lights at home. At that time, I had called my mother. I told her that I was going to spend the rest of my life under a bridge and wished her a wonderful life. She called my grandmother and next thing you know, my grandmother had picked me up and told me that I needed to live with her. I didn’t really have any other choice, except for hunting for a new place to live under a bridge somewhere in Los Angeles, so I obliged.
While living with my grandmother, I felt hopeless. I just lost my home. Everything I tried working on failed. My former girlfriend didn’t want anything to do with me. Most my friends turned their backs on me. And I really didn’t have a plan on how to get ahead. So I spent my time playing video games and watching TV.
This didn’t last long though, because my grandmother was tired of me staying at home and doing nothing. She started yelling at me and told me that I needed to find a job. If you have ever had an Asian grandmother yell at you, it is by far one of the scariest things in the world. I felt obligated to find any job I could so she would stop yelling. Then there it was, my first interview for a position at a startup doing marketing from a listing on Craigslist.
I went to work there for over six months, and within the timeframe I had worked there, I earned a whopping $2,300. Not $2,300 a month, but $2,300. That’s less than $400 a month, well below minimum wage and the federal poverty line. But the good news is that I was able to keep my grandmother off my back.
I came to a realization that I couldn’t be a burden to my grandmother, let alone live this way anymore, so I made a decision to move back to Los Angeles. Luckily, my friend gave me the opportunity to live on his sofa for $100 a month, while my other friend lent me a few hundred dollars to survive for a bit. When I arrived, it took me a little over a month to find a job, thanks to my friend Deinis Matos who was staffing for an entry level position at American Honda. But after being there for two years, I hadn’t seen a single raise.
By this time, I was able to live on my own while taking public transportation for an hour and a half to work and an hour and a half, sometimes two hours to get home. But taxes had increased $80 a month and I could no longer afford to eat the $1.60 quesadilla lunch I would buy from my work cafeteria.
I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, let alone hungry after not being able to afford to eat lunch any longer. So I decided to put my all into three things: finding a new job, going back to school and writing.
Finding a new job went nowhere. Going back to school was a long game. But my writing took off because I kept at it every single day. It was read 2 million times within six months and 10 million times 1.5 years in. Now, I’m recognized as a leading expert in my field by various publications and media outlets.
When examining my entire life, I realized that there was a reason that I constantly failed. And that same reason I constantly failed was the same reason that others fail as well. It was because instead of letting our fears guide us, we either freeze up or run away from our fears. At first, I had difficulty figuring out what exactly it was that I was afraid of.
As I have grown older, more mature and in tune with who I am, I have come to find that fear isn’t something that we should run from. Instead, fear is something we should embrace and let guide us. When you are scared, it means that you are onto something great, something that would connect with others and propel you ahead.
After a long period of self-reflection, I discovered that my biggest fear in life was being hurt by others. Since I was scared of being hurt, I refused to be open, vulnerable, or willing to help others.
So how do you go out there and let your fears guide you? You follow this simple three-step process that I explain in my TEDx talk at UC Irvine:[thb_image image="19555" img_size="full"]
1. Recognize it.
In order to let your fears guide you, you first have to identify what it is you are scared of. Sometimes, this can be difficult because you have to go layers deep to discover what it is that you are truly afraid of. For myself, I am scared of a lot of things that involve talking with new people. Your fear can be derived from many things, whether it be speaking up in a meeting, reaching out to a prospective mentor, or the thought of how others would judge you if you decide to share something that you have experienced in your own life. You need to recognize exactly what it is that you are afraid of.
2. Face it.
Facing your fear is easier said than done. When you begin to face your fears, it may feel as if you are looking the devil straight in their eyes. Most people, what they end up doing is either freezing up or running away. If you’re anything like me, you will want to run away. But you can’t.
3. DSA it.
You can’t freeze up and you can’t run away. The reason for that is because you have to DSA it. To DSA it means you have to do something about it. For me, how I was able to DSA it was by writing my story of failure and broken dreams with the world. For you, it can be writing. It can be taking action and reaching out to a mentor. It could be asking your employer for a raise or even starting your own business. Whatever it is, you just have to DSA it.
If you want to stop failing and begin to become successful, I implore you to write down these three steps and to refer back to them each time you feel fear. Or even better, do something about what you fear right now. Because the only way to achieve success is to move past freezing up or running from your fears and to begin taking action.
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."
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