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Except for 16, I have celebrated all of my milestone birthdays in New York City. I turned 16 in Arnold, Missouri. Arnold is a small town (though not small anymore) 20 miles south of St. Louis. St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, a beautiful arch of shiny stainless steel, built by the National Parks Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson's vision of a transcontinental U.S. St. Louis is also known for its custard, a frozen dessert that is so thick, they hand it to you upside down with a spoon inside. Something else about St. Louis you should know is that there is a courthouse just steps from the base of the Gateway Arch where one of the most important cases in history was tried. Dred Scott v. Sanford.

How often in school did you spend time actually learning about the big picture of who you want to be and how to get there? I'm not talking a loose career goal, a major, or a GPA but the actual qualities and characteristics that you want and need to be successful as both a person and a professional. When you walked out of college with your very expensive degree, did you have all the skills that you needed to be truly successful? If you are anything like me, life after college has been a constant experiment in learning about yourself, the world, and how to be truly successful and happy. For the past ten years, this self-development process has been the driving force for all of my decisions. School never gave me the tools to do this; I had to figure it out for myself.

Growing up, my parents (particularly my mom) expected greatness. This helped me do well in school but it also had a negative side effect: I became a perfectionist. I think perfectionism is tied to pleasing others and trying to make sure people like us. If we are perfect, you have to love us right? We feel like we aren't good enough as is, so if we are perfect, it will make up for it.

As a seasoned business strategist, I've made a career out of creating growth strategies that revolve around the business's value propositions. Now, I've come to adopt that strategic mindset when it comes to career advancement as well. How have I done that? Simply put: I remove the personal and strategize myself as I would a brand. I document short-term goals that balance my skills and my values. I hold myself accountable for growth in designated areas of my position outside of company-specific performance metrics. And I maintain a level of self-awareness and acceptance by analyzing my professional self as I would a potential target market. All of that professional strategic planning is used to create a roadmap to growth and, from there, advocate in a way that provides gains: financially, promotionally, and personally.

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