Being kind, charming and generous is easy for most of us when life is good. If time is abundant and there is plenty of money – if we're loved, connected and have a purpose, most of us can bring our A-game. It's not so easy when times are tough.
If we choose to be present in life, to be open to love and to strive for the things we want, we are going to meet disappointment – probably many times. And it can leave us feeling pain, sometimes physical – almost airless.
This may apply to you now – or in times ahead: as low as we can feel, this place down here on our knees is where we all learn who we really are. In the belly of disappointment, if you sit with your pain you'll discover resilience and courage quietly waiting there for you to rise again.
The greatest amongst us have failed and failed again; muscle fibre must be ripped to be rebuilt stronger – and so must you. You can choose victim or warrior, the choice is yours and will define how you face the days to come. Here, some ideas on handling disappointment and rising again.
Be Curious About Your Feelings
First thing's first. Get past the big three: blame, anger and righteousness, which we use to deflect pain like Wonder Woman's golden wristbands. Underneath those red hot emotions used to protect yourself, sits your warrior heart, tender – exposed and strong. Examine your feelings of shame, fear, rejection and despair; where do they come from? They hurt like hell, but they won't kill you. Unpack them, feel them; a lot of the sting will pass when you have examined the worst.
We put so much energy into not feeling raw and painful emotions, yet the quickest way to let them go is to stop resisting them.
This is not about dwelling in a dark place; this is about facing your fear and seeing it for what it is; the sooner you do, the sooner you'll take flight again.
Give Yourself A Reality Check
Drop the story and drama and look at the situation, devoid of your hot and heavy emotions. What has really happened? What is the real cost physically, emotionally, socially and financially? Get some distance from yourself and look at the situation objectively; you may not be able to see it yet, but good will come of this if you do not create a victim story.
Be really brave and write a benefit list; a list of 20+ benefits that will come from your experience. I know it sucks, I've done it myself, thrashing about yelling, “There is NO benefit!" Then I get over myself and often this one simple task is a turning point.
Vulnerability Is Strength
I don't see vulnerability as weakness; I see it as an extraordinary strength. When we accept and love ourselves – broken and flawed, big-hearted and hopeful – nothing can harm us. If you are feeling smashed and broken, open yourself to the warrior within – your strong heart is right there, fuel it with self-love. We all mess up – every single one of us, over and over again. The moment we stop trying to hide our mistakes we are free; it is the pretending that is exhausting. Take responsibility for every choice and every step you have made, do not choose victim.
When pain is known and self-love present, we can stand in the storm of anything. Vulnerability is strength, authenticity impenetrable.
Focus On The Silver Lining
Creativity and clarity are two benefits that come from failure and loss. If your back is against the wall and your resources and options limited, let go of panic and fear, focus on solutions and outcomes. Take your foot off the brake which is driven by fear, allow your clever, conscious brain to swing into action and start finding creative solutions. Your conscious brain is the happiest when it is problem-solving, but you must give it the space and oxygen to be brilliant. You must focus on what you want, not what you don't want.
You must focus on what you want, not what you don't want. Walk, dance, scream, cry – turn the music up and breathe in possibilities; the solutions are right there to be uncovered. Remember, clarity is a beautiful benefit that comes when we have screwed up or are in the rawness of loss. We stop caring what others think; there is a clarity that reminds us what is important and what is not.
By shedding the need to be presentable, right or perfect we discover what we want, who we are and what our purpose is, we realize that hitting rock bottom can be the greatest gift you'll ever receive. Easy is boring; the richness of life is felt when we experience it all. Exquisite joy, lust and love, the lonely depths of failure, the sickening feeling of regret and the soaring heights of success.
Choose warrior and out of the ashes you will rise: stronger, wiser, broken and beautiful.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.