How TO COnnect Your Passion With Purpose
Women today still make an estimated 21 cents less per dollar compared to men working in similar positions—yet Melanne Verveer has never been more optimistic about the economic power and potential of women worldwide. And Verveer has a unique vantage point, having served as the first-ever Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues at the State Department. She also served as Hillary Clinton’s deputy and chief of staff during the Clinton Administration.
In Verveer’s new book with co-author Kim Azzarelli, Fast Forward: How Women can Achieve Power and Purpose, Verveer emphasizes that we’re standing “on the cusp of a global power shift, one that has the potential to redefine the way we work and live.” In other words, if we can successfully harness women’s potential and scale opportunities for them to contribute to the global economy, the impact would be seismic.
Right at the outset, Verveer clearly defines the mission of Fast Forward: “This is a reference book for those who want to master and disseminate the data on the business case for women, and a how-to manual for those who want to harness their own power and combine it with purpose.” She offers a three-step blueprint—know your power, find your purpose, connect with others—for women to achieve a success “that includes not only personal achievement but also meaning, impact and fulfillment.” The authors expand upon each of these calls to action with engaging research as well as anecdotes from more than 50 women of influence—from Diane von Furstenberg to Sheryl Sandberg to Hillary Clinton to Geena Davis—across an array of industries and disciplines. The effect is powerful and inspiring. Here are some of the major takeaways on how to align your passion with a sense purpose.
1. Cultivate Confidence
“One major obstacle facing women as they seek to achieve their goals is the confidence deficit,” say Verveer and Azzarelli. Part of knowing your power is identifying your strengths—and weaknesses. The authors suggest taking inventory of your unique skills and literally writing down what truly differentiates you and owning those distinctions. This exercise, they believe, can counteract an unfortunate tendency so many women fall victim to, the “imposter syndrome”—the effect Claire Shipman and Katty Kay discussed in their book The Confidence Code—where women feel like “frauds” even as they rise through the ranks and achieve success. Pinpointing your talents is one way to counteract that tendency and better harness the qualities that can empower your growth versus derail it.
2. Challenge Your Fears
“We don’t talk about our struggles enough,” Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Girls Who Code, told Verveer and Azzarelli. Saujani should know: She applied to Yale law school three times before getting in. Rather than hide that challenge, she argues that women need to stand up and share what’s gone wrong in their lives and how they came out on top (or are trying to). Throughout the book, Verveer and Azzarelli cite multiple examples of women who embraced risk and made bold decisions, even after being told “you can’t” or encountering outright rejection.
3. Figure Out What Matters To You
One of the most powerful takeaways from Fast Forward is that service and philanthropy often organically become a part of our lives when we are true to ourselves and follow our passions. The authors themselves met because of a shared desire to use corporate resources in a meaningful way to serve other women. They say: “Identify the issues and activities that matter most to you. What ignites your passion? What do you find yourself reading about? Talking about? Are there issues you wish you could change in your own life, on the world stage, or in your community? Are there passions or interests that you once had that have gotten squeezed out? Are there new activities or opportunities you would like to pursue?”
When you begin to ask yourself these key questions, you can better identify ways to infuse your work with more meaning and, thus, more effectively align with your passions. “Finding our purpose and letting it guide us have made our careers more fulfilling and our lives richer,” say Verveer and Azzarelli.
4. Connect With Others
“You don’t need to be at the top of an organization to promote changes or have an impact,” write the authors. Once you know your power and your purpose, you can accelerate your path to success by partnering with others on a shared mission. “When purpose-driven women in various fields get together, power is amplified,” stress Verveer and Azzarelli. Cultivating allies at work, for example, can help get your ideas off the ground or enhance your circle of influence to achieve the change you seek. The authors also stress seeking outside allies and partners to “harness diverse types of expertise and influence.”
Admittedly, for many women, this will require focus and discipline, and perhaps even extending way beyond our comfort zones, especially if you feel as if you’re clinging to the rung on the ladder that you finally managed to climb to. But the reward can be exponential. Consider ways in which you could effectively align with coworkers, mentor young women, and/or network outside of your circle. “Moving from competition to collaboration does not always come easily…but as more and more women reach positions of power, it’s clear that success is no longer a zero-sum game, ” say Verveer and Azzarelli. “One thing is certain: leaders who support each other multiply their success.”