10 Rules for Brilliant Women

Oh my God! Someone tattoo this on the inside of my brain.

From the amazing Tara Mohr:


Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to lead.

We need your voice now.

I coach brilliant women, lots of them. Dedicated, talented, brilliant women.

Most of the time, they don’t know their brilliance. They are certain they “aren’t ready” to take on that next bigger role. They are more attuned to the ways they aren’t qualified than to the ways that they are. They are waiting for someone to validate, promote or discover them. Sound familiar?



No one else is going to build the life you want for you. No one else will even be able to completely understand it. The most amazing souls will show up to cheer you on along the way, but this is your game. Make a pact to be in it with yourself for the long haul, as your own supportive friend at every step along the way.


What does a knock-the-ball-out-of-the-park life look like for you? What is the career that seems so incredible you think it’s almost criminal to have it? What is the dream you don’t allow yourself to even consider because it seems too unrealistic, frivolous, or insane? Start envisioning it. That’s the beginning of having it.


Start doing things that make you gasp and get the adrenaline flowing. Ask yourself, “What’s the gasp-level action here?” Your fears and a tough inner critic will chatter in your head. That’s normal, and just fine. When you hear that repetitive, irrational, mean inner critic, name it for what it is, and remember, it’s just a fearful liar, trying to protect you from any real or seeming risks. Go for the gasps and learn how false your inner critic’s narrative really is, and how conquerable your fears.


If you take risks, sometimes you’ll get a standing ovation, and sometimes, people will throw tomatoes. Can you think of any leader or innovator whom you admire who doesn’t have enthusiastic fans and harsh critics? Get used to wins and losses, praise and pans, getting a call back and being ignored. Work on letting go of needing to be liked and needing to be universally known as “a nice person.”


Of course I know you won’t, because you never could. But please, just be a little more of an arrogant idiot. You know those guys around the office who share their opinions without thinking, who rally everyone around their big, (often unformed) ideas? Be more like them. Even if just a bit. You can afford to move a few inches in that direction.


I know, I know. Because you are so brilliant and have such high standards, you see every way that you could be more qualified. You notice every part of your idea that is not perfected yet. While you are waiting to be ready, gathering more experience, sitting on your ideas, our friends referenced in rule five are being anointed industry visionaries, getting raises, and seeing their ideas come to life in the world. They are no more ready than you, and perhaps less. Jump in the sandbox now, and start playing full out. Find out just how ready you are.


Don’t wait to be praised, anointed, or validated. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to lead. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to share your voice. No one is going to discover you. (Well, actually, they will, but paradoxically, only after you’ve started boldly and consistently stepping into leadership, sharing your voice, and doing things that scare the hell out of you.)


Most brilliant women are humble and open to guidance. We want to gather feedback and advice. Fine, but recognize that some people won’t understand what you are up to (often because you are saying something new and ahead of your time). Some people will find you to be not their cup of tea. Some will feel threatened. Some people will want to do with your idea only what is interesting or helpful to them. So interpret feedback carefully. Test advice and evaluate the results, rather than following it wholesale.


If you start doing the things that make you gasp, doing what you don’t quite feel ready to do, and being more of an arrogant idiot, you are going to be stretching out of your comfort zone – a lot. Regularly do things that feel safe, cozy, and restorative. Vent to friends when you need to. Acknowledge the steps you’ve taken. Watch your tank to see how much risk-taking juice you have available to you. When it’s running low, stop, recover and restore.


Let them know what kind of brilliance you see, and why it’s so special. Call them into greater leadership and action. Let them know that they are ready. Watch out for that subtle, probably unconscious thought, “because I had to struggle and suffer on my way up…they should have to too.” Watch out for thinking this will “take” too much time — when the truth is it always has huge, often unexpected returns.

Clear a path by walking it, boldly.


Maybe You’re Ready for a Life of Freedom

Look what arrived in my inbox from the amazing Tama Kieves:

I have always craved freedom. It’s why I’ve pursued an authentic life. But it’s meant I have had to go off the map. Sometimes, off the rails, maybe where the mail can’t find me. I have had to find myself. I have a junk drawer of inner voices, and it took a while to realize which suggestions come from the beacon of my truth and which were useless screws from gadgetry that no longer works for me, if it ever did. I still hesitate around vital guidance. Because my heart always tells me things like rest or go pick daisies, when I’m hoping for some lottery numbers or an in with Oprah.

Of course, I imagined that “finding myself” would be a once in a lifetime thing. I thought it would be like riding an escalator once you found your right step. But turns out, it’s a way of life. The world never stops shouting or posturing in ways that muffle wisdom. It’s easy to lose touch. It’s like dropping an earring at a rambunctious party. I have to hunt for the glint of gold again. Normal people peer at me strangely. Still, I search. Because only I know what is missing. A life of reaching the highest expression of my potential requires continuous focus and choice. I may not know exactly what I’m looking for, but I always know when something’s missing.

Just to be clear, I am so not cut out to be a trailblazer. I am careful and neurotic and do not like adventure one bit. I don’t even like trying new foods, much less new jobs or lives or voices inside myself. But I want to feel good. And feeling good comes from undiluted self-honesty. There’s no owner’s manual or cheat sheet. And forget about external validation. No tour guide and souvenir shop. This is not a trip for tourists. This is the trip of travelers. Your feet crunch on the ground as you listen to your own breath. This is the footpath that only you can find, create, conjure, or allow. It’s unsettling to be “on your own” without directions. But it saves time. Because the highways just take you where everyone else is going and while it’s popular as all get-out, so are Kim Kardashian Instagram posts. Freedom demands more of you. Freedom reveals more of you to yourself.

When it comes to owning your life, no one else can tell you where you belong. It’s okay to falter and lose your way. You have to listen, probe, make mistakes, step on snakes, and do a few takes of the scene that might not even get into the movie. Because you will get this right. You will find what’s yours already.

It’s the process that gives you clarity.

And it’s always better to lose the way for a time, than to stop for good and lose yourself.

Tama Kieves