I tend to keep away from doing the“New Year Predictions” thing – but this year I’m making an exception. I’vedecided to make one prediction for next year: 2012 is The Year of theCourageous.
What got me thinking about it – andnaming it that way – was reading the transcript and seeing the video ofFacebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement speech to the graduating class atBarnard College.
Speaking to an all-woman class, thetopic she took on – and with which I agree – is that the next generation of womenneed to make different and better decisions as future leaders than theirpredecessors.
The speech was inspiring. But it waseven more than that – and it’s the “more” that led me to think about thecourage it will take now more than ever, for both men and women to succeed increating the life and career they want.
Late in the speech, when she talkedabout the obstacles women put in their own way because they convince themselvesthat they won’t succeed even before those obstacles appear, her advice was:
“Do not leave before you leave. Do not leanback; lean in.”
That’s when 2012 became, for me, TheYear of the Courageous.
Why now? Why is 2012 different?Simple. It’s because, after having gone through the past few years – which arelike no others the world has seen in generations – you have to get beyond yourand others’ fears. You have to believe that you can succeed – and then act inaccordance with that belief.
The Myth of Better Times
I began my executive advisorybusiness after what was known as “Black Monday” in 1987. Everyone told me thatit was the worst possible time to choose to leave a comfy senior position incorporate America to go out on my own. That my dream of being an entrepreneurwas all well and good – but that I should wait until times were “better” tobegin living that dream.
I didn’t listen. To my way ofthinking, starting out when things couldn’t have been worse couldn’t have beena better decision. After all, if the odds were completely stacked against me,I’d know whether I had what it took to create the business I envisioned.
Almost 25 years and innumerableeconomic cycles later, I still say it was the right decision. I have traveledthe world and worked with executives and entrepreneurs who simultaneouslychallenged me (as I was challenging them) and gave me the joy of seeing theirand my success.
It’s no different now. This year Ico-founded an e-publishing business – when everyone continues to tell me towait and see how the global economy pans out. Or how the Big Boy publishinghouses adapt to all things ‘e.’ Or for any number of other reasons they putforward in what they say are my best interests.
But, if you look closely, what yousee in those well-intentioned thoughts are two things. First, everything they note of concernis out of my control. I can't doanything about any of it.
Second, they are expressing theirfears. Not mine.
So the answer is no. Don’t wait.There’s no such thing as a “better” time – because, no matter what the economiccycle, there are always obstacles to success. There are even more reasons weand others give ourselves to fail - or worse, to not even try.
That’s why what Ms. Sandberg saidstruck such a chord for me. That’s the underlying message she gave to all thosewomen just as they are starting their professional lives:
Don’t be scared. Don’t convince yourself – orlet anyone else convince you – that you won’t succeed. Don’t stop yourselfbefore you ever start.
2012 is going to be a difficultyear. There’s no getting around it. But, for the courageous - women and men,both - it will be a year when you see yourself as you want to be – in manycases, possibly more than you thought you could be.
Be brave. Pursue and fulfill yourdreams. There’s no better time than now.
[This article first appeared on technorati.]