SHE-LOGY: What does Harry Potter author, Facebook COO, and Liberia’s Iron Lady have in common?
Joanne Kathleen, famously known as J.K.Rowling, Sheryl Sandberg, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf…these are women trailblazers who delivered a speech at Harvard.
Since this year’s IWD theme is “MAKE IT HAPPEN”, I took the liberty of translating a few excerpts from their respective speeches into advices that we can apply in our lives so that we, too, can make it happen.
J.K.ROWLING. Best-selling author of the fantasy series “Harry Potter”.
First female billionaire novelist.
Lessons from her Harvard Commencement Speech, 2008 [Read her full speech here.]
- Benefit from failure.
“…Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
- Value imagination.
“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”
ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF. Liberia’s current president.
First elected black female president and Africa’s first elected female head of state.
Lessons from her Harvard Commencement Speech, 2011. [Read her full speech here.]
- Dream big.
“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”
- Be fearless about the future.
“Just because something has not been done yet, doesn’t mean it can’t be. I was never deterred from running for president just because there had never been any females elected head of state in Africa. Simply because political leadership in Liberia had always been a “boys’ club” didn’t mean it was right, and I was not deterred. Today, an unprecedented number of women hold leadership positions in our country, and we intend to increase that number.”
- Appreciate the value of failure.
“There were times when I thought death was near, and times when the burden of standing tall by one’s conviction seemed only to result in failure. But through it all, my experience sends a strong message that failure is just as important as success.”
- Value hope and resilience. Resist cynicism.
“As you approach your future, there will be ample opportunity to become jaded and cynical, but I urge you to resist cynicism — the world is still a beautiful place and change is possible. As I have noted here today, my path to the presidency was never straightforward or guaranteed. Prison, death threats, and exile provided every reason to quit, to forget about the dream, yet I persisted, convinced that my country and people are so much better than our recent history indicates. Looking back on my life, I have come to appreciate its difficult moments. I believe I am a better leader, a better person with a richer appreciation for the present because of my past.”
SHERYL SANDBERG. Facebook COO, Author “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”.
First female on Facebook’s board of directors.
Lessons from her Harvard Class Day Keynote Address, 2014. [Watch her full speech here.]
- Be open to surprises. There is no single formula (to success).
“There is no straight path from your seat today to where you are going. Don’t try to draw that line. You will not just get it wrong. You will miss big opportunities. And I mean big. Like the Internet. Careers are not ladders, those days are long gone, but jungle gyms. Don’t just move up and down, don’t just look up, look backwards, sideways around corners. Your career and your life will have starts and stops and zigs and zags. Don’t stress out about the white space –the path you can’t draw –because there in lies both the surprises and the opportunities.”
- Lean in. You don’t have to figure everything now. Just start.
“You don’t have to know the career you want or how to get the career you might want. Leaning in does not mean your path will be straight or smooth.
“Find a jungle gym you want to play on and start climbing. Not only will you figure out what you want to do eventually, but once you do, you will crush it.”
- Acknowledge the hard truths. (That gender bias still exists.) And speak out. Challenge stereotypes.
“We don’t always see the hard truths, and once we see them, we don’t always have the courage to speak out. When my classmates and I were in college, we thought the fight for gender equality was won … Sure, most of the leaders in every industry were men, but we thought changing that was just a matter of time. We didn’t need feminism because we were already equals,” she said. “We were wrong; I was wrong. The world was not equal then, and it is not equal now.”
SHE-LOGY is a blog project open to everyone who is interested to celebrate women this whole month of March. If you’re reading this, I extend that invitation to you to contribute post/s about the women you’d like to honor. You can email me at email@example.com. Thank you for reading this.