My passion, as an Asian American woman business leader, serial entrepreneur, and designer, is the pursuit of excellence and proliferation of craftsmanship. Whether we are expressing an inspiration or communicating an idea with the purpose of motivating an audience to do something, we are consumed with the overwhelming desire to create something GREAT and immerse ourselves in the process. True “creatives” are at the mercy of their passion. Our unending curiosity and insistence on excellence are all aspects of our slightly manic and “type A down to the last pixel” character.
Living our passion, whether through our personal or our work life, is the art of successfully dancing with opposing forces: confidence and self-doubt; freedom and restraint; achievement and failure; opportunity and challenge; and innovation and stagnation, to name a few. Duality is integral to our being, and recognizing oppositions is our first step to overcoming limitations. In other words, cultivating our consciousness and mindfulness are key to our development and success in navigating the dualities of life.
As women, our internal voice can be our intuitive guide to success or a saboteur hinting that we are not good enough, smart enough, or equal enough to navigate challenges and make a positive difference. If we are Asian, the internal voice that drives us to do well and make a difference must be heard above the clamor of other voices that remind us of our culture, traditions, and social expectations. For example, I remember leading a brand strategy session in a boardroom with tech executives from Asia who represented one of the world’s largest technology companies (with revenue of $23B in 2020). In the midst of us exploring ways to redefine the product and technology messaging, all of the senior executives said, “We don’t like to tout or be loud. Let our technology and work speak for itself!” Across from these executives sat their American counterparts, all trying to push them to promote, “show off”, and go-all-out in marketing their notable technological achievements. And here I was in the middle, immediately recognizing the slight cultural discord between the two approaches. I identified this situation as the tension of balancing the duality of confidence and humility.
The Perfect Duality
The interplay between confidence and self-doubt is a pervasive duality we encounter as entrepreneurs and leaders in our industries. I define confidence as “a deep awareness of ability and belief in oneself.” If we have gathered and perfected the essential components of true confidence, self-doubt then can be evolved and transformed into a beneficial expression of humility. The interplay between confidence and humility directly affects interactions with clients, collaborators, users, and the very outcome of a project. I call this the Yin and Yang of Egonomics.
Like Yin and Yang, confidence and humility exist together and are interdependent on one another. They are internal states grounded and formed in real world action and behavior. Many elements go into building confidence including education, experience, openness, clarity, courage and integrity:
EDUCATION: Every one of us came into this world as a little bundle of dependency equipped with antennae. We were in a constant state of discovery, detecting shapes, patterns, textures, colors, inequities, sounds, odors, and sensations. Exploration in those early years unlocked our understanding of and access to the world. Education carried us further along the path of constant learning, insatiable curiosity and ongoing discovery. We acquired knowledge and the tools for growth, evolution and mastery of our work. Through knowledge we gained insight into how things work and how they might work better.
EXPERIENCE: Putting yourself in new situations provides the opportunity to test knowledge, stretch skills and abilities, take on new projects, meet new people, interact in a global marketplace, and attain new heights. It is the arena where we try, fail, try again, learn what didn’t work and why, and add to our confidence as a result. Experience underpins accomplishment and elicits the mantra “I can, I will, I did.”
OPENNESS: The ability to interact, share, receive criticism, and allow the flow of new ideas is essential to confidence. Being open to ideas requires the ability to admit that you do not have all the answers and that you are willing to listen, learn, and look deeper to identify more appropriate solutions. It is a release of control over the creative process and an invitation to potentialities, to see what might be. In this way, openness demonstrates the value of humility and an intelligent awareness of the brilliant inspirations that can solve life’s challenges and puzzles more efficiently. Openness must not be interpreted as a sign of weakness or a lack of conviction. I find that setting a groundwork and benchmarks for what needs to be accomplished in an open exchange of ideas helps offset that perception of weakness.
CLARITY: Sometimes clear sight or clear vision can be acquired through discernment around a challenge or necessary decision. It is most often driven by knowledge and experience. Sometimes there is an instinctive or intuitive “knowing.” Having clarity on what the solution to a challenge is or where and how to find it testifies to an inner grounding, an ability to cut through the “chatter” of doubt or insufficiency in order to highlight a best-case scenario. Clarity indicates an awareness of the big picture, an ability to strategize outcomes, and insight into the long game.
COURAGE: It isn’t easy to enact change, defy opposing voices, shift directions, step out into the unknown, or to choose to no longer be afraid. Courage happens when you reach deep into your core and find the resources necessary to take on new challenges, navigate obstacles, move through fears, and turn anxious uncertainty into the lever and fulcrum of positive action. Courage is the author of true, right decision-making and enables entrepreneurs and leaders to take projects in directions that may not be initially popular, to exercise their voices and question authority, or challenge the status quo when interventions are necessary.
INTEGRITY: When you cultivate a reputation for speaking truth, executing right action and best practices, demonstrating dependability and consistency, observing all rules of good conduct and behavior, and driving diligently to repeat and improve upon success, you have integrity. It is the backbone of being and the crown of character. If confidence is found in the act of “reaching” towards a goal or something new, integrity is forged by the depth and detail that shape, evolve, and accomplish that reaching. Integrity begins at the core and broadcasts out. It is both the calling card and the glowing review of confidence.
In Honor of Women’s History Month & International Women’s Day –
The Confident Woman
The confident woman is a force of nature. Others feel magnetically drawn to her and are willing to share and promote ideas. A woman’s confidence reveals that she has done her homework, weighed all her options, has sharpened, refined, and added to her skill set, is positive and desires to continue adding to the conversation, and is willing to take ownership of and responsibility for her position.
The confident woman does not showboat, or yell and scream for attention and say, “Look at me.” She does not clamor for audience, insist on notoriety, or proclaim superiority. She is neither a bully overcompensating for insecurities nor a narcissist constantly admiring the wonder of herself. She doesn’t do what she does to try to be something special. She’s not focused on feeding her ego with empty accolades and attention. She does what she does because it is within her, it is her nature, and she cares to bring forth the very best she can, every day, in hopes of creating a better world. She radiates confidence naturally. It is a beacon of her ability, quality, and value. She exudes serenity, a certain je ne sais quoi – an intangible attractiveness. Her presence is a clarion call to others to participate, collaborate, and be a part of it all. She extends her hand and heart to others and knows that her leadership network of other powerful, confident women is a collaborative force that will reshape and renew the world. She is balanced, in tune, and constantly learning. And as philosopher Eric Hoffer once said "In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth . . .” Let’s do it Ladies!!