Part of my journey this past year has been interviewing smart, strong and successful women. Although I feel like I have an idea of what it takes to be successful, I've been a teacher for twelve years. I love hearing from other women in all fields and learning about their story. Every time I leave an interview I am so inspired and pumped up. I have had the privilege of talking to almost 100 women this past year. St. Louis has some very impressive women and I am incredibly honored that so many people were willing to sit down and talk with me.
Now...as you all know, my company is all about dreaming big. This year I've decided to share with you some of my big dreams. Although I plan on continuing to interview women locally, I would love to make 2014 my year to meet thought leaders and game changers on a national level. Below is a list of women who have truly inspired me and it would be a dream come true to meet any of them.
1. Brene´ Brown
Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me knows what a big impact Brene´ Brown has had on my life. She is a well-known shame and vulnerability researcher. I know these topics sound a bit rough, but truly her TED talks and her books are life changing! The first book I read by Brene´ Brown was "The Gifts of Imperfection". The title alone is so powerful. For so much of my life I was encased in a heavy armor to avoid showing any weaknesses. I thought the only way I was lovable was if I was perfect or at least appeared that way. It had quite the opposite effect and many people thought I was cold or unapproachable. Since embracing my vulnerability I have been blown away by the change in how people interact with me. I have Brene´ Brown to thank for that!
2. Sheryl Sandberg
Last year when I began my journey from teacher to entrepreneur, I stumbled across Sheryl Sandberg's TED talk. It was pure luck that I found it at that pivotal time in my life when I was trying to decide what direction to head. Her message truly became a huge inspiration for my company. Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and has created a movement with her book Lean In. Sandberg's passion is to see more women make it to the top. Her book has sparked nationwide conversations about women in the workforce. I hope to do my part in helping women find the strength and courage to lean in.
3. Sara Blakely
It's hard to imagine a world without Spanx, but the company has only been around since 2000 when it launched out of Sara Blakely's home. Now she is the youngest self-made female billionaire. Aside from being totally blown away by Blakely's determination and innovation, I feel indebted to her for the role she unknowingly played in getting my parents onboard with my dream. At first my parents couldn't wrap their head around why I wanted to leave a stable job that I didn't hate to go after my dreams and start a company. Early on in my journey my mom was really struggling to be supportive, but the tipping point was when she watched a show on Sara Blakely. I think it helped to hear how Blakely didn't share her vision with her friends and family during the early stages for fear of being discouraged. My mom realized she was doing that and really turned it around. Now my parents are my biggest cheerleaders :)
4. Marie Forleo
About a year and a half ago when I just started to get the inkling that I might like to leave teaching and start a company, a friend of mine told me about Marie Forleo and that I should check out her video blogs. WOW! Thank goodness my friend pointed me in her direction. Her website and show are incredible! She is a wealth of information and inspiration. Although Forleo does offer a paid course called B School, the amount of free content and education on her website are mind blowing. Her passion for helping women become successful in business radiates in everything she does.
5. Diana Nyad
I absolutely love that Diana Nyad accomplished her dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida at the age of 64. She is a huge inspiration and role model in my life. I feel like there is a lot of pressure to have everything "figured out" at such a young age. However, it took me until I was 34 to even know what my dreams were. To leave the only profession I have ever known and start a company was absolutely terrifying at times. Naturally, self-doubt and second-guessing occurs, but when I see people like Diana Nyad never giving up, it keeps me going.
Now this list is not comprehensive in anyway. There are countless women I dream of meeting and hearing firsthand about their story. Meeting impressive women has been one of my favorite endeavors since starting Girls Dreaming Big and one day I hope to compile the stories into book. Although we women still have a lot of work to do to close the gap, I am blown away by the women who are leading the pack.
Now it's your turn. I would love to hear from you in the comments below. What women inspire you?