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Mustang Sallies

Mustang Sallies by Fawn Germer

Here are a few of my notes (I didn’t get through the whole book)…

It’s lonely at the top, but, guess what? It’s lonely in the middle and at the bottom, too. It’s lonely when you stand your ground as your true self, but it’s also lonely when you mold yourself into someone who you are not, just to win approval or acceptance.

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Whether you find yourself being challenged to go-alongto-get-along at work, at home, in the community, or in some other place, you will find your center when you remember what it is that made you unique, strong, and passionate in the first place. Tap into that.

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Always go back to your center and your sense of mission. “You have to believe in why you are here,” former Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Christine Todd Whitman told me. “Why are you in this position? Think about it. Why are you doing what you are doing? If you believe in what you are doing, then that’s what it is all about. Keep your focus on that and don’t get thrown off track.”

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You want to know what has become a bigger challenge than getting that seat at the table these days? It’s feeling like we deserve it. It’s holding our own, taking charge, and feeling secure enough to be ourselves. Some of America’s most powerful women executives admit they walked into their offices at the top with a tremendous amount of self-doubt in tow.

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I would rather be off to the side a little. I like to float around and do my own thing, but it sure seems like we keep trying out for the cheerleading squad.”

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Be passionate. This kind of life sure ain’t for sissies. It takes energy, stamina, and commitment. All of that comes from the passion that drives you. You care about what you are doing and who you are. That helps you put up with a lot of grief. It also helps you focus on what matters to you and gives you the creative mind-set to come up with solutions. You live an inspired life.

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Perception is reality, and perception can kill us when other people don’t “get” what we are up to. Our motives may be genuine, but our mission may be so misunderstood or threatening that the only way some people can deal with us is to find a way to distort our objectives or snuff us out.

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“If you are an agent of change, you can’t look to the status quo for validation because you will never get it. That’s why the status quo is the status quo. It doesn’t want to change,” said Alexa Canady,

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A few weeks later, I had the chance to work on a project and pick a partner. I decided to do something daring and pick my rival. When I asked her to work with me, she agreed. Let me tell you something: the two of us working together on a project made us ten times more effective than either of us working alone. We went to an interview together, and the guy we were questioning didn’t have any place to run. When I asked a question, she was thinking of her next one. When she asked one, I was thinking of mine. It was the most gratifying investigative interview experience I have ever had, and it would never have happened if I hadn’t realized that there is real power in turning rivals into partners. The more I have done this, the more I have realized that most of my rivals were other mustangs, and instead of competing against each other, we should have been teaming up.

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Get a group of women friends together and make a point of discussing topics that don’t ordinarily come up. Throw the topic out there, and give each woman up to three minutes to talk about it. Afterward, take a few minutes to synthesize what you learned about yourself and each other. Here are some topics that will get the discussion going on your next outing: During the last 10 years, when have you felt most insecure? What have you done about it? Have your insecurities changed? How much praise do you remember? How much criticism? Do you use your insecurity to make yourself stronger? How? How have your insecurities held you back? When have you been afraid to do something, but charged forward, regardless? How did it feel? How did you rally your strength and keep yourself sane? Who helped you? What did you learn? What motivates you? If it comes down to mission or money, which wins? How have you changed the world already? Is that important to you? Are there ways you can use your skills to have an even greater impact on society? How? For starters, can you commit to giving 30 minutes to an hour a week to further that cause? Name five things you have delayed or sacrificed in the last five years. Was it worth it? Were those sacrifices noticed and appreciated? What did you gain or lose from those sacrifices? Would you make the same decision again?

A’s note: great questions for a woman’s circle.

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Ensler believes the hardest thing women have to overcome is their need for approval. Part of the way you learn it is by being rejected, and surviving—getting bad reviews, having people say terrible things about you, and knowing there are people who don’t like you, and still surviving. Also, check yourself and know why you are doing something. “If you are doing it for approval, you are doomed,” she explained. “If it is for your own soul, politics, and spirit—even if you have to survive the terrible feelings of abandonment by the world—you still have your self intact.”

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Don’t run from the heat, she said. “I have never seen objective criticism as heat. I see it as a gift because it forces you to reexamine something you are doing.

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“First and foremost, you must survive to fight another day.” What good is a mustang who vanishes in her own dust cloud, never to be seen again? This never means selling your soul. It means doing what you’ve got to do so you can get the job done. Change your approach, change your tactics, but don’t change your self.

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“Why are you so worried about being respected by someone you don’t respect?” I asked him. “You know you are smarter. Respect yourself.”

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Who Are You? Leave your title out of this. Come up with 25 facets of the real you, like Marva Collins suggested. Who are you? What defines you beyond your work? Which parts of you do you value most? Which ones would you like to indulge more? Are you living a life that honors the woman you admire in yourself? If not, why aren’t you making changes to bring life to those loves? Instead of losing yourself to the issue of the week, give yourself to the facets of yourself that matter to you. I’m a cyclist, an outdoorswoman, a hell-raising mustang, a friend. I’m a writer and a daughter and I am living the life I want to live. Half the challenge of loving yourself is knowing who you really are.

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Actress Brett Butler, who has had fierce battles with sobriety, addiction, and domestic violence, said she’s gotten to the point where she realizes that all the trials in her life “almost had to happen. All I know is, it cost me all that to be who I am right now. I’d do it again. I pay a lot of attention to feelings like envy or resentment in my own life. I like to pull those out like bad weeds. Sobriety has taught me that, if there is a trait in someone else that I do not like, many times, it is a trait in myself that I have neglected to work on.”

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When you can stop pointing fingers at others and take a long look in the mirror, you’ll find even greater growth. Don’t look for excuses to flog yourself, but make sure you own what you need to own.

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Choosing Battles How do you know when to fight or sit one out? Author Sam Horn said, “If it’s not that big of a deal, I may not say anything. Especially if it is going to go away.” But, she has criteria for choosing battles: Is the matter trivial? 1. 2. Is it a persistent concern? 3. Is the situation innocent or unintentional? 4. What is the background or history of the situation? (Is it your first week on the job, has this been going on ten years?) 5. Can or will it change? 6. Is the timing right? 7. Is it worth the consequences? 8. Will you win the battle and lose the war?

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“The most important thing to remember is to always make an effort to reach out to people and explain why it is you are doing what you are doing, rather than just closing down and feeling they are all after you because you are a woman or this is a dog-eat-dog world. That’s the biggest mistake.”

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I have nothing to gain or lose. Fire me from my job, put me down, do what you want to me. It’s not going to change anything, because if you do or do not like me, fine. I don’t frankly care.

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My self-esteem is so much greater than it was in the past, but not because of the bonus or the movie. It was because of the Hinkley experience that made me appreciate the environment and the gift of health. What made me feel good about myself was being able to be helpful to another person through my work. That made me a better person. You can have all the money you want, but what is truly the mark you leave? It’s the sense of doing something outside of yourself—as a senseless act.

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Here’s Horn’s theory: First, when you don’t know what to say, don’t say anything. Especially, don’t say the “I” word. For example, if someone says, “You are so emotional and defensive,” and you say, “I am not emotional and defensive,” well, suddenly you are. “You can see any denial debate of an accusation will create an argument where we are going back and forth—yes you are, no I’m not, yes you are, no I’m not,” Horn explained. Instead of engaging, reverse the dynamic, asking, “What do you mean?” or, “What makes you say that?” or, “Why do you think that?” Horn said that puts the conversational ball back in their court. If their concerns are legitimate, those questions and subsequent answers will reveal the real issue. You can deal with the issue, instead of the attack. If they are just taunting you, the questions force them to explain themselves.

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