It’s easy to see only the successes of people around you. We celebrate milestones and accomplishments together; we post about new jobs and accomplishments on social media. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, expanding families, and new achievements, yet rarely do we see, let alone celebrate, the long journey it took others to achieve their dreams. The truth is there is no such thing as an “overnight success.” Most of the time, we have not mentioned the hard work, time, and energy that have gone on behind the scenes to create it.
We can say the same thing about paving the way to financial freedom. Creating a plan and sticking to it for the amount of time it takes to reach your goals is no easy task. That’s why it’s so important to find out what your financial freedom means to you. What would you do if money were no object, and how much money would it take to create your desired future? For me, financial security and making an impact are the top values that have motivated me to achieve financial freedom. By the time I reached my first significant milestone, I was so busy working that I didn’t want to pause and “smell the roses.” I had learned that I was a work in progress, and this milestone was just one step on a long journey to my purpose.
It takes resilience, persistence, and grit to “win” your financial freedom and achieve your goals, yet when we compare our “behind the scenes” struggle with everyone else’s “highlight reel,” it may feel overwhelming. So, let’s take a look at how a few inspiring women leaders have found success and the tips they recommend for you to reach your goals.
Change Your Perspective
Women have come a long way in the professional world, but in many industries, we still have to work harder to get the same respect and opportunities that men get by default. Let’s not forget just over 100 years ago; it was rare for women to work outside their homes and earn their own money in most societies. So to break through self- or society-imposed barriers, you need to change your perspective.
One of my Women’s Million Dollar Conversations guests, Jackie Seto, worked in the male-dominated semiconductor industry for 35 years. She had to get creative to build solutions for challenges her colleagues didn’t have to manage, like finding childcare when HR told her they couldn’t provide it onsite. When the men around her started to take notice of her talent and success, Jackie was exhausted from doing twice the work. In our conversation, Jackie shared that “the number one thing that holds you back is the thoughts in your own head.” You can “get out of your head” by flipping your perspective to try to see from the other person’s point of view. And by flipping her perspective, she realized the problem wasn’t her but her environment. She’s since found multiple successes by changing her environment, leveraging her talents to blaze new paths, grow businesses, and create previously unavailable opportunities.
While many recommend changing your perspective of a challenge, U.S. Soccer Olympic Gold Medalist, Abby Wambach, argues that we need to shift the way we see ourselves. She shares that the stories we have been taught from a young age are meant to keep us on a predictable path, to be quiet, reserved, play nicely, and not ask too many questions, as illustrated in the tale of Little Red Riding Hood. But here’s where she says we have it all wrong. The retired soccer star and activist for pay equity points out that women and all kinds of minorities are taught to be Little Red Riding Hood because those with power know we have the potential to be wolves. She issues a rallying cry to women everywhere “we are feared as a threat to our system—and we will also be our society’s salvation.” She continues, “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
Find Your Wolfpack
Life can feel like a struggle when you feel like a lone wolf, but you’re not alone. Abby points out in her commencement speech at Barnard College and her book Wolfpack that your pack is the other women and people like you trying to make their way in unfamiliar territory. We get much farther when we help one another and remember that we are the wolves, not the little girls.
This idea of a pack has come up multiple times in my conversations. A Senior Strategic Consultant, Nina Byrd, suggested that we “be part of groups that have intentional people that believe in the same values (as you). I am passionate about impacting the world, so I surround myself with people like that. And often, it means cutting people out of your life. But, not to be dismissive of them. I value and love everyone for who they are, but they can’t necessarily be in my first-degree circle of close colleagues, friends, and trusted people in my life because those people will always influence you.” Her words ring true.
I’ve found time and time again that when I have a pack of women I can rely on to support my goals and hold me accountable, I can achieve great things. For example, in 2007, I was working on my financial goal to pay off my home; I partnered with my friend Amy (name changed to protect privacy), who attended the annual Million Dollar Round Table conference with me. We both had a mortgage, so we connected when we talked about the peace of mind that would come one day when we were both free of that debt. We dreamed together and kept each other accountable for making steady additional payments. After a few years, I paid off my mortgage, and Amy followed suit. When I completed my goal, she felt confident she could do it too. Having an accessible accountability partner like this makes such a big difference because when life gets rough (and it does), you’ve got each other’s back. When you feel lost or overwhelmed by life, you can pause and connect with someone who knows your goals and believes in you.
Stay Focused and Do the Work
Have you ever heard someone say, “you’re lucky if you can retire at X?” Maybe you’ve said this yourself. If you have $1 million in your retirement assets now, you know it took careful planning, determination, discipline, and sacrifices to get to your million—not luck. The story of the Tortoise and the Hare taught us this exact lesson, “slowly but surely wins the race.” It can be easy to forget that everyone’s financial freedom number is different, and it will take everyone a different amount of time to get there. As I learned on a long hiking trip with my husband, getting started is usually the most challenging part, but it will get easier over time, especially if you have a “wolfpack” supporting you.
It took most of my guests over ten years and some more than twenty years to hit this significant goal. And while the million-dollar mark is just one milestone on a transformational journey: true success is finding the freedom it can afford you.
Finding role models I could relate to was a big part of my journey to financial freedom, and I want to share that gift with you. Keep up with the Women’s Million Dollar Conversations series for more inspiration from women role models who have saved, made, or sold a million dollars. Check in for new episodes on my website or subscribe to my YouTube channel. One day we’ll be celebrating your financial freedom too!
*While the U.S. has never printed a million-dollar bill, the mission remains the same.