My 15-year old self woke the 56 year old me from a deep sleep at 4am, to tell me that there should be more successful career women coming to grade 10 classes to talk to them about how to prepare for the workplace realities.
You know how you get these Eureka moments, or as Oprah coined the now famous phrase “aha!” moment? The Merriam-Webster dictionary now officially defines the “aha moment” as “A moment of sudden inspiration, insight, recognition or comprehension.” Well, it seems that in my case, my brain is most active in the early morning hours and choses this moment to wake me up with startling revelations.
It’s true that I have often had my best ideas and solutions to problems between 3:30am and 4:30am or experienced the truest insights into myself as the sun is about to rise, and usually, the thought is so powerful that I am almost jolted awake and there is no way I can get back to sleep. There is actually a theory that our bodies have in fact always been wired for a “first sleep” and a “second sleep” and that after having a deep prolactin-induced sleep of 6 hours, we are programmed to wake between 3 and 5 in the morning, and to be active for a few hours before going back into another resting period of shorter duration.
This makes total sense to me, and unfortunately during my work life, it created a lot of anxiety to wake so early because there was no opportunity to get back those 2 extra hours of sleep before having to go to work. Later in my career, I began to stop fighting it and just started to work early and mornings were remarkably productive.
I recognized that waking up in the middle of the night became the period of my day when I was most creative. After working on a problem or idea in my subconscious all night, my brain would emerge with a totally out of the box idea, and thus be the impetus to get me out of bed and working on it!
Thankfully now as I write this, more and more workplaces have instituted flexible work schedules, allowing employees to work from home and set their own hours ( Results Oriented Work Environments or ROWE) and a growing percentage of the workforce is contract labour or small businesses where workdays can be adapted to achieve work/life balance. These modern ways allow for greater opportunity to get back to rest patterns that were programmed into us, and which listen more to what our bodies are telling us.
I digress. Back to the idea that woke me today, that women should be speaking more to teen girls about workplace realities for women. We have powerful messages that young women need to hear so that they are better equipped to face what is ahead.
Off the top of my head I would say they need to know that they are deserving of every opportunity that is out there. In the last few decades, women have broken through the barriers to get into virtually every male dominated fields including trades, sports, business, senior management, politics and so on. While we may be far from equal representation, the doors have definitely been opened and women have limitless career opportunities.
There are a few others things I would tell them to succeed in a workplace. Much of it is about treating people right, following the rules that we were taught in kindergarten. Above that, I would remind them to:
- Be nice, but not sugar and spice nice.
- Have a sense of humour
- Be heard. Use your voice. Be succinct, be clear, be factual.
I think Rihanna said it best. “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.”
Except, I don’t think its a man’s world anymore. I think the new generation is leading us towards a gender-neutral workplace environment, where individual talent and skills is what differentiates us. We will need to explore those concepts further. And it is something I would enjoy doing with young persons – of both genders.
So, my epiphany this morning, was that with the years of experience I have under my belt, and my natural interest in coaching people, perhaps I am well positioned to speak to young women and inspire and empower them with confidence that will support their aspirations. If I take my own advice, I am deserving of every opportunity, and with focus and work, I can achieve anything that I conceive and believe.