If posts are a bit scarce on this site, it’s because I’m currently immersed in the writing stage of my book on the power and importance of a woman’s authentic voice. Wrestling a complex topic into well-behaved words on a page can feel like a re-enactment of Hercules fighting the multi-headed Hydra … which is why, no doubt, the best-selling author Richard Bach once said that he only wrote books when an idea took hold of him with such fervor and passion that it literally forced him across the room to his typewriter, and wouldn’t let up until the job was done.

But as coincidental luck would have it, the real world collided dead-on with my writing work last weekend. I was just finishing a section of the manuscript that dealt with explaining how the power of a woman’s authentic voice is partly dependent on having a well-curated voice; of a woman not only knowing what she thinks and believes, but also having some sense of when it is useful or important to share that information, and when it is better (stronger, more considerate, more strategically advantageous) to remain silent.

“There is nothing quite so annoying–or, ultimately, ineffective,” I wrote, ” as someone who has to speak their mind at all times, regardless of impact on others, the particular group dynamics, or appropriateness to the occasion. Timing matters. Giving other people space to disagree with you matters. What’s more, if you choose your battles, your words might be heard more clearly on those occasions you choose to fight. It’s worth remembering that some of the women who’ve changed the world by speaking their truth aloud had the impact they did because they weren’t yelling on the mountaintop all the time. Some particular issue, or moment, created such a disparity between their inner truth and what they were seeing or experiencing that they felt compelled to speak.”

And just as I was searching for a good anecdote to use to illustrate that point, Michelle Obama was kind enough to provide one for me. In a speech she gave in Manchester, New Hampshire last week, she gave a powerful tutorial on what it is like for women to be subject to, or fear, sexual harassment, intimidation and assault. [click to continue…]

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While it’s still summertime, and some of us still have time for summer breaks or vacations left, here’s another reminder/insight that my book research has not taught me, but certainly has reinforced for me.

In searching for programs and professionals who help women of all ages discover, develop, or reconnect with their more authentic selves and voices, one of the common elements I’ve found in programs that seem particularly effective is, as one program director put it, “pressing PAUSE.” As in, pressing the pause button on our task-oriented daily lives and activities, and removing ourselves from the noise into a place where we can immerse ourselves in enough silence, space, and reflective time to hear what the voice of our innermost self might be trying to tell us. And that goes for men as well as women. We ALL need it, if we’re going to stay centered, grounded, and if we aspire to have our external lives remain aligned with what our internal selves value most.

A therapist talked about the importance of finding both time and a place of refuge to reflect. Pam Erickson, the director of a semester-long residential program for high school sophomores talked about the importance of pulling girls out of their routines into a place far enough away that they could get some perspective on their “normal” lives, and devote concerted time to figuring out what they wanted, as opposed to what everyone else (including culture and the media) expected of them.

It sounds so simple, and yet, go ahead. Just try to remember the last time you pulled it off. I interviewed a retired dean of Smith College who, when she was at Smith, developed a three-day retreat for seniors, to give them time to deeply reflect on how or how much their ideas of success, and their own goals, were a product of other people’s narratives and expectations for them, and to ponder how they might redefine those things for themselves. And when I asked her if she thought those workshops might be valuable to adult women, as well, she said, “Absolutely. I think it’s essential. But I think they wouldn’t have time.” [click to continue…]

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Is Being Authentic Terrible Advice?

by Lane Wallace

A few days ago, I was in the grocery store. It was mid-day, so there were a lot of moms and kids around. And one of those kids, whom I estimated to be a bit shy of two years old, threw a loud, dramatic and protracted fit when his mom denied him a candy bar [...]

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Dispatches from the Book Research Road

by Lane Wallace

Every now and then, I hear from readers who are wondering what I’m doing, now that I’ve retired my “Flying Lessons” aviation column. The answer is, I’m currently researching a book I hope to have completed by the end of the year.
The book is about the power and importance of an authentic voice: why it [...]

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Switching Jobs to Avoid Alzheimer’s

by Lane Wallace

I‘m thrilled that more and more study is being devoted to evaluating the impact of elements such as passion, purpose, meaning and having and expressing an authentic voice in our lives … even if the results often seem like a statement of the obvious. It seems almost self-evident, for example, that people who feel more [...]

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The Risks of Entrepreneurship: Silver Linings 2

by Lane Wallace

A few posts ago, I discussed a new study that concluded that people who attempt an entrepreneurial venture end up better off financially, regardless of whether the venture succeeds or fails. (The theory being you learn from the experience and return to a salaried job smarter and savvier, even if your self-employment doesn’t pan out.)
Well, [...]

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Passion, Resiliency, and Cam Newton’s Super Bowl Performance

by Lane Wallace

Say what you will about the NFL, or professional football, I love the Super Bowl. Every year, the game manages to produce some applicable nugget or insight of leadership, passion, or life. After all, if nothing else, the Super Bowl is unquestionably leadership and passion played out on a high-stress, high-stakes stage, in front of [...]

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An Explorer’s View on the Death of Henry Worsley

by Lane Wallace

I set out, last week, to write a post on the death of Henry Worsley–a 55-year old retired British Army officer who was attempting to be the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided. An ill and exhausted Worsley gave up the quest a mere 30 miles from his goal, after a journey of [...]

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Why Trying an Entrepreneurial Venture May Not Be As Risky As You Think

by Lane Wallace

“Why Doesn’t Everybody…”?
For years, I have joked about this iconic question, usually posed by innocent people who do not have any first-hand experience with the (fill-in-the-blank) topic they’re asking about. Lane’s rule of thumb: If everybody doesn’t do something … whether it’s start their own business, renovate their own house, or own a polished-aluminum airplane [...]

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Are Mid-Life Crises Inevitable?

by Lane Wallace

I began my new year (the 7th one writing this blog!) with the unexpected treat of dinner with two friends I’ve known since I was 12 years old. In truth, they are the only friends I’ve known since I was 12. But I know I’m lucky to still have something in common and keep in [...]

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