A well-known saying goes, ‘Behind every great man is an even greater woman.’ When Barack Obama was still the US President, he went out with his wife to a restaurant. The story about this outing went viral. When the presidential couple arrived in the restaurant, its owner reportedly asked for a quick chat with the First Lady whom she knew as a young man. Once the Obamas had been back home, the President enquired about the conversation. Michelle Obama told him that the restaurant’s owner used to have a crush on her when they were still young. ‘Had you married him, you would now be the restaurant’s owner,’ quipped Barack Obama, to which Michelle replied, ‘No, had I married him, he would be a President now.’

The story of women in politics and business is paved with obstacles. Women were first granted the right to vote in New Zealand as late as in 1893.

There are still countries where women do not have the right to vote, such as Brunei. Women continue to face multiple adversities, including typecasting and undermining their competences. Marie Curie-Skłodowska is an example of a strong woman whose road to success was nothing but short of bumpy.

As a young woman, she was faced with the first hurdle on her way to growth. Since studying at the university was not yet an option for a Polish woman, Marie left for Paris to pursue her academic interests.   Her scientific career took off there, but it did not happen without difficulties. Back in those times, there was something profoundly inappropriate about a woman with a scientific mind; a coMaria Curie-Skłodowskammon belief was that a woman belonged in the kitchen. In spite of stumbling blocks, Skłodowska managed to develop her famous theory of radioactivity.  I dread to think what would have happened had she been locked up in a kitchen after all. The first attempts to conduct research on cancer treatment were made at her initiative. She shared her first Nobel Prize with her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel for the research into spontaneous radioactivity discovered by Becquerel. She was awarded her first own Nobel Prize for discovery of chemical elements Polonium and Radium.

Our experience determines the reality in which we live. Our life is a mirror reflection of our deep-rooted thoughts and expectations. Therefore, we should do our best to orient our thoughts in the right direction to get us closer to becoming the person that we want to be and the place that we want to get to. Our perception of the world around us is shaped by our experience. If the world can be described as a territory, then our interpretation of it provides us with a map.  Whatever a human mind can come up with, can be achieved by a human will. If Marie had given in to narrow-minded stereotypes of an apron-clad, kitchen-bound woman, she would have never accomplished what she did and what the whole scientific world has admired her for ever since.

Speaking of a winding road to success, Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, better known to the world as Coco Chanel, had it rough in the beginning. She spent part of her childhood in an orphanage. This is where she was taught to sew. Despite a difficult girlhood, she had plenty of self-confidence. As she would later often say,  ‘If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.’ Chanel proved to the world that anyone can be successful as long as they believe to be sufficiently good at something. In her time, Coco Chanel had no competition. Her designs did not have cheaper equivalents, or at least not such which could in any way threaten her position in the world of fashion. Her career shows the importance of innovative, outside -the -box thinking and creativity  in business. One of Coco’s most famous sayings goes,

‘My life did not please me so I created my life’.

Being successful has nothing to do with well-off relatives who can offer you help. Did Coco Chanel graduate from a prestigious sewing school? No, she did not. But she had a vision and was determined to make it happen. She did not create the Chanel brand; she WAS the brand, with millions of followers.  As a great leader, she expected  from others what she expected of herself. She never rested on her laurels, never stopped to create and inspire others. In a way, she continues to do so even now as demonstrated by a timeless appeal of her flagship creation – an LBD (little black dress).

To fully unleash your potential, you must be bold, resourceful, flexible and ready to seize any opportunity that comes your way. All our goals, dreams and desires are no more than tools to put our values into practice. Once we have lost touch with our values, we lose our motivation. Losing sight of your target turns you into a grand- master in wasting time.

All those people who reached their full potential have one thing in common.  At every stage of their careers, they saw each unsuccessful  attempt at achieving something rather as a lesson learned than failure.  Opportunities come to those who think positive. The story below proves this point:

,Two shoe salesmen were dispatched to Africa. Soon both sent a cable to the company’s headquarters. One of them reported, ‘There is no demand for shoes here. Nobody wears shoes in this place.’ The other guy’s cable read, ‘Nobody wears shoes here. Please send 5 million pairs asap.’

Do you have any doubts as to which of them will become successful?

Mirella Piwiszkis
Business Psychologist, Mentor, Founder of INSPIRE