What if I told you that the power to achieve all you want out of life lives inside you? What if I told you all you had to do was find that power and exercise it? What if there were a guide for doing just that?

That is exactly what Gay Gaddis' new book, Cowgirl Power is: a field guide to helping you tap into your inner power and achieve success in both business and life.

Throughout her book, Gay, an advertising CEO and Texas-born cowgirl, shares insights and examples for women to develop their personal power on all fronts and lead like fearless, risk-taking cowgirls. In fact, cowgirls are her heroines and act as a trail guide throughout the book.

"Cowgirls have a braveness, authenticity, and grit that I see reflected in powerful women today. I thought, how can we draw upon their courage and find our own personal power to be able to kick ass in our careers and lives?"

Gay was raised with cowgirl values. Those values are what helped her find the inner power she needed to quit a job she was no longer happy with, cash in her IRA and start her own advertising agency. Those values are what drove that agency to success, what inspired her to create a family-friendly company culture, and what pushed her to become a fearless leader.

Gay says the inspiration for Cowgirl Power "comes from years of raising a family, building a career and busting through barriers to create an innovative business and culture. It comes from seeing mothers strain under the realities of children and work. It comes from seeing women struggle to be forceful in their careers, witnessing the appalling lack of movement of women into the C-Suite. It comes from getting mad at all the press, studies, and hammering about women's lack of progress."

The book, she explains "is about taking responsibility for yourself. It's about slapping down the traditional definitions of power and focusing on your personal power to open up new possibilities."

"The power I am describing is not bestowed on you by someone else, it comes from within yourself. It comes from inspiration, charisma, and leadership. It comes from friendship, teamwork, an open heart, and an abundance of goodwill. It comes from humor and character and grit."

Can anyone have this power? Yes. Gay says, "Power is there for the taking, and more often than not it comes from connecting with people and offering a hand up. This is a vast, largely untapped source of power for women to draw on that is completely natural, authentic, abundant, and accessible to all, regardless of their position in life."

Gay doesn't just talk the talk. She writes from personal experience. In Cowgirl Power, Gay outlines how women can find this new type of power by sharing examples from her personal journey. Each example ladders up to some of the cowgirl values she shares throughout the book.

1. Be self-aware.

Gay's first job at an ad agency was far from perfect. At the time, she was the second woman ever hired in their creative department. "The first day on the job, I was shown to my little cubicle and given my first assignment. This went pretty well for a few months, but over time I felt more and more isolated. It just wasn't working and I needed to move on... I would later come to realize that my personality type doesn't do well in isolation."

Gay, out of a job, decided then and there to buck up. She landed a new job in the media relations department at a hospital. The environment was a much more collaborative one, and she thrived.

Both jobs taught Gay how to be more aware of who she was and how she liked to work, what led to success for her and what didn't. She eventually poured all of those learnings into building her own company's culture. In Cowgirl Power, Gay says, "The ability to see yourself from afar is profound. Cowgirls can do it because they take time to listen to themselves, but with a critical ear. They are unafraid of criticism and, in fact, welcome it."  

2. Embrace risk. 

Later in her career, Gay found herself back in the world of advertising and facing another predicament. "After years of successfully building client relationships, profitable business, and empowered teams, I became frustrated with the overall direction at the agency.

So with a small band of insurgents, I developed a new business plan to do just that. We wrote the proposal, ran all the numbers, and I finally presented it to our president... He came into my office and told me he would not support my plan, that it was too risky and too expensive.

I left the office fuming, humiliated, and perplexed. The next morning, I walked into the office and quit... At the time, starting my own company seemed like an extremely risky move. I really believed in what I was doing, and so I leaned on my cowgirl legacy, bet on myself, and made the leap."

Gay admits it wasn't easy, but she says, "Risk tends to come at you quickly... Do not overthink it. Do not worry about it. Make the call and move on."

3. Build goodwill.

When Gay started building her company, she focused on one thing: building goodwill. She made sure the culture she crafted was one of empowerment and kindness. She wanted to help everyone realize their potential.

That was challenged just as her agency was starting to grow.

"A few years after I got my company up and running, four of my 24 employees got pregnant. I started lying awake at night worrying about how we were going to manage through their maternity leave and whether they would want to return to work.

After thinking about it, I realized that we did not have to play by anyone else's rules--we were in control of our own destiny. So I proposed that after their maternity leave they bring the babies to the office to hang out with us until they started to crawl and/or walk.

It was a bit daunting at first, but we all quickly got into a groove. People were amazed that we could actually work with babies around the office. But we did, the babies were fine, the moms were fine, and the business grew because of the quality of the work we were doing.

We named the program T3 & Under, and it has been in place since 1995. It is the single most powerful thing I have done in my life. What we have done for the families of our employees is nothing short of remarkable."


Knowing yourself, taking risks and changing the rules to build goodwill are all forms of power that people possess. You simply have to take that first step.