I've been fortunate to be surrounded by amazing people as I've traveled for speaking and events. Something I always try to look out for is advice from diverse groups of people. Last year, as I listened to various speakers share their stories, one woman who stood out to me was Carrie Kerpen. So, I asked her to share some lessons that we can all learn from.
In her new book, "Work It: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business," Carrie says, "We all want a magic bullet -- the secret that will tell us how to be successful in today's world."
In our search, we grab onto various philosophies (whether it's to "move fast and break things" or to channel an inner "girl boss") or devour articles like this one. But most important, we listen to stories from those who have gone before us, showing us the path to success.
"Work It" offers insights and inspiration from more than 50 successful businesswomen, including Barbara Corcoran, Betty Liu, and Sheryl Sandberg. And while the book shares stories solely from women, the advice within it isn't applicable to just one gender. (In fact, I'd argue that anyone looking for brilliant business advice should absolutely read this book.)
Here are the top takeaways from the boldest women in business, including the No. 1 secret to success:
1. Your network is your net worth.
In her book, Carrie recalls the time she struck up a correspondence with Meredith Vieira after another chance encounter on a plane. (Clearly, the secret to networking is to take more plane rides.)
Your network is one of the most valuable things you possess -- which is why, as one bold businesswoman argues, you shouldn't consider networking as a "nice to have" but as part of your job description, whatever your role may be.
Sandy Carter, a tech veteran and a founding board member of WITI (Women in Technology International), learned a valuable lesson when one of her mentors pointed out that she always ate lunch at her desk, missing out on valuable opportunities to build relationships and advance her career. Sandy said, "Networking shouldn't be something you do when you have extra time. It's something you have to prioritize."
And for those who are terrified at the thought of awkward conversations at networking events, take comfort in the fact that these days, there are many different ways to network. Now, anyone you want to connect with is just an email, tweet, or plane seat away. You just have to reach out.
2. Learn when to say yes and when to say no.
Before Bev Thorne was the CMO of Freedom Mortgage, she was recruited by the CIA. It was a prestigious job that many would envy and that would set her up for the career she thought she wanted. But here's the thing: Bev hated it. On paper, it was her dream job. And yet, she couldn't help but feel that it was the wrong fit.
After ending her journey toward the Foreign Service, Bev went to work as an account executive for the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company (which later became part of AT&T). Guess what? She loved it. Bev went on to receive her MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and climb the corporate ladder, and it was all thanks to saying no to what looked great on the outside so that she could find something that felt great on the inside.
Ever since she was a young girl, Randi Zuckerberg dreamed of being on Broadway. But her life took a different turn. After joining her brother Mark's company, Randi had a thriving career at Facebook, putting her passions on the back burner. And then, at age 32, she got a call from a producer of the Broadway show "Rock of Ages," who was looking for someone in the tech industry to bring in a new audience.
Despite pushback from her peers in Silicon Valley, Randi jumped at the opportunity, and after 10 years of setting her dream aside, Randi finally ended up on stage -- and found a way to balance being a tech entrepreneur with her love of the arts.
If something feels wrong to you, it probably is, no matter what it looks like to others. And when you feel the pull of your passion, follow it, no matter how crazy it might seem.
3. Listen to your gut.
Watching Barbara Corcoran on "Shark Tank," it's clear that many of her investment decisions are based on her gut instinct. In fact, Barbara attributes her career success to the fact that she's always listened to her gut -- and it's never steered her wrong.
When Barbara was working as a waitress at a diner in New Jersey, she met a man named Ramon Simone (her now ex-boyfriend), who took one look at her and said, "A smart girl like you should really live in New York City." Her gut told her he was right. So, Barbara quit her job that night and packed her bags for the city.
Two years later, when Barbara was thinking of starting her own business, her mother advised against it, arguing that she was job-hopping too much and would be better off waiting at least a couple of years so that she could build her résumé. But Barbara trusted her gut and forged ahead instead. She says now: "If I had waited two more years, I never would have started."
And the biggest secret to success: There is no one way. There is only your way.
Every leader and every company has a unique origin story. Carrie and Dave Kerpen launched Likeable Media after getting married on a baseball field in a sponsored wedding. Barbara Corcoran got her start mailing The New York Times a "Corcoran Report" about celebrity home listings.
There is no one path to success. There is an infinite number. In business -- and in life -- you have to choose your own adventure.
From all the stories in this book, that's the biggest insight and the true meaning of "work it." Whoever you are, whatever your background, whatever your aspirations, do what works for you -- for your life and your career, using your unique talents and skills. However you personally define "success," the only way to achieve it is by working it -- and working it your way.