I recently read Ellen Spragins’ latest book “What I know about Success ”. You may have heard of the author before. She is a well known speaker and author, and has made her name by writing about her discussions with successful women, asking them to imagine they could talk to their younger selves about lessons they have learned. This is her third book in this format. The book is divided into chapters which highlight well known women from various walks of life. The author introduces the women being interviewed, gives a little about their background, and then shows the letter the women would have written to her younger self. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about these women, many of whom I have seen on TV or read about in business journals.
What was so refreshing was how honest they were in reminding their younger versions that some of the toughest challenges they would meet, would become some of the most valuable and influential times of their lives. We can read about the details of their fears, anxieties, or feelings of helplessness. We see how they would encourage themselves to continue with the journey and stay focused on their passions. And because we know the outcome of their present life, we know that this is wisdom worth applying.
Since reading this book, I have had the opportunity to talk to some very successful women here in our own valley, about what they would write. An interesting conversation always follows. When they stop to think about an answer, I find frequently that a reassuring calmness emerges, a smile, and then the details on some amazing lesson that they learned. Even in my own life I would have to say that I have learned something from asking this question. When I was a young officer in the military, I worked with some of the brightest individuals in health care. One year, I worked on a project that would put me in the rooms with some of the world’s greatest experts in health demands and future projections. We were tasked by Congress to gather them together, and forecast health care demand for 2010 and 2025. We were all taken to a secluded location to work on a report that would later influence decisions about health care for years to come.
That was twenty years ago. That report is still used today as our politicians, insurance companies, universities, research labs, and medical schools all grapple with some of the issues of health care planning. At the time, I can remember being busy, and stressed, and worried about various aspects of the process. For me it felt like an intrusive task, that I didn’t have time for. I just wanted this task to go away! If I had the opportunity to write a letter, I would have told me to enjoy the moment, sit at the feet of scholars and learn what I could, and really be a part of this historic event. As I fast forward back to my current life, I think maybe the advice is still the same… Enjoy the moment, learn what you can from within the challenges, and really be a part of life.
I hope you take the opportunity to read this book. If not, take a few moments to have coffee with friends and really talk about how you would answer the question and what you would write. Listen to what your friends would write. It will likely be an amazing discussion.
You may purchase Ellen’s book Here.