This year's Women of Silicon Roundabout conference kicked off with a suitably go-gettery talk by a woman who's going to get to where she's going, no matter what you think about her: Karren Brady.
Here are her six tips for surprising yourself with what you're capable of. They may seem like every consultancy firm's corporate pillars on face value, but the colour behind them reminded me to put my big girl pants on. So I hope it works for you as a 5-minute pep talk too.
Show leadership - And don't confuse leadership with management. Managers tell people to do things. But leaders face the music. To be a leader, you need to be able to get people to buy in to your vision, take it on as their personal mission, and deliver on it.
Ambition - It's pretty obvious; no one ever started anything without it. The real hard work, though, is finishing what you started. Quite often, especially if you're a woman, people who are ambitious can be seen as scary or ruthless. But all it really means is that you won’t give up until you get what you want. Be the first person in, be the last to leave (unless you have to get home for the school run, right?) Your ambition can get you on the right road, but you can't trade on your last best thing forever. You have to keep on being a success.
Determination - While you're trying to get what you want, you will experience temporary defeat. You will experience total failure. You can't avoid it. But how you react when it happens sets your path. If you hide under a rock you won’t get anything. No one comes up to a rock to peer underneath and ask you whether you'd like a promotion or a pay rise or a new opportunity. But if you find your backbone, you're giving yourself a chance again.
Attitude - If you don’t like something that's going on in your life, change it. If it’s not in your power to change it, then you'll have to change your attitude. Ask yourself, "If I take this risk, what’s the worst that can happen?" If you can confront the downside, you will improve your attitude to risk. If you can face the worst, then you'll come prepared and you'll give yourself a longer leash to stretch.
Direction - Make your own opportunities. The whole world steps aside for the person who knows where they are going. Show integrity, desire, willingness to do your best every day and show that to everyone around you so that they know what to expect from you. You can’t help where you start but where you finish is yours to own.
Be positive - A big part of success is hanging on when everybody else has let go. Karren tells of how when she was in boarding school, she spent her whole life doing what she was told. She saw true independence as having own money but didn’t know how to make it. So she got a job instead of going to uni, on the back of handful of O-levels and A-levels. She didn't have 'qualifications' but she had worked out her core values: ambition, determination and integrity – at 18. And 32 years later, they’re still the same. She had a £9k a year salary in her first job, part of which was compiling clippings from print publications. So she cut this motto out of Economist – and seems to have driven by it throughout her career.
"Nothing in the World can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." – attributed to Calvin Coolidge, and printed in the Economist 32 years ago where it was clipped out and has lived in Karren Brady's handbag ever since.