leadership

Team of 4 women breaks 3 world records by successfully rowing the Pacific Ocean

It reads like a blockbuster movie title –“257 days at sea” — but this was the reality for four courageous women, who rowed the Pacific Ocean without support. Nicknamed “The Coxless Crew”, Natalia Cohen, 40, Laura Penhaul, 32, Emma Mitchell, 30 and Meg Dyos, 25, completed an epic 8,446-mile journey on Monday. Members of a six-person team, that also included Isabel Burnham, 30, who rowed from SF to Hawaii, and 26-year-old Lizanne van Vuuren. They broke three world records to become the first team of four, the first all female team, and the fastest team to row the Pacific Ocean. And they did it in a 29-­foot bright-pink rowboat named “Doris.”

On April 20, 2015, the volunteer team departed from San Francisco and arrived on January 25, 2016 into he Marlin Marina in airns, Australia after rowing 24 hours per day, seven days per week in two-­hour shifts, for over nine months. Their only stops were in Honolulu, Hawaii and in Apia, Samoa to restock the boat with supplies and assorted freeze­-dried foods.

The crew were motivated by a desire to raise awareness and £250,000 to support two chosen charities, reast Cancer Care and alking With the Wounded. In their words, “everyone has their own pacific to cross. This project is all about creating an awareness for women facing their own challenges. We’re doing it for everybody. This isn’t something we are just doing for ourselves. We’re hoping to… inspire [others].”

As with any goal, preparation was required. The team trained for years and enlisted a support committee, including sport psychologist, Keith Goddard, who equipped the women with mental tools to face the challenges ahead. e trip “was a mindset journey more than anything,” Cohen told Women in the World, whose favorite mantra came from a necklace she wore, which said “ am in charge of how I feel today and today I choose happiness.”

Despite their preparation, she confessed that some legs became mentally grueling and difficult to endure, such as when they battled winds of “30 knots” and “40-foot waves.”

Mitchell described long, dark stormy nights, where it was impossible to see treacherous oncoming waves. These were challenging moments, especially combined with the struggle of “staying awake, because we never got more than one-and-a-half hours of sleep at a time.”

While stuck in the Doldrums, Mitchell said, “the currents were against us. We were pretty much going backwards a lot of the time. We were having to row every session as hard as we could and we still weren’t making any ground… That is when I struggled the most.”

In such low moments, the team united and fueled each other by shared conviction and humor. For Mitchell, “at no point was there any question that I was going to stop… Until we had achieved what we had set out to do, it was never going to be over.”

Added Cohen: “We are such an unbelievably strong team of women. That was key to the success of this trip. We kept each other going. There was continual laughter. I have never laughed so much in my life. We kept each other motivated.”

The crew were motivated by a desire to raise awareness and £250,000 to support two chosen charities, reast Cancer Care and alking With the Wounded. (Losing Sight of Shore)

When they were not battling life­-threatening weather, the team witnessed humpback whales, schools of fish, and herds of sharks that followed the boat for weeks. What they termed their “odyssey” afforded peaceful, spiritual experiences, as well. “You can’t help but be in a meditative state when you’re out there on the ocean. She’s absolutely mesmerizing, as you watch the undulating waves rising and falling, the clouds passing overhead, or the birds soaring in the sky. Everything that happens out there is meditative,” Cohen said.

Asked to share insights that would help someone looking to tackle an insurmountable goal, Cohen said, “you have the power to choose to do anything you want to do. With a little bit of self-­belief and trust in yourself, anything is possible.” For more on this story, Emmy ­award-winning documentary filmmaker Sarah Moshman (he Empowerment Project) followed their journey via footage shot by the women themselves and will release the film, Losing Sight of Shore, later in 2016.

The women continue the fundraising efforts from their homes in the United Kingdom. Readers can contribute by visiting www.coxlesscrew.com.

Ashley Crouch writes and speaks on women, beauty and leadership issues and lives in Manhattan. Find her on Twitter.

 

This article first appeared in Women in the World / New York Times by yours truly.

10 Career Moves for Every 20-Something

We've been called pre-­adults, emerging adults, millennials, the lost decade. We're told our 20s are the "defining decade," that 80% of life's most significant events take place by age 35, women still make only between 66 to 91 cents to every man's $1 and hold only 4.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. To change that, we should Lean In, ask for the raise, but not be afraid to start at the bottom. Maybe while we're at it, we should choose a husband while we're still in college.

In reality, young women receive a lot of mixed messages about how to get where we want to go professionally and personally. We've seen lists on "20 Mistakes You Don't Want to Make" go viral and helped make it happen. One thing is clear: we're searching for answers.

A few years ago I moved to New York in pursuit of a dream, only to spend an embarrassing number of days existing on ramen and canned beans. Working from a "home office" translated to "homebound," because who had money for a $14 cocktail from the nearby dive bar? I could feel the judgment vibes from everyone who wrote me "We believe in you!" cards for graduation. The truth is, my 20­-something experience isn't so unusual.

But as Diane von Furstenberg said, "I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be." So I turned to similar success stories and curated their No. 1 secrets of professional and personal success. If you worry whether you're teetering on the edge of the next big thing or on the brink of returning to your parents' basement, read on for the 10 top ways to make the most of your 20s … from the professional women leaders changing the world who shared their secrets with me.

1. Have a vision.

People who don't know where they want to go don't get there. Let yourself dream and imagine the type of life you would like to create, then write it down. That way, you'll expand your consciousness to be ready to receive the opportunities that cross your path. Executive coach, strategist, and writer, Cherylyn Harley LeBon, had great advice:

"View your life in decades and think about what you would like to accomplish in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and plan accordingly. This applies to your personal or professional life. For example, if you would like to be married in your 30s with children, then make smart decisions about your dating life, take care of your health, and put yourself in a position to meet a responsible life partner. If you think you would like to eventually have your own business, make sure you're developing overall entrepreneurial skills and building your network. Visualize how and where you'd like to be in the future and your 20s will be much more productive and enjoyable."

2. Start before you're ready.

As a 20-­something working in a competitive landscape, I know there's a lot of pressure to "be the best" at your job. But this perfectionism often paralyzes women from taking steps toward attaining their goals. They see the big divide between where they need to be and where they are. Instead of focusing on being perfect, allow yourself to create, to discover, and to get messy. Play around to explore what professions and skills you really enjoy and excel at, or which you would like to learn. Make a list of those things and keep developing it. Take risks to get involved in those professions or build those skills, either by accepting a job offer outside your comfort zone or asking for more responsibility. Start before you're ready.

3. Be intentional.

Time is on our side, but we need to use it wisely. Gabrielle Jackson, president and millennial strategist at The Millennial Solution, shared with me, "We think things are just 'going to happen' whether it's a raise at work, fulfillment in relationships, or even that pile of laundry we've been putting off. You can't procrastinate on your own life. Your 20s are your time to take risks and start a business, learn a new language, try a different career and build the life that you want. Show up for your own success. When you hit 30, you won't be wondering where your 20s went, you will be excited about where your 30s will go." Although it may seem like a commodity to be enjoyed, the time in your 20s will quickly fly by and you'll be grateful for taking time to think through the decisions you make.

4. Choose a role model.

Although we still have a ways to go, women have more possibilities at their disposal than ever before. Because of that, women with vision "want it all." While it's great and permissible to have multiple passions, make concrete choices that help you wind up where you want to be. As career coach and author of "The Brazen Careerist," Penelope Trunk told me, "To make sure you have attainable goals, identify a woman older than 35 who you want to be. Make sure you're close enough to her to know what her personal life is like. It's a package. Then look at the sacrifices that person made to get where she is. Decide if you want to make those sacrifices as well. If not, then pick another role model. Don't let yourself go through your 20s with no idea where you want to end up."

5. Define your value system.

As women, we receive so many messages daily about who we should be, how we should look, and what we should do, through advertising, media, and even our friends. Our 20s are the time to answer the questions, "What do I believe and value? How do I want to be remembered? What will be my legacy?" As CEO and Founder of SHE Globl Media and SHE SummitClaudia Chan shared with me, "Start developing and defining the values you want to base your life on. They can be about the kind of relationships you want to have and nurture, to what's required in the professional opportunities you take, to qualities you want to strengthen."

6. Learn to budget and save money.

For the first job or two out of college, it can be thrilling to get a real paycheck and instantly dream of the next swanky bar, restaurant, or chic outfit to spend it on. Budgeting is a real skill, and you want the zeros in your bank account to come after another number, not be the only number. Saving money gives you financial freedom to leave a job if necessary, start a side hustle, take a dream vacation (you can!), or plan for retirement (no, seriously.) As Rebecca Jackson, COO of "GoGirl Finance," shared with me, "Saving for the future can feel like you're restricting yourself, but alongside putting funds into a 401k or an IRA (and please do that), consider saving money as a gift to your future self for dreams that are unknown. Savings can be the means by which they unfold."

7. Choose your friends wisely.

We become like those around us. It's critical to build a tribe of friends who help challenge us to grow and become the best ­version­ of­ ourselves, which includes giving back to others. Multiple Emmy-­nominated TV host and Founder & CEO of PowerwomenTV, Amy Palmer, shared with me, "The biggest lesson I learned in my 20s was to look around at the people I was hanging out with. Are they using their time and talents wisely? Have they decided what and who they want to be in life? Your circle of influence defines who you are." Many of the relationships we foster in our 20s will travel with us throughout life and continue to shape us. So we need to choose well.

8. Build a strategic digital presence.

Everyone is online. Learn how to use the digital tools available, like LinkedIn, to connect and network with potential employers, mentors, and clients. Ask for a recommendation, tweak the language in your executive summary, invest in professional head shots. This attention to detail can potentially pay lasting dividends, literally. Millennial expert and TV and Radio Talk Show Host, Chelsea Krost, is no stranger to the digital landscape. She says, "Your 20s should be a time where you build your personal brand and network network network. Millennials, Digital Natives, people in their 20s today have unlimited resources at their fingertips thanks to technology. The time is now to start building a presence online, and to create a LinkedIn account. Let your 20s be a time where you create, innovate, and collaborate. You never know what relationship or opportunity may lead to something bigger and better! I live by the motto, "It's always a yes until it's a no."

9. Know that you're more than your job.

In big cities, the first question upon meeting someone is often, "what do you do?" making it easy to define our success and value by our job title or paycheck. In reality, we have purpose and value for our own sake, apart from our padded résumé and stack of degrees. Amanda Slavin, CEO and Founder of Catalyst Creativ, sympathized with me, "It's easy to rush through life to get as much as you can as quickly as possible. We like to push ourselves to the limit, throw ourselves in the fire, and never think we're never going to get burnt. But we do. Instead, think about the fact that you're more than your job. You're a multifaceted person. Slow down, breathe, and take the time to realize you can create your own happiness in your life, and that doesn't just mean in your job."

10. Don't rush.

When you see your friends bragging about their 100-hour work week followed by a bedtime reading of "Moby Dick" like it's a badge of honor, don't imitate them. Sure, it's great to hustle, but you should rely more on your internal compass and limitations than on external expectations. New York Correspondent for E! News Alicia Quarles is no stranger to the fast ­paced lifestyle, but she said, "So many people in their 20s are in a hurry to get to where they want to be: graduated, established, promoted, in love. Your 20s are a time where it's ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Don't be in a rush to be who you're going to be. Just enjoy being who you are."

(This article was published first at Levo LeagueBusiness Insider, FastCompany, and TIME.com by yours truly.)

6 Ways Top Women CEOs Balance Work and Life

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Work-life balance has been a topic of angst for years. From Anne-Marie Slaughter's article, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," to Max Schireson's recent abdication of his executive role to spend more time with his family, to recently published books like The Path Redefined, women -- and men -- are still trying to understand what a full, integrated life looks like.

The fact is, women have more personal and professional choices available than ever before. But with those new options for personal and professional life comes confusion. What does balance look like... really?

I turned to the pros who mastered the fine art of juggling it all, only to find that "work-life balance" may require rethinking. Read on to learn six top ways women CEOs are changing the definition of work-life balance.

1. Integrate.

"I believe in the idea of integration over the idea of balance. Your work should be something that you are passionate about, and your loves should be the things you prioritize, whatever or whoever they may be. When you do so with ruthless focus (which involves saying no to everything else), all of the noise falls to the sidelines and all of that time that gets robbed from you returns like a breath of fresh air." -- Caroline Ghosn, CEO of Levo League

2. Don't be perfect.

"I strive for excellence, never perfection. My first priority is to my husband and our relationship, next my daughter and finally my relationships with work. If my daughter is crying and I'm on a conference call, I excuse myself from the call and say, "I'll have to call you back." I know that affects how I am as a boss, but I am an excellent boss, not perfect. And when it comes to self-care, I want to look fashionable, but leave room for messiness." -- Athelia Woolley LeSueur, CEO of Shabby Apple

3. Keep perspective.

"My number one principle is to keep everything in perspective. Having spent a large part of my work life covering actual disasters (Katrina, tsunamis, earthquakes..) I'm pretty aware that most of the crazy events in MY life are not disasters. Ergo, I freak out very rarely, perceive most things and manageable, and most problems tend to roll off my shoulders. I've seen real disasters, up close, so I don't create catastrophes around things that are just unfortunate challenges to overcome." -- Soledad O'Brien, CEO of Starfish Media Group

4. Conquer self-doubt with self-love.

"Before we can 'lean in' or 'have it all,' we have to prioritize self-care through self-love. Focusing on self-love through positive self-talk and counteracting the negativity and doubt that we commonly fall into as women will remove the roadblocks that hold us back from living optimally. I focus on being my best friend first before any professional achievement or leadership endeavor I may pursue. That opens my consciousness to be in the right headspace for success." -- Claudia Chan, Founder and CEO of ClaudiaChan.com and SHE Summit

5. Prioritize choices.

"There is no such thing as balance. It is a myth that lives where Unicorns live. It's important to prioritize choices. I have a couple of non-negotiables: including working out, meditation, and family time. I start my day at 5:00 a.m.. After about half an hour on meditation and reading, I go to the gym. I'm home by 7:00 a.m. and helping get the kids, husband and house going for the day. I try to be home by 6:00 p.m. and then it's technology free until the kids go to bed. I only get a couple of dedicated hours to them each day, so I try to do it without distraction. Some days I do great and others I fail miserably!" -- Susan Peterson, CEO of Freshly Picked

6. Make time to recharge.

"Take one day at a time. Make time to recharge, whatever that looks like for you. If I do not invest that time, the hours I spend working won't be as productive. I usually give myself Saturday mornings to relax (usually with a good magazine in hand). More importantly, I get energy from being around others, so I surround myself with friends and family -- whether it's an early morning walk with friends or a dinner with my husband." -- Alexa von Tobel, Founder and CEO of LearnVest.com and New York Times-Bestselling Author of Financially Fearless

(This article first appeared on Huffington Post by yours truly.)