Doing the “Next Right Things”

For most of my professional life, I’ve been a single mother of three beautiful children.  I grew up in a lovely and beautiful small town in middle Georgia, a town where the traffic lights start blinking at night because so few cars are on the road.  A town where people live in their same homes most of their lives.  A town where the same women that taught me in school, also drove me in carpool, and taught me in Sunday school.   A wholesome town, full of good people.  I moved to Texas and went to law school.  I believed my life had a deep purpose, and I felt and believed education was key to my path.  

In our world right now, I believe we are lacking leadership.  It’s been said, you manage things, you lead people. We need the voices of more women in leadership.  Without this, we are missing half of the population! 

I love great leaders!  Leaders who are engaged and passionate and ambitious.  This passion, this fire, is contagious!   Make no mistake, there is no substitute for hard work.  I’ve heard it said that the harder I work, the luckier I get.  There is a lot of wisdom in that statement.  It’s one thing to dream of goals, but it absolutely takes hard work to create change.  

As a young lawyer, starting my career, a partner told me that every day, keep your focus on your work for that day.  Work as hard as you can, and do the best job that you can.  Listen to that voice inside you if something feels off, and act on that intuition.  If you work hard every day, and believe in your voice, and do what you believe is the right thing, great things will happen.  Just keep doing the right thing, day after day.  The rewards will come. 

My minister also tells me regularly, focus on doing the “next right thing”.  Life can feel big, and at times very hard.  It’s not as overwhelming to do the “next right thing”.   The things that I value most in my life, that I love most in my life, require deep faith and unwavering love and commitment.  Those people that make our world go around, they deserve our love, our prayers and our faith.  I have to believe that, especially when things seem hard, life feels heavy, and the days seem long.

I want my three children to see a strong mom.  A mom that believed that her life was to be an example of hard work and love and devotion.  I feel great excitement about the beauty of the world, and the people around us.  I want my family to see me light up every time any one of them enters the room; to know they are loved, adored and that love will never, ever change.  

As women leaders, we also need great teams around us.  Those who are our own champions, and for me, that includes my husband.  A partner that is brilliant and loving and loves a strong woman is a great partner, a treasure!  It surely makes this wonderful and complex road even more enjoyable.  To start and end your days with the one that you love — what could be more valuable?

My mother didn’t go to college.  Her parents didn’t have money to send her, so it was never discussed.  My grandmother had a third grade education, and my grandfather could not read.  My grandmother quit school in the third grade to go work on the family farm in Georgia.  My mother worked part time in the school I attended as the secretary for the front office of the school.  

I mention these women because they are STRONG women.  Brilliant women.  Hard working women.  And, they raised me.  We didn’t grow up in an environment of excess, but we grew up knowing the value of hard work, and knowing the value of loving your family.  I got my first job at 15 and have been working ever since.  

I have been a single mom before.  I know what it is like to get quarters out of the dresser drawer to get enough money for gas to go to work.  That may not sound great, but it’s real, and real life can be hard.  I know what it’s like to stay up for almost two years without a night of uninterrupted sleep because you are caring for a beautiful baby, and there is no adult in the house to take even one feeding.  And you learn to not only survive, but to thrive.  You learn to appreciate love even more, and you learn the joy in sharing your life with the love of your life.  

Isn’t that awesome!  It’s a perspective all our own, and it gives an authenticity, a connectedness to us that makes us – women — deep thinkers and thoughtful leaders.

In ending, I’ll share a favorite quote . . . “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” 

Stephanie Few is a Founder of SC Women in Leadership and a Partner with Womble Bond Dickinson