Don’t Wait For Your Oscar

I recently finished reading „Playing Big” by Tara Mohr. I can’t rave about it enough. Tara explains the insecurities women are raised to inhabit, picks their origins apart, provides guidelines for how to overcome those insecurities, and tells vivid anecdote of women who took her advice and changed their lives for the better. Tara’s writing drips empowerment and encouragement and belief in a better world through women living their true lives with every word. It’s not necessarily about advancing your career, but more about finding your dream, your passion, your calling, and pursuing it. I cannot put into words how much I recommend this book.

My favourite rule

If you want a first taste of her work, you should check out her “Ten Rules For Brilliant Women”. One of those has especially resonated with me: Rule #7: Don’t wait for your Oscar.

Tara writes the following:

Don’t wait to be praised, anointed, or validated. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to lead. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to share your voice. No one is going to discover you. (Well, actually, they will, but paradoxically, only after you’ve started boldly and consistently stepping into leadership, sharing your voice, and doing things that scare the hell out of you.)

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Your experience may be different from mine, but I know that I was always waiting to be called upon, waiting to be asked for my opinion, waiting to be heard. The first time I talked at a Tableau-related event was because my (male) team partner volunteered that we present our work, resulting in him presenting, me hovering awkwardly in the background, and me, when asked if I had anything to add, declining. (You can read more about that here.) My first talk at a Tableau User Group was in Berlin, because I had been asked to say a few words. If I had left it at that, I would still be that shy young woman cowering behind bolder people. (In many ways, I still am, and that’s okay, too.)

The thing is, I was lucky, and Tara was right: nobody is begging to discover you. You have to discover yourself. I only got invited to speak at the Berlin TUG because I had published my work on Tableau Public and Twitter, and Klaus Schulte was the actual guest speaker that night, and somebody had mentioned to the TUG leaders that Klaus’ winning dashboard at Iron Viz Europe 2018 was vaguely inspired by one of my earlier works. If I hadn’t forced my work on the community, the community would never have found out I existed.

Taking the leap

When my personal cheerleader pushed me to apply to speak at the Tableau Fringe Festival for the first time, I kind of panicked. There’s a photo taken just a few minutes after I hit the “Send” button and it perfectly shows my terrified excitement. (When you read Tara’s “Playing Big”, you will recognize that in chapter 3, where she talks about pachad and yirah.)

That moment of panic mere minutes after applying for my first Tableau Fringe Festival

I realized that speaking was something that kind of worked quite well for me. My earliest writings (think: 2nd grade “Who Am I?” bios) name my dream job as singer, actress, or simply “star”. I participated in a drama group for eight years before I moved towns. I’ve written stories ever since I learned how to write. I consider myself a storyteller who illustrates her stories by acting them out. You could say that I take “walk the talk” quite literally.

This is me
My name is Heidi Kalbe. I have gold- to brown-blonde, shoulder-length hair, grey-green eyes, and am about 1.20m high. I like helping other people, but only if I dont have to work too hard. At home, I like to read, cuddle my two cats, or combine musical pieces on my piano. Sometimes Im brave, sometimes a coward. I would like to become a star, actor or veterinarian one day.
*compose [correction by my teacher]
// written in grade 5
As with so many things, the more you do something, the more easily it comes to you. With every subsequent speaking opportunity I took, presenting got easier and easier. I have become more comfortable with less preparation, and I’ve built trust in myself. I hesitate less and less before applying for speaking opportunities.

Of course, I still get wildly terrified before each speaking engagement. I guess these days that’s part of the joy I get from it.

Show the confidence you don’t yet feel

And by now, I’m slowly crossing over that magical border Tara mentioned. I’ve started sharing my voice as liberally as I was brave enough to do, and people are getting interested in hearing me talk. Now and then, I’m actually being approached about speaking. I believed in myself, and now others believe in me, too.

There’s one thing I always tell our analysts at the Analytics Academy when coaching them: “Fake it till you make it.” People are happy to believe that you’re competent, you just have to believe it yourself. And if you don’t believe it, then at least act the part.

That doesn’t mean that you should pretend to know things you don’t. Part of being a consultant is knowing when to honestly say “I don’t know, but allow me to find out for you”. It simply means that portraying a confidence you don’t feel yet will, with time, help you actually feel it.

And it means speaking, even when nobody’s begging to listen to you, until they ask you to speak. Of course, this applies to other things beside public speaking, as well: leading a project, organizing an event, writing an editorial, tweaking an algorithm, starting an initiative, you name it.

No, really: name your passion to yourself, find an opportunity to live it, and ask for exactly that opportunity. Don’t wait for somebody to serve it up to you on a silver platter – take it. And most importantly, do it before you can talk yourself out of it.

Do it now.

If you would like some help in amplifying your voice and making it heard, contact me anytime about speaking opportunities. I’m more than happy to host you at Data+Women Germany, or to point you towards other initiatives that might fit what you’re looking for. Us girls gotta stick together!