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3 Growth & Leadership Lessons I Wish I'd Learned Sooner

In this article, originally published by Finotta, WCF CEO and founder Stephanie Eidelman shares some of the most game-changing lessons she's learned throughout her career. 





In my 35-year career, I’ve learned three essential lessons about growth and leadership. They apply personally as well as professionally.  


First is that growth comes from discomfort.


I run an annual women’s leadership summit. Sometimes, I recruit speakers and workshop leaders who were attendees in the prior year and stood out. Typically, I notice their fabulous energy and authenticity and want to give them the chance to be on stage. 


Some require convincing. They suggest maybe their boss should have the opportunity instead. I’m not deterred; I know they are nervous and this may be out of their comfort zone. But boy, will they grow and gain confidence from the experience, and afterward, they will be proud and happy they did it. 


I also know that others will be inspired because they’ll see someone like them on stage and realize they can do it, too. 


And this is exactly what happens. Lives are changed – both on stage and off – every year. 


To quote a saying made popular by Joyce Meyer that captures this beautifully, “Do it afraid.” And just as importantly, if you’re not afraid, pay it forward and support someone else who is doing it afraid. You just may change a life.


Second is that your network is your most valuable asset.


You have probably heard of Stacey Abrams, the politician and voting rights advocate from Georgia. But you may not know that she’s also an accomplished author of both fiction and nonfiction, as well as a kick-ass entrepreneur. In the book she co-authored called Level Up, she said, among other terrific nuggets of advice, “Your network is your net worth.”  


It’s really true. While intelligence, hard work and a great attitude are essential, the people who will respond when you call, or who will champion your interests, are your doors to the greatest success. Nurture them.


And if you are in a position to have social or professional capital, be generous with it if you can help someone who is deserving but may lack access to opportunity. 


Third is that being intentional is incredibly powerful.


I listened to a podcast recently. Hillary Clinton interviewed Amanda Gorman, the famous young American Poet who read her poem, The Hill We Climb, at Joe Biden’s inauguration. One thing especially struck me. Amanda wants to be president in 2036. Evidently, she knew this in middle school. 


Many of us had dreams in middle school. For instance, my son was absolutely sure he would be a professional baseball player, but he had no particular plans to practice.  Amanda, however, took her dream so seriously that she decided then and there that she would post no selfies or extra social media that might affect her ability to run for office in the future. If you’re lucky, you had an encouraging family who said, you go, girl and supported your ambitions. Apparently, Amanda’s twin sister took it just as seriously because she made the same pledge to curb her social media because she knew her behavior could affect her sister’s political aspirations.


I share this because I thought, wow, what an example of working on your career in an intentional way and paving your path. Of course, Amanda is not the president (yet). But she’s still in her twenties, and look what she’s accomplished. You can bet that her focus and intention setting contributed to the success she’s already had.


These are lessons I wish I had absorbed much earlier in my life. But then, we often have to learn things for ourselves in order to appreciate their truth and power.

Hear more stories like Stephanie's when you join us for Women in Consumer Finance 2024 in Fort Worth, Texas from November 11 to 13.  Click here to sign up.