When I was attending college at The University of Texas at Austin, I felt defeated most of the time and struggled to find the motivation and encouragement that would keep me enrolled in school. What I took from it is that struggle is inevitable, so we have to buckle up for the ride.
I noticed other girls my age were getting guidance and motivation simply by picking up the phone to call a parent. As a first-generation Latina, I did not have that luxury.
Realizing that there was a support system I was missing out on, I decided to interview powerful women on camera. This way, they could share their stories and struggles with those women who are missing out on the mentor experience.
I figured that if we could all see how similar we are, despite socioeconomic status or cultural background, then maybe we'd feel less lonely when faced with a difficult circumstance of our own.
Here are a few lessons I have learned (and continue to learn) through interviewing these powerful women.
1. Perseverance, perseverance, perseverance.
Every woman I interviewed overcame something difficult at some point in their life. Not a single woman was left unscathed from the battle of her life.
They spoke about various personal issues that were not career related, but shaped them nonetheless. These issues included shame associated with multiple divorces, losing a child in a tragic car accident, surviving a massive flood and many more tragic topics that could be out of an intense memoir.
However, what they all had in common was that they kept going while making the conscious decision to push through their pain and suffering. Now, this didn't mean they were made of steel and refused to cry, yell or get angry.
As a matter of fact, the women I interviewed were filled to the brim with heart, grace, empathy and compassion. Their emotions were written all over their face and although a lot of time had passed since surviving their tragedy, they would still become emotional causing me to pause the interview and run towards the Kleenex.
I was sitting in one successful woman's office on a top floor with a enviable view of the skyline, while she was still in the throes of the grieving process. Despite her personal struggles, she was owning her career and exuding success.
Perseverance means acknowledging their emotions and struggles while still trusting that tomorrow will be a new day for the taking.
2. Confidence is everything.
Simply looking at the interviewee's title on their business card was enough to intimidate crowds of people. I was terrified because the caliber of women I was lucky enough to interview were often known to turn down members of the press.
And yet there I was, hiding behind my iPad while asking them personal questions about their 3rd divorce. During the 1-hour interview, I was lucky enough to get a glimpse into other aspects of their life since many of the women lead large corporate or government organizations.
The way they spoke was captivating because every word that left their mouth was said with confidence and conviction.
As soon as I got a glimpse of it, I immediately wanted to savor it, too. Being at the top is hard because it means more people are watching every move you make waiting for you to screw it up. So without confidence in who you are as an individual, opinions and criticism of any nature have the ability to have a negative influence on your state of mind.
Confidence is the secret behind all decisions, regardless of magnitude. Without confidence we invite guilt, shame and insecurities to take a front seat in our life.
3. Your problems will never just "go away."
Sure, you may be able to afford to pay off your student loans and get a bigger house once you start making more money. But, that doesn't mean that life suddenly throws glitter in your path and everything can be declared perfect.
There's this idea that as our careers grow and we find that amazing partner, our problems disappear.
What I realized while interviewing these women was that their problems didn't disappear with success, they evolved. There was much more on the line for them if they let their personal life impact their professional one.
These women had the strength and experience to help them address future inevitable issues.
They knew that facing their problems head on was the only way to keep their ambitions a top priority.