At 27, Erica Williams Simon came to an important recognition. She was “successful” but not happy.
“So, I did what we are never supposed to do—especially as women, especially as black women: We’re never supposed to quit. You don’t quit. Well yes, you do and I did,” she recently said.
What she discovered in the time of self-exploration that followed was that many cultural and generational narratives had shaped her idea of what it means to be successful that had nothing to do with what she actually wanted out of life.
Now, the woman who had been listed on several “30 under 30” lists as a rising political star and TV commentator, is on a mission to help others understand the cultural stories that shape their lives and create new ones that will lead them to the life they actually want.
The author of the 2019 book, You Deserve the Truth, Erica shared these five insights with the Conference for Women:
- Recognize that hard work is not necessarily the key to success. “I learned that the people at the top are there because they worked hard. When I looked around at my life, what I actually found was that the people I saw working hardest were making the least amount of money, were stressed out, were lacking in self-care. There was in some ways almost an inverse correlation between how hard people who are working and what they were reaping as a result.”
- Consider what success means to you. “We’re told that success is a certain amount of money,” she said. “Then if you look on Instagram, it’s that plus … all of these ridiculous expectations.” Rather than simply following along with that idea, Erica suggests defining what success means to you personally.
- Change takes time. “Another narrative that really shook me in the beginning of my journey was, Oh, things are supposed to happen fast. I quit my job and now I’m supposed to figure out what I need to do.” But the reality is it takes time to unravel other people’s stories and come up with one that reflects the career that suits you.
- Honor your own values. “What is important to me?” That’s the question that led to a turning point in Erica’s life and that she recommends asking. “It doesn’t matter if what is important to you is important to your sister or important to your colleague or even important to that mentor that you love.” Defining what matters to you will also make it easier to make future decisions.
- Do something to engage with the hard questions—even if you don’t yet have the answers. “You don’t actually have to answer the hard questions immediately, but you owe it to yourself to respond. You can respond with experimentation. You can respond by trying something different. But do something, anything,” she said. “And the answers, I promise you, will reveal themselves in time.”
Erica Williams Simon shared these insights and more at the 2019 Pennsylvania Conference for Women. You can listen to the entire session here.