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Introduction, Hard Won Wisdom

Introduction to Hard Won Wisdom

Copyright 2001

By Fawn Germer


BY NOW, I’VE LOST COUNT of the number of times I have left work
wondering if it was me who was crazy-or everybody else. Believe me, I
have had enough of those days, weeks, months, and even years when I’ve felt
worn out and wondered how I’d survive emotionally, much less professionally.

We all have. What’s the deal? I read the same newspapers you do. Every
day there is another headline telling us how far we’ve come. Why, here’s a
story about a woman, a CEO in a Fortune 500 company! And look at that
one: She plays soccer. There’s one running for president. That one’s directing
films, publishing books, commanding the space shuttle-not to mention the
one who was in charge of foreign affairs . . .

Before I started connecting with this kind of woman in search of the
hard-won wisdom from which the rest of us could benefit, I wondered
whether we were even working on the same planet. They were leaping tall
buildings in a single bound, and I was running head-on into the wall of office
politics as a newspaper editor. I wondered why there were so many books
telling us how to dress, how to talk, how to act and how to break through the
glass ceiling-but none telling us how to survive it all emotionally.

Hopefully, with some of our generation’s boldest women as our
mentors, Hard Won Wisdom will fill that void. The idea for this book was to
get the women who paved the road to show us how they did it, and let them
mentor us from afar. They are joined by some of the nation’s foremost
experts in women’s psychology, business and sociology who help synthesize
the advice, inspiration and insight into a prescription for success. This
book is the result of hundreds of interviews-done in person or by phone-
with women leaders who have experienced the same obstacles and
challenges that we encounter as we try to balance our professional and
personal lives.

What surprised me most when I talked to these women was their
willingness to speak so openly, sharing their own pain and triumph while
relating what they have learned to our struggle today. What emerged was a
concept of boldness that, once embraced, gives us permission to succeed, to
fail, to try, to live. Their collective wisdom, which was certainly hard-won, is
now a permanent resource that you and I can consult every time we need a
little coaching or emotional boost.

These women give us validation, hope, and a game plan that will guide
us through the minefield of competitive work environments that aren’t
always nice, fair or nurturing. They urge us to embrace chance, opportunity
and the spirit by finding the right balance to support every personal
challenge. And, they show us how to live a more fulfilling life.

What shocked me was how much I learned from women whose
experiences are so removed from my own. I never imagined that a hockey
player, dogsled racer, oceanographer or an anthropologist who focuses on
primates would have advice that would apply to my world. But, they did.
These women cut their paths in male-dominated fields, fighting the very
same battles that many of us face. They have experienced as many tough
days as the rest of us, and they’ve kept pushing.

These women didn’t just “happen” upon greatness. They focused on it.
They achieved what once seemed so impossible, not because they sought
glory, but because they didn’t have a choice. It burned inside of them. They
latched on to what meant most to them and chased their passions. Their
reward was the same sense of purpose that we all can experience by finding
our own calling and doing what matters most to us.

So, we aren’t the crazy ones. We are women who want to read and learn
from others who have something to share. The women who share their
wisdom here don’t pretend to have every answer or to be any more worldly
than the rest of us. They’ve had their share of battles, too, and hate that any
of us still have to struggle. That’s why they’re talking now.

Imagine what we can do next, if only we listen.