I had the pleasure of attending the Simmons SOM Leadership Conference last weekend where I sat in the audience listening to Mireille Guiliano, former president and CEO of Clicquot, Inc. (creators of my absolute favorite champagne, Veuve Clicquot). She is also the author of French Women Don’t Get Fat and French Women for All Seasons and has appeared on Oprah, The Early Show, The Today Show and Dateline.
I expected to hear Guiliano speak to us about how she focused on her goals at an early age and how she became a diligent businesswoman. I was waiting to hear, “When I was 8 years old, I read my first novel and I discovered my path…”
As extraordinary as it is to hear stories about men and women becoming young millionaires, as a woman with only a month left in her 20s, these stories of retiring at 35 just give me major anxiety .
To my surprise, Guiliano began by telling us that when she was 30, being an author hadn’t even crossed her mind. She was actually a public relations account executive (who knew?) and at one point in her life, she gave up a great job because she fell in love. She told us how she questioned many of her decisions, but in the end she realized that you just can’t plan for everything. Most of the time, you have no other choice but to trust yourself. Life just happens .
Of course, Guiliano didn’t just sit back and expect “fate” to do all of her work. She is an extremely intelligent, business-savvy woman who rolled up her sleeves and created her own success. At the same time, what I found most admirable about her is that she followed her intuition, allowed herself to take chances, looked for and eventually found equilibrium in life and above all, she maintained a sense of humor.
One important message repeated throughout her speech was advice given by her mother; a question she asks herself before big decisions need to be made: What’s the worst thing that could happen? To my surprise, when I have asked myself this question during moments of uncertainty, the response is just as Guiliano said it would be – consistently and unexpectedly minor.
Of course, at some point, we all question the path we’ve taken. We wonder if we’ve made the right choices in our careers, our relationships, our commitments. We stress about our finances and our appearance. We panic that we might be wasting precious moments doing what we’re doing when we’re really just wasting time thinking about wasting time.
Guiliano’s keynote was a pleasant surprise – solid recommendations from a successful woman, advising us to seize the right opportunities, but also reminding us that timing does matter and success will vary from person to person.
In the meantime, it’s best to work hard, remain patient and have a sense of humor... What’s the worst thing that could happen?