If there’s anyone who can put the idea of success in perspective in 2020, it’s Esther Wojcicki, the author and educator who raised three wildly successful daughters and wrote the book, How to Raise Successful People.
So, here’s what she says: “We have to back up on our idea of success now because maybe we had long-term goals but now success is getting through this week without having problems. Maybe it’s getting enough food. Maybe it’s making sure that your child has a good sense of self this particular week. … I think we have to redefine success as being able to cope effectively with your family in this environment that we’re living in today.”
But “cope effectively?” How exactly do we do that in this dizzying year?
Wojcicki—who learned early on that looking for the positive was a good alternative to being depressed—has some ideas about that.
A woman who knows
This, after all, is the woman who as a young girl growing up in poverty took the initiative to get a lawnmower and mow her lawn so that her home, in her words, would look less like a dump.
It’s the woman who, when her parents told her at the age of 15 that they would not pay for her to attend college because they wanted her to get married, took it as an opportunity, through work and scholarships, to pay her way.
And, this is the woman who raised two Silicon Valley CEOs (Susan of YouTube and Anne of 23andMe) and Janet, a professor at UC San Francisco—and has taught many accomplished students over more than 35 years while helping build Palo Alto High School’s world-famous media arts program.
Small wonder people seek out her advice. Here are three key points that Wojcicki shares in the latest episode of the Conferences for Women podcast, Women Amplified.
Wojcicki will also be a speaker at the 2020 virtual Pennsylvania Conference for Women, where she will join award-winning actress Viola Davis, bestselling author Tara Westover and many other inspiring speakers. If you haven’t secured your tickets, learn more here.
- Start by looking for the opportunities
- “See whether or not you can’t take every crisis as an opportunity to do something new and different. That is one of the things that I’m doing right now, and that I think we all are forced into doing.
- I think you have to do that, because the world is so difficult, and has so many challenges for so many people. I think it’s important to spend at least part of the time thinking about what opportunity this challenge is giving you, and there are lots of opportunities.”
- “For example, we’re all living together, so you have to get along with the people that are your family, or your friends, or whoever your significant other is. You have an opportunity to practice a lot of skills, interpersonal skills that you might not have had that opportunity to do before.”
- Another opportunity: “What can you do to make other people’s lives better? The other day I went up and down the street. I have a lot of neighbors who are elderly, and I ended up getting a lot of extra organic tomatoes. I delivered a little care-package to them, and it was incredible.
One of them sent me a note and said how that made her day: just a little care package of tomatoes. … I think you can do little things like that every day to try to make your day better and other people’s day better.”
- Recognize this as an opportunity to be a more effective parent
- “I think the most important thing that parents can do today is to make their child feel like they are part of the team. It’s a team effort. We’re all in this together, and we all have our role, and we’re all working together to make our lives better.”
- “One of the courses U.C. Berkeley instituted last year was called ‘Adulting.’ The reason they implemented that course was that they were getting hundreds, maybe thousands of kids who were entering the system and didn’t have the basic skills for how to be an adult: how to do their laundry, how to cook, how to clean, how to do basic things that people do. It was because of the helicopter parenting syndrome where parents were doing pretty much everything.”
- “The crisis we’re in now is an opportunity for us to use kids’ free time to teach them adulting skills. David Brooks wrote a column [in The New York Times] in which he said: ‘The Age of Coddling is Over.’
- We’re no longer coddling our kids because we can’t coddle them the same way that we coddled them before. We all need them to be part of the team. We need to think of this as an opportunity to change the way we parent that is more effective for our kids rather than less effective.”
- “That’s what I’m trying to do, and that’s what I try to do in my classes is to teach kids how to think. How to think no matter what situation you are in.”
- In work and family life, focus on T-R-I-C-K (Trust. Respect. Independence. Collaboration. Kindness)
- “Trust is the first part: trust and respect. And, the first person you need to trust and believe in and respect is yourself.”
- “You also want to make sure that the people that you surround yourself with are people who also trust you, and support you, and allow you to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.”
- “I think TRICK – trust, respect, independence, collaboration, kindness—works even more effectively and is even more important in the corporate world during the crisis because we’re all working from home.
- And, when you work from home, you can’t micromanage the other person. You have to trust them and respect them. And, the fact is that if the team feels like they are trusted and respected by their leader, they will rise to that occasion.”
- “Team psychology is so important these days, and trust and respect are part of that. And then giving people independence, and then allowing them to collaborate—and honestly, kindness. Kindness and compassion. That’s what the world needs today. We all need that. We all make mistakes.”
A final word of advice
- “You have to believe in yourself and the world—that it’s going to get better. The world has gone through a lot of serious epidemics in the past, and two terrible wars and people made it through, and we’re going to make it through this.”
Tune in for the entire conversation with Wojcicki on the Conferences for Women podcast, Women Amplified. Wojcicki will also be a speaker at the 2020 virtual Pennsylvania Conference for Women. Learn more here.