A woman in a plaid dress leaning forward

I’ve always been ambitious. 

From starting college at 15 to moving to Los Angeles at 19, I always went after the next “big” accomplishment. Even at my fast-moving pace, I never thought I’d end up as a C-level executive before the age of 30. 

Yet, here I am—a 27-year-old Chief Operating Officer of a premier boutique PR agency (Pink Shark PR) based in Los Angeles. However, even as someone who identifies as a high achiever, becoming an actual leader within a company, let alone an “executive,” was never part of my plan.

As a recovering rule follower, I was lucky to find myself working with Pink Shark’s co-founders because they challenged absolutely everything I learned about what I “should” do to be successful. From where I sit now, I can see a key turning point that led me to where I currently am and where I realized that most rules for success that people tell you to follow aren’t worth a dime.

Most rules for success that people tell you to follow aren’t worth a dime.

The ones they reserve for women? They are worth even less. 

Here are the five “success myths” many women are told by society. Once I busted through these, success became my natural state, and it can and should be yours, too.

Myth #1: You need permission.

Not only is this boring, it’s also untrue. In my experience as COO, every company initiative we executed was without anyone’s permission. We decided what we wanted, so we just did it.

The truth is that when you ask for permission, you risk the answer being no. For many people, being told no can feel personal and final. You have to trust that what you want to do and the way you want to do it is right for you. Other people don’t have to validate your ideas for them to be correct

Other people don’t have to validate your ideas for them to be correct

The caveat? You have to accept total responsibility for your decisions, but within that responsibility, you find total freedom.

Myth #2: You need a detailed plan.

Business School 101 will tell you to come up with a detailed plan before you even think about doing the actual thing you want to do. However, following an overly detailed plan is one of the biggest stumbling blocks I see many ambitious, brilliant women trip over. 

When your “plan” is airtight, there is so much you don’t allow for, consider or that you miss altogether. Case in point—I never planned on being a high-level executive. Outside of the C-Suite, I’m a creative. Yet, if I hadn’t followed the breadcrumbs of opportunities that weren’t part of my “plan,” then I wouldn’t have ended up with a job that I love.

Myth #3: You have to have all the answers.

The sneaky sister of myth #2—this one keeps many women playing small, especially when it comes to possibly taking on a position of leadership. The idea that we have to know, do or accomplish more before we even share our ideas is ridiculous. You have to start somewhere, and present day you will never know as much as future you. The perfect time to start is always right now

The perfect time to start is always right now

Embracing that you don’t have all the answers makes you capable of excellent leadership. It also allows you to hold space for an extraordinary life found through possibilities you wouldn’t have considered before.

Myth #4: Be nice.

Once my personal kryptonite, this one is a trap. In a nutshell, it revolves around the “aggressive” woman trope and keeps many women accepting unfair treatment, unfair pay or not voicing their opinions out of fear of being thought of as difficult. Repeat after me: Aggressive is a code word for ambitious.

Women are taught that if we are not being “nice,” then we’re cold and calculating. The opposite of being nice is being kind. Kindness is firm, holds to its boundaries and, sometimes, shares ideas and opinions other people don’t want to hear. 

Kindness is firm, holds to its boundaries and, sometimes, shares ideas and opinions other people don’t want to hear. 

Myth #5: Your value is directly related to your to-do list.  

If I only had one myth that I wish I could burn to the ground, it’s the idea that your value is directly related to how much you accomplish on your daily to-do list. As COO, it’s common to “hire and fire” yourself from almost every position inside the company. In my time in each of those roles, many different tasks landed on my plate. It was easy to buy into the myth of, “If I don’t get this all done immediately, then I’ve failed.”

I encourage you to slow down and focus on the most powerful action item you’re inspired to do. One activity done with your full attention and intention is far better than a half completed to-do list.

One activity done with your full attention and intention is far better than a half completed to-do list.

The craziest part about these myths on success is that they are usually shared between women in the spirit of being helpful, which is precisely why they’re so dangerous. Next time you encounter these or other success myths, ask yourself, “Is this true?” More importantly, ask yourself, “Has this person been where I’m headed?”

If the answer to both of these questions is not a resounding yes (for the sake of both your peace of mind and success), don’t listen. We have enough to contend with without buying into outdated success myths. 

Have you heard any of these common misconceptions about success before? What’s one eye-opening “success myth” that you overcame?

Image via Melanie Acevedo, Darling Issue No. 11

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