Q&A with author Emily Bennington
Emily Bennington describes herself as a career author, speaker and space invader. Not the kind with ray guns (although, to be fair, I didn’t ask to see them, so she may be that kind, too.) She’s talking about what Stephen Covey referred to in his writing: “between stimulus and response there is a space, and it’s in that space you choose how you wish to respond.” Bennington has written two books and has been featured in media such as CNN, ABC, and Fox to the Wall Street Journal, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. I spoke to her about her latest book Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination.
CM: Who Says It’s a Man’s World is full of good career advice for just about anyone. Why did you think it was important to write it specifically for women?
EB: I think the book is for anyone who wants to excel at work and still enjoy the journey. In my experience, women have a little more trouble making that work. I know I had trouble balancing my ambition with the rest of my life. As a woman in my twenties, I gravitated to the career section of every bookstore – it drew me like a magnet. I spent my youth absorbing all the career advice I could get my hands on. I was checking off boxes on the success to-do list, but achieving my goals wasn’t the same as being happy. I was burning out. I wanted to have a career I loved and live a life that made me happy too.
CM: What changed your path?
EB: I discovered the Self Help section of the bookstore in my thirties, and spent the next few years reading about how you must learn to be grateful for what you have before you can get more. After a while, I decided to figure out how to be more ambitious and more grateful. I wrote this book for career women who have business books on their desks and self-help books on their nightstands.
CM: Did you discover what worked?
EB: I discovered what worked for me. Like many people, I spent my time living four or five years into the future. You know how that goes: “I’ll be happy when I get that raise (or promotion, or new assignment, or lose ten pounds…)” I was delaying happiness, delaying starting my own life. I was in constant competition with everyone, trying to get what they had – reverse engineering their happiness to try to get some for myself.
Finally, the last straw was the day I was getting my (then) three and four-year old children ready for school. They were dawdling and fighting me in the way only toddlers can, when I burst into tears. I yelled at them, “You’re turning me into somebody I don’t want to be!” I realized in that moment that I could choose what and how I wanted to be. The results of my journey got rolled into this book.
CM: How did you change your approach to life?
EB: First, I stopped being focused on goals (those distant future checkpoints.) I discovered Benjamin Franklin’s list of 13 virtues that he adopted as a way of life. His approach changed my life – it’s as if the clouds opened, and I saw clearly what would work for me. I restructured my approach to include Virtues as the foundation of who I am – what I focus on being. Then I work on Intentions – the things I do every day, in the present moment, in order to live my core values. For instance, one of my Virtues is “put family first.” I can easily see in any given day if I am living up to that by the choices I make. Only about a third of my energy is spent on my Goals. I believe that if you spend time on Virtues and Intentions, the goals you set for yourself will eventually work out. I recommend that you spend 70 percent of your time pursuing Virtues and Intentions and 30 percent of your time on Goals. For those of you still focused on ambition, don’t panic – that’s one third of your life. I’m not going soft on kicking butt – I’m just tethering your actions to things that matter in the here and now.
Next post: Virtues, Intentions and Goals – how you can re-structure your life.