Wisdom Applied but Not Quite Understood at Five-Years-Old Helen M. Farrell, M.D. When I was in the 1st grade I wanted to be a sheep. My class was putting on a play and I coveted the role of that white fluffy farm animal. At five-years-old, belting out “bah” was my ultimate heart’s desire and when I didn’t get the role I was devastated. The teacher consoled my streaming tears with what seemed like empty words about the importance of “set design” and “props.” But on the day of the big show, the girl assigned to play the sheep was apparently at home in bed and covered in spots. My nemesis had chicken pox, and my teacher was frantic. When she fretfully threatened to “pull her hair out” I thought she might actually do it. And just like that, I was in! My bubble was inflating, I was up in the clouds, overjoyed. And then suddenly, like someone stuck a pin through my heart, I deflated and was shot back down to earth. The show was about to go on, and I had no costume. My 15 minutes of fame loomed on the horizon and at once threatened to both exalt and destroy me. Thankfully, my mom came to the rescue – moms are really good like that. She told me two things that have always stuck with me. 1) Every problem is fixable; and 2) Confidence goes a long way. What I understood at five was that the show must go on, and I had to sell it. But these words of wisdom slowly ingrained into my psyche and have shaped my life and career. Men and women alike prevail and advance when they problem solve and exude aplomb. That day in the 1st grade, when the curtain rose, my bright smile and guileless performance completely outshone my makeshift costume. Nobody seemed to care that I was clad in a white T-shirt, white tights and had a single cotton ball pinned to my bum. I was rewarded with a standing ovation and a trip to McDonald’s afterward. I considered it a huge success! Crafting a successful career, however, comes with bigger challenges and significantly greater rewards. Throughout my experiences, I have discovered a very easy formula to being successful. It goes back to my childhood; create solutions and be confident. Fresh off of college graduation, I was the youngest sales-representative ever hired by a major pharmaceutical company. 21-years-old, I had ambition that was equally matched by inexperience. My first week of work with the company was at a national sales meeting in Florida. Talk about being a small fish in an ocean! I knew nobody, hadn’t gone through training yet, and found myself floundering. In 1986 Carol Hymowitz and Timothy D. Schellhardt wrote an article about the factors that preclude, women specifically, from advancing in the workplace. They were the first to coin the term “glass ceiling” in their Wall Street Journal article, “The Glass Ceiling: Why Women Can’t Seem to Break the Invisible Barrier That Blocks Them from the Top Job.” The societal construct of gender roles and “glass ceilings” are slowly disintegrating. Anything is possible and when careers for women, heck even men, get stalled, it is due nowadays, in large part, to their own imposed barriers. These so called “glass ceilings” are breakable by creating and seizing opportunity. During that meeting in Florida, I calculated a very decisive move to impress the President of the company. When I noticed him gliding around our workshop and casually observing, I, on my literal first day of the job, zealously pulled him aside and “pitched” a drug to him. This earnest move catapulted me into salesmanship stardom and an immediate promotion. A series of later thoughtful and equally determined moves landed me where I am today. A physician and Harvard Medical School faculty member, where I am an instructor in psychiatry. This is only my beginning. We all have the power to create the career of our dreams. Follow the words of William Butler Yeats and “Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” Career success is something that is truly attainable for anyone who realizes that getting ahead requires determination, ambition, and a huge amount of ingenuity and confidence. In other words, when it comes to creating your ideal career, don’t be a sheep!]]>