By Faith Maginley 

It happens to the best of us. You know the feeling — the one that creeps up in the back of your mind at the moment that new job, life goal or unexpected challenge seems to be winning the war on your perseverance. 

Maybe I’m not cut out for this. 

It’s self-doubt in its purest form. 

The difference between those who push through to the end and those who take their ball and go home is often a few good words uttered under the breath, usually after a deep, long sigh. Whether those words were instilled in younger years, or you coined your own battle cry while facing the never-ending growing pains of womanhood, these mantras nudge us to square our shoulders, straighten our backs and keep our chins up. 

Syan Rhodes, Anchor, WESH 2 News 

The Motto: “Fight for what you believe in.”

“I’ve sometimes been called Jerry Maguire,” said Syan Rhodes, referencing the passionate Tom Cruise character who quit his job at a sports manage­ment agency after penning a manifesto that pointed out the industry’s ills. While building her brand as an Emmy Award-winning newswoman, Rhodes too, has embraced opportunities to speak out on lost causes. 

“As you mature in your career, you need to develop a certain level of fearlessness,” she said. “Do what’s right for you and don’t settle.” Rhodes asserts the importance for women to know themselves and stand by their principles, a concept that has played out in newsrooms over the years as she’s advocated to tell the stories – par­ticularly those involving women and minorities – that would otherwise be ignored. 

For Rhodes, an essential aspect of capturing success is not being afraid of who you are and what you believe in. “It’s about being able to sleep at night.”

Val Demings, First Female Police Chief, Orlando Police Department – 2012 Congressional Candidate

The Motto: “Stay focused on the prize.”

During her early days as a social worker, one of Val Dem­ings’ colleagues presented her with a key chain that read, “What I am meant to be, I am becoming.” Those were just a few of the wise words that kept Demings focused on the prize in subsequent years as she went on to become the first woman to head the Orlando Police Department. 

Now the Jacksonville native has her eyes focused on public service on a much larger scale – Washington. With dreams this big, it’s no wonder that Demings carries a full clip of encouragement to face life’s challenges. Here’s her three-pronged approach:

1. Courage. “You have to have courage to realize your full potential. Fear of failure is the biggest killer of dreams.”

2. Preparation. “You have to be prepared. Learn how to network and build relationships. If you need to go back to school, then go back to school. Do what you need to do to be what you want to be.”

3. Search for opportunities. “Until someone gives you an opportunity you can’t achieve your potential.”

Michelle Robinson, President of Verizon’s Southeast Region 

The Motto: “Learn from constructive feedback and move

Michelle Robinson remembers working on a complex and unpopular compliance project at work. When her boss asked how the project was going, she responded that it was going well. He disagreed. 

Initially, the feedback stung. But after mulling it over and analyzing the situation objectively, Robinson implemented her boss’ suggestions. “Lo and behold, it worked out fabulously,” she said. “It was a great lesson that I carry with me to this day.” 

For Robinson, climbing up the corporate ladder has continued to be an exercise in humility. Throughout the years, attentive bosses and mentors didn’t hesitate to acknowledge when she needed to step her performance up. And while many of us balk defensively at honest critique, Robinson chooses to extract the value from it. “In lieu of feeling sorry for myself, my approach is to accept the feedback and constructive criticism, learn from it, get better and move on,” she said. 

Robinson notes, however, that sometimes that extra chiding can be hard to swallow. But had it not been for those candid people in her life, and a dust-yourself-off-and-try-again mentality, she would not be the business leader that she is today.


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