Money·4 min read

Skimm'd from the Couch: Stacey Abrams

May 19, 2021

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Whether it’s getting that promotion or starting your own business, it can be intimidating to map out your career goals. But this week, Stacey Abrams told us to try one simple approach: write it down. The voting rights activist, politician, and author has a lot on her plate at any given time, from getting out the vote to writing romance novels. Oh, and thinking about a White House run one day (casual). So how does she keep her eye on the prize? Literally by keeping a spreadsheet. Tune in to hear her tips on how to stay focused on your goals. And why being honest with yourself - and also your boss - about your ambitions is a good place to start.

On Ambition

Stacey: The first time I realized that I wanted more than I was supposed to want, it was both terrifying and it was so freeing. It was this liberating moment to realize I have the right to think about bigger things.

I am much more comfortable being open about what I want in part because of who I was at 17. I wish at 17, someone had said to me, "You are a Black woman. And, yes, you are entitled to imagine you could run for president. You have the right to start a business and you don't have to work your entire life to work for someone else." Those are things I discovered along the way. And I went to a women's college, a Black women's college that encouraged us to be as powerful as we could be. But you are always limited by the stretch of your imagination and in a nation like the United States, those limits can be hard and real.

And what I think I appreciate the most about the difference between who I was [at 17] and who I am now is I don't care anymore. I'm going to want what I want. I do so with a very strong understanding that I'm not going to get everything I seek. But I do so with the understanding that I have the obligation to say so many of these things aloud when someone asks me because to do anything else is to do a disservice to that 17-year-old who needed to meet me then.

On Organizing Your Goals

Carly: When you are so driven around what it is you do you turn your want into a path forward? 

Stacey: I write it down. So first you have to write it down. You have to concretize your desires. Otherwise they're just wishes. But when you write it down, you give it form in a literal sense. You also give yourself an anchor. This is the thing I want. But then the next job is to figure out how do you get there? It is not enough to say you want it. You have to figure out how you plan to get it. And then you have to look at the list of things that you have to have to get there and decide. Are you willing to do those things? 

If you are, what's the plan and if you're not, how badly do you really want it? Because so often we stop ourselves at the point of idea or the first set of requirements, instead of thinking, "Okay. Do these requirements mean I can't get it or I can't have it now?"…. Because sometimes what you find along the way is, "I don't really want it. I don't like this thing that I need to do."

On Making Career Choices  

Stacey: It is so important to not focus just on the titles, but actually understand what the thing is that you think you want. I would have imagined Congress to be on my list of things, the Senate. I have no interest ever. Ever. And that's not a lack of ambition. It's a decision that the things that you need to do, and the person you need to be, and the job that you get to have, I don't want that job. And it is just as important to know what you don't want as it is to know what you want, because if the things that you don't want are necessary to get to where you want to be, you're going to make dumb choices when you're doing something you don't want to do. 

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