Moments of Moxie: A Weekend of Wisdom from Women (of All Ages)

I was back at my alma mater last weekend for a conference titled, Find Your Moxie: Duke Women Creating Change. If you look up the word "moxie," all the definitions communicate a sense of energy and dynamism.

  • Force of character, determination, or nerve;
  • The ability to face difficult with spirit and courage;
  • Aggressive energy; initiative.

Quite honestly, that all sounds good to me. Who couldn't use determination, courage and aggressive energy -- even if that last one sounds a bit scary. And the weekend was all of that on steroids. The conference was filled with fascinating women with moxie, ones whose names would be familiar as leaders in their fields, others less so. The attendees, mostly women of course, ranged in age from 18-80+. I felt a little bit like Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future -- spending time with people the same age I was when I went to school there, now young enough to be my kids; my middle-aged peers (sad, but true); and senior citizens.

The women included students, authors, publishers, bankers, lawyers, volunteers, mothers, grandmothers, doctors, journalists, professors, philanthropists, tri-athletes, chefs, therapists, those in transition, bloggers and probably some "butchers, bakers and candlestick makers."

Now I have to admit, I evaluate most work or learning experiences (perhaps harshly, you can be the judge) based on whether I have a few pithy ideas or learnings that I can take away. One can only hope that the people who came to hear the panel I was on had lower standards.

As is my habit, I write down the ideas in my journal that I carry (which by the way is also the only way I can remember my to-do list). And being at a conference filled with interesting women from all walks of life, I wanted to share some of the tidbits that stayed with me. Honestly, I don't think anyone could realistically do all these things, but humor me, as I am still on a high from the experience. (P.S. The italicized stuff is what they said. The other stuff is my personal interpretation.)

1) Have confidence even when you don't know what you are doing. My grandmother used to call this "acting as if." Act as if you are confident and ultimately, you will be confident. Oh, if only it were that easy.

2) Being strong means knowing what you are good at. And I would add, knowing what you are not good at is just as important -- and sometimes, unfortunately, much easier to figure out.

3) Recklessness is permission to go outside your comfort zone. That is where curiosity starts. Sometimes, it is also where fear, adrenaline and gastrointestinal distress starts too. Bungee jumping anyone?

4) There is no such thing as the effortless perfection some women strive for. I never met a perfect women who I liked. My 2 cents: in life, most things worth doing take effort. And I have never been one of those folks who could do everything without having a hair out of place, so I am pretty sure those effortlessly perfect people annoy me too.

5) Sometimes I feel like the only way to relieve stress it to take my clothes off and run around the block (in this case, a block in New York City) naked. I would just caution those of you who heed this advice to familiarize yourself with your local city ordinances regarding public nudity. Getting arrested would likely add to the stress you are trying to relieve.

Okay, so here is my plan. I am going to work on my reckless confidence, evidencing my strength in areas that I am good at, giving up on looking effortless or anything close to perfect and then run around the block naked. On second thought, maybe that is going a little overboard in the moxie department.

Okay, so I won't run around the block.