Next year it will be the 60th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks decided to stand her ground and not move to the back of the bus (1/12/55). Many would argue that it was a different time back then but that simple and determined gesture was part of a much larger movement to afford people of colour and race equal rights when it came to education, access to health and employment - and something as simple as being able to sit anywhere on a bus.
But what lessons can all of us still learn from the actions of Rosa Parks and how much further do we have to go when it comes to equality in the workplace, careers and business? As someone who sits on a number of Boards and who has led large global corporations my view is - we have further to go. This is what I have learnt from Rosa Parks:
1. Determination is key to success: In career and business you must remain determined that ultimately change will come as long as you stay the course, work hard and continue to grow yourself and others around you.
2. Persevere: Many people will give up when the challenge gets too tough or they think that there is no hope of promotion. The key is to always find the next level and understand that the next level may not be to follow convention - it may be that you need to step outside your current career path or employer to move to the next level. Stop and think - the problem may not be you it may just be who you are working for.
3. Disrupt convention: The reason many things don't get done or are never achieved is because we tend to box ourselves into conventional thinking. In doing so we struggle to understand why things are not changing. Some of the best entrepreneurs and business people in the world are those who threw caution to the wind and disrupted whole industries or innovated on pre-existing ideas.
4. When someone says no ask why not? I have had a lot of no's in my life and each time I go back to the person and ask why not? When my first job application failed as a teenager I asked the prospective employer what I had missed and where I could improve - I improved my approach and have never failed in a job application again. Always ask why the answer is no and where it makes sense - improve, innovate and adapt.
5. Never be afraid of failure: If it is one thing I have learnt - failure happens, get over it, learn and move ahead. People were not born successful they learnt through failure along the way, innovated or improved, changed and adapted. There is nothing wrong with failing providing you learn the lessons being taught!
A quote from Rosa Parks:"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear."
So, my message is simple - stay the course, disrupt convention and always learn from your failure. the final words go to Rosa Parks:
"Whatever my individual desires were to be free, I was not alone. There were many others who felt the same way."
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