No Matter Your Age, How to Find What's Next

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I recently had a conversation with a young woman, a recent college graduate, who was furloughed from her first job. Yes, she was disappointed — she thought she had made it. Her first job in her field of study gave her hands-on experience across multiple disciplines of the industry. But, guess what? She realized she didn’t like it. Maybe it was a gift that she was furloughed, giving her this new opportunity to ask the question: "What’s next?" 

I was excited for her that she had this attitude. It will take her a long way in life. The question, as good as it is, may not be the best question for her to ask. A better question may be: "How to position yourself to find it?" It’s what Phil Cooke, nationally recognized storyteller and author of One Big Thing, tells clients, conference attendees, and writers.

It’s more empowering. It’s a question that opens the heart and the mind. When uncertainty hits, our brain will seek safety every time — and for good reason: Our brain is trying to protect us. At 22 years old, she has so much life in front of her. She can do what they tell startup CEOs like me to do — “Move fast and break things” — a quote made famous by Mark Zuckerberg. Your 20s are a great time to see who you are, go where you dream, and discover what your superpower or gifts and talents are. It was my advice at the end of our conversation.

What Is Bravery?

NAWBO’s 2020 conference theme, “Brave Is,” is absolutely the reason why the best question is what I get positioned for next. Brave is a way of being for women, when discovered at 22, could revolutionize the world. How do you define "brave"? Remember the last time you were brave?  What did it feel like? Was it a feeling you will cherish and look for the next opportunity to feel it?  

The question "What’s next?" is not just one that a young woman at 22 wants or gets to ask. "What’s next?" is a question that a woman of 52 wants or gets to ask, too. Only now, the person in question has access to a reservoir of experiences— good and bad, dreams achieved, and some let go. Asking the question as a 52-year-old woman can be exhilarating. There’s more life behind her than in front of her. Her focus is impact. “How can I make the biggest impact in the world, in my business, in my relationships?” It’s an opportunity to reimagine who she is and the world she can impact.


Being brave makes me think of my great-grandmother, Jennie A. Richardson, who was an entrepreneur from the mid-1930s until the mid '60s. How brave she was as an African American married woman! What about the women in your family? Is there a woman in your life who inspires you to be brave and embrace the question "What’s next?" I recently took a look at my great-grandmother’s life in the newspaper archives of the Baltimore Afro American, the only publication in which she could be featured. There, Jennie A. Richardson was mentioned for her business, for her charity, for her service, and for her friendships. How brave! I wondered about the friends and family who surrounded her and cheered her on. Arthur Richardson, her husband, was an Amtrak porter and a hard worker, and I am sure he was her biggest supporter.  

We all need supporters. But more than supporters, we need vision-keepers. I take full credit for vision-keepers and offer it to you. Vision-keepers hold space for our dreams, our fears, our big and small steps to being all we can be. Vision-keepers ask what we can get positioned for — what’s next instead of wondering what’s going to happen. Who are your vision-keepers?

Who Are Your Vision-Keepers?

Here are a few ways to identify the vision-keepers in your life:

  1. They are completely for you. No matter what.  

  2. They extend grace to you, withhold judgment, and offer wise counsel. 

  3. They themselves are brave and have taken steps to see their own dreams come true.

  4. They value vulnerability and the highs and lows of their own lives. 

  5. They remind you of your vision or to be brave when they see you navigating away from what you shared. 

  6. They lend their faith and belief in you when you get weary. 

These are just a few ways to identify the people in your life who can help you explore what’s next. It reminds me of Brené Brown and her book Daring Greatly. Brené’s inspiration for the book was a quote by Theodore Roosevelt:  

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; … who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.” 

So, whether you are 22 or 52, "What’s next?" is a great question to ask and answer with bravery, courage, and daring greatly.

CircleAround is partnering with NAWBO (the National Association of Women Business Owners) in a series of posts exploring the following prompt: "What comes next?" Founded in 1975, NAWBO is the unified voice of over 10 million women-owned businesses in the United States.


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