'It's Never Too Late' to Become a Bolder, Braver Version of Yourself, Says This C-Suite Executive -- Here Is Her Strategy.
Editor’s Note: Inspire Me is a series in which entrepreneurs and leaders share what motivates them through good times and bad, while also sharing stories of how they overcame challenges in hopes of inspiring others.
Sometimes without realizing it, a job that is secure can stagnate your growth, and what should be inspiring you just makes you just feel even more stuck. It can be scary to walk away from something you know is solid into the unknown, but sometimes it is exactly what you need to do to find your next great opportunity.
Shoprunner COO Stacey Bernhard found herself in this situation back in 2007. She was coming up on five years in leadership roles at Travelocity, but instead of being excited about the next steps, she felt her motivation dwindling. She felt an overwhelming call to do something to get out of her comfort zone and re-inspire herself.
“So I quit what was a great job with a great team and a great set of leaders to take time off and to go explore,” Bernhard told Entrepreneur. “You start thinking about life in terms of three levers of having time, energy and money. Over the course of your life, each of those is moving in a different position. I didn't want to consolidate all of my travel experiences and my adventures into one fixed place, so it was important for me to go and do something different.”
With that mission in mind, Bernhard quit her job as director of travel merchandising for Travelocity’s lastminute.com and traveled for a year. When she returned, she began to work for Match.com, in strategy and business development. But after more than five years in executive roles at the company, she decided to, once again, step away to regroup by becoming immersed in a different culture to bring new ideas, confidence and energy back to her professional life.
She has traveled, both on her own and with her family, to Africa, Europe, Central America, Asia and the Middle East, spending weeks and months at a time getting to know a new community of people. “It helped shape my confidence, [inform] the things that I was looking for in a job and the type of people I wanted to surround yourself with,” says Bernhard.
And while many people don’t have the scheduling or financial freedom to take that kind of time, Bernhard says that there is a way to embrace the unknown in your own backyard, and it begins with not feeling pressured to follow anyone’s timeline but your own.
“If you want to do it, there's no reason to wait. Make a plan and start on it wherever you are your journey,” says Bernhard. “It's never too late.”
When you know you're facing a serious challenge or obstacle, how do you motivate yourself to tackle it?
If I'm feeling low or frustrated or under inspired, I really try to feed of off my team's passion and their energy to bring me back. Startups situations can be really hard, and there are a lot of highs and lows. But someone always has a win to share. And I am a big fan of celebrating wins, big and small. Just being able to use other people's joy and wins and successes as inspiration and motivation really pulls me forward.
What is a quote that inspires you and why?
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." That for me is a reminder every day to be bold, and I own making that happen. Whatever someone's version of the daring adventure looks like, do whatever it takes to make that happen. For me it's always been about getting out of my comfort zone, whether that is professional or personal. It can be taking on a new challenge at work or a new role, or it's putting all things professional on hold to take off for a year of crazy travel adventure somewhere. I love the freedom that [boldness] gives me to try and to fail and to learn and to try again. It lets me bring my whole self to work everyday.
Who is a woman that inspires you and why?
My grandmother. She was a lifelong adventurer at a time where traveling as a solo female wasn't the norm. She built a business in real estate and at a salon, teaching herself how to run things. She never stopped learning or trying new things. Between 85 and 90 she started writing a book and learned how to play the ukulele and continued to paint and never miss a chance to stop in at the casino and play slots. She was a brave and strong woman who was committed to her family and was never willing to slow down. That's the life I want to lead. My willingness to take risks, a lot of that is from her.
What has inspired you to be a better person?
There's a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world, and it can feel pretty daunting to think about the path to a better place. As individuals, we can change perception, we can drive important dialogue and have an impact on people around us. And when when I’m out traveling, I think a lot about that. I want to be a better person. I believe it's going to impact the world around me, and the world around me deserves my best self.
When you are feeling at your worst, what inspires you?
Starting to plan my next adventure and reflect on my past experiences and imagining the next path and countries and cultures that are going to influence me on my next set of adventures is always inspiring and can pull me out of a valley. My globe in my living room is a reminder that the world is a big and awesome place, and it's my job to explore and contribute to it and enjoy every step of the way.
For those women who are looking to start a business or take on a new challenge, what advice do you have for them to keep going?
Women are particularly hard on themselves. Step back and really think about what you have done. Make a list, if you have to, of you what you built and, what you learned and what you know. You'll find you impress yourself. I think wins when tend to get filed away really quickly. And the energy transfers right to tackling that that next hurdle. But we have to be much kinder to ourselves. Celebrate what you have done and then take some time to be honest with yourself. Think about what you would do differently if you had it to do over again. It's something I try to do once a quarter, whether I'm feeling discouraged or not. Taking time to reflect on how far you have come, accepting that maybe it didn't have that the outcome that you want, figure out the lesson and take that into the next set of opportunities.