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Its Kathleen with a K: Three Lessons to Live by from Anne Shirley

December 4, 2018

Kathleen Laney

When I was growing up, I knew that if Anne Shirley were a real girl, and not just the literary heroine from my favorite childhood book Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, she would have been my best friend, or, as Anne would have put it, my “kindred spirit.” 


After all, Anne understood what it was like to be named a name that was only right if it was said with the right spelling – said any other way and it just wasn’t as elegant. I will note that I am not quite as dramatic as Anne; she would literally declare out loud that “If you call me Anne, please call me Anne with an ‘E’”, where I generally just mention that my name is with a ‘K’ when someone is spelling or writing it out.


I could identify with Anne on so many levels. She was imaginative, competitive, ambitious, smart and loved to read and write. Anne valued all the right things in people and always had the most simple, no-nonsense wisdom. Her remarkably humble advice is applicable not only to the challenges of growing up, but also how to succeed in your career.


Anne was a woman way ahead of her time. She was unapologetically original, with her own brands of religion, feminism, and success. For a book published in 1908 and written for grade school girls, it was espousing values needed for them to become strong and independent women. 


So, with that in mind, here are three pieces of wisdom from Anne Shirley that I think can help every parking and mobility industry professional – women and men alike – to advance in their careers and succeed in their jobs. 


 


1- “Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.” 


There are two things I love about this quote. First, it is an example of Anne Shirley’s unwavering optimism. Though she can tend to be on the side of melodramatic and prone to bouts of despair, time after time, no matter what the world throws at her, she keeps looking on the bright side of life. I think it’s important to remember that it is normal in life to go through ups and downs and you must expect to face some hard times. The ability to remain optimistic and keep going in the face of failure is far more important to a person’s ultimate ability to be successful than most people appreciate. 


The second reason I am a big fan of this quote is that I’m a big believer that failure can be the best teacher. Anne is a classic experiential learner and half her charm is her willingness to try anything once. Her character encourages going outside her comfort zone and not being embarrassed to make a mistake or not succeed. As professionals, we should all try to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable and that includes getting comfortable with failing. 


 


2- “Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worthwhile.”


Anne has quite the active imagination. Despite the fact she lived a life far from privilege, she never let that limit her. Instead, she used her imagination to live as full of a life as any person with a fully stamped passport or a mansion stocked full of material possessions. She also never let her dreams and aspirations to be limited by the confines imposed by societal norms, familial expectations, or the various roadblocks that she met throughout her life. While Anne’s journey wasn’t always easy, going for what she really wanted made for a happier and more fulfilled life.


Most people DRASTICALLY underestimate what they can achieve. They find it hard to believe that they can accomplish more than what they have right now. They doubt their capacity to improve their lives and others’ lives. So, they remain complacent and accept what life gives them. But you don’t have to live like that. It doesn’t matter about the limitations others around you set; think big, think yes, and then do it. I’m not saying “small” lives are bad, but you never know what you are capable of until you aim beyond your current limits. 


Before this summer I’d never gone on a hike longer than a few miles on a path that was slightly hilly with a few rocks along the way. Yet, on August 16, 2018, I summited Gray’s Peak in Colorado. It is the 10th highest peak of the Rocky Mountains at 14,278 feet and the highest point on the Continental Divide. It was a beast of an adventure and if you told me last year at this time I would do it, I’d told you you’d gone and lost your mind, but humans are amazing beings. So, if I can hike a 14er, and live to tell the story, you can set your mind to do most anything.


 


3- “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”


Anne has several friendships throughout her life that are key to helping her through some difficult situations – be it personal, academic, or professional. Having a support network of such “kindred spirits” can make all the difference in being successful.
I don’t think it’s possible to ever underestimate the importance of a strong support system
in business. 


There is endless value in having likeminded people to interact with, share ideas and gain inspiration from. This is what helps individuals grow in their careers. For women in business, women-oriented business groups can also provide a space for gender issues to be discussed without judgment.


When I entered the parking industry four and a half years ago, I quickly found a group of “kindred spirits” that welcomed me with open arms. The group was Women in Parking and its board members were among the first people in the parking industry to encourage me to jump in with two feet. They invited me to their networking events and gave me an opportunity to present a webinar, and it was those very first connections I made through WIP that launched the expansion of my network throughout the rest of the parking industry. 


There are dozens more tidbits of wisdom where these came from and if you haven’t taken the time to get to know Anne Shirley, she’s a girl and woman worth meeting – there is the book series and several TV show adaptations you can try. 


But take some of her advice and if you do nothing else, connect with the many “kindred spirits” in the parking industry waiting to connect with you. I encourage all of you – both men and women, we need you both, to join Women in Parking as we work to build the future of parking through the advancement and achievement of women in the parking industry. Visit womeninparking.com for more information!



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