Kendall O’Brien learned the value of courage at a young age. Growing up in Maryland, her father ran a riding stable. She was only two years old when she sat on her first pony, “I fell but was ok!” she says. Her father always inspired his children and students to get up and jump higher fences. “When we’d hesitate he’d say ‘throw your heart over it, and go after it!’”
This advice didn’t just help her become a better rider; it also inspired her to have the courage to throw her heart over obstacles in life and move forward anyway. Here are her strategies for taking on new challenges and transforming your fears.
Stand up for Yourself
Set your boundaries and don’t waver. I had two children under the age of two when I took my first global assignment. Even though my bosses both loved 7AM meetings, I let them know I wasn’t going to be present unless it was an emergency. At first they forgot. They had their routines and I was disrupting them. I worked with my bosses to change their expectations, but I also had to admit to myself that I wasn’t superwoman.
Take on the Unknown
In my last job I was asked to move to a newly created role. It was very different from what I’d been doing, and I could have just thought about the negatives. Instead I thought, “this is something my corporation needs, and I can learn a lot in this new position. Plus I won’t have to travel as much globally now that my daughter is going into high school.” When you find the positives you gain courage to take on the unknown.
Own Your Strengths
Early in my career I walked into a meeting a little late. As I opened the door there were 15 men inside, and one asked, “are you in the right place?” In a small voice I said yes, but I didn’t speak up as much as I should have. Thinking back, I should have owned my position more—I was there for a reason.
Embrace Difficult Decisions
Remember to demonstrate courage in rough moments, moments when you feel being a woman has created a disadvantage for you. If we can’t stand up, be courageous and make those difficult decisions, how it will be for the next generation? We have a responsibility to serve as role models, to make things better for women coming up.
Let Your Network Reflect Your Power
Face it—you don’t always feel courageous and may doubt yourself. At those times, reach out to people you trust to get the facts. When you express your concerns and lack of confidence, they’ll actually see you as a more courageous and confident person. You can use their view of you to find your strength and courage.
*At the time of this interview, Kendall was the Vice President of Corporate Finance with Johnson & Johnson
Who saw something in you early on that you had not seen in yourself—what was that?
In middle school I didn’t think of myself as an artistic person, but my art teacher saw a creative side of me I hadn’t embraced and encouraged me to try new things. He not only showed me a new dimension of life, but also a new part of myself.
The Secret Garden. I thought it was wonderful, I love nature. I often recommend that during stressful moments people find their favorite childhood book. Just sit down and read for a while.
Am I allowed to say watching my kids do the things they love, like sports, music, etc.? I love to cook, garden, read… I’ll get back to horse back riding some day. I also recently discovered I’m pretty good at decorating—it’s probably that creative streak coming back! Right now my hobbies are things you can do impulsively.