Barbara Corcoran is some dynamo! I just had the pleasure of hearing her speak of her success story, all of which came after a devastating divorce. When taunted by her soon to be ex-husband that she would not succeed without him, Ms. Corcoran swore to herself that she would rather die than let her husband see her fail. This was, as she said, her “insurance policy for life.” She went on to unimaginable and wild success. She is, by any definition, the ultimate portrait of the American Success Story, especially for a woman. She is not only a survivor of divorce, but a woman who went on to strive and thrive in her own glory and right.
Success in divorce is no different than success in business. It’s true. Ms. Corcoran addressed a room of over 1200 professional women last Friday at the National Association of Professional Women’s annual conference. She lit the room on fire and ignited that flame that exists in every divorced woman’s broken heart. She showed us that no matter how disillusioned, deceived, devastated or debunked, that same dedicated, determined and driven woman within us, no matter how destroyed, can re-invent, revive and thrive. We are the ultimate recycling machines, re-designing the skin we’re in.
She wasn’t there to talk to us about divorce or to give us divorce advice. She was there to talk about how to succeed in business. She gave us five very good points, all of which I carefully jotted down on paper while simultaneously committing to memory. There were five simple points which made perfect sense and seemed so easy to follow. I quickly realized that these same points, when addressed to divorce, were in fact the key to divorce success. The titles and concepts are 100% those of Ms. Corcoran, but how I have applied them to divorce is of course my own take on them.
Point 1: Perception is Reality. What we allow others to perceive is what they believe. If we present ourselves as broken and bitter, that is what people will see. If we tell others we are a victim then we will continue to be treated that way.
Point 2: There are two types of people in the world, containers and expanders. In the concept of business, a container is the organized, detail oriented, inside person, while the expander is the networker, socializer, street person. In divorce, I liken this analogy to the container being the person who likes to live (contain themselves) within their divorce story. They can’t remember life before the divorce and certainly can’t imagine their life after divorce.
The expander is the person who thinks of their divorce as an event in the past which is a part of their life but certainly not an event that defines or limits them. The expander thinks of the new life that she will create for herself after the divorce.
Point 3: Fun is good for business. Simply stated, where there is all work and no play, the workplace becomes a feeding ground for boredom and dismay. Likewise, where a divorced mom only thinks of divorce, work, and the monotonous and strenuous life that she leads, she will only lead to burnout.
Point 4: Be Great at Failure! Ms. Corcoran is quoted as saying that her greatest successes have come on the heels of spectacular failure. She told us that no matter how educated, intelligent, or hard working, her greatest and most successful employees are those who do not mediate upon their failures.
It is the ones who are able to quickly bounce back and keep going who have the greatest success. In the context of divorce, no amount of would have, could have, or should have is ever going to take us any closer to the success of the future we wish to have.
Point 5: You have the Right to Be There! Ms. Corcoran describes this certain feeling of inadequacy and doubt that creeps in when we find ourselves in places that perhaps we don’t feel worthy of. In the business world it may be a meeting, or dinner, or event where the “top” people are, or those trying to get to the top who carry themselves like they’re already there, while you inside are wondering how you even made the list.
She tells us that when those feelings creep in, we must remind ourselves that we are good enough to be there and no one is better than us. She is not one to mince words, and I have never heard “F You” said so eloquently, passionately or moving to describe the mental speech she gives to those around her who act as if “they” belong and she does not. For any divorced mom who has ever found herself alone and out of place at a parent teacher conference, school play, birthday party, or picnic, I hope she will mentally shout at any disapproving or judging faces “F You. I have the right to be here too!”