No road to greatness is without its share of obstacles, and for women, this path can often be fraught with more than the usual set of challenges. For those of us working the daily grind (like the ambitious Melanie Griffith in the 1988 hit Working Girl, above), it’s important to keep our eyes on the proverbial prize to remind ourselves why we push so hard to begin with. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt when we get straight-shooting advice from those who have tread the course before us. Enter Nely Galán.
Galán, a resourceful entrepreneur with an impressive background in both media and real estate, didn’t always enjoy such success, and she candidly shares her real world experience in her new book, Self Made ($25; amazon.com). The Cuban-American powerhouse, who once served as television network Telemundo's former president of entertainment and appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice, is refreshingly open and direct, issuing forth such edicts like “There Is No Prince Charming,” “In Your Pain Is Your Brand,” and my personal favorite, “Don’t Buy Shoes, Buy Buildings!” She’s basically the tough-love, kick-in-the-pants presence we all need in our lives.
Read on for five of her best tips in becoming a “self made” woman and be sure to check out Self Made, out May 31.
1. Ask for Mentorship
When you want to start your own business, a mentor isn't just a guiding force or a good friend. You should look for someone who could also become a business partner. Find someone who owns a business like the one you would like to have or someone who does the job you want, and offer to help them. Learn everything you can about their business and what they do. Who knows? You could end up buying or franchising her business, with the help and coaching of someone who knows it best.
2. Think Like an Immigrant
Thinking like an immigrant means make things happen for yourself as if there were no guarantees. Immigrants understand that uncertainty is part of life, so they don't subscribe to magical thinking. Instead of waiting for something incredible to happen or some brilliant new job to pop up, they hunt for opportunities and go for them, full force. And when things go wrong, they bounce back, creating their own safety net of savings, instead of relying on someone to swoop in and save them.
I learned how to do this for the first time my freshman year of high school. My parents were immigrants from Cuba who worked hard to make ends meet but struggled to pay my tuition at an all girls school. When I realized what was happening, I started to think of ways I could help. A sweet old lady across the street who sold Avon products door to door had offered to give me free makeup in exchange for helping sell products in my school. Instead, I offered to sell for her and split the profit 50/50. Before you knew it, I had money for my tuition! I learned the power of solving my own problems, and I never would have if I hadn't come from immigrant roots.
3. Make Fear and Failure Your Best Friends
Fear and failure became so familiar to me, I had to make them my personal counselors. Don't get me wrong, setbacks are painful. They're often the "I can't get out of bed for days" flavor of painful. But whenever they come my way, I realize that they are here to show me something important. Fear shows you that there's something, often terrifying, that you have to do. Failure shows you what's missing, something that you need to get right so you can succeed the next time. When I was on The Celebrity Apprentice, Gene Simmons gave me the best advice when he asked, “Why don't you take some time off and come up with a bigger mission for your life?" I got fired from that show, but I learned so much in those six weeks with that brilliant group of people. I ended up taking four years off, earning a degree in psychology, and preparing for the growth that was coming next, starting a bigger movement of empowerment that became Self Made.
4. Choose Yourself First
To find success, you have to choose yourself before anyone else can choose you. I meet women who tell me what they like all the time. They say, I like to pick my friends’ clothes, instead of saying, "I am a stylist!" You have to be bold in declaring your title before you can own it. If you sell things online, say you own a store online. Being self made is about declaring your worth and your title, and putting your needs front and center of your life.
5. Power Is Taken, Not Given
You can't be fully in charge of your destiny when you're beholden to someone else. So you have to declare yourself emperor when you take control of your path. I once had a job where I worked 24 hours a day, programming content for my community. I loved it because I learned constantly and I got a chance to speak to a subject I cared deeply about. But then one day, the whole thing blew up when my boss chose to sell the company. I learned that day that I had to lower my costs and build my own company, so that no one else would have control of my work life again.