The Wolf of Wall Street had nothing on the Witch of Wall Street

 

Leonardo DiCaprio did an outstanding job (as he always does) in his fictional role as Jordan Belford, the so-called Wolf of Wall Street. In real life, a woman named Hetty Green was far shrewder and far richer than DiCaprio’s fictional alter ego.

This isn’t your typical girltalkcareerblog post. When I discovered Hetty Green I thought she was worth mention in the Girl Power Hall of Fame so I blogged solely about her and her business acumen. Although I admire her intelligence, her familial skills were far less impressive.

Henriette Howland Robinson was only 9 years old when she showed an aptitude for numbers and a head for business (and a bod for sin?). She learned her ruthless father’s business acumen as a child when he took her to work on the shipping docks of his whaling business.A stalwart piece of advice he gave her child was “never owe anyone anything, not even a smile or a handshake.” Hetty would take that advice to its extreme and then some.

Even though Robinson respected his prized daughter he refused to let her receive her inheritance when her mother died, so she didn’t get a penny until he kicked the bucket when she was 30. As he lay dying, the mentally deficient Robinson told his daughter that he had been poisoned and warned her that his enemies were planning on killing her. Well they say money can’t buy happiness – or sanity, apparently.

After a number of legal battles over an inheritance Hetty was promised by her aunt, she invested in low-risk investments and tax shelters that bordered on evasion. Her method, among others, was to buy and sell several houses all at once, turning them over for a profit before Uncle Sam could take his share. Years later, when her grown children left home, Hetty moved repeatedly among small apartments in New Jersey to avoid establishing a permanent residence that might bring the tax official wolves (pun) hounding at her door.

All the while, Hetty wasn’t one to be seen strutting in high heels (a big mistake for the modern businesswoman, of course).  She was too cheap and miserly with her money. Coco Chanel was worthless in the Robinson household, unless Hetty bought into her stocks (who knows). Hetty married Ned Green, a bit of a lowlife who was a speculative investor and not a good one at that. His talents worsened considerably over the years.

The two were polar opposites and Hetty made sure she had Ned sign a pre-nuptial agreement (one of the first of its kind in America) protecting her assets. No human being is perfect and Hetty was lacking in two areas: mothering and spending. Hetty Green’s frugality clashed with her husband’s speculation. She had to bail out her husband from near bankruptcy several times before she separated from him. They had two children, a daughter, Sylvia and a son, Ned.

A particularly troubling rumour states that while a child, Ned injured his leg sledding so Hetty took him to a charity hospital to get free care. Naturally the hospital turned her away and Hetty attempted to care for Ned at home. Being even less skilled in doctoring than she was in mother, the leg was improperly treated. Years later her son’s leg to be amputated when gangrene set in. Hetty’s biographer wrote that she paid her bill and brought her son to other doctors. The leg simply didn’t heal.

Hetty_Green_cph.3a42973Not surprisingly, given her lifestyle and extreme frugality, Green’s relationship with her children was strained. Sylvia left after marrying and seldom Ned worked unpaid for years as her clerk. He was instantly recognizable because of his “cork leg”. Well, he chose to work for free.

Our girl Hetty was all about value investing, which is when buyers deliberately purchase stocks that are offered for what they believe is beneath their true market value. These investors operate on “rumour”, that is, people’s uncertainty about which way the market will move and who usually undervalue their company’s worth when placing their stocks on the market. Hetty wasn’t a “buy and hold” investor. She simply sold when she got the right price. Hetty was a natural at “buy low, sell high”. She told the NY Times that her secret was to buy shares when “nobody wants them,” and to sell when they were worth considerably more

When several men in the stock trade tried to bear raid Hetty’s fortune they got nowhere.  A bear raid is where a group of people illegally try to push an investor out of the market by short selling, or selling a security that isn’t owned by the seller or that the seller has borrowed. Short selling is motivated by the belief that a security’s price will decrease so it can be bought back at a lower price to make a profit. Sell low, buy lower. Rather like a gang of people on Survivor making pacts about not voting each other off the island so that other people got the boot. Hetty bought up the outstanding stock and demanded a high price from her enemies before allowing them to close out their positions. Well played.

Hetty’s miserly character was legendary to the point of offensive. She was said never to turn on the heat or use hot water. She wore one old black dress and undergarments that she changed only after they had been worn out, ross), did not wash her hands and rode in an old carriage. She ate mostly pies that cost fifteen cents. One tale claims that Green spent half a night searching her carriage for a lost stamp worth two cents. Another asserts she instructed her laundress to wash only the dirtiest parts of her dresses (the hems) to save money on soap. Personal hygiene was not one of Hetty’s strong suits.

Hetty groomed Ned to replace her, but did nothing for Sylvia. Hetty died in 1916, with an estimated $100 million in liquid assets and much more in land and investments that weren’t always in her name. She took a $6 million inheritance and made it into a fortune worth upwards of $2 billion today, making her the richest woman in the world. After she died, Ned led a party lifestyle and squandered some of the fortune. I’d say he earned it. After his death Sylvia received $100 million (Hetty and her children are pictured left). Sylvia left $200 million upon her death. She left it all to churches, universities and charities.

In her old age, she developed a bad hernia, but refused to have an operation because it cost hetty-and-children-wiki$150. She suffered many strokes and had to rely on a wheelchair. The mental paranoia that had afflicted he now affected Hetty. She became afraid that she would be kidnapped and made detours to evade would-be pursuers. She also suspected that her aunt and father had been poisoned.

If you’re familiar with Sarah Winchester of the Winchester Rifle fortune, you’d know that she too seemed to have a mental illness of some type. She was a highly superstitious woman and visited a psychic who continually told her to build stairways and doors that led nowhere or directly into walls inside her mansion, then rip them all down and begin again in an effort to avoid persecution by otherworldly spirits. Winchester spent millions following this woman’s advice for several years until she died. Can you imagine the conversations these two would have had? Hetty still would have invested in Winchester Rifles if there was good money to be made. The hell with Sarah Winchester’s ghosts.

I admire Hetty’s business sense and obvious financial aptitude. I’m appalled at her inability to enjoy her money and spend it like (Victoria) Beckham. Men like Carnegie, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt were respected for their shrew business acumen but due to her gender and wealth (and possibly a few personality quirks) , Hetty became known as the Wicked Witch of Wall Street. Today she would be an inspiration to investors everywhere and not just women. Her mothering sucked but clearly her sense of financial investment didn’t – a staggering example of Girl Power.

 

 

 

 

Humblebragging is unnecessary when you’re a flawless perfectionist

We’re all guilty of this – when a recruiter asks us “what is your greatest weakness?” we say, “I’m a perfectionist,” or “I’m too honest,” or “I work too hard.” That’s called humblebragging – we turn what should be a weakness into a greatness, as if we are flawless. Ridiculous. Worse, we assume that not only will be recruiter be impressed but she’ll be too stupid to figure out that we’re lying. People who humblebrag never get hired. Ever.

When you have to admit to your flaws, you must own up to one maximum but do it in such a manner that you don’t make yourself look horrific either. For example if your weakness is working with other people, don’t say it in such a blatant manner. You’d reply “I work best on my own rather than having constant input from others.” It’s true but it’s not a humblebrag and it isn’t devastating. Never mind worrying about that team-player crap. That’s an over-used term and employers are tired of hearing it.

If you are weak in math then state something like, “I’m not too strong with numbers but to compensate for this, I check my work more than once and whenever I can, I get someone to look it over for me.” Of course, if you’re an accountant that’s not going to fly.

Let’s say public speaking isn’t your forte. Then tell the recruiter “I don’t like speaking to large crowds of people but I am confident in meetings,” (if that’s true). Another reasonable answer is “I hate failure.” We all do. The counterargument is “I try to learn from it and remain optimistic. Then I move forward and look at is as a learning experience.” That’s a good time to give an example. It shows triumph over tragedy.

Now recruiters know this tactic and they know any prepared applicant has studied the ideal answer to it. Still, they ask it to see how you can handle it. Keep in mind it’s not a good idea to bring up a weakness in a social situation. Think about it only in terms of work.

Here’s a hilarious example a man might use in an interview to describe his weakness. This one is appropriate for anyone who is auditioning for the television show The World’s Strongest Man. It’s a true story. When I worked at the Peel Regional Police in Brampton, Ontario I typed reports from the officers. One occurrence involved a fight between two men where one man started insulting the other. The second man walked over, punched him in the head and accidentally killed him. Seriously. In an interview fpr The World’s Strongest Man, he could state, “I don’t know my own strength.”

Some good answers to describe a weakness (think of the irony) include:

  1. sensitive to criticism
  2. too controlling
  3. lack of assertiveness (as long as you aren’t in sales)
  4. lack of humour
  5. easily offended by biased or racist remarks
Remember to give a true example about your work performance and a counterexample to soften the ambiguity of it. If you are a little impatient when criticized, you can tell the recruiter that you try to walk away and not respond until you have time to re-think it so you won’t say something inappropriate or foolish. Then give an example to back it up.
There was only one Flawless human being and unfortunately a (dung?) Beatle made an unfortunate comparison. That newscast is embedded in my blog How to brag without sounding like a horse’s ass.

 

 

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Yes that’s me – my first ever girltalkcareerblog video posted onto youtube!  I feel famous. I don’t think I’ve ever uploaded anything to youtube before so this is a big deal for me. One of what I hope will be many firsts – the sort of thing entrepreneurs aim to do.

I am not an entrepreneur. At least not yet. The teacher in me insists that I do  my homework and prepare myself for life in the business world. Thing is, it’s an industry I love and feel very good about: health and beauty. Many women find a niche in this area so it wouldn’t surprise me if you and I network some time. I’m also on Linkedin and Facebook Just to be a devil’s advocate here’s an article about how logging onto Twitter and Facebook shows a co-relation to clinical depression. Well that’s fun.

The great thing about this particular business is that it relies heavily on networking and it offers significant training. What it doesn’t require is a large financial investment. And I don’t have to go it alone. This isn’t my own independent business so I can even shadow people to get started. It shouldn’t take me long to become a District Manager – which is a fancy term that references the number of sales I’ve made. It doesn’t refer to a geographical area, since clients be found online.

What makes me think I should venture into this business and that I will probably be successful at it is that I fully believe in these products or I wouldn’t try to rep them. I’m insanely in love with them. I use everything they’ve got on the market from apparel to nutrition to cosmetics. My nature is such that if I didn’t feel truly passionate about this business I would never be able to pursue it. I can’t lie. I can’t mislead people into making unwise investments, no matter how small. I’m not cutthroat in my private life, as an educator, and I won’t be as an entrepreneur. It’s just not in me. That’s why I feel good about this venture.

And I feel restless at my current place of work. It’s a great career and I don’t intend to ever give up teaching but it’s not enough for me. My busy little brain is always active, always doing, never resting. I’m always taking courses to improve my teaching skills and knowledge, and to increase my chances of changing jobs within my teaching career. I’m energy on overdrive so I figured meh, why not try a new line of work? Here’s a great site called Women Entrepreneurs   It appears to be a branch of Entrepreneur

This business is not entrepreneurial in the classic sense I should think but it’s that toe in the water for rookies such as me. And maybe you. If you are also just starting out at running your own business let’s swap tricks of the trade. Networking and helping each other is what it’s all about. Take this quiz Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

 

No matter what the leadership label, it’s still authoritative

 

When it comes to 21st century business leadership we often hear expressions like “top-down”, “laissez-faire”, “pyramid” (no, not the illegal kind), and on and on. People like to delineate different types of leadership or management, depending on how you define those two. The ultimate output is reaching goals that support the company’s vision, financial or otherwise. What is your potential leadership style and if you are a manager, how do you manage?

authoAutocratic (top-down) – this is your traditional authoritative approach. No-nonsense, assigned projects, voluntelling people, regular supervision and expecting to get the job done. There is very little employee input. This is the type of management the vast majority of people experience. It’s the type of leadership that make an entrepreneur want to stay in bed with the covers pulled over her head. But not as much as Metts.

Laissez-Faire – this is an approach that doesn’t involve direct supervision or regular feedback to see if people are reaching their goals. This one works with highly trained, experienced employees but not so great with the less self-disciplined and rookies. This is the type of style you’d probably find at Google. Entrepreneurs would enjoy this one a lot more than any other type of management. Employees and managers are trusted to do their jobs well and on time. This type of respect probably yields a lot of productivity.

transformational-leadership-model-powerpoint-slideTransformational – this approach relies upon regular communication between managers and employees. Leaders focus on the big picture and delegate smaller tasks to employees. School principals use this approach. Staff is assigned various projects for a common goal. This usually happens every staff meeting and whenever an administrator or teacher need to communicate with each other.

Participative – also known as the democratic leadership style, it requires the input of team members but ultimately the leader makes the final decision. One benefit to this style is that employees feel their needs and ideas are heard. It makes change less drastic. It probably happens in small to medium-sized companies. I don’t see how it could work in a conglomerate, but I could be wrong.

transformational-leadershiptransactional-leadershipinterpersonal-leadership-37-728.jpgTransactional – I call this style the “here, Rex!” approach. It’s based on a reward and punishment system based on performance results. Management may need to re-train employees who are not meeting goals. Bonuses and raises are rewards. Getting sacked is a punishment. A black and white approach to work and leadership.

Now that you have an outline of some management styles you can decide what the leadership style is in your organization and whether it works for you. It may be that if you hate to go to work, it isn’t the work you do but the leadership style that is making you unhappy. If you hear colleagues often complaining about the boss but not their work,  management style could be the cause of their unhappiness. That isn’t necessarily true of course. Some bosses are just psychopaths and bullies, in which case there is no leadership, just psychopaths and bullies.

Bottom line however is that every organization depends on its team to meet goals. Corporations need profit. Schools need academic results. Everything is performance-Transformational_Leadership_Factorsbased. Whether your boss is the laissez-faire leader or the authoritarian, she has to ensure that everyone does his or her job, and does it well. She observes work performance, offers annual reviews and answers to a higher power if results aren’t happening. She has to hire and fire based on the company vision. No matter how you look at it, everything is authority-based. You know that expression ‘you’re not the boss of me?’ Well, you are the boss of you and you also give yourself pass/fail grades depending on your performance.

You will flourish or chafe under different types of leadership depending on your personality and your comfort level with management. Normally the young graduate from university or college depends heavily upon feedback in order to perform her job. In that case, autocratic and transformational might be the best approaches, even though they appear to be quite different.

demoSeasoned executives might have to work in an autocratic environment but those who have excelled in their careers and are in powerful positions might resent it. More likely these people flourish under a laissez-faire approach.

People in mid-career might do well with any of these styles. It all comes down to your nature and which environment offers you the potential to perform to your best abilities. Just because a leadership style is traditional for instance, doesn’t mean the boss is a jerk. You might actually look at her as a mentor.

If you aspire to become a leader yourself, it’s good to know which leadership style suits you the most and makes you feel the most confidence. Guaranteed not all of these styles is going to help you fill those managerial shoes. I shall leave you with these words of wisdom:

It takes courage to stand up and speak. It takes courage to sit down and listen.”
– Winston Churchill

 

 

 

 

David Bowie makes us all Heroes

You might have been a Bowie fan. Now that he’s dead you may be one of the thousands who have run out to be buy one of his CD’s (probably Black Star – his last release) because now it’s Worth Something. Something about dead celebrities appeals to the gothic or shallow among us. Ask John Lennon about that one. Bowie can explain it.

Why is Bowie’s life and death applicable to you and me? Bowie was the ultimate entrepreneur. In fact his presence and worldwide community involvement made him nearly omniscient – it was difficult for many people to go throughout their day without being made aware of Bowie in some manner.

Most people think he was just a rock star. He wasn’t. He was an innovator, an animal rights activist, a  human rights advocate, a philanthropist, a historic figure, an advocate for Keep a Child Alive, an organization that works to assist children in Africa who live in poverty, and is even part of entomology in Penninsular Malaysia.

Malaysian entomologists bowienamed a large, yellow spider heteropoda davidbowie, after Bowie’s alter ego, Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars and painted face in his 1987 album Never Let Me Down. Ironically, the spider is sexually dimorphic, meaning it displays behaviours that  are distinctly different depending on gender, whereas Bowie built his early career on androgyny.

Bowie is a part of aeronautical history. During the first moon landing Britain broadcasted Bowie’s single Major Tom along with the NASA filming. How many rock stars in the world can claim that accomplishment? In fact, how many human beings from any walk of life have achieved that honour?  Bowie received many awards for his work and was granted a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award. Unfortunately, Madonna accepted it for him.

What does Bowie’s success have to do with us? He:

  1. inspires people to take risks
  2. embodies the true definition of entrepreneur
  3. demonstrates how to reinvent ourselves
  4. defended animal rights, loaning his iconic song Heroes to the film The Cove
  5. managed a family while building an empire
  6. became a fashion icon
  7. married the woman of his dreams and made his marriage work

Perhaps you weren’t a fan of Bowie’s during his lifetime and now you’d like to investigate this enigmatic man more closely. Or perhaps you’re one of those people who has to run out and buy Black Star because now Black Star is Worth Something.

To both of you I say welcome aboard the Bowie Bandwagon. It’s never too late to discover something or someone inspirational no matter why you do it, especially if that inspiration makes you the Hero of your own life. One thing you can be certain about.

Somewhere Bowie’s swinging on a Black Star, like Lazarus reborn, more omniscient than ever.

 

 

 

 

 

There is Life on Mars

. You

I’ve been liked on different sites but not through this one yet – until now. I am ecstatic. In fact, I was liked by two people. Getting liked is a good beginning when starting an online network. Why?

  1. You connect with other people – also known as networking
  2. Other people know you have read their stuff and like it
  3. It assures you other people can find your blog
  4. It creates an awesome sense of community on this vast void we call the internet
  5. It just feels good
  6. If you’re an entrepreneur it is especially helpful – it may lead to business connections because it drives traffic to your site

women_bloggersNaturally when I was liked I went to the sites where someone liked me and I found:

The Seeds 4 Life – a blogging community that focuses on personal development, consisting of several articles by different bloggers. This one is really unique because it is comprised of bloggers who aren’t necessarily the founders of the site. You can contribute too.
The Evolutionary Mind – love the name. Dustin Myers and his fiancé Naomi Laroche are the founders. It’s a blog about the power of you. Cool.

That’s the whole point in liking and re-blogging (I have yet to experience that honour with this site). When you network with other people it’s empowering. You know someone has your back. Better still, you know somebody out there gets you and even sees the world the way you do. You’re not alone in the internet universe. It’s like finding life on a distant planet that’s a lot closer than you realized.

It makes reaching your goals a lot more encouraging. It makes blogging even more worthwhile than you thought (although hopefully you blog just for the sake of blogging). Yes there really is Life on Mars. Unlike the heroine in this song, this young girl who is bitterly disappointed that she doesn’t have access to [a far greater life] somewhere else,”

Unlike you. You have the internet and with it, access to a far greater life.

 

 

How to brag without sounding like a horse’s ass

There’s a right way and a wrong way to “boast” (which I call branding) about your achievements. No one wants to listen to an egomaniacal idiot. That’s a given. Saying you have never failed at anything and that everything you do is great and then some is rot. Yet there are lots of people around like that. Never believing you are wrong is another trait of stupidly egotistical people.

I once dated a guy like that. He always had an argument and an insult for everything. He would be pleased when he insulted me and thought he won. What he didn’t get was that every time he did he really lost. He was quickly headed for the deterioration of a relationship and didn’t see it. His ego got in the way. That’s the wrong way to boast.

Another way is to try too hard to convince people about your greatness. If you are impressive people will see it. You don’t have to push people into liking you. In fact, an upper echelon in the business I recently bought into impressed me by her past and current accomplishments. She has a good balance between communicating about her achievements without alienating people.

One way she does this is in joking about herself a little. Not to the point of undermining herself but enough to let people know she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She is also informing others about her success to let them know they can accomplish the same achievements and that her success isn’t based on “magic”, that anyone can do it. That’s a good approach to “bragging.”

How not to brag:

Stating that you were the best employee at your last job
Placing your job performance above everyone else’s
Comparing yourself to Jesus
Acting like Madonna

Ricky Gervais, in his role of David Brent, the jackass boss of The Office, played a classic role of a braggart with nothing to substantiate it. In fact his entire office disdained him and he was clueless about it. That’s what made his character so laughable and helped to make the series a success. In this scene Brent has been fired but at the same time compares himself to Jesus. (He and John Lennon have something in common).He gives his former employees pep talks about not being too devastated now that he is leaving the firm when of course, they’re glad he’s going. I love Brent for his stupidity. He is a satirical example of how not to brag.

Unless you’re a famous comedian who hosts the Emmy’s and the Golden Globes every year. Then you can say anything you want.