The Washington Post

What I wish I knew at 17: Advice from exceptional women

On December 5, Washington Post Live will host the Women in 2012 Summit, convening exceptional women from diverse fields -- from business to politics to arts.

Ahead of the event, we asked these women what they wished they knew at 17. Their responses are below.

What do you wish you knew at 17? Share your advice to your teenage self in the space provided below or at tweet at #WishIknewat17. We will be featuring readers’ responses in a blog post.

Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor

Keep striving. Never lose heart. It’s not about how many times you get knocked down; it’s about how many times you get back up. And it’s what do after you get back up and brush yourself off that will really matter.

Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, NBC News

Don’t let anyone tell you that you “can’t” succeed or overcome a challenge because it hasn’t been done before. And never permit others to define your goals - decide what you want and go for it!

Susan Lyne, CEO and Chairman, Gilt Groupe

Your working life will likely span half a century, roughly three times as long as you’ve been on the planet. You have time -- time to take some risks, make mistakes, pick yourself up, start over or start something new. Don’t obsess about making the “right” career decision, as if there is only one. Take a leap, learn, and stay nimble enough to recognize opportunities as they arise.

Marne Levine, Vice President, Global Public Policy, Facebook

At Facebook, we have posters all over the walls that convey key elements of our culture. Some of these I really love, and they’ve become personal mantras. One is ‘What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?’ Using this as a guide for everyday life is a total game-changer – when you put fear aside and follow your convictions, you get to try and achieve so many more things.

Jaime Herrera Beutler, Representative, R - Washington

First, find a hero. Take courage and inspiration from someone else’s example. Then, figure out your vision. Write it down, post it on your wall and don’t be afraid to tell it to folks. Because without vision, you’ll go nowhere.

Shirley Ann Jackson, President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

As my father always said to me ‘aim for the stars so that you can reach the treetops, and at least you will get off the ground.’

Denyce Graves, Mezzo Soprano

Hmmm, many things I think but mostly to trust. Trust that all is in order and that things will work out without pushing.

Nancy Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, White House

Take time to smell the roses.

Cathy Lanier, Chief of Police, Metropolitan Police Department

You are NOT smarter than your parents and you DO NOT know everything! The fact is, at 17 years old you do not have enough experience in life to make the really complicated decisions without taking advice from someone who cares about you and DOES have experience in life.

What do you wish you knew at 17? Share your advice to your teenage self in the space provided below or at tweet at #WishIknewat17. We will be featuring readers’ responses in a blog post.

Read more about the Women in 2012 Summit.


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