Note: Although the subtitle for the book is “A woman’s guide to living & leading in an illogical world”, there are plenty of good insights for men as well.
I first met Barb Stegemann at a presentation she gave for the 2014 International Woman’s Day – that story is captured here. The book came with the perfume – she was so engaging in person that I decided to give it a read. I’m glad that I did.
The book focuses on the seven virtues that Barb espouses as being crucial to being successful and, more importantly, happy. In the list below you will not find “leadership” yet leadership aspects are interspersed throughout the various chapters. The virtues are:
- Wonder: “When we allow ourselves to live the virtue of wonder, we are on the path of discovering the true reality of the world around us.”
- Moderation: There is a difference between pleasure and happiness. Having lots of “things” may bring you pleasure, but not happiness. This chapter speaks to trying to achieve “balance”.
- Truth: Focusing on logic to strip emotions from an issue, allowing you to make the best decision based on the facts. Additionally, never forget that you are your child’s first teacher. What you show as acceptable behaviour will be mirrored by your children. Your perceptions will be based on where you focus – find positive influences.
- Courage (the heaviest chapter): Believe in yourself and your convictions, work to your talents, take risks, and have the courage to enter politics to make positive change within the community.
- Justice: “Once we understand our place of responsibility and do things to move people towards right action, we are helping to build a just society.”
- Wisdom: You must have a good understanding of the past to make sure that you do not repeat mistakes and that you build upon the work and knowledge of others. There is a section on the ten visualization steps required to achieve a goal. The last section of this chapter is filled with meditations that make you reflect on what you have learned from whom and what you are grateful for.
- Beauty (the lightest chapter): “Your expression is your beauty – this should be valued far above form. Superficial appearances will fade – you must discover what is beautiful inside of you (you are a work of art).
The book extensively references several great philosophers including Marcus Aurelius and Plato. The latter is my personal favourite, especially his book “The Republic” that I first read in university. My favourite section is the allegory of the cave – a description can be found here. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Barb made this one of the first lessons in philosophy. For a female perspective, her most quoted female philosopher is Mary Wollstonecraft. You can tell throughout the book that these philosophers, amongst others, have had a significant influence on the person that she is today.
Now, for me, this book is not perfect. It is repetitive in setting up and using the same stories to make different points. Also, there are some sections that feel out of place such as the description of municipal politics. I understand that Barb is trying to inform her audience on how to effectively influence politics within the community but to me it was akin to hearing cell phones go off in a theatre – it took me out of the moment. Having said that, the overall value of the book overcomes these minor obstacles. You are not simply a passive reader – you are asked to reflect upon, write down, and address several critical issues as you start working on becoming the person that you want to be.
Perhaps what I liked most about this book is that she advocates for women to take up more / significant leadership positions throughout the community and in business. She is also a passionate advocate for increased female representation in politics – achieving a minimum 30% representation is seen as the tipping point to achieving greater equality across the nation. Personally, I’m in favour of anyone that helps illuminate a path towards self-improvement and improvement of their environment, and I think Barb has done a great job of doing that.