Own Your Spots… and Other Ways to Do You

Nancy Lublin

Nancy Lublin made a decision that changed her journey forever. To a room full of young women, she described feeling miserable throughout her first year of law school. She was in her 20s, and it was a February afternoon when she received an envelope with a return address of Hollywood, Florida. She opened it to discover a long greenish check–an unexpected windfall from the estate of her great grandfather, who immigrated to the US at the turn of the century with nothing.

“I had this check in my hand, and I said, ‘You know what? I want to help people get started in this country the way my grandfather got started in this country. And reclaim their destinies. And I had the idea for Dress for Success right there.’”

That choice began Nancy’s journey to helping people by solving problems.

Through humor, energy, quirkiness, and unapologetic boldness, Nancy has charted a path for young women to ‘own their spots.’ Here are just a few gems that she shared during the chat.

Owning your spots: “I’m very direct and a little odd. But this is me – take me or leave me, with my spots. And I’m going to manage my spots,” said Nancy. With her self-described “strong opinions, loosely held,” Nancy embodies a know thyself mantra. She urged every women in the room to do the same: “My request to you is figure out who you are and do that. You don’t need to work on your edges.”

Avoiding CEO syndrome:  We live in a CEO and founder obsessed-world, explained Nancy, as she bemused that she is often described as the founder of Dress for Success and Crisis Text Line, but her 12 years turning around DoSomething.org into the success it is today often goes unmentioned. “For most of my life, it was very painful to be an entrepreneur,” Nancy said. “It’s really great to be COO or CMO and really know your stuff.” She urged us not to get caught up in the CEO and founder fads and look to our skill sets, not just titles.

Find your people:  When you figure out your path, don’t push yourself into things you’re not good at, Nancy advised. “Why would you spend time on that? Spend time on the stuff that you really love.”  And that extends to the workplace. Nancy’s insight is, “You take a job because you believe in the place. You leave a job because of bad management.” And so while there is so much emphasis on finding an organization you believe in, it is essential to find somewhere your talents will be appreciated. The most important thing is to go where you truly like and can work with the people in the company.

Knowing what you can fix: Make no qualms about it – Nancy is a problem solver. “I get bored when things are predictable and calm, which makes me interesting to work with. It’s very fast paced. I like fixing things, and that includes – me.” When things aren’t going right, Nancy reminds herself that only she can create her own path. “The only two things that I can really control in life are my own words and my actions. I can’t control anybody else. And that’s on me.”

Starting something new: Having worked in cash-strapped organizations where job insecurity was rampant, Nancy pledged to secure funding before she started CTL. Fundraising was something Nancy excelled at – or so she thought. Surprised and frustrated by initial hurdles to get donors to sign onto CTL–-a new model that didn’t fit the mold of traditional funding criteria–- she brokered a partnership with J.C. Penney. In only a short time, collections at cash registers raised over $1 million, enabling her to start the organization. Now, with a growing staff, Nancy has herself trained as a crisis counselor. Though she regularly thinks of a disturbing text that served as the impetus for starting Crisis Text Line, it’s clear Nancy is helping countless others who cross her path, including a recent caller who texted in crisis but following a conversation with a counselor, went to bed smiling and listening to Miley Cyrus.

This only scratches the surface of our chat, so learn more about Nancy and Crisis Text Line here. And thank you Nancy for sharing your journey with the Changemaker community and urging us all to own our spots. arrows