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10 Pearls of Wisdom—from One of the Nation’s Top Investment Bankers

Carla Harris

People don’t get to the top of their game on Wall Street without knowing something about the secrets of success. But not everyone can share their wisdom with as much clarity, power and inspiration as Carla Harris, vice chairman and managing director at Morgan Stanley and former chair of the National Women’s Business Council.

Here’s are 10 lessons—“Carla’s Pearls” she calls them—that she shared at the 2019 Texas Conference for Women.

  1. Own your power. No matter where you are, where you stand right now, know you have power. No matter how you might be feeling, the way somebody made you feel, know you have power.” And the way to grow power, she added, is to give it away, saying “leadership is a journey from execution to empowerment.”
  2. Be willing to take risks. “The only reason you don’t take risks is because you’re scared. But fear has no place in your success equation,” she said, suggesting that when fear raises its head, you should ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen if it doesn’t work out. “So, you fail. Failure always brings gifts. Now you will know how to do it better.”
  3. It is much easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. “Sometimes the person you ask may not have power to tell you ‘no’ but you just gave it to them because you asked.”
  4. If a guy or gal thinks you are too much for them, they’re right. “Never apologize for your success. It takes too much hard work, too much focus, too much sacrifice to get to things you want. Please don’t dim your light for someone else’s convenience.”
  5. Celebrate often. There will be so many things that might make you sad, she said. “So, celebrate often and celebrate no matter what. If it’s raining outside, celebrate you have an umbrella.”
  6. Don’t worry about making mistakes. “Mistakes are a valid part of life. If you don’t make mistakes, it tells you you’re not reaching far enough. Let that mistake infect and impact your next try and fuel your success.”
  7. You don’t ask, you don’t get. “There is one person who has responsibility for your career and that is you. Never sell yourself for below your worth.”
  8. Study, understand and forgive your parents. “They did the best they could when they had their opportunity with you,” she said adding: “Do not allow them to be an anchor you use as an excuse to block your way from ascending into success.”
  9. Understand that life is a journey. “You don’t have to be in a hurry. Take time to enjoy every success.”

Go for it, all the time. “When you look back after a 30-year-career, the last thing you want to do is think you haven’t gone big enough,” she said. So, every time you are at bat, swing hard and look forward to your next swing if you miss it that time. Whatever you do, don’t shy away.”

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