In her book, Dare, Becky Blalock, doesn’t shock or bore you with a list of hard hitting facts or ground-breaking, earth-shattering secrets that will change your idea of “career” as you know it but instead, Blalock offers guidance, insight and real world narratives drawn from not just her own experience but from other intelligent highly achieved women in many diversified facets of business as well. From Arby’s to IBM to The Girl Scouts of the USA, it feels as though you have been personally invited to a seat at the head table at an informal gathering of the most successful women in America’s C-suite.
Although Dare is primarily geared toward middle level managers looking for advancement there are many concepts that can be extrapolated and useful to a professional woman at any stage in her career. Blalock’s words also act as a nice reminder of important skills everyone should execute in hopes of living a broader, more purpose driven life. The author’s premise of “daring”, to act boldly and proceed with purpose into any situation is something that most everyone could stand to embrace. Throughout her book, Blalock effectively inspires the reader with numerous examples of how daring can bring about excellence and change in both your personal and professional life.
Whether you are already in a leadership position or are grooming yourself to reach top C-Suite potential, I suggest you look no further than Becky Blalock’s fun, light, and uplifting account of what helped her and many other professional women make it to the top. In her book, Blalock spotlights nine different dares that may seem like nothing new to you and appear a wee bit trite or clichéd but maybe this book will open your eyes to areas of your own life, career, or leadership style that need a little attention and TLC. One of my personal favorites “Own your weaknesses so that you can conquer them—or, at the very least, learn to work around them.” (32) It seems so simple when you think about it but so hard for so many of us to truly embrace.
When you first take a look at Dare‘s dares you probably won’t be surprised by what you see: Project a Confident Attitude. Dare to Stand Out. Blalock continues with a chapter dedicated to and encouraging you to Dare to Fail, and an all too often forgotten about ideology by many of today’s women: Dare to Know Yourself which includes a dare to take care of yourself. I’ll admit, at first glance I was skeptical about how much I would actually take from this writing. I thought to myself, of course everyone knows, to get anywhere in life you must be confident, and learn, and set targets but as I read on with an open mind an ability to set aside my distaste for clichés while at the same time realizing that clichés are cliché for a reason; Becky Blalock won me over. She doesn’t simply say, “OK, now you need to be confident in yourself and your work” or “get to know yourself, it’s easy”, she knows it takes time and isn’t as easy as all that. Blalock explains in her own words as well as with help from other influential business leaders and experts in their prospective fields, exactly what it is you need to be aware of in yourself so you may address and tweak things over time to propel you to the top. In Dare, We read not only WHY these skills and traits are important to your work but HOW to start to recognize and adjust areas where you might be slipping up and may not have been aware of until now. As Blalock writes, “Life requires prioritizing and making difficult choices. But the secret to navigating those choices is a well-defined core of vision and values. If you know what’s most important to you, you can make decisions with confidence and be satisfied with what you did, rather than mired in regret for what you didn’t.” (25)
A nice touch, although at times awkwardly situated amongst the text, you will find breakouts of important key points summarizing the chapter or quotes re-enforcing these important ideas from other female leaders. For instance at the end of the first chapter, Dare to Set the Target High, Blalock shares with the reader her Six Core Values and then urges you to grab a pen and a pad and really think about the values you are defined by. In one of the “Mentors Speak” sections Blalock shares the words of Lyn McDermid, “…live every day in a way that when you go home and look in the mirror, you can say, ‘I was me today.’” By including these small boxes of wisdom separate but amidst the text and keeping an interactive vibe Blalock better captures the audience, keeping the reader engaged by encouraging you to become more aware of yourself and take a more assertive, active role in your rise to the top.
There are plenty of recurring themes throughout this read but one of particular prevalence emphasizes the importance of mentor/mentee relationships and how in many ways these trusting connections can make or break your career. On page 183 she writes, “Everyone has something to teach you, and it may not just be about business.” By the time you get to the final chapter, Dare to Be There—For Others, Blalock has included so many personal stories of success and failure from her own experience as well as former mentor relationships, that by the end of this easy 193 page read it almost feels like she has been acting as your personal mentor this whole time.
If it’s a simple step-by-step guide with a clear map to a successful career, or if you are looking to magically show up to work on Monday with your name on the door of a big corner office, well, you’re dreaming and a book isn’t going be able to do any of that for you. However, the ideas Becky Blalock puts forth in her book will hopefully persuade you to dare to look inside yourself, focus and learn to adopt her suggested traits, practices, and behavior that will one day power your career and help you land that corner office you’ve been dreaming about.
Review by Holly Bertram
Holly is a freelance writer living in Southern Vermont with a degree from the University of Rhode Island. She is an avid skier, runner, and an adventurous young woman developing a line of organic handmade beauty products with a passion for trying new things.