If there’s anyone who can put the idea of success in perspective in 2020, it’s Esther Wojcicki, the author and educator who raised three wildly successful daughters and wrote the book, How to Raise Successful People.
So, here’s what she says: “We have to back up on our idea of success now because maybe we had long-term goals but now success is getting through this week without having problems. Maybe it’s getting enough food. Maybe it’s making sure that your child has a good sense of self this particular week. … I think we have to redefine success as being able to cope effectively with your family in this environment that we’re living in today.”
But “cope effectively?” How exactly do we do that in this dizzying year? Wojcicki—who learned early on that looking for the positive was a good alternative to being depressed—has some ideas about that.
A woman who knows
This, after all, is the woman who as a young girl growing up in poverty took the initiative to get a lawnmower and mow her lawn so that her home, in her words, would look less like a dump.
It’s the woman who, when her parents told her at the age of 15 that they would not pay for her to attend college because they wanted her to get married, took it as an opportunity, through work and scholarships, to pay her way.
And, this is the woman who raised two Silicon Valley CEOs (Susan of YouTube and Anne of 23andMe) and Janet, a professor at UC San Francisco—and has taught many accomplished students over more than 35 years while helping build Palo Alto High School’s world-famous media arts program.
Small wonder people seek out her advice. Here are three key points that Wojcicki shares in the latest episode of the Conferences for Women podcast, Women Amplified.
Start by looking for the opportunities
“See whether or not you can’t take every crisis as an opportunity to do something new and different. That is one of the things that I’m doing right now, and that I think we all are forced into doing. I think you have to do that, because the world is so difficult, and has so many challenges for so many people. I think it’s important to spend at least part of the time thinking about what opportunity this challenge is giving you, and there are lots of opportunities.”
Recognize this as an opportunity to be a more effective parent
“I think the most important thing that parents can do today is to make their child feel like they are part of the team. It’s a team effort. We’re all in this together, and we all have our role, and we’re all working together to make our lives better. The crisis we’re in now is an opportunity for us to use kids’ free time to teach them “adult” skills, i.e. how to do their laundry, how to cook, how to clean, how to do basic things that people do.”
In work and family life, focus on Trust. Respect. Independence. Collaboration. Kindness. (T.R.I.C.K.)
“Trust is the first part: trust and respect. And, the first person you need to trust and believe in and respect is yourself. You also want to make sure that the people that you surround yourself with are people who also trust you, and support you, and allow you to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve. Kindness and compassion. That’s what the world needs today. We all need that. We all make mistakes.”
A final word of advice
“You have to believe in yourself and the world—that it’s going to get better. The world has gone through a lot of serious epidemics in the past, and two terrible wars and people made it through, and we’re going to make it through this.”
Tune in for the entire conversation with Wojcicki on the Conferences for Women podcast, Women Amplified.
ESTHER WOJCICKI is a leading American educator, journalist and mother. A leader in blended learning and the integration of technology into education, she is the founder of the Media Arts programs at Palo Alto High School. Wojcicki serves as vice chair of Creative Commons and was instrumental in the launch of the Google Teachers Academy. She blogs regularly for Huffington Post and is coauthor of Moonshots in Education.