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Erin Brockovich On ‘Stick-To-Itiveness’ And Turning Weakness Into Strength

At the Women Of The Channel Leadership Summit East, Erin Brockovich talked about the logic of following your gut and how others’ perceptions of you ‘don’t have to be your perception of who you are.’

Erin Brockovich doesn’t mind being the only woman or the loudest voice in the room.

“In many instances, I have done things by the skin of my teeth and by the seat of my pants, which are often on fire,” she said. “But you just have to, in the moment, take action, and we all do it. We do it in order to survive,” Brockovich told the audience during her keynote at The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel Leadership events.

Brockovich is no stranger to running up against obstacles. Before she was going head-to-head with one of the biggest companies in the country, she struggled in school with dyslexia and with other students because she felt so different. It was at her mother’s urging that she find her “stick-to-itiveness,”—dogged perseverance and a propensity to follow through—as life would undoubtedly require it.

Now, Brockovich is all about shaking off negativity, embracing perceived weaknesses, turning them into strengths and passing that empowerment on to the next generation of women.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you go, there are going to be obstacles. [My mom] was right, my life has required that I have stick-to-itiveness. She taught me that just because those around you may see you as what you call a ‘loser,’ that’s their perception. It doesn’t have to be your perception of who you are.”

[Related: Mother, Daughter Share Insights On Two Generations In IT ]

Brockovich wears many hats. She’s an advocate, environmental activist, author, mother and president of Brockovich Research & Consulting. She was also the subject of an Oscar-winning blockbuster movie based on her story of exposing the truth and doggedly going after justice for the victims of a groundwater poisoning incident by Pacific Gas & Electric in a California town. When she’s not getting confused with Julia Roberts, Brockovich is still taking on giants and championing causes to give a voice to men and women all over the country.

But her path wasn’t easy—it wasn’t even paved. When Brockovich was in her early 30s, she was hired by a law firm that had represented her during a serious car accident. It was during this work as a file clerk when she came across damning medical records that led her to investigate—with the blessing of her boss, attorney Ed Masry—what was going on in the small California town, an undertaking that she had no experience in at all, or so she was told. The 1996 case would later explode into the largest direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history to that date.

“I was always told: ‘You’re not a doctor, not a lawyer, not a scientist, so therefore, you can’t do this.’ And I’m [thinking]: ‘Oh my gosh, here I am again. Why am I going back to this space? I didn’t have to be any of those things to be human with my power of observation to see what was going on,” she said.

Brockovich illustrates her idea of removing someone else’s words or perceptions by putting sticky notes on herself with these words she’s heard throughout her life and career. Then, she rips them off.

“This happens to all of us. Somebody else’s energy, idea, bad day or negativity gets stuck on you. And if that happens, what I want you to do is say: ‘That does not belong on me. I’m taking that one off,” she told the audience as she peeled sticky notes off herself and tossed them onto the stage.

It’s easier said than done, Brockovich told CRN, and it’s also a critical skill for any leader to practice. “At least start the practice and be patient with yourself,” she said. “It’s got to be repetitive. That’s the purpose of the sticky note—you can just rip it off.”

Good leaders are also able to leave their comfort zone, whether it’s in the form of making a potential mistake or taking on a new hire that might not appear to be the best fit, she said. “Every leader I’ve seen is able to see something that is different, that may not fit the standard. Giving someone or something a chance also changes you,” she added.

And when it’s time to regroup—something that everyone needs to prioritize, Brockovich said—she turns to the place she can disconnect and become “still.” For her, that’s the outdoors. She urged attendees to find their own place. “It’s in that space that you can make decisions—different decisions, better decisions,” she said. “When you understand yourself better, you make different choices.”

Right now marks an unprecedented time in history that’s been challenging for many around the globe. But it’s also a reset, Brockovich said. “We are in a reboot. The moment is here [and] can absolutely represent an opportunity for growth, for change and transformation. I actually find it very exciting.”

 

 

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