Forget about baby steps, take a big leap!

During last week’s third edition of the Young Lady Business Academy I was hardly able to take in everything that was happening. An amazing range of emotions manifested itself in the girls as well as in the power ladies speaking at the Academy. Not every presentation was flawless, to say the least. Awkward silences happened. Sensitivities and limitations of both the candidates and the speakers became apparent. Mine included.

Key question: is that a bad thing? My answer: no. The more we go through in a week like this, the better.

One of the highlights of the week was the surprise visit to the prime minister of The Netherlands, Mark Rutte, and Ankie Broekers-Knol, chairman of the ‘Eerste Kamer’ (Senate). When your goal, like mine, is to let ambitious young ladies take a leap rather than baby steps, it helps to skip the ‘just trying’ and put everything at stake by getting them on a prominent stage. Taken by surprise by the announcement that we were heading towards the ‘Binnenhof’ (the Dutch Parliament) emotions ran high on the bus. Throats tightened. Beads of sweat formed on foreheads. Laptops were opened to prepare the perfect pitch.

Because I am all about letting the girls take a leap, the more formidable the better, I resisted the urge to put my best candidates forward. What would be the gain if I let an already a self confident, verbally strong young lady pitch before the prime minister? A girl for whom this unique opportunity would at most mean an affirmation of her capacities? So I took a risk: I let the less strong performers go out there. The moment arrived that the nervous young lady who was pitching, prime minister Rutte and I were all holding our breath at the same time. Would the girl carry the sentence she choked on to a logical conclusion? Would the story fall in place? One could hear a pin drop.

Luckily… she regulated her breathing and resumed. Prevailed! Fan-tas-tic!

A moment like this represents the Academy. Where regular education focuses on averages and dragging passive students through the education program, the Academy is about seeing yourself as an individual, with unique characteristics and a personal dream. The Academy challenges you to overcome your limitations and fears, regardless of whether you are trade school or university material.

Considering the commitment and the intensity of this third edition I am confident that in the years to come we are going to hear more from this versatile class of young ladies. At the Academy, with laughter and tears, they made a significant leap towards their professional dream.