I was chatting with some neighbors in my cul-de-sac the other night. The discussion began, of course, with a diatribe about the hot weather we were experiencing and quickly moved to other subjects. Somehow, the topic then turned to Girl Scouts when one of the mothers’ mentioned that her daughter would not be selling cookies next year.
I asked the young girl how many boxes of cookies she had sold the previous year and she replied that she had sold 150 boxes. The mom immediately shared that her daughter hadn’t sold most of them. She then went into an explanation about how she and her husband had worked hard to sell the majority of the cookies at their jobs. With the young girl present, she stated that she and her husband had done most of the work. Laughing, I reminded mom that she and dad had chosen to do most of the work.
After the conversation, I started thinking about my own Girl Scout experience. I remember receiving my cookie form and being determined to sell the most cookies in the troop. I went from door to door all through the neighborhood until I had exhausted the area. Once I saw the number of cookies adding up, I felt energized to sell more. I asked my mom for a copy of the Sunday School Directory and I spent hours poring over the list, and painstakingly calling each family on the list. I couldn’t leave voicemail messages, so I would keep track of who wasn’t answering and call back later or the next day. The point is this: I pretty much hounded the families until I got them on the phone and they said yes.
My mother and father were both employed, but I don’t recall either one taking my Girl Scout cookie list to work with them. They had enough on their plate — they didn’t need my responsibilities in addition to their own. It wouldn’t have occurred to them to even try to assist me in this endeavor since it was my responsibility. They bought quite a few boxes and that’s where their job ended. Frankly, I don’t remember them telling me how to sell, what to say or even monitoring where I was selling. I had to make my own decisions, figure out what worked and finesse my own sales approach.
That year was a life-changing year for me. It was the first time it had occurred to me that I had selling skills. Not only that, but I also learned that I was quite creative in my approaches to selling more cookies. It helped me get over the fear of talking to people I didn’t know and engaging them in conversation. I refined my communication skills and learned how to listen to people. It gave me the experience of working toward and achieving my goal. On top of all that, I gained problem-solving skills, making it a huge boost to my self-esteem and sense of independence.
Looking back, I am thankful that my parents allowed me to OWN this experience. I am disappointed that this young girl didn’t have the same opportunity. So, this is what I want you to think about: the next time you jump to help your daughter, son, husband, sister, or friend— give it some thought. Will assisting them move them closer toward their own goals or YOUR goals? Do they have more to gain in the long term if you stand back and let them navigate on their own? The bottom line is this: women learn and grow from their own experiences, regardless of whether they succeed or fail in the experience. Allow them to do it on their own and GROW