Coaching expert Alexia Vernon demonstrates how to be your own best advocate and create your ideal future. She was born to be a coach – but, she explains, making it happen required tapping into her “moxie.” She urges you to project your “voice, visibility and influence” in personal, professional and community settings. Stepping into your moxie requires evaluating your goals, motivation, communication, and boundaries. You can ask for the salary you deserve, have daring conversations and become a better presenter. Vernon aims her thought-provoking ideas at women who’re ready to become their own “heroines.”
Her book functions best as a workbook, so have a notebook ready for the exercises in each chapter. Women seeking to improve their communication skills and boost their authenticity by learning from their past actions and behaviors will benefit from a close read and from practicing Vernon’s exercises.
Coaching expert Alexia Vernon’s dynamic book demonstrates how to be your own best advocate and create your ideal future. She was born to be a coach but, as she explains, making it happen required tapping into her “moxie.” Stepping into your moxie requires evaluating your goals, motivation, communication, and boundaries. Vernon directs her thought-provoking ideas at women who are ready to become their own “heroines.” Since her book functions best as a workbook, you may want to have a notebook ready for the exercises in each chapter’s “Moxie Moment.”
- “Moxie” is how you project your competence and confidence.
- The name comes from an 1876 nostrum, “Moxie Nerve Food,” which purportedly soothed insomnia, nervousness and paralysis.
- Moxie represents assertiveness, courage, resilience, know-how, pep, nerve, verve and vigor.
- Stepping into your moxie can be a lifelong practice. It happens when your “self-talk” supports who you are.
- “(Re)claim your voice” to support your beliefs and value systems, and stop minimizing yourself and your goals.
- Understand who you are as a communicator and the role your self-talk plays.
- Linguistic habits can identify your demure or aggressive traits as a communicator.
- Understand and trust your intuition so you can be open to feedback without letting it define you or derail your actions.
- “Reverse-engineer” your communication by working backward from your ultimate goal, so you know what you need to do today to achieve it.
- Living life with moxie means having confidence and learning to tolerate discomfort.
You’ve Got “Moxie”
In 1876, Dr. Augustin Thompson created Moxie Nerve Food. This nostrum purportedly soothed insomnia, nervousness, and paralysis. Moxie soda made the word popular. Moxie came to represent courage, know-how, pep, nerve, verve, and vigor. You have moxie inside you. It is how you project your competence and confidence. Moxie is a dynamic way to think, feel and express yourself. If your moxie is latent, you can cultivate and amplify it through your daily choices. Tapping into your moxie – moving into your spotlight – creates a “chain reaction” that helps other people around you evolve, grow and learn.
“Too many women…flip-flop between demonstrating our supposed confidence and experiencing near-paralyzing insecurity.”
Alexia Vernon realized she had been measuring herself against a model that the business world based on masculinity. It prioritized authority, assertiveness and how a person takes up space. To communicate her passions, she realized she needed to behave more authentically, to speak up with humility and honesty about what mattered to her and to prioritize her perspective. Blending this more feminine process with a masculine approach would help her claim space, share stories, be inquisitive and assist other people in tapping into their own emotions. She became the moxie-driven protagonist of her own life story. She learned that when you “(re)claim your voice” so it supports your beliefs and value systems, you stop minimizing yourself and your goals.
You as a Communicator
Imagine a third-grader, decked out with braces, about to make her first presentation to her classmates. The “current-events” speech doesn’t flow nearly as well as the tears that roll down her cheeks as her classmate’s laugh. That seminal moment left Vernon thinking for years that she was bad at speaking in public. Like so many other people, she let painful, resonant moments define her narrative about herself. She had to change the story that she told herself about who she was as a communicator. She had to identify and let go of those underlying experiences and stories to affirm herself and become more “moxieful.”
“When you are stepping into your moxie…the smackdowns are often much harder – yet on the other side of recovery, the discoveries…are all the more glorious.”
Stepping into your moxie can be a lifelong practice. It happens when your self-talk supports who you are, not what you aren’t. Learning, practicing and mastering how to project yourself confidently takes work. It requires letting go of the constant inner voice worrying about how well you’re doing. To embrace your moxie, recall pivotal moments that stick with you, relive your journey with them, and reframe those events as moments that help you grow and become resilient.
“Critic, Cop, Cheerleader and Coach”
How you communicate with yourself (“self-talk”) affects how you see yourself and share your voice. Most people have three or four voices in their heads, with at least one vying for attention at any time. None of those voices is the real you, but they all affect your thoughts, feelings and behavior. Meet your voices:
- The Critic is a mean voice: She makes you feel like an imposter. She censors you and makes you think nobody cares about your opinion.
- The Cop polices your decisions: In the Cop’s world, everything is a clashing either-versus-or proposition. You can be “a rock star or a roadie,” but nothing in between.
- The Cheerleader is positive and urges you on: She’s helpful, in moderation, but can be a “frenemy” who tells you to be comfortable with situations that aren’t productive for you.
- The Coach helps you improve your self-talk: The Coach asks questions that help you revise the script running through your mind. For example, the Coach might prod the Critic to come up with an example of when you’ve been resilient or might ask the Cheerleader how you can take something off your to-do list. Listening to your Coach helps you communicate.
“Bunny, Dragon” or “Cheetah”?
Bunnies are cuddly, cute and soft. They represent demure women who do not speak up for what they want, censor themselves or focus on pleasing other people. Vernon realized she had a case of “bunnyitis” when she delayed getting in touch with the literary agent she had dreamed about working with on her book. Bunnies tend to apologize, literally or metaphorically, and to overexplain their ideas. Their communications aren’t compelling; they don’t issue “calls to action.” The bunny leaves the impression that she doesn’t think she’s worth the salary she requests.
“This wacky, wonderful world we live in – it needs your voice. It needs your wisdom. And your wit.”
Dragons breathe fire. They live at the other end of the “feminine power spectrum.” This female archetype shuts down her emotions – even positive ones. She focuses her language – both verbal and physical – on herself, not on her conversational partner. She functions as if being powerful means not asking for help or feedback. Both identities come from the same place. They exist in response to how others think women should act.
“Find the opportunity within every obstacle. Speak what is aching to come out of you…connect.”
Cheetahs are fast and flexible. They rest where they can see their surroundings clearly, and the rest plenty. Vernon tapped into her inner cheetah to make contact with the agent and to land the deal for her book. Women who embrace the essence of the cheetah ask for what they want. They speak with – not at – their audiences, stay flexible as they work toward their goals, and demonstrate their presence through body language and movement.
“Whether it’s feedback on our looks, academic or work performance, athletic or artistic skills, or parenting or housekeeping, most women have subcontracted the process of feedback out to…other people.”
To incorporate cheetah-like behavior into your style of expressing yourself, take the “Moxie Moment’s communication audit.” Ask why people don’t see or respond to you as you’d like. Evaluate your tone as a communicator. Some linguistic habits may identify you as a bunny, such as qualifying everything you say, using passive verbs or shifting to a high pitch at the end of sentences. Other ways of speaking show you’re a dragon, such as posing “angry rhetorical questions,” bashing other people’s ideas and using “violent phrases.” Invest energy into the language you choose to use, just as you invest energy into selecting your clothes.
Trust Your Gut
Intuition is your ability to feel something that doesn’t derive from experience or facts. Intuition can manifest as an idea out of the blue. It helps you identify when something is a good, positive step. And, it calls attention to something that doesn’t feel right or that isn’t part of your purpose.
“When you (re)claim your voice and use it in a way that honors your beliefs and values, you will emancipate yourself from the agony of playing small, holding back and speaking half-truths.”
Everyone has intuition. You may receive it kinesthetically, cognitively or experientially. If you understand your intuition and trust it, you can become open to feedback without letting it define or derail your actions. When you turn something down because it doesn’t feel right, you can be confident that answering “no” is a “complete sentence.”
“Start with Your Call to Action”
Whether you’re negotiating a salary, making a presentation or explaining your vision for a project, “reverse-engineer” your communication, working back from your ultimate goal to impart what you want your audience to know. When you align your goal with the needs of your audience, you inspire your listeners to take action in the way you intend. Curate your presentation to support your goal. To be persuasive, ask questions and address the audience’s fears or resistance.
“When you begin with the end in mind, you…give yourself a way to manage the sensation you are likely experiencing in your body as you prepare to make your pitch.”
“Go for the Holy Yes.” This means using “feminine energy” to encourage people to take action. It favors collaboration over bulldozing, grace over force. This requires a mindset that picks up on creative, lucrative and purposeful opportunities. It means learning what your audience wants and putting that knowledge front and center – letting it drive all you ask, propose or say. Pose “juicy questions” to help people imagine everything that could come to fruition if their answer to your request is yes.
“Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable”
When you’re on the verge of doing something important or when the stakes are high, you may feel something like fear. Reframe that feeling. Start by recognizing it as a sensation. The most challenging, rewarding moments are those when the butterflies in your stomach indicate that you’re on the edge of a breakthrough. That feeling isn’t relaxing, but it signals that you’re embracing your moxie and stepping into the spotlight.
“We get to choose the energy we wrap our persuasive cases in. It doesn’t have to be all testosterone-y.”
To get comfortable with communicating on a high level of confidence that will help you address those butterflies, rehearse out loud what you’re going to say. Get rid of the self-talk that sabotages your energy and efforts. Say “thank you” to yourself. Give yourself gratitude for the effort you’re about to make. Tell yourself all the things you appreciate about yourself. This affirmation helps calm the mental and physiological effects of preparing to speak up. Make this gratitude session a daily practice. Support yourself as a competent, confident and conscious communicator.
“The sooner I stop trying to impress, or worse, evaluate my performance, and instead start focusing on my audience…the better I feel and more compelling I am.”
You’ll find that “difficult” interactions can become “daring.” Stop avoiding conversations, winging them, or running them over and over through your mind without actually addressing the issue in person. The one thing you control in a daring conversation is your role. To keep a healthy conversation going, be direct, ask others for input, understand their motivations and viewpoints, and remain aware of your tone and body language.
“Be the Real You”
Author and TED star Brené Brown notes that many people love openness and truth when they recognize it in others, but they hesitate to give the same of themselves. What are your parameters for where and when “you can say, do or be the real you”? Be open about your experiences, and share them as stories to connect with and transform your listeners. Before you speak, identify the ideas you want to spread. Consider your audience, the topics you have a passion for and the crucial takeaways from your presentation. Use stories to lead your audience to an “aha moment.” That success will help you feel more compelling and effective as a speaker.
“Release attachment to the outcomes of what you say.”
If you’re having trouble getting to this zone, ask what’s “hijacking your moxie.” What boundaries aren’t clear enough? How might anger be infiltrating your efforts? Are you exhausted from focusing on your heavy workload while trying to craft a high-quality performance? Your moxie will be at its best when you identify your boundaries and define them to yourself. Without this, you risk losing your energy and undermining your satisfaction. Inventory your “moxie non-negotiables” and uphold the boundaries that protect them. Vernon’s include getting the right amount of sleep, believing she has all the time she needs, securing “financial freedom,” spending quality time with the people she loves and taking time for herself.
“I choose my words like I choose my fruit. I pick them up. I play with them. I ensure that they are ripe (but not too ripe). Firm (but not too hard). And when I speak them, I savor every bite.”
As you progress on the moxie path, you’ll grow more resilient. You’ll be able to heal and grow, even amid difficulties. You’ll be able to face setbacks and stand up again, still in your moxie. You might come back stronger, thanks to the gifts that can emerge from challenges, such as enhanced creativity, empathy, self-awareness and transparency.
Effective leaders grow things. To grow something, let the undertakings you’re involved with expanding beyond your role. Leadership may mean launching a project, but can also mean contributing your talents and time to someone else’s initiative. Being in your moxie means sharing your voice. This requires knowing when you should step forward and when to back off, when to listen and when to speak, when to inquire and when to let others ask questions. Whatever issue is near and dear to your – mental health, racism, drug abuse or getting away from mean people in your work environment – consider what initial step to take that lets you start right where you are. Don’t overcomplicate it. Once you’ve started speaking and acting with moxie, consider enrolling other people to share what you envision.
“Each time I received almost exactly what I asked for. In hindsight, I now know this means that I wasn’t asking for enough.”
Reflect on the legacy you want to create for yourself. Visualize the end of your career. Imagine being honored for your accomplishments. What are people saying? Imagine time-traveling back to the midpoint between where you are currently and the end of your career. Time travel again, coming back closer to today – five years out, one year out or three months from now. Envision how you “step into your moxie” at each stage, and perform the groundwork necessary to build your legacy and make things grow.
“Great leaders… grow things. And the only way to grow anything is by allowing it to expand beyond you.”
About the Author
Leadership coach and TEDxWomen speaker Alexia Vernon created Spotlight Speakers Collective and Spotlight Speaker Accelerator. You can download supplemental moxie exercises at AlexiaVernon.com/MoxieBook.
Stay tuned for book review…