“Failure is a Stepping Stone” and 7 More Fave Quotes from Forbes 30/50

Gloria Feldt
7 min readMar 14, 2023

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Issue 223— March 13, 2023

Forbes 30/50 Summit chair and founder of Know Your Value Mika Brzezinski must have said “Failure is a stepping stone” half a dozen times during the Forbes 30/50 Summit held at the beachfront Saadiyat Rotana Resort in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, March 7–10.

She spoke from experience, having been fired in 2006 from her news correspondent position at CBS. She told her story to illustrate both the devastation of a potentially humiliating fall and the positive growth that comes from it, if you’re willing to own it, learn its lessons, and use it to build your resilience muscles.

The “50” refers to those of us over the half-century mark who were selected by Forbes for work in one of four categories: lifestyle, money, impact, and entrepreneurs.

I’m honored to be among the women recognized for impact, but I came close to not going. It was a bittersweet milestone on life without my soulmate, Alex, who died last July — my first international trip without him. He was my most enthusiastic supporter through decades of work for gender equality around the globe, often (usually!) in places considerably less luxurious and more dangerous than this one. I have 44 years of photos of Alex looking happy to be the sole man among large groups of women. I missed his big presence terribly. And I find myself in an emotional space not dissimilar to any other cataclysmic loss, asking myself “why not?” and plunging into experiences I might not have said yes to previously. Reflecting now on the flight back to the U.S., it was the right decision. Especially the chance to be inspired by the younger women.

The “30” in the Summit title recognizes women under 30 who have already made their marks.

The idea is that the two age groups would learn from and mentor each other, an imaginative concept. The structured program was enhanced by informal networking opportunities, from afternoon snacks and drinks at the beach bar to dinners in fabulous places with the space arranged to encourage mix-and-mingling.

“Fabulous,” is a wild understatement, but I can’t find the words to describe the beauty and thoughtful design of a city that is modern but in integrity with the ancient culture in which it sits. There was dinner at the presidential palace for example, where we were treated to a light show to be remembered for the ages, a Louvre of its own, and some of the most stunning architecture on the globe. Such splendor has to start with a vision and the persistence to bring it to fruition.

Making new friends with the magnificent presidential palace as backdrop.

“You can get a thousand nos. All it takes is that one yes. Don’t give up.”

Sweet July founder Ayesha Curry dropped this nugget, while speaking about her experience trying to get into food television. As if to punctuate the power of persistence, Brzezinski cautioned the audience not to attribute their hard-won successes to what she labeled “manufactured serendipity” or just luck, as women often do but men do rarely.

Curry was one of numerous entrepreneurs among the speakers whose work I hadn’t been familiar with but now want to know much more about. That included celebrities like The Honest Company founder and Chief Creative Officer Jessica Alba and actress Catherine O’Hara. Some panels were formatted to be brief and snappy, without time for questions, in order to showcase the maximum number of — and this is clearly not an understatement — the endless examples of business, philanthropic, and policy making female leaders in the short amount of time we had together.

“New inventions can only happen with diversity of thought.” — Judith Richter, Founder and CEO of Medinol.

Richter who is Israeli and Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al Hashimy Minister of State for International Cooperation, UAE, combined all three of those sectors in one conversation that emphasized cooperation across cultures that have not always been so friendly.

The Summit date deliberately coincided with International Women’s Day March 8. The keynote “icons” panel was to me the weakest part of the Summit. I respect each of the panelists enormously but as the most highlighted of the event, streamed on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, it was unfortunately a glaringly all-white group.

To be sure each of the women is an actual icon — from Hillary Clinton to Gloria Steinem to Billie Jean King to Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska and Brzezinski herself. But there are so many impactful women of color who could have been on the stage to illustrate the diversity of women’s leadership globally. It felt off key in an otherwise beautiful concert.

Hearing from First Lady Zelenska was one of the highlights of the #Forbes3050 Summit for me. Her strength, grace, and positive perspective on women today, even in the face of war was heartening. Neither she nor her husband likely could have imagined where the force of history would take them. But both have risen to the demands of leadership and beyond. While the other panelists focused on the disparities women continue to face, Zelenska observed: “Equality is normal and everyone should realize that equality is normal.”

“Yes,” is what I imagined all assembled replied with their applause.

“It’s important for women to be intentional.”

Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife Media emphasized that in her panel appearance. To my point above, as one of a number of kickass Nigerian women at the Summit, Abudu exemplified what I call “intentional women.” She even said that she intentionally hired more women. I couldn’t love that more.

The word “intention” was said a lot. These are women who believe in the power of knowing and going after what you want.

Nobody said “Intentioning” though. I kept wishing — intentioning — that someone would say it. I’d love to think the concept has entered the lexicon. I obviously have more work to do.

I couldn’t resist putting forth this bit of Intentioning at the Abrahamic Center, a collaboration of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths.

And so I’m doing it. I’m launching a brand-new mastermind series for women in leadership roles, unlike any course or class I’ve ever taught. I’ll teach it live online. Trying a new format scares me, but I believe it will give the women who participate in it serious jet fuel for their careers and personal growth.

Transform Your Dreams to Reality with the Power of Intentioning is fundamentally different both in the interactive style and the focus on mindset to drive your skillset with clarity toward your intention. No fluff. No BS. No fillers. Solid, usable information and a community we will build to support you to reach them. You can find out more and register to join me here. But hurry, it starts March 23.

Closing dinner in the desert. No I didn’t ride a camel.

“If you’re evolving quickly, people may not be able to catch up.”

Pico Velasquez, Founder and CEO of Viira, made this insightful observation to the female high school students representing 77 nationalities at the Cranleigh School where a number of us were mentors to the girls on the last day of the Summit, dubbed a “service day.”

“Innovation, resilience, and leadership are the three things girls will need for the future,” the deputy head girl of the school said at the podium. I suspect life will teach her just how accurate those words are.

It’s tempting to speculate about the difference in how the generations of women represented at the Summit view the world, particularly for those of us in the over 50 cohort. Many human needs, problems, and aspirations span the age range. But I’m going to give the last word and the last quote to a young musician who goes by one name, “Fafa.” Get ready.

When I asked Fafa why women’s leadership is important, she didn’t skip a beat before declaring as though I was weird to have asked such a question:

“Because it just IS. Why would anyone think otherwise?”

GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of five books, most recently Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take The Lead for (Everyone’s) Good. Honored as Forbes 50 Over 50 2022, and Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.

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Gloria Feldt

Gloria Feldt is a New York Times bestselling author and co-founder and president of Take The Lead, a nonprofit women’s leadership organization.