Shannon Short & Girls Get Real
MAJOR CATEGORY WINNER: Out of Hiding: Looking for Extraordinary in an Ordinary World

Now Playing Me

I looked at my life and thought, "This is a great life. I wonder whose role I'm playing." This wasn't the first or last time I'd ask myself this question. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing, so why wasn't I happier? Eventually, I got it. I starred in the role I'd chosen in this great life, but on the inside, I knew it was only an act. 

Today, I'm sitting here at my desk, the founder of Girls Get Real, and I can't believe it's real. No more trying to fit that darn square peg into the round hole. I sigh, and then, I freak out.

 Leave my corporate job to become an entrepreneur? What was I thinking? Can I do this? How do I do this? If I'd known what was ahead, I might've made a different choice. And that would've been tragic. So while I squirm wildly in the heart of my discomfort zone, at least I know who I am and why I'm here.

If I'd Known Then What I Know Now

Until I was 29, I pretty much did life the way it was "supposed" to be done. I kind of went blindly, but it all seemed to be working itself out. And I learned a lot a long the way.

I was a normal kid who did normal kid stuff. I took ballet and tap, competed in gymnastics, swimming and diving, and played the clarinet, to name a few. I was pretty good at most of them but not the best at any. Eventually, I quit them all, and that made me a quitter.

When I recounted this story to an acquaintance recently, without hesitation, she sprung a new perspective on me. She said, "Could it be that you weren't a quitter but that you were already questioning the norm? That you were simply trying to define yourself, even at that young age, based on the things that weren't working for you? Maybe you were having little aha moments even then and you just didn't know it." If I'd only known then what I know now.

As I entered adulthood, I continued to model my life on the way things were "supposed" to be, with no real guidance except what I knew to be the "normal" timeline of life. College, corporate job, big city, rat race – check, check, check, check. The timeline told me what to do and when, but I was missing someone or something to help me make sense of the stuff happening between the lines. You know that space where you discover the "who" and "why" of life. A little guidance here would've been nice, even one person to peak my curiosity, invest in me, and give me permission to look outside the box.

A Little Curiosity (and One Really Amazing Boss) Goes a Long Way

After two and a half years at BellSouth, I had a good paycheck, great benefits, amazing co-workers, work I hated and a difficult boss, and I was seriously considering quitting. Then, I had this conversation with my father:

Me: "I hate my job. I'm so unhappy. I want to leave."

Daddy: "Shan, work isn't there to make you happy. It's there to make you a living."

I didn't leave my job, but I did get a new boss.

Don was an amazing man who was not only my boss but also my cheerleader, my guide and my friend. Don opened my eyes to the idea that I could make things happen for myself and that those things could be whatever I wanted them to be. He taught me I didn't necessarily have to accept the status quo and made me curious about what would work for me personally. What a freeing perspective.

I was relieved to know that maybe I wasn't crazy after all. And maybe it wasn't the norm, but if I was going to sit behind a desk and stare at a computer 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, I wanted to enjoy what I was doing and feel like my contribution actually mattered. I don't know if Don even knew how much he was teaching me. I'm not sure I knew then either, but I know now that while Don changed my thinking he also planted a seed of curiosity that would change my life. I'll never be sure if I was questioning the norm as a kid, but I definitely began questioning it now.

In late 1991, Don retired and I moved on to another department. For two more years, I continued to stretch my curiosity and my confidence in challenging the status quo. Then, five days after my 29th birthday, I moved to Vail, Colorado and started year one of a three-year sabbatical from the corporate world.

Who Says It's Not the Real World

You definitely weren't going to find "take a sabbatical from corporate job and move to Colorado to be a ski bum" anywhere on that "normal" timeline. Let's just say the flood gates for my questioning the norm were wide open. Most of the world doesn't know what to do with people who question the norm. In Vail, everything questions the norm. I was right where I belonged.

Visitors to Vail would say, "This isn't the real world." I would simply reply, "The real world is wherever you are and whatever you live every day. So this may not be the real world to you, but it is real to me." And then I would just smile.

Vail is the place where I found my soul. I felt more alive and more real in Vail than I had felt anywhere at anytime in my life. This was when my suspicions were confirmed. I wasn't designed for "normal".

This Girl Got Real

I went back to my job at the end of my sabbatical. Over the course of the next 12 years, I fell back into some old patterns, but I was a changed person and the new me wasn't going to settled for normal any more. I watched friends leave for greener pastures, many with hefty severance packages. Every time that opportunity presented itself I thought "maybe this time." Each time my papers were signed and ready to fax, just in case, but it was never time. More opportunities passed taking more friends with them. I knew it was time to get serious about figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up, so I could get the heck out of dodge.

In October, 2007, I attended Life Coach Training through CoachU. Two months later, I invested in a friend's company, DwellSmart. In November, 2008, I raised my hand to leave AT&T, and on December 28, 2008, I left the corporate world for good. Almost one year later, after a lot of processing, adjusting and way overanalyzing, I started Girls Get Real.

Girls Get Real in Epic Proportions

My passion for Girls Get Real (GGR) is to help other normal girls like me learn early they don't have to settle for status quo, they can reach for the stars, and it's better to fail than to simply never try. I've lived this story. I know it backwards and forwards, and I want to share it on huge scale. I can't do this alone, but before I can grow it, I need two things: a clear message in a format that others can share, and a Girls Get Real brand -- not just a name -- that girls (and their parents, colleges, etc.) everywhere will trust and crave.

I find myself saying I don't know where to begin, though I do have some ideas. I also get caught in overwhelm, which makes it very hard to focus and actually take action. I need help figuring out how to manage these issues in order to achieve the GGR mission for the good of normal girls everywhere.

Real Me, Extraordinaire

I've spent much of my life getting to know myself. I have a keen self-awareness and great wisdom about choice, emotions, perspective, keeping a positive attitude and more. I have confidently answered the question "Who am I," and now, I want to create a life that honors that true self. All of my wisdom has helped me tremendously as I've been living in survival mode, but the truest me won't settle for survival. I want to thrive and need to figure out how to pour the wisdom that helped me survive into creating a life in which I thrive, completely and authentically.

As usual, I have all the pieces of the story. Now, I just need to make them fit together in a way that honors me personally and allows me to fulfill my BIG vision for Girls Get Real. So I ask you, "What's next? And could it be that, just maybe, I'm getting in my own way?"