Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me This Sh*t Before?

I’m in Florida this week, launching another book — “Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me This Sh*t Before?” co-authored with powerhouse copywriter (and wonderful friend) Marcella Allison. Two years ago she invited me to help her create a collection of letters from female entrepreneurs sharing what they wished they had known when they got started. And in all honesty, I nearly said no.

I was so scared of the responsibility of shaping those stories. I was scared of the vulnerability this project would require, both from me and the contributors. I was scared of wading into the public conversation about feminism and women in business.

But I said yes, because I knew that a book like that would have been an invaluable lifeline for me in the early years of my own business. And in saying yes, I was given a gift that changed my life for good.

In the end, 65 women from the Titanides community told me their stories. They let me into to their lives and trusted me with all the mess and wild joy and fear and striving. And in so doing, they gave me a gift, that helps me daily. Every letter taught me something tangible and transformative.

They say there’s no future without memory. Our future, my future, has been so enriched by this outpouring of memory. This is the book I wish I’d had when I started, and I’m so proud to share it with you.

You can check it out here, and if you have friends, girlfriends, wives, daughters, nieces or any other women in your life who love reading and are striving to achieve big things in the world, please pass it on to them.

Here’s what I wrote to introduce the book. I hope it gives you a sense of what it’s all about, and that if you choose to get a copy, that this book is as much a gift to you as it was to me.

Letter From The Editor: “Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me This Sh*t Before?”

This book, more than any other project I’ve ever worked on, is a monument to honesty. So in the spirit of transparency you will find in these pages, let me begin with a confession.

I wanted to turn this book down.

For the last few years, my work has immersed me in the world of business — the world of data and metrics, where performance is everything and the personal is quarantined from the professional.

But Marcella fully embodies both the personal and professional in every moment. There is no distinguishing her formidable professional abilities from her buoyant, gleeful personal presence. She has an uncanny way of transforming difficult, jagged feelings into powerful, motivating material.

To borrow a line from Joyce — one of the contributors to this book — feelings have always been problematic for me, and there was no getting around the fact that this book was going to bring up a lot of feelings.

And that scared the ever-living shit out of me. Taking on a project where dozens of women would hand me their most challenging, vulnerable, triumphant moments felt like looking into a glacier ravine — so beautiful, and so very dangerous.

But someone far wiser than I once told me that every good thing is on the other side of fear.

I knew, from hard-earned experience, that the only way out is through, and that if I said no, I would be shutting out some vital piece of my future.

So I said yes, and this book has been the most transformative project of my working life.  

Entrepreneurship, or an unconventional path in any part of life, can be immensely isolating. When I quit my job in publishing and struck out on my own, I could not find a single woman doing what I wanted to do, in the way I wanted to do it.

There were plenty of women in business, but I couldn’t relate to any of them. They weren’t like me, and I didn’t want to be like them. I felt overwhelmed by how much that felt like orphanhood, and, per my difficulties in dealing with feelings, hoped that the panicked loneliness would just fade while I got on with building my business.

For the next few years I justified my intense resistance to seeking female mentorship with all manner of excuses. She’s in a different industry to me. She came up when the world was different. She’s too feminist, she’s trying too much to be one of the guys, she’s too vanilla, she’s too extreme.

But when Marcella handed me the 20 original letters that inspired this project, I drew up sharp in front of all those justifications — and found them false. The Titanides were the women I had been missing all these years. (And you say that word tit-ah-nah-days.)

Those women, and the 47 others who have joined this project since, have been through a gamut of incredible challenges. While many of them say they would never wish their experience on anyone, they’re grateful and hopeful because of it — it taught them something about themselves. They found that they are tougher than they realized, more resourceful than they realized, and have stronger communities and networks around them than they realized.

Named for the descendants of the Greek Titans — the children of the primordial gods that emerged from the Cosmos before time began — the women from the Titanides community in this book are a profound reflection of those complex, beautiful, fierce women in the mythology.

The female Titans — Gaia, Rhea, Mnemosyne and Phoebe — were resourceful, creative, courageous creatures. Their daughters and granddaughters — Hera, Demeter, Hestia, Leto, Artemis, Aphrodite, Athena, Persephone and Maia — became the Olympian gods we are most familiar with. The Olympian goddesses were wise, inventive, and powerful.

The Greek goddesses and their descendents were a formidable group. They were warriors, leaders, creators, fiercely protective mothers, wives and patrons. They demanded their dues, and never allowed disrespect or dismissal to go unchecked. They believed themselves to be worthy of the best the universe had to offer. They knew what they wanted, and they used every tool at their disposal to get it.

Like us, they were not simple creatures, but complex, multifaceted characters. They could be generous and vengeful. Kind and manipulative. Creative and cruel. Mythology is powerful and timeless because we can relate so intensely to the stories and the characters that live them — they are our stories. We are them.

And yet, we are not them. The women in this community are not wrathful like the goddesses could be. They are not vengeful. They do not tear other women down to soothe themselves. Let me be clear that while none of the women in this book are perfect, they choose not to be ruled by their flaws.

The stories you will find in these pages are complex, and every woman’s desire to come out better than she was has been all the more inspiring to me, because of that complexity. Many times their lessons are hard and painful, and there is no neat happy ending. These are not fairytales — they are battle stories.

Their lessons are hard-earned. The lessons have left scars. They have changed the structures of our lives. And there is a lot of comfort to be taken from that — we all live in a world that is increasingly complex, with ever more challenges to our autonomy and sense of self, and in such an environment each of us can only be complex.

And whether we’re on the entrepreneurial road or we’re more ‘intrapreneurial’, we are all looking for insights into the personal and professional situations that take us to the edge of our abilities. This book is both lifeline and roadmap, and I encourage you to see that you are made from the same stuff as all these women.

Take courage, and borrow from their strength. Give yourself some grace, and learn from their lessons. And trust that the triumph, joy and hopefulness they have earned is waiting for you too.

If you see yourself reflected in these pages, I hope you’ll join us in the Titanides community. You have a place with us, and we’re waiting for you.