As I’m typing this, I’m in the backseat of a rented car heading home from Dallas, Texas.
For the last few days, I’ve been staying at a 4 Star Hotel, The Omni, and attending the LegalShield International Convention. Let me give you a little background on how I got there… and pay close attention because there’s a lesson to learn from this story.
Many of you know that I’m in a relationship with an amazing man named Victor. He and I met at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Fall of 2017, and started dating in Spring of 2018. Last fall, he took me as his date to the Junior Achievement Heroes Gala, where he gave a speech on how JA affected his life.
At this gala, we met a man named Eugene Carter. This guy is very charismatic and immediately got in touch with us, and Victor in particular. Him and Victor started talking and he told Victor that he was looking for a team of people to help him with social media for the business he runs. Victor recruited me because of my experience with social media through ALT, and we created CPD Media Marketing Company with Eugene as one of our clients.
Eugene works with a company called LegalShield, which provides access to legal assistance via a monthly subscription service – like Netflix or Spotify. But instead of for recreation, this business allows people to check contracts, deal with speeding tickets, update their wills… basically all the things we should be doing but we aren’t.
So that’s how I got to know LegalShield. In order to help promote it, I had to, of course, learn about it. Victor and I became Associates in the business, which means we are also able to sell memberships and recruit other associates. Eugene invited us to an event in Dallas, Texas: the International Convention.
Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I just saw an opportunity to learn, meet new people, and get away from home for a little while. You know that I’ll take any opportunity to travel for cheap. So, I was able to get a ride with him and share a hotel with another girl in the business.
Once I got there, I was amazed. It was HUGE. The branding, the people, the passion – I was in awe of everything. The Convention lasted four days – arriving on Thursday and Leaving Sunday – and was chock full of information and inspiration. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this convention changed my life.
I met millionaires. I networked with very successful individuals. I was able to share my story. Hear other stories. But most importantly, I was able to learn and grow.
I noticed a lot of things at this convention, but the biggest one I noticed was…
I was the youngest in the room.
There were a couple people around my age, but there was a difference between myself and them: they were all brought in by their family, and I wasn’t. Some people even assumed that Eugene was my father. But no, I got into this business by myself. Through my own networking and hard work.
Let’s get one thing straight before moving on: ageism is real, y’all.
When I would tell people my age and that I’m still in high school, they would look like this:
Then proceed to ask me how I got into the business. They probably expected it to be family, and were even more shocked to find that it wasn’t.
Like I said, I noticed a lot of things at that convention. One of these things was the way people would look at me. I could tell in their looks when I would walk around, especially if I was walking alone, that they had some sort of question in their mind: who is she? What’s she doing here? How old is she? I kind of want to ask, but that would be rude…
So I tended to answer those questions for them instead of letting them flounder around trying to beat around the bush to get to the answer (although watching some of them flounder was fun). And from there, I tended to receive a few answers:
Wow, I wish I had started that early
It’s great that you’re starting so early
You’ve made a great decision
So it was generally encouraging, and I appreciated that encouragement. But there was another thing I noticed….
People would make these subtle comments. Particularly older men.
Now, before you get all up-in-arms, I’m not saying any of them were pervy or anything like that. Everyone was very professional and respectful. But there are certain comments that just got me thinking….
– What a cutie!
– (to Eugene) She’s gorgeous, isn’t she!
– She’s going to be so successful, she’s so pretty
– Man: Do you remember me? (note: we had met the previous day)
Me: Of course I remember you, sir. Do you remember me?
Man: Yes, I could never forget such a pretty young woman like you!
Me: .…well, thank you sir.
It’s little things like that. Why did people feel the need to comment about my age and appearance rather than my confidence, my professionalism, or my ambition?
Don’t get me wrong, not everyone I encountered did this. I did get comments about how I was very ambitious and I was encouraged that I would do well.
But that was maybe 20% of the time. 80% of the time, it was the age and the appearance.
Let me ask this question: Why is it more notable to people that I’m “pretty” and “young”, than that I’m a confident, professional, put-together businesswoman?
So here’s the lesson:
No matter your age or your gender, be careful about the comments that you give to people. Try to look beyond their age, their appearance, and your own expectations for who should be in the room.
Yes, I’m different. No one else I met at that convention of thousands of people was doing what I do. Yes, my age is a big part of what makes me different. But that doesn’t mean that anyone should treat me as any less than a professional businesswoman.
I had a great, transformative experience at this convention. I met so many amazing people, and I know everyone I met had good intentions and wanted to support me. I appreciate that sentiment. I appreciate the compliments. I appreciate the encouragement and the reassurance.
I feel like a lot of times, people are afraid to go outside their comfort zone. They don’t want to be the youngest person in the room. They don’t want to be the dumbest person in the room. They’re scared to surround themselves with people who they perceive are “better” or “above” them. But if there aren’t more successful people than you in the room, then you’re in the wrong room, my friend. Don’t be afraid to be the youngest, because you can learn from the wisdom of others. Don’t be afraid to be the dumbest, because then you can gain wisdom for yourself.
It’s okay to be the youngest person in the room. It will be uncomfortable. And that’s a good thing.