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        College, Students

        Tiffany Dufu encourages Women in Business to discover themselves first, and find a crew

        October 13, 2022 By Troy Turner

        All News


        Life is a lot simpler when you know why you’re here. So says Tiffany Dufu, a motivational speaker and best-selling author who recently addressed Auburn University’s chapter of Women in Business along with other students, faculty and staff at Harbert College of Business.

        Her hosts at Harbert said she was invited as part of the college’s efforts to promote greater diversity and inclusion, such as by promoting more women and minorities in business. Dufu didn’t disappoint in addressing those goals on the wider spectrum.

        “My life’s work is advancing women and girls. It’s pretty much why I’m on the planet,” Dufu said of herself, and as for others, she asks, “how do we harness women’s ingenuity and other talents for the benefit of the world?”

        It begins, she says, for women – and men – to first know who they really are, what they sincerely want and expect to accomplish, and establishing those expectations themselves before getting stuck on the expectations of others.

        An impressive resume

        Dufu, a Washington state native who today lives with her husband and two children in New York City, is a popular public speaker often seen on national television, quoted in media or heard on such radio broadcasts as National Public Radio. She is the author of “Drop the Ball: Achieving More by Doing Less.”

        Tiffany Dufu

        Tiffany Dufu spoke to Harbert Women in Business and other students, faculty and staff Oct. 3, 2022.

        Her list of accolades and experience is impressive. Dufu serves as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies and was named as one of 19 “women who are leading the way” in the Huffington Post amongst luminaries such as Diane Sawyer and Hillary Clinton.

        She is founder and CEO of The Cru, which features an algorithm that matches circles of women who collaborate to meet their personal and professional goals.

        Dufu has raised nearly $20 million toward the cause of women and girls. She was a launch team member to “Lean In” and was chief leadership officer to Levo, one of the fastest growing millennial professional networks.

        Dufu also served as president of The White House Project, a non-profit organization that worked to increase female representation in American institutions, businesses and government. 

        What matters YOU?

        “There are a lot of challenges we have in the world,” Dufu said. “We need many working on many different needs.

        “Many of us often feel overwhelmed with all of life’s expectations...especially if you’re a leader,” she said. “It’s very helpful for you to have clarity about who you are to be enabled to help other people.”

         Dufu shared admiration for her parents, who escaped tough conditions in the Watts area of Los Angeles to establish a better life for themselves and their family. An Army life led them to Fort Lewis, Washington, where Dufu was born.

        “My parents had broken a very vicious cycle of poverty and addiction, in one single generation,” she said, pointing out the courage it took for them to make a dramatic change.

        “If you want something that you’ve never had before, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done before. You’re going to have to take risks,” Dufu said.

        The influence of her parents helped Dufu realize that she, not someone else, should set her own goals and expectations for herself, and Dufu encouraged those in the audience to do the same.

        Still, she struggled to fully accept that realization, constantly afraid she would let down her family, her gender and her race more so than herself.

        “There was not an HR rep in our watch over me, and...I was always afraid I would drop the ball,” she said. “I felt if I ever dropped the ball, I would disappoint the entire black race… I literally felt that kind of pressure.”

        Life-changing events are one way to realize the need for change, she said, and hers was “the birth of my first child.”

        “There are so many things that could cause you to drop the ball,” she said, but “it’s about what really matters most to you. Not to your parents, or grandparents...But that you really get clear about your highest investments in what matters to you.”

        Tiffany Dufu Drop the Ball book cover
        “If you want something that you’ve never had before, you’re going to have to do something you’ve never done before. You’re going to have to take risks.”  
        Tiffany Dufu


        Drop the ball!

        Dufu highlighted the “top three balls I had to figure out how to drop,” of which she shares much more detail and discussion in her book.

        Ball drop No. 1: Who was I supposed to be?

        We all try to fill numerous roles, she said. “There are all these individual job descriptions… Rewrite your drop description to take control of your life.”

        She used the “funeral visualization” as one example in considering priorities. “What would others say about you at the end of your journey?”

        If you were organized and productive, would you want them to remember you for your productivity? she asked. “No, you don’t want people standing there saying, ‘well, she got a lot of things done!’

        “What kind of impact do you really want to make?”

        Ball drop No. 2: What was I supposed to do?

        “It’s so challenging to feel confident…when everything we imagine we need to be doing in a day,” she said. “What I encourage every one of us to do…is figure out our own strategy.

        “Ask, ‘Is it really connected to what matters most to me?’

        “Ask, ‘Is this something that only I can do?’ Is it something I can delegate?”

        Ball drop No. 3: The fear of asking for help.

        “I used to find it very difficult to ask for help,” she said, and too often felt “the G word: guilt.”

        Don’t feel guilty in asking for help, she said. “Figuring out how to get help from people is a practice. When people ask you, ‘how can I help you? How can I support you?’ Have an answer to that question.”

        She talked about the importance of sharing encouragement, accepting it, and having those in your life who will support what you do.

        Regarding her “crew,” she said “we hold each other accountable for our ambitions. I highly encourage you as early as possible, as in right now, to curate your own crew,” Dufu said, “so you don’t have to feel you’re entering your journey alone.

        “Who is going to help us do that?”

        ‘Events like this help’

        Tufu’s comments seemed well received by her audience, of which the large majority was women who sat in the Lowder 125 auditorium.

        “I thought Tiffany was very inspiring and beneficial for all women to hear,” said MBA student Abigail Pitts, an officer with Women in Business who helped organize the event. “She spoke about how overwhelming it can be to try to balance and fit the mold of what society says a good parent, employee, or student consists of, which is why it is so important to determine what is most important in our lives and to prioritize our day accordingly.

        “It is necessary to know our goals and purpose in life in order to balance a meaningful life and career.”

        Danielle Corrigan, advisor for the Women in Business student organization, agreed.

        “Bringing influential and successful women like Tiffany Dufu to campus is extremely important because it inspires young women to raise the bar for their own professional careers,” Corrigan said. “Female students gain confidence from attending events like this one because it helps them better understand who they are and how they want to define success, while recognizing that success can happen even if you ‘drop the ball.’”