How A Card Game Changed my Life

I was listening to a TED talk during a rare occurrence of insomnia, when the lightbulb went on: I realized the real reason why I made it Grove and Kane’s mission to #buildboldness.

In the Ted Talk by Reshma Saujani, she explains why she believes there are fewer women in politics, high-level corporate positions, and in technology. She noticed that girls are brought up to be perfect, while boys are brought up to be brave.

Reshma notices that: “Most girls are taught to avoid risk and failure. We're taught to smile pretty, play it safe, get all A's. Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then just jump off headfirst. And by the time they're adults, whether they're negotiating a raise or even asking someone out on a date, they're habituated to take risk after risk.”

One startling consequence of this is that many women will apply for jobs only if they meet 100% of the qualifications. Men, on average, will apply if they meet about 60%. Women simply don’t want to apply if they feel they won’t get the position, while men are willing to take the risk because they have been brought up being allowed to fail.

Examples like these can be found everywhere in our society, and it’s one thing for me to quote statistics, but quite another to share that I am a walking, talking example of this phenomenon.

Growing up, I strived to be perfect. I got all A’s. Even my parents encouraged me to relax more and not stress about always achieving. While I was a formidable distance runner in track and cross-country, the stress of feeling the need to win first in every race sent me into fits of anxiety that eventually made me quit all together.

After college, I attended beauty school to become an Esthetician, which was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Physics? Calculus? No problem. Waxing an eyebrow? So scary.  Because I wasn’t naturally good at it, I wanted to quit. Basically, I was a great example of Reshma’s hypothesis about girls being unwilling to fail and take risks at the expense of being perfect.

For six long months in beauty school, I slogged along. I even failed my first facial test on a model: I think I got about a 60% (how prophetic!). But I waxed brow and after brow, cleansed many faces, and slowly got better. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to be really, really bad at something—even occasionally failing—but continued to work on it. I didn’t quit.

Let’s also mix that in with another interesting realization at the same time. 

During the months when my grandmother was sick with pancreatic cancer (also the same time I was in beauty school), my family, including my aunts, uncles and cousins spent a lot of time together. We started playing a card game called Euchre that my grandmother loved so much. 

It basically has to do with weighing risk. My grandmother was famous for making bold moves and chastising others with “don’t be a chicken-heart!” Following in her footsteps, I started taking crazy, stupid risks, and to everyone’s surprise, I was winning more often than I was losing. It became a phenomenon to “pull a Karen:” putting it all on the line to either gloriously win, or spectacularly fail.

This card game, for me, was the metaphorical jumping off the monkey-bars “headfirst” that Reshma alluded to, and it opened up possibilities in my life like nothing ever had before. I learned that while losing was hard, it was so much more fun to play the game while taking risks.

The very day that I found the current location of Grove and Kane, and was deciding whether or not to sign the lease, I just happened to go to a family gathering and play Euchre, and I think that card game convinced me to jump in.

I did end up signing that lease, starting my own business at the age of 23. Remember, most women won’t even apply to a job without first meeting 100% of the qualifications. My decision to open the business more closely resembled the typical male behavior of meeting about 60%. It was an insanely stupid and risky thing to do, but look at all the amazing things that have come from it!

So in conclusion, this is for all of you women out there, especially my dear Grove and Kane members who I care so deeply for:

Go take crazy, bold risks. Don't be a chicken-heart. 

Even if you fail, I will be there with a hot steam-towel to recharge you for your next venture, and I will give you some kick-ass brows to give you back your confidence. 

I created Grove and Kane to #buildboldness in everyone who walks through the door, and I can't wait to see what comes from it. 

-Karen