Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Holly Houston has some great survival tips!

survival tips for women

Written by Marie Bradby 
Photography by Melissa Donald

Holly Houston — lawyer, nonprofit volunteer, activist for women’s and girls’ issues, organizer, writer, dinner party hostess, and more — is power walking through her Highlands neighborhood while she talks to me on the phone.

“Of course,” Holly says, laughing about her relentless multitasking as the sound of afternoon rush-hour traffic zooms past her. I got a crash course on this wonder woman when she sent me a brief but dense email that humorously summed up what she’s been up to for the past 20 years — which is way more than would fit into this article.

Holly has a solo practice in family law; is the co-founder and co-director of the business networking and mentoring group Greater Louisville Outstanding Women (GLOW); writes articles for NFocus magazine (“HollyOnTheGo!”); and serves on the boards of Kentucky Harvest, Lemonade Day, Louisville Girls Leadership, and the Louisville Visual Art Association. How does she keep from going crazy with all these irons in the fire?

“If I didn’t have all that going on, I probably would go crazy,” Holly says. “I’m not a very good one-project-at-a-time person. I know there are people who could focus on a brief for a week — I would lose my mind. I get bored very easily, very fast. So, I have to have stimulation.”
Community projects, meeting new people, and having parties keep this single 44-year-old occupied. 

“I don’t know any other way to do it,” she says. “It’s so innately me. If you have to have predictability and certainty, you wouldn’t like my life. I’m great in a pinch, perfect in a crisis. Not everybody is suited to that.”

With a degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky, Holly wanted to be a writer, but there were few journalism jobs available. She went to law school on a whim. “Law school beat me to a pulp, as it has zero tolerance for creativity,” she says. “I came out of undergrad believing I was a brilliant writer, only to be totally deflated by a teacher who didn’t like my writing because I don’t write like a lawyer.”

She finished her law degree, but Holly thought, ‘There is no way I’m going to practice law. You people are insane.’ She spent three years waiting tables, leading tours of the bourbon trail, and writing a legislative newsletter. But at age 29 with a bank balance of negative $400, she finally gave in and became a lawyer.

“At some point, you have to realize what you are good at and what you are not, and you have to make choices around that,” she says. “I’m good at what I do, but the best part is I can be around anybody, anytime.” 

Here are Holly’s rules for staying sane:

Tip #1: “Don’t Panic.”

Tip #2: “Breathe.”

Tip #3: “Exercise.” 

Tip #4: “Be a cheerleader and have a team of cheerleaders in your life who’ll say, ‘You’ve got this. Don’t they know who they’re dealing with? You’re a bada--! Supastar! Go!”

Tip #5: “Learn to identify and walk away from no-win situations, toxic people, non-reciprocal relationships, people who devalue you or your goals, emotional vampires, and energy drainers.”

Tip #6: “Choose your battles wisely. Ask, ‘What is the likely outcome, and is it worth the effort in the scheme of it all?’ Also ask, ‘How important is it?’ to gain perspective when it feels overwhelming.”

Tip #7: “Avoid knee-jerk reactions and quick emotional responses. Bite your tongue if necessary. When writing emails, use the draft option if you absolutely have to fire right back, then hold off on sending it for 10 to 30 minutes (Hint: delete it).”

Tip #8: “Focus on the answer, not the problem, and then employ the answer as soon as practicable.”

Tip #9: “When all else fails, go back to Tips #1, #2, and #3.”

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