Sarah and Alexa Talk Confidence2020-07-27
So this July we’re focusing on the ins, outs, ups, and downs of finding and building confidence. Over the next few weeks, you’ll see interviews with women we admire, opportunities to get involved and give back, and much more.
After asking our community to share thoughts and learnings on confidence, we decided it was only fair to turn the tables on ourselves. Below, Leah—who leads communications at Margaux HQ—talks to Sarah and Alexa about the lessons they've learned along the way
Leah: You both get to take on so many aspects of the business together. Have either of you identified a way to help the other feel bolder if she needs a little boost?
Sarah: Alexa loves to laugh—through the high highs and the low lows we experience every day she always finds a way to bring lightness and humor to everything. Even in the most stressful moments (those nerve-wracking moments in the elevator on your way to a high-stakes pitch, for example), if we can just get one good laugh in, we own that moment, that situation with confidence. Humor, laughter, lightness: These are things we've learned over time give us energy as individuals, and as partners.
Alexa: I'd add that people often ask us what we do to maintain our relationship as cofounders and friends, and I think what's become so natural for the two of us has been recognizing that building a business becomes your life, so allowing it to weave together with life and coexist is essential. Sarah is my business partner and one of my best friends, and allowing time for both has been so important to me. All I have to say is, "Can we go on a walk and talk?" Sometimes it has to nothing to do with business and I just need her advice; other times it's everything to do with business and I still need her advice.
Since we allow work and life to exist together, there's no one I feel more comfortable in being able to be vulnerable with. She sees all sides and understands all pieces; we've been through more together than anyone else in my life. That allows for such confidence.
Sarah and Alexa at the Margaux offices in NYC.
Leah: I think there's something so profound about linking vulnerability and confidence. When I think about the people I know who seem truly confident, it's really because they're strong enough to show you when they're weak or unsure. That seems like true confidence.
Sarah: Yes, vulnerability and confidence are inherently intertwined. I listened to a podcast with Brené Brown and Oprah a few weeks back where they dive into exactly this idea: Vulnerability takes courage and is beautiful. Being vulnerable and allows you to be who you truly are, both with yourself and with other people. And vulnerability is so important to the success of our relationship and partnership. A friends and partners, we know the other always has our back and is in our court no matter what. That certainly gives me confidence.
Alexa: I've been thinking about that so much recently. The idea that vulnerability is sometimes really hard as a leader because you have to walk the tight rope of making it seem like you've always got it together. The person I feel most comfortable with outside of my family is Sarah, and I love feeling that we don't ever have to pretend that we have it all together.
Sarah: That kind of vulnerability really is the ultimate confidence, right? You are able to bring your full self to your partnership, your business, your friendship.
Leah: On the flip side, how do you boost the other's confidence when required, whether that's pitching to investors or facing a tough situation?
Sarah: I feel like our best meetings are when we take a minute to check in with each other in the lead-up. We'll have a pulse check and talk about anything on our mind, both personal and professional. The best meetings are the ones where we're so in sync that one could finish the other's sentence.
I'm reminded of this story about the legendary UNC women's soccer team coach Anson Dorrance, who's studied how women in teams work best together. A while back, he brought in a Navy SEAL to rethink his team's pre-game routine. That person took a look at what they were currently doing—taking, stretching, laughing together in the lead-up to the game—and decided they need to warm-up like men, with pump-up exercises and drills. They did just that, and lost the next few games: They were a disaster as a team. Then they realized that, as women, they craved and needed that time to check in with each other, to get in sync so that they could play confidently as a team. That applies to soccer, but also teams and businesses and partnerships.
Sarah and Alexa, right, behind the scenes on a campaign shoot
Alexa: Absolutely. And I think to Sarah's point about checking in with one another, that leads to our best meetings because it gives you a subconscious reminder that you're there with this other person who has your back. We already know what we're going to say, and we know our story better than anyone else, so it's just about feeling confident and being present. When you feel in sync with your partner and confidante, there's no second-guessing if you "belong" in the room. You feel unstoppable.
Leah: We've been asking everyone involved in our confidence series to share a piece of advice they return to again and again. What are yours?
Alexa: There are a couple of Brené Brown ones I've been writing down...
Sarah: I'd say those Brené Brown quotes, too! I've learned so much reading and listening to her.
Leah:[Gaux Girl] Aishwarya Iyer shared one too—"Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen."
Alexa: I love that one. I've also been thinking a lot about her line on gratefulness and joy: "There is no joy without gratitude." Another good one is, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change."
Leah: I was excited to talk about this next one. I've always been so impressed by how you both handle yourself, the polish you present—you always seem so together and sure of yourself. Yet I know that no matter what it looks like, it doesn't always feel that way inside. Can you share some moments where you felt shaky?
Alexa: I think this is such an important thing to talk about. It takes guts to walk into a fundraising meeting and pitch your heart out, but what we've found takes even more guts is doing it again and again as you hear "no" or why they don't believe in your business or your idea. To do that as you're simultaneously building that business and realizing that vision takes relentless resilience and focus and determination. Our confidence has been rocked by that, but we've gotten better at knowing that doesn't mean anything except that we need to keep trying. That's certainly a time when I've felt shaky.
Sarah: That's so right. Especially in moments like the one we are currently living through, our confidence is rocked on a daily basis. You have to be able to practice being able to bounce back from that and understand what you personally need in order to regroup. I put my computer down, my phone away, and do yoga for 30 minutes or go on a walk and listen to a podcast. I clear my head because I've learned that nothing productive happens when I get stuck in downward spiral of doubt. By getting fresh air and putting away my screens, I'm able to recenter my thoughts.
Alexa: I could not agree more.
Alexa and Sarah near Margaux's Bleecker St. flagship
Leah: As much as we all know that everyone experiences challenges and feels unsure sometimes, it can still be such a surprise to hear it. When I interviewed our newest Gaux Girl Aya Kanai, I was just stunned to hear her talk about how she experiences imposter syndrome.
Alexa: Other female founders have been our lifeline in combatting that. You can be your most vulnerable, especially right now—no one is untouched by this moment in time, and I think the collective nature of this experience has led to even greater vulnerability. It's been helpful to realize businesses experience similar challenges, and it makes the challenges feel less daunting when you have other minds to think about them with.
Sarah: They're people you can call and say, "How are things?" and you don't feel the pressure to say, "They're great." You can say, "This has been hard." You can be honest. Whether or not they're in a similar industry, the ride of starting a business and leading a team and all the trial and error that comes along with both is universal.
Leah: What do you do for a quick hit of confidence? It sounds a little cheesy, but I have a memory bank of accomplishments or accolades that I'll revisit if I need to remind myself that I've done stuff.
Sarah: Knowing what you're good at, and flexing that muscle is always a boost of confidence. It's helpful to remind yourself how you feel at your best—or at the very least, when you are comfortable. For me, when I can't get my thoughts straight or say what I want to say, I'll sit down and put pen to paper. Being able to give myself that time to do something that I feel so comfortable doing (writing) is always something that helps be find my voice and my direction.
Alexa: I step away and spend a bit of time with people I'm closest to that bring me back to who I am. At the end of the day what you're valued for and the way you contribute the most is through the person you are. It's not the things on your resume, but the experience you can bring back to the dinner table or to the people around you. You can always find confidence there, then go back to the drawing board or work desk and remember the most important thing you've got is you.
Alexa and Sarah
Leah: That reminds me of something the fashion editor Lauren Alexis Fisher told me for our confidence interview. "I finally realized that I was an extremely hard worker, kind and good to people, and always working to make things around me better for everyone. Those may seem like simple things, but they're the core pieces of the puzzle you need to succeed; everything else can be learned."
Sarah: I loved that bit of advice. Recognizing what you can and cannot control in a challenging situation is so important.. I think as women we're often trained to think we're responsible for too many things, but often there are many things that we can't. We're living in one such moment. Taking a step back to recognize, "This is not me, this is the situation I find myself in. This is what I can and cannot control, and I will make the best of what I have the power to influence." Recognizing that there are certain things you can't move is reassuring, because it resets your expectation and keeps you from holding yourself to an impossible standard.
Leah: I think that's massively important. This is everything I wanted to ask—is there anything we missed?
Alexa: I'd add that, personally, almost all of my confidence has come from failing or being knocked down and getting back up. When you're going through the darkest hour and you get back up, that's when you think, "I've got this." I don't think there's any better builder of confidence than building a business because you become less afraid of getting knocked down.
Sarah: Leah, you wrote about how confidence is nurtured over time in the introduction to our confidence series. It's also practiced, I think. Alexa and I have talked in the past about being college athletes and how that was important in building the resilience that's vital for our own confidence—that daily knock down, get up, knock down, get up. You get into a mentality of, "I can do this, and I am unshakeable."
Leah: Agreed. I was a dancer and what our Gaux Girl Cristina Ehrlich said really resonated with me. The idea that every day you get back up, go to the ballet barre, do the same routine again and again. You take that into everyday life and work.
Sarah: You do it again. Exactly. You get tougher and better, even though it doesn't always go well.