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Emily Bennington discusses recent book, life lessons

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Who says it's a man's world?

That's the rhetorical question posed in the title of local author Emily Bennington's recent book, which implores people to go on soul searching missions for the professional world.

Although it targets women, the lessons can benefit anyone, Bennington said.

"It definitely pertains to everybody," Bennington said. "One of the most important sections of the book is the first one about self awareness, in the sense that you have to understand ...  how to manage yourself if you ever hope to manage other people. So that's a message that is applicable to anyone."

This is one of the lessons Bennington learned early in her career.

After graduating college, Bennington moved back to Charleston, where she got a job working for Skip Lineberg, chief innovation officer at Spilman Thomas & Battle PLLC.

"He was my first boss," Bennington recalled. "I made a lot of rookie mistakes and learned a lot of intense career lessons early. Fortunately, I had Skip as my mentor and he taught me a lot of things that I really needed to know as a new graduate."

Bennington said that's when she knew that she had a book in the makings.

"He thought I was crazy at first but he eventually said, ‘I'm in, let's do it. Let's see what happens,'" she said.

Bennington and Lineberg ended up writing "Effective Immediately: How to Fit In, Stand Out, and Move Up at Your First Real Job."

Three years later, Bennington published her most recent book, Who Says It's a Man's World?

"One thing I discovered (after the publication of my first book) was that after presentations, I would have a lot of women coming up to me asking me career questions," she said, recalling seeing several evaluations ranking her off the charts with women attendees. "I was thinking about that and said, "well, why is that?'

"I paired that with the questions they are asking me and I said, ‘I have to write about this for the next book because who says it's a man's world?'"

When she first started this book, she had a completely different idea titled, "New Girls Club," telling women how to "climb the corporate ladder in stilettos."

"It was an ambitious book for driven women," she explained.

Yet, in the middle of writing the book, Bennington said she realized her own ambition was making her unhappy.

"It would be disingenuous of me to recommend a strategy to women that was not working for me or making me satisfied with my own life," she said. "So, I changed the concept of the book at that part."

Bennington said instead of focusing on what to accomplish, people should focus on who they want to be. Then, that accomplishment will come later.

 "You have to be a magnificent woman first before having a magnificent career," she said.

"The thing about focusing on goals, what makes that unhappy for us is often we don't have control over the timing of our own success and so we get frustrated because of that," she added. "We want it, we can't have it and that makes us unhappy and that's where I think people get into anxiety."

Bennington said she has learned this lesson as well.

As an example, Bennington said she once had a big board in her office, where she posted all of the things she wanted to accomplish.

 "I would walk into my office and look at it every day," she explained. "What was supposed to be a visual representation pulling me forward actually made me sad. It was a visual representation of all I had not achieved."

And after giving what she called her "most honest presentation to date" to an audience in New York City, Bennington said she learned this lesson.

Bennington said she spoke of her fears and lessons she wished she had learned earlier. Later, she received emails from several attendees thanking her for her honesty.

"When I got all of those emails, I looked at those and looked at the vision board and I ripped the vision board down," she said. "I got a cork board and posted all the thank you's.

"Now, I see what I've already achieved and the impact I'm making now versus what it was I wanted to achieve in the future."

And that lesson should extend to one's inner voice, Bennington said.

Spilman, in partnership with the Charleston Area Alliance, recently sponsored a book launch for Bennington, where more than 100 businesswomen attended.

At that event, she said she had to get up and speak in front of everyone. First, however, she had to quiet her inner critic.

"There was anxiety about that," she said. "And whenever that voice comes up and asks you, 'What if this happens? What if you forget what you want to say? What if you lose your train of thought?'

"What you have to do is say, ‘next.' That's a super free place to be."

"The reason why I am this way now is because I know personally how unhappy it was when living in the past and in the future," she later added. "So, yea, I'm not perfect. I don't get it right all the time. I still have tons of goals I want to achieve and I still know what they are and they drive me forward every day. I'm not saying chill out, relax everybody. I still have a direction that I want to go. The difference is that I no longer think that my life will start when that happens."