The Baldwin School was pleased to host Baldwin Alumna, Author and Entrepreneur Franne McNeal at the School’s Upper School assembly today, where she encouraged the students to “step up to significance” as business leaders and entrepreneurs. McNeal opened her presentation with an image of a perfectly ordered room and said, “This is what you think your life looks like.” Then, showing them an image of a chaotically messy teenage room, she said after a significant pause, “And this is what it really looks like.”
As laughter filled the air, McNeal, a Baldwin alumna, entrepreneur, Fortune 500 corporate facilitator, and author of the new book Significant! From Frustrated to Franne-tastic launched into a discussion about the importance of prioritizing time to take a step back and “discover the power of your own unique story,” and “mining your mind for what matters” in order to chart a life and career path that is both personally fulfilling and successful. Significant! is a personal development book of encouraging stories and exercises for the entrepreneurial woman, and McNeal delivered her message of entrepreneurial success through self-knowledge to students here in the Philadelphia area where she still lives.
“Of course, every girl and woman is already significant!” stresses McNeal with characteristic exuberance. “But how do women really step up to significance as leaders? One important path that I am presenting to the girls at Baldwin are my Four Steps to Story Power: Investigate, Document, Discuss, Listen.”
McNeal distributed discussion questions for the girls to tackle in small groups, and encouraged them to take the time to meditate on their life journey thus far, write down the memorable experiences and lessons they have learned, discuss those stories with others, and then listen to their peers to gain new perspectives. “When you are digging into your own stories, you are both protagonist and narrator, you are both the star of the show and the audience. It can be hard work! And you’ll find out that if you respond to these questions sincerely, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and your goals,” said McNeal. She also encouraged the students to look around and see that the young women they are sharing this moment with can be their natural allies -- and even future business partners. McNeal recounted that she reconnected with Baldwin classmate Significant! editor and contributor Dorothy Potter Snyder 35 years after their graduation day, and found that the two women were immediately successful as creative collaborators on the book project.
McNeal knows that it’s natural for young people to want to “fit in,” but she wants them to understand there is “gold to be mined” both in their differences and in their individual struggles. “Life inevitably brings great challenges, and it’s in those very challenges where we can find the raw materials to inspire, focus our efforts and grow,” she said.
McNeal is no stranger to challenges. A stroke and breast cancer survivor, her stories of overcoming paralysis and radical cancer treatment gave her message to the girls at Baldwin tremendous gravitas, and stories of suffering and triumph aren’t necessarily the stories that teenagers are used to hearing.
McNeal’s new book, Significant! From Frustrated to Franne-tastic: Inspirational Stories for the Entrepreneurial Woman is available at McNeal’s website, www.significantyouc.com, and on Kindle, Amazon, and all online bookstores.
On March 26, 2014, McNeal will be a speaker, presenting the topic “Significant You: The Power of Your Story” at the Women's Leadership Conference, held at Community College of Philadelphia.