“I Put My Head Down and Charge” — Muriel (Mickey) Siebert

Muriel "Mickey" Siebert

If you work in financial services, you are well acquainted with the legendary Muriel (Mickey) Siebert. If you don’t, then let me introduce you to this great woman who died last month.

She left a lasting legacy in her industry and for women who followed in her footsteps.

Breaking Barriers

Mickey was the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, first woman Superintendent of Banking in New York State, and a pioneer in discount brokerage. She mentored countless women. Mickey relished breaking down barriers, which she did routinely. Her New York Times obituary wrote that she once explained her strategy for dealing with obstacles: “I put my head down and charge.”

She was revered by women and men for her courage and her scrappy behavior throughout her life. I’m glad I had the pleasure of seeing her at many industry functions and listening to her words of wisdom on panel discussions. Always fighting the fight. Never backing down.

What Can We Learn From Her?

Her quote, “I put my head down and charge” really struck a note with me. That’s why I’m writing this post. It is certainly an homage to Mickey, but her attitude inspired me to think about my own life and business. I know I’ve learned from her. Maybe we all can learn from her.

Especially those of us who are engaged in e-commerce — writing blogs, working hard to sell our products and services, and trying to get our e-books published.

The web and social media is in its infancy. Even the experts haven’t figured it all out. We worry endlessly about our Google Analytics and if Google will penalize our site for some undisclosed indiscretion. New competitors pop up daily and we have to run just to stay in place. I know a lot of other entrepreneurs and they are working hard to be seen and heard as they build their businesses.

Many people become discouraged. Can I really make money online? Maybe that’s the wrong question. Instead, we should be asking, “How can I make money?” Too many people are looking at the web and social networks as the holy grail. Social media is just one weapon in our arsenal.

It’s the person who sends a personal hand-written thank-you note that stands out these days. It’s the business owner who picks up the phone to offer another colleague some help with a project without expecting anything in return. But wouldn’t you know it, that colleague just happens to be aware of someone who needs your services. Guess what? The personal touch is back.

Maybe I’m alone in observing that the web and social media can be barriers to our success if we put all our chips in that basket. Maybe we’ve narrowed our vision too much. Maybe we need to put our heads down and charge — just keep going and scrapping and trying and failing and trying again until we get it right. That’s what Mickey did.

Thanks, Mickey, for that lesson.

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Comments

  1. She was/is an inspiration to many. She blazed trails and broke down barriers for herself and generations to follow. She showed us that we can always find a way to achieve a goal in thoughtful and human way. That said, your post struck a cord with me. For me, I see e-commerce and SM as a tool or jumping off point for earning an income. I know that where I’ve started isn’t where I will stay, that my efforts will take me down different and interesting roads and open doors I may not have ever considered. The key is to never give up and pay attention as I go. One thing is certain though, it will an interesting adventure. 🙂

    • Susan — Mickey was truly an inspiration. I agree with you that e-commerce and social media can be the springboard for new ventures. I know it’s opened my eyes to new opportunities. I’ve seen you in action and you’re getting it right. Good luck with your adventure wherever it takes you!

  2. She was absolutely right when she said: “I put my head down and charge.”. That’s how you overcome obstacles, even if I have never phrased it her way.

    And, Jeannette, I agree with your opinion that “social media can be barriers to our success if we put all our chips in that basket”. People want to deal with human beings not a company.

    • Catarina — I think we long for interaction with other people. Yes, I’ve made great friends and connections, like you, on the Internet. But we can’t simply be tied to our computers all day trolling through our social networks. We’ve mistaken them for our business when they are simply another channel to reach our target audiences.

  3. Jeannette, thank you for introducing Mickey to me. She sounds like she had the right attitude towards life.

    The lesson you learned from her also has value. Given what I do for a living, I came late to social media, but I don’t regret my tardiness. I think it allows me to see the benefits and pitfalls clearly…largely because I’m learning from those of you who jumped in at the start. I think you are quite correct in your observation of the barriers social media can create. Social media is a tool, not an objective, if you forget that, then you lose sight of the people at the other end.

    • Debra — I’m glad I was able to introduce Mickey to people like yourself who didn’t know her and how she advanced the cause of women everywhere. I agree that social media is not an end in itself. It’s one more channel to reach the people that are important to you.

  4. I think we are at a point where we have to use social media, but use it wisely. It can be an abyss and difficult to see the difference between the good stuff and all the garbage. It really is a two-edged sword. Can’t live without it though… I have mixed feelings about the ‘personal touch’ stuff. I have received hand written notes as a thank you and all I could think of was what a waste. More stuff I have to recycle. I would have appreciated an email more. Maybe it’s just the environmentalist in me.

    • Cheryl — thanks for your POV about hand-written notes. I understand your environmental concerns but I guess this is one point where I have a different view. I think the personal touch is so important and while a email thank-you is certainly more appreciated than no-thank you, I value someone who takes the time to write a personal note. Besides I often save these notes – no need to recycle!

  5. I had only heard of her when articles appeared when she died Jeannette. The interesting thing is she did it her way which is relevant today. Instead of following what others say, perhaps we should think of ourselves as the first one in a sea of competitors. It could lead to doing it your own way.

    I agree with you about social media and I would include content as well. They are just some of many tactics available. Also agree about the personal touch as that will never change and it may not surprise you I think simplicity is only going to become more important for both the company and customers. Thanks for sharing your insights Jeannette.

    • Susan — I didn’t know news of Mickey’s death had reached Australia. But she was truly a pioneer in her industry. She was a guest and spoke at a event I co-chaired a couple of years ago for my organization, The Financial Women’s Association, and while she was frail physically she hadn’t lost her feisty attitude. Always the iconoclast and always championing women. She really was one of a kind.

  6. I like the lessons you point out. It does my heart good to hear that the personal touch is back. A personally written note is such a welcome standout in the sea of emails and junk mail as is the call to support you for no reason. Thanks.

    • Dolores — I agree about personal notes. I so much appreciate when I receive a hand-written note. It takes time to write it, address it and mail it. I feel it show that someone really cares.

  7. I had not heard about Mickey before, so thank you for introducing me to her story. She sounds like my type of person! Even when I get really cranky and feel like throwing in the towel, I keep going. Not being a quitter is more than half the battle in any area of life.

    • Jeri — I agree, you have to keep pumping iron. That’s why I loved Mickey’s quote. Sometimes you just have to barrel ahead even when you feel lost or tired and want to quit. She’s a great example of someone who never gave up the fight which is why she was so admired.

  8. It’s funny how things change and then change back. You are so right that Social Media often puts up more barriers than it lowers. We are more connected, yet we never talk. I nearly run into people while riding my bicycle around town as they are too busy texting or reading their phones. It really makes me wonder if people are living anymore or perhaps we are just living differently.
    But back to the main part of your post, just put your head down and charge, sounds like my physio and she is a champ. Love it

    • Ashley — you put it well: we are more connected, yet we never talk. True, many of our connections nowadays are in other countries. But when I was still working in a company we used to email each other, even if we were sitting in adjoining offices. Now that’s ridiculous!

  9. How did I miss knowing Mickey? She sounds fabulous. With this question, “How can I make money?” we get more answers. You are so right though that too many people think it is their brass ring for heavens sake. It is one of the keys on the ring. Thanks Jeannette.

  10. I had never heard of Mickey before and am very glad for the introduction into what seemed to be an exciting life.
    Great lesson to learn. I like what you took from it 🙂