Three For Thursday – Robyn Nietert

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…and Don’t Forget Cher

I have had the pleasure of knowing Robyn Nietert for over twenty years. We initially met because our children were in school together, and my wife and I got to know Robyn and her husband, Malcolm Stevenson, through a variety of school and community-based events. Since our kids graduated, we’ve remained personal friends. From the first time I met Robyn, I was impressed by her worldview and her overall refusal to be negative or to ever take no for an answer. She is the ultimate practitioner of the “can-do” attitude. As you will see from Robyn’s bio and her Three For Thursday, she brings a unique perspective to life that has guided her in her amazing career and personal journey. 

A native New Yorker, Robyn received both her BA and JD from George Washington University. For over 25 years, she was a partner in the law firm of Brown, Nietert and Kaufman, where she specialized in telecommunications law, with a focus on innovative wireless technologies. She is also a founder and principal of American Capital Partners Company, which specializes in mergers and acquisitions of high-speed broadband facilities. 

Most recently, in 2007 Robyn founded the non-profit Women’s Microfinance Initiative (WMI). WMI provides small business loans and skills training to impoverished women in East Africa who have no access to financial services. Issuing collateral-free loans for as little as $100, WMI promotes women’s economic participation in the formal economy – the loan program gives women an opportunity to earn revenue to improve household living standards for themselves and their families.  After two years in the WMI village-level loan program, women transition to financial autonomy and their loan funds are recycled so that the loan hubs WMI establishes become self-sustaining, ensuring access to financial services for future cohorts of disenfranchised village women.

Robyn’s Three For Thursday are:

Beware The Tyranny Of Experts
Experts. So many people bow to their supposed wisdom. I spent the better part of my nearly 30-year legal career representing businesses that experts said could never succeed. Cable TV. Who in their right mind would ever pay a monthly fee to watch TV?  Next came the cellular industry. Experts asked, “who would ever want to talk on the phone while driving their car?” Then came the home satellite business. Who would ever use direct to home satellite services? Well, that is now the backbone of Dish TV, a pretty darn successful business.

As the “experts-were-wrong” experiences mounted up, it became clear to me that there is always someone who will tell you why your idea won’t work. When I transitioned to the non-profit microfinance sector, experts told us that our idea of launching a village-level lending facility run by the rural women we trained wouldn’t work. They insisted we needed professional managers. We didn’t listen. Ten years later, WMI is a success, operating a multi-million-dollar training and lending program run by and for village women.

If you are imaginative and have a good idea, read and listen to what the experts have to say, but don’t be dissuaded by the tyranny of experts. Bet on yourself.

Solitude Is Vastly Underrated
There is a clarity of thinking that is impossible to achieve when you are interrupted by everyday life. A bit of solitude every day is vitally important. It’s easy to forget to nurture and develop your own point of view with so much media dispensing other people’s standpoints. For me, solitude comes when I go horseback riding in the woods or when I work in my garden. No headphones!! I love to listen to the ambient sounds. It’s like having a screenplay in your head that is under eternal development. You rewrite portions of it as your life’s experiences unfold.

Be A Part Of Something Bigger Than Yourself
When I was growing up, my mom always had my brother and me involved in outreach activities helping others. She was a single, working mom going to school at night. Yet, as poor as we sometimes thought we were, she made us realize there was always someone who needed our help. Now, our kids are grown and are involved in their own choice of outreach projects. Our whole family went to Uganda to launch WMI in 2007, and since then it has been a unifying force for us – each of us bringing new ideas to the table on how to expand or improve operations. Being a part of something bigger than yourself gives you a different angle on life. It provides room for new ideas and fresh perspectives, if you are open to them.

One For The Road
Cher. Yup, Cher. She can only sing about five notes on key, but what she’s accomplished, starting as a skinny, dyslexic, 16-year-old year old high school drop-out raised by a single mom, is legendary. In a time when bombshell entertainers were the rage, she hit the scene with a husky-voiced androgynous look that was totally original. She was David Bowie before David Bowie. She’s always been something of an outsider but, starting with a prime-time TV show in her mid-20s, she has continued to reinvent herself to stay in the spotlight. She won an Oscar for Moonstruck, launched a Las Vegas show, and now they’re doing a Broadway musical based on her life! Single-minded determination. Resilience. Grit.  She always relied on her own instincts and ignored the experts.

How About You?
What are your Three For Thursday? I’m looking for people who are willing to share their life wisdom.  Please email me at bob@epi.coach if you’d like to be interviewed for a future Three For Thursday blog.

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