Leadership

This 30-year-old screenwriter created the viral pink 'pussy hat'—here are her top 3 tips for success

Over three million people around the world took to the streets in the name of women's rights on January 21, 2017 for what would become America's largest single-day demonstration and one of world history's largest coordinated protests: the Women's March. Thanks to Krista Suh, creator of the viral Pussyhat Project and a Hollywood screenwriter, thousands of participants organized to wear handmade, pink cat-eared hats as a symbol of resistance.

"The pussy hat is now a part of our language. Some women's rights supporters use it to communicate their pain, anger and determination to take down the patriarchy," Suh tells CNBC Make It.

he Pussyhat Project founder Krista Suh arrives at the Feminist Majority Foundation 30th Anniversary Celebration at the Directors Guild Of America on May 22, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.
Amanda Edwards | Getty Images
he Pussyhat Project founder Krista Suh arrives at the Feminist Majority Foundation 30th Anniversary Celebration at the Directors Guild Of America on May 22, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

During the midst of a career plateau, Suh co-founded the social movement with fellow knitter and feminist Jayna Zweiman on November 23, 2016. The pussy hat not only plays on "pussycat," but it also alludes to the "Access Hollywood" tape that surfaced in October 2016 in which president Donald Trump disparagingly used the term "pussy" while making lewd remarks about women.

"We chose this loaded word for our project because we want to reclaim the term as a means of empowerment," the co-founders write on their website.

After the march, publications such as Time Magazine, The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine used their print covers to pay homage to the pussy hat.

In her new book, "DIY Rules for a WTF World," Suh discusses the life and career lessons she learned leading up to the success of the Pussyhat Project. The 30-year-old Hollywood screenwriter graduated from Barnard College in May 2009 and found early success as a writer's assistant on the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards and a member of the Fox Writers Initiative.

Yet Suh says she spent the better part of her 20s being a perfectionist, avoiding risks and listening to "self-sabotaging, patriarchal" thoughts that kept her from reaching her full potential. "DIY Rules for a WTF World" is the culmination of advice Suh gave herself and to friends over a decade to "be productive and happy."

"My hope is that women and women's rights supporters can read this book and have the confidence to pursue whatever ambitious idea they have in their heart. It doesn't have to be a craftivist project like the Pussyhat Project, but my goal is to empower the next wave of activists and leaders," Suh says.

Based on her new book and an interview with CNBC Make It, here are three of Suh's career tips for success.

1. It's okay to be a beginner

When Suh first got the idea to knit the pussy hat, knitting had barely just become an obsession for her. As she made plans to visit Washington D.C. for the Women's March, she figured she would need a hat to keep her warm.

As a beginner knitter, Suh thought to herself, "If I can knit this hat, anyone can." She envisioned an ocean of pink hat-wearers and turned her DIY-hat into a community art project.

"If I hadn't shifted my focus away from being perfect at the very beginning of something new, I would never have done the Pussyhat Project," Suh writes in her book. "I would have allowed perfectionism to get in my own way."

Ahead of the 2017 march, the pussy hat knitting pattern had been downloaded over 60,000 times from her website and hundreds of sellers on Etsy and Amazon sold the hats ready to wear.

"Oftentimes, leaders are afraid to be beginners and find 'training wheels' — like taking a class or hiring a teacher to learn new skills — too babyish," Suh says. "But I would argue that the people who succeed the most are the ones who aren't afraid of looking foolish and practicing on training wheels."

2. Focus your goals

The idea for a Women's March surfaced immediately after Trump's election on November 8, 2016, as marginalized communities across the country felt unsettled, Terry Stein reported in the Washington Post in 2017.

By the time Suh and Zweiman came up with the idea of sharing the pussy hat with other women's rights supporters, plans to follow through with the march were in full effect. So they decided to focus their efforts on an area that seemingly no one else had yet covered: creating a way for anyone, anywhere to participate in the march.

Prostesters march in Washington D.C. to raise awareness for women's rights on January 21, 2017.
Nicole Mabry | Getty Images
Prostesters march in Washington D.C. to raise awareness for women's rights on January 21, 2017.

"There were already geniuses at work doing the planning of the march, so how could I use my skills in an area that needed some magic?" Suh writes in her book.

After sustaining a life-altering head and neck injury in years prior, Zweiman could not physically make her way to the Women's March in Washington, D.C. Still able to knit, Zweiman focused on her craft and contributed to the iconic tide of pink hats.

"While we welcomed people to make hats for their local marches, we all put efforts into getting hats to the Washington D.C. march," Suh says.

"I focused just on the hats for the march, not the organization of the whole march or the route," Suh adds. "Focusing on one great detail can help you create the biggest impact and it frees up time for you to up your self-care and to have fun."

3. Figure out when you do your best work

Understanding the rhythms of your body and mind are crucial to knowing when you are most likely to be more or less productive, Suh says. She calls this process "inhaling" and "exhaling."

When you inhale, you are taking in new experiences, saying yes to opportunities and exploring your interests. When you exhale, you enter a time of intense focus, digest what you have learned and making your vision a reality.

For Suh, the summer of 2016 was an inhaling period when she explored knitting.

"At the time, a lot of my relatives judged me because it appeared that I wasn't working or doing anything significant and fruitful," she writes. "Had I not spent that time inhaling, I would not have been able to exhale the Pussyhat Project in the fall."

The key to leveraging your natural rhythm, she says, is recognizing you don't have control over which stage you are in, but you can learn how to make the most of each one.

"A lot of times, our discomfort in life comes from either needlessly questioning the stage of life were are in or staying in a stage too long out of fear of change," Suh writes. "If I simply noted and accepted I was in an inhale stage rather than beating myself up over being so unfocused, I might have made progress and met my goals more quickly."

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