Closing The Gap

Stacey Abrams has used an Excel spreadsheet to track life her goals since she was 18—why it's been crucial to her success

Stacey Abrams, Former Georgia Gubernatorial Candidate, at the National Action Network (NAN) convention in New York City.
Michael Brochstein | LightRocket | Getty Images

Stacey Abrams is a Yale-trained lawyer, an author and a politician who gained national attention in 2018 when she ran as Georgia's democratic candidate for governor.

Though she lost the race to Republican Brian Kemp, Abrams remains a relentless political leader, now using her platform to combat voter suppression through her voting rights group, Fair Fight.

As a politician who has accomplished a lot in her career, Abrams says that one of the keys to her success has been to map out her life goals in an Excel spreadsheet so she can measure how well she's tracking toward them.

"The spreadsheet is how I concretize how I intend to get there," she told CNBC Make It at The Riveter Summit. "I like to say that until you write down how you plan to get there, it's just a wish. It's a dream. But when you actually lay out the steps and you think about what it takes to make something real, that makes it possible."

Abrams said her spreadsheet, which she started as a teen, forces her to think about the direction she needs to take in order to reach a specific goal.

"If I want to be the No. 1 athlete," says Abrams, "I can't do it simply by watching other people play. I've got to do the work to get myself there. And so my spreadsheet has been, since I was 18, my road map for the things I need to learn and the work I need to do."

Former House Democratic Leader and Democratic nominee for Governor Stacey Abrams meets with Georgia voters in Metter, Monday November 5, 2018.
Melina Mara | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Shortly after starting her spreadsheet, Abrams got an early taste of politics when she attended a televised town hall meeting as a college student in 1992. The town hall, according to The New York Times, was held by Atlanta's first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, after police officers in Los Angeles were acquitted for the on-camera beating of a local black man named Rodney King. Abrams, who kept in touch with Jackson after the town hall, later got a job in the city's youth services office.

After graduating with honors with a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from the historically black liberal arts college, Spelman, Abrams continued her education by earning a master's degree from the University of Texas and a law degree from Yale Law School. By the age of 29, she landed the role of deputy city attorney of Atlanta.

In 2010, Abrams continued her work in government by becoming the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African-American to lead in the House of Representatives. In 2014, as the founder of the voter education group The New Georgia Project, Abrams used her influence to help get more than 200,000 people of color registered to vote within a two-year time span.

Today, Abrams, 45, still has her spreadsheet, but now she uses the document as a checklist to help reassess which goals still drive her and which goals don't.

"It's been true a number of times that what I thought was my ambition really wasn't my ambition," said Abrams, who released her book, "Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change," earlier this year. "It really was just a wish, and my real ambition had a different facet to it. And because I had that spreadsheet, I was able to really double-check and reaffirm my goals."

One of those goals, she said, is to become president one day, despite her decision to pass on a 2020 election run.

"I think it becomes incredibly important for women who are not expected, or any community that is often inherently considered disqualified, to declare their intention," she said in regards to openly proclaiming this goal despite naysayers who may try to derail her. "I do not believe in editing ambition, and I think it's important to say it aloud because it gives other people the sense of authority to also claim their intentions and their goals."

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