Do you have any idea how powerful you are? On some level, you do. You know it in your very cells; what you’re capable of on this planet, what you can do, and even who you can become. But all too often, women are asked to give away their power, to play by somebody else’s rules, and to turn away from their potential, and that stops today.

Carolyn Buck Luce’s new book, EPIC! The Women’s Power Play Book, aims to help you unravel that conditioning and reclaim your destiny. It teaches to create a life by design, not by default. Through a unique framework of exercises, you’ll play like a game, equipping you to craft the best next chapter of your life.

With the book, you’ll start playing to win, instead of playing not to lose without giving up even the smallest piece of yourself, and you’ll unleash the full measure of your natural-born power. This is a game you’ve been waiting to play all your life.

Hey Listeners, my name is Drew Appelbaum and I’m excited to be here today with, Carolyn Buck Luce, author of EPIC! The Women’s Power Play Book. Carolyn, thank you for joining, welcome to The Author Hour Podcast.

Carolyn Buck Luce: Thanks, Drew.

Drew Appelbaum: Carolyn, help us kick off the podcast. Can you give us a brief rundown of your professional background? 

Carolyn Buck Luce: I’d be delighted to. I’ve had a really interesting nonlinear career, my first job was as a diplomat, representing our country in the Soviet Union in the middle of the Cold War. That was a while ago, and that took me to the business world, where I was an international banker and then a Wall Street banker, eventually a management consultant in a large global professional services firm. And in the last decade, I have been an executive coach for women.

Drew Appelbaum: So, why was now the time to write this book? Was there something inspiring out there for you, did you have an “aha moment” or did you feel like you really wanted to put your message out in a mass education way?

Carolyn Buck Luce: Well first, let me say that it’s important to understand that I’m not just thinking about my professional career. When I think about an epic life, I’m thinking about – when I think about epic women, what I know is that we are committed to be the leaders we want to be at home, at work, and in our communities all at the same time, and that’s what makes us epic. 

So I should also say, to try to understand my professional life, you also need to understand that I am a mother of six children, all of whom are adult, some of whom I made the old-fashioned way and some of whom, I inherited in other marriages. I am the grandmother of seven grandchildren working on the eighth.

I am also a daughter of a mother who is about to be 94, as well as a sibling and a wife and all of those parts of me are part of my epic life. So the answer to your specific question of “Why now?” this book has been germinating in me for a long time as I have navigated a professional man’s world and, at the same time, played the traditional role of a woman. What I’ve realized is how hard it is for us to connect all of those parts in a way that’s authentic, powerful, and beautiful.

Drew Appelbaum: Now, when you were trying to connect all those parts and put them in the book, sometimes just by focusing more on the subject or by doing research and just by digging in, authors will come to have major breakthroughs and learnings along their writing journey. Did you have any of these major breakthroughs or learnings?

Carolyn Buck Luce: Oh yes, I did. Part of it is all the breakdowns in my life that have created breakthroughs and realizing that that’s just part of living an epic life, and what is the culmination in this book actually started when I was eight years old. Can I tell you that story?

Drew Appelbaum: Sure.

Carolyn Buck Luce: So when I was eight years old, it was 1960. John F. Kennedy was running for president. It was in the middle of the Cold War, and John F. Kennedy very famously said, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you could do for your country.”

That woke me up to the fact that I wasn’t a little girl. I was actually a baby citizen of the world and that there was a role to play in that world, but I didn’t necessarily know how to play it. So I began to play something, which I over the years, I have framed into something I call, the Decade Game where I began to imagine when I was eight.

How would I know myself 10 years later, and how do I play that game to be able to become what was longing to happen for me? And I’ve been playing the Decade Game ever since. So every decade, I have reimagined what’s the world or my family or society calling for the heroes and heroines to do and how do I play that game as supposed to play other people’s games?

So in your question about breakthroughs, as I have moved from these different professional careers, as I have worked through what tends to be the absolute essence of a woman’s life, we are the birthers, the nurturers, and the mourners.

All of the breakdowns and breakthroughs that have happened in my life, I have been continually guided by an image of who am I being called to become, and I have played a Decade Game. And in this book, EPIC! The Women’s Power Play Book, it is in fact a playbook to learn how to play the best game of your life in a way to become who you are, we’re born to be.

Being More than Just a Good Girl

Drew Appelbaum: Now when you started writing the book, in your mind, who were you writing this book for? Is this for all women, all high-powered professional, specifically women, and can men have takeaways from the book as well?

Carolyn Buck Luce: Well, that’s a great question. First of all, everyone should have a Decade Game, I’m just saying. My husband has his Decade Game, my sons have been put through their Decade Game, and many of the male colleagues who I have had an opportunity to be with have benefited from learning how to become a great game designer and play their game.

However, I really wanted to write this book for women because it traditionally, in order to navigate our professional careers or to navigate the expectations that have been placed on us by our families, by our culture, we have played other people’s games. And when you play someone else’s game as opposed to play your best game, you are never showing up as your best self. 

In fact, you are a power leaker. Leaking power, death by a thousand cuts, and what I know for sure is all women know this. May I tell you another story about this?

Drew Appelbaum: Absolutely.

Carolyn Buck Luce: So in my professional career, I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the world working for a global professional services firm. No matter where I went, whether I was in Cincinnati or Shanghai or Rio De Janeiro or London, I would ask this question when I would meet just with women. I would ask to see a show of hands of who was raised to be a good girl. Everyone’s hands went up, no matter your culture, your background, or your age, women know what that means — to be a good girl.

Don’t put yourself forward, don’t speak too loud, don’t demand too much, don’t be too ambitious, put other people first, the list goes on. But then I would ask another question, “Who here is ambitious?” and instead of all the hands shooting up, I was never quite sure if people were fixing their hair or beginning to raise their hand.

Because being ambitious was a dirty word, being powerful was a dirty word. Playing before you do your work was a dirty word. In fact, “epic”, was a dirty word. So I have written this book particularly for women because we are in a time where the world is desperate for women to be epic. And when I talk about epic here, Drew, I’m not talking about king of the hill, master of the universe. 

What I’m talking about is a different way of understanding epic. It’s to know that right now, at this moment, every woman, resource-rich or resource-poor has everything that she needs right now to have a life of meaning and purpose. And if they can find their essential self, trust their authenticity, not give their power away but know how to use that power graciously, generatively, and authentically, then everything they do and everyone they touch will be epic.

So, this book is specifically because of the women’s journey as we try to be the leaders we long to be at home, at work, in the world, and to know that it is actually in our power to do so.

Drew Appelbaum: You bring up a really interesting statement in the book that when you had had these conversations with women around the world, that they’re almost 100% committed to empowering others but they’re squeamish about the idea of intentionally seeking to become powerful themselves. Do you think that goes back to that good girl framework, or is there more to it?

Carolyn Buck Luce: That’s also a wonderful question. So yes, women want to empower others, and they don’t realize they have to be as powerful as possible if they are going to truly deliver on that promise. One of the reasons I think this is, is we have two archetypes, two stories that women fall into.

One is this good girl story, where it is already defined what a good girl is and isn’t. And the good girl runs into conflict because she clashes with Goldilocks. If you remember the story of Goldilocks, the little girl who broke convention, went off on her own and entered the little bear’s house and everything she did was either too this or too that, but never just right.

So when women try to exercise their power, to be explicit about why they want to get power and use power, they get a lot of pushback, they’re too this or too that, too ambitious, too assertive, too bitchy, et cetera, et cetera. So over the years, that really begins to take a toll where women slightly shrink, they compromise a little bit too much, they give up a little more of themselves, they aren’t willing to trust their truth.

That’s what keeps us from wanting on the one hand to dream big, this idea of empowering others, but we end up playing small, relative to being willing to actually do the work of knowing how to get power, use power and keep power. And one of the things that I share with women is to try and defang all of these words, epic, power, ambition, in the book.

When you think about power, power is just a current. It’s like electricity, it’s like water. Water, electricity, they are not essentially good or bad, they are just a force, and what’s more important is how do you choose to increase your power and then use that power well? And there are many currencies of power. So, if power is a current, it has many currencies, relationships, knowledge, resources, and here’s one that’s hard for women: beauty. 

All of these currencies of power are yours to use well, are yours to turn up the force. And for women to recognize, to be able to know how to push through the pushback of the Goldilocks too this or too that or move through the stories they have in their head, these good girl stories, good girls can’t or won’t, these stories that no longer serve us, that’s the work and in the book, The Power Playbook, I am sharing a series of power plays in order for you to actually create your own playbook in order to be able to create a life by design and not live a life by default. 

The Decade Game

Drew Appelbaum: Now, I do want to bring up what you mentioned earlier, which is the Decade Game because in the book, you do introduce the Decade Game Framework. So can you explain what that is? 

Carolyn Buck Luce: I can. It is a great game. The Decade Game Framework, it’s a game board. So think about this, when you buy a game, the first thing you do, first of all, you buy a game for its epic quest. It looks like an exciting game, the game of risk or the game of life or Monopoly or Dragons and Dungeons, although I don’t play those games. But the first thing you do if it is a board game, for example, is you open up the game board. 

You pick your piece; who is the avatar that is going to move you through the board, and you do a quick scan of the rule book. How does one win this game? So the Decade Game Framework, think about it as a game board, and in a decade, there is 87,600 hours in a decade. 87,600 hours, so readers write that down. Now, if you sleep eight hours a night, which I recommend that you do, that leaves over 50,000 hours in change. 

Now, there is a lot of research that shows that it only takes 10,000 to become a world expert. So the Decade Game board lays out games within games, what are the five areas of your life that you want to invest 10,000 hours each over the next ten years so that you can be sure that the next decade can be the best decade of your life so far? That’s what the Decade Game Framework allows you to do. 

In the women’s power playbook, you have an opportunity to actually define what’s the big game, the Decade Game for you, how will you be known 10 years from now and what are the five games that get you there where you want to invest your time, your trust, your talents, and your treasures so that you know what to say yes to in order to be able to create this life by design not default and make sure that you are playing your game because one thing we know for sure is if you’re anxious, frustrated, unfulfilled, exhausted, chances are you’re playing someone else’s game. 

Drew Appelbaum: Now, you have a lot of exercises around the book, but you also have a website, a companion website with resources as well. Can you tell us about what the website is and what readers and listeners can expect to find there? 

Carolyn Buck Luce: Sure, so there are two websites. One is if you’re particularly interested in the Decade Game, and that website is mydecadegame.com, and that’s where you have an opportunity to learn more about the game, listen to women who have played the game, and also sign up for Decade Game masterclasses and other ways that you can continue to play the game yourself. 

There is also the website around the book is called epicwomensplaybook.com, and this website also will allow you to understand more of the messaging behind the women’s journey of epic and give you ideas and more rules of the game in order to be able to play an epic life. 

Drew Appelbaum: Well Carolyn, we just touched on the surface of the book here. There is so much more inside, but I just want to say that putting this book out there to really help empower others is no small feat. So congratulations on having your book published. 

Carolyn Buck Luce: Thank you, Drew, and if I could say one other thing that’s important that I’d like our readers to understand. 

Drew Appelbaum: Sure. 

Carolyn Buck Luce: One of the things that I love about the book is the fact that I have been able to walk on this journey with so many women, and I have an opportunity in EPIC! to share their stories as well because, here’s the thing about the women’s journey, no matter whether you are in your 20s, your 30s, your 40s, your 50s, your 60s, your 70s, or your 80s, this book is for you because we all are themes and variations of the same mythic character. 

We all want to be heroines in the story of our lives. We all want to be the leaders we want to be at home, at work, and in the world. And in EPIC!, you’ll have an opportunity to see yourself through the lives, the challenges, the trials, and the triumphs of women who look and feel just like you. This is a book for women of all ages and stages because one of the things we know is that there could be more. 

To be able to shift your mindset from “if only,” which I think are the two worst words in the English language, to “imagine if,” and that’s my real hope for the readers of this book is that they will have that shift just from reading the book from a mindset of “if only. If only I could, if only I would, if only it was” to really know that they can choose EPIC!, that they have everything they need right now to create a life by design. 

Drew Appelbaum: Well, Carolyn, this has been a pleasure and I am excited for people to check out the book. Everyone, the book is called, EPIC! The Women’s Power Play Book, and you could find it on Amazon. Carolyn, besides checking out the book, besides the website, is there anywhere else where people can connect with you? 

Carolyn Buck Luce: They can always reach me at [email protected] 

Drew Appelbaum: Well, Carolyn, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today, and best of luck with your new book. 

Carolyn Buck Luce: Thanks so much, Drew.