“This is a time when we women can make a great impact,” Valerie Brown, CEO of El Segundo, Calif.-based Cetera Financial Group, told the audience Thursday at the Women Advisors Forum in Huntington Beach, Calif.  “I believe there’s never been a brighter future for us and there’s never been more opportunity than there is right now — if we choose to make it so. Let’s not be afraid to shine.”

Brown shared four lessons she said have had great impact on both her business and her life:

1. Realize that the only thing holding me back is me. Brown urged the audience to stop apologizing so much. “No one wants a leader who lacks confidence,” she said. “There’s no famous general who said, ‘I ordered the charge on the hill but I’m really sorry I didn’t ask for your input.’” She added that she often apologizes subconsciously without doing so out loud. “That kind of constant apologizing eats away at our confidence.”

2. Get a personal coach. “Can you think of any ballerina, athlete or musician who doesn’t have one?” she asked. “Is our profession any less competitive?” Brown said she has worked with the same coach for 15 years and counting.

3. Diversity is an imperative to success. That means, she said, not just racial diversity, but diversity in style and thought. “It is often the people who irritate us the most who we need the most on our teams,” she said. The biggest problem is that when we hire people we often hire people like us, she added, and that’s a problem.

4. There are no mistakes, only lessons. “A lesson is repeated until it is learned and it will be repeated to you in various forms until you learn it,” she said. The words we use are very powerful, she said. Often, she added, she asks her team members who are struggling what lesson they are being asked to learn. “This gets me out of the blame game,” she said.