Monday, May 16, 2016

Love Builds Confidence

For Mother’s Day, Hollie gave me a picture card she’d drawn in school. It said: 

You like to read and write with me, write and read, write and read, write and read. You work every day, work, work, work, work. You watch movies and shows with me, watch, watch, watch, watch, watch, watch. You eat lunch with me on Saturday, eat, eat, eat. I love u!

Beneath it was a picture of two equally-sized people wearing orange, holding books, and standing near a restaurant booth. On the table was a hot dog (hers) and a glass of wine (mine).

My first thought was, “Way to hit that word count, girl!”

My second was, “Hollie really knows me.”

I’ve not been hiding myself from her. She knows I love to read and write. She knows I love to watch movies and Animaniacs. She knows Saturdays are our date days and that during lunch she can have sweet tea and I’ll be drinking wine.

I am who I am.

Being myself with Hollie is how I’m showing her that it’s okay for her to be herself, too.

There are times when I have to be a certain version of myself. I’m comfortable with roles and responsibilities. I understand that what needs to be done is not always what I want to be doing.

Authentic leadership comes from a place that recognizes who I am, flaws, faults, talent, and all. And it infuses that person into every role. Even when the role requires I be more.

For example, I am an extrovert and tend to do a lot of talking to find my way through a dilemma. With customers, though, I keep most of my “finding” to myself. I listen to them speak, ask questions, and hope to help them stumble upon the solution on their own.

The authority I can demonstrate comes from confidence of purpose. I believe in what I’m doing to grow the business. Every day I wonder if it’s the right thing to do and whether I’ll actually succeed at it, but I do believe in what I’m doing. With that confidence, I can declare what the company is, what we do, how we do it, and invite a candidate to participate.

I’ve worked really hard to have the confidence to show who I am.

To not be afraid that doing so will send friends and customers running in the other direction. To be bold enough to be authentic.

I’m not surprised Hollie recognizes me for who I am. She’s one of the reasons I have this new  confidence. Her self expression, authenticity, and independence are all traits I deeply admire. Traits I love seeing reflected back at me.

I used to think credibility is what built confidence. But it’s love.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Worst Day of Someone Else's Life

The first thought I had when I woke was “Today is going to be the worst day of someone’s life. But it’s not mine.”

We buried a man that day. I knew from the minute I woke that the depth of suffering I would witness would astonish me. I’d truthfully never seen anything like that.

The only funeral I had attended before that was the one for Charlie’s grandmother. It was a modest affair, she was an old woman with few friends and a very small family.

I missed my own grandmother’s funeral. I was in Hawaii.

But here I was, at the service of a man I’d known only by association, a good friend to my father-in-law. Through the service I thought mostly about his daughter who is not much older than me. I thought about losing your father. About losing my own father.

This is the worst day of her life so far, I kept thinking.

I have a friend whose kid has neuroblastoma and my friend writes frequently of the worst days as he experiences them. When they go in for treatments, he knows they’ll be tough and the poor boy will suffer and watching your kid suffer is the worst kind of Hell.

Does my friend wake thinking, “Today is going to be another worst day of my life.”

Or does he wake hoping it’ll be someone else’s worst day, not his son’s and not his?

I usually think this could be the best day of my life: I’m awake, I have great work to do and fun people to meet and I get to see family and friends and maybe be entertained by a game or a show or a book.

I usually wake thinking, “This is going to be someone’s best day yet. It could be mine.”

So on the day of Jimmy Head’s funeral, knowing it was going to be someone’s worst day, I suddenly realized that every day there’s someone having the worst day ever. Someone losing a baby, someone getting fired, someone wrecking a car, someone going to jail.

And every day is someone’s best day. Someone getting married, having a child, winning a game, getting promoted, buying their dream house. 

Someone being told their book will be published.

Someone hearing themselves being called “Doctor” for the first time.

Someone getting to sit across the table from her sister.

Someone getting to catch his kid jumping off the school bus into waiting arms.

Jimmy’s daughter did not look like she was suffering the way I imagined she would. Maybe she was numb, maybe she was holding it together for her own kids, maybe she didn’t even know we were there or what was happening. Maybe the words of faith shared during the service provided real comfort to her.

The truth is I don’t know her very well. I also don’t know grief very well. I’ve been so very, very lucky so far.

And each day I remind myself that there are infinite possibilities for the day. It could be the day I sign a giant client and take my business toward the stratosphere. It could be the day I seriously fuck up and lose the clients I have.

And the not knowing could be paralyzing. But it’s not. It’s invigorating. It means every day matters. It’s what people mean when they say, “Make it count.” Make every day count.

There’s so much to be grateful for. So much to look forward to. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Redefining what it means to Lean In

My iPhone makes me crazy. For days now it’s been warning me I’m close to full storage. That means going through and sending to the cloud anything I want to keep and deleting anything I don’t want to keep.

I use the Voice Notes app for my research interviews and so it’s an easy clean-out. I upload all the recordings to the Dropbox folder for research and delete the file from the phone. This usually buys me about 1GB of space.

Today I found a recording I made back in August that talks about Leaning In having consequences. We’re not taking up less space, it says, we’re pushing something else out of the way.

When we Lean In, something has to bend.

In 2014 and 2015, while I traveled about 30% of the time, Charlie had to bend. He also had to accept occupancy by alternate caregivers for Hollie.

In late 2015, when I spent a good bit of every day onsite with my major client, my schedule had to bend. Less time in jammies and at the gym and more time in heels and at the office.

That kind of bend might not seem so bad, but while cleaning out the recordings I also found my belief narrative. It’s the two minute recording I made in 2013 when I started my own company. In it, I lay out exactly why I want to be independent.

One word: autonomy.

What a strict contrast with the requirements of Leaning In.

Committing myself to working has never been my problem. I love to work. I love research and writing and interviewing and even transcribing isn’t too bad. Strategy and social media are engaging and fun. Developing and delivering learning content actually entertains me.

So Lean In for me is less about working versus staying home and more about finding the right way to work. It also means having the discipline to actually work and not just fuck off most of the day and call two hours of work a complete day.

So I binge work. 

It’s not too far from my personality to believe that some days I’m all in. Writing, reading, working on those things that get me paid and build my business. Then those days that I play golf with Charlie or go on Hollie’s field trip.

Autonomy doesn’t mean working less, it means working in alternative time blocks. But it’s still work. Forty hours or more spread out over the entire week, not just 8 to 5.

The mantra for 2016 has to be: I’m not afraid of hard work. Do the work.

There’s a lot to do. What are you working on in 2016?