I was recently in a work event where, for fun, we were reading our astrology based personality profiles. Some statements about us were accurate and some wildly off, there was wine, there was laughing, a good time was had by all (well except one co-worker that might have suffered long term emotional trauma with a profile that was clearly written by someone with anger issues).
As I was reading my profile, a colleague was visibly shocked when I agreed with the statement that I “had a great memory”. In the moment, I realized something important — many of us have been taught that verbalizing our gifts is arrogance.
I believe that is not only wrong, it is a huge problem.
Here is the thing, we each have a rich set of gifts AND a series of challenges. Being aware of them and openly acknowledging them is a first step to finding more opportunities to use those gifts to help others.
As we round into an awkward summer of social distancing and surging outbreaks, I have found myself struggling a bit.
This isn’t my first setback, I had my first emotional surge in March as I was struggling to put any kind of order to the chaos, then again in May when I recognized I had a boundary problem, but these last few weeks have been different, they have been about deep and sustained fatigue. Emotional and physical fatigue.
I’ve known for some time that the challenge that I am facing is not unique. The balancing act of hope and reality is articulated best as the Stockdale paradox.
“You must never ever ever confuse, on the one hand, the need for absolute, unwavering faith that you can prevail despite those constraints with, on the other hand, the need for the discipline to begin by confronting the brutal facts, whatever they are.”
Confronting brutal facts can be dark sometimes. Knowing that this is not ending soon, makes it clear I am in serious need of better coping and recovery strategies. I need to take into account the enormous emotional load I am under right now. While I know I have real blessings and privilege, I realize that I am also experiencing burnout. Feelings of loss and the sheer weight of cumulative anxiety and uncertainty.
I know I’m not at all alone, my friends are sharing articles about mom rage and mood swings and we are all seriously worried about the setbacks for workingmoms and the suffering and injustice of systematic racism.
These conversations are important but they are also fraught. I recognize I need to create better frameworks of self care, to be able to sustain my emotional health which has been suffering.
I need to adjust my pace. I need to find a different rhythm that is more sustainable to my reality right now. A critical key missing piece is quiet, alone think time.
I took a long weekend to think, and I realized that trying to plan for a vacation takes me to a dark place. Between the inability to travel, and the uncertainty of the kids summer/back-to-school plans, I feel overwhelmed. I am thinking what I will do is instead of trying to synchronize everyone’s schedules, is look to see if there is a way to take a few more mini-breaks over the summer. Doing nothing is not a viable option, as I can feel the impact on my mood and my physical health.
Finding balance right now is hard. Acknowledging the burnout is important, and building a path back to a more centered place is the next logical step. One that will help me feel more incontrol and help keep me going, as the work is far from done.
I am wishing you kindness and self care this month of my birthday (#KindJuly). I know that practicing kindness for ourselves is the first and most important step. Thanks for joining me on that journey.
I am working to develop the skill of small talk, it doesn’t come naturally. If you want to connect, it’s most effective to talk about something meaty vs. something surface.
I appreciate being able to get mentally organized on a topic before having a discussion — sending me SMS or email on what you want to talk about vs. just hitting me cold is very helpful. Otherwise you will get a familiar “can you remind me what the topic we are discussing” question which is awkward for us both.
I’m an audio learner so flow charts and graphics take time for me to decode – I prefer pre-reading information, asking basic questions asynchronously, so that when talking in person we can have a richer discussion.
I embrace clear is kind and I appreciate it when people are clear with me in return.
What people misunderstand about me
I struggle to remember names — a lot — I am more likely to remember every other thing you have told me than your name. I actually have this issue with almost any proper noun. I refer to this as how my brain indexes complex topic “metadata” vs. the data itself. I’m delightful at bookclub –“John, is that the guy that was the mechanic or the one that was the waiter?” or recalling business partnership opportunities “that company in Asia with xyz product with the sales office in Florida“.
I have extreme sensitivity to high frequencies — specifically, I experience significant physical pain if I take a call on an iPhone without headphones.
I am an ambivert with significant energy swings. Too much extroversion can fatigue me like an introvert.
I’m very curious and ask a lot of questions, this can be annoying for people who don’t enjoy the 3rd degree.
My Quirks and Interests
In addition to being bad at names, I also have a severe “sense of direction disability” – I recommend against letting me lead the way to any physical location.
I love nerding out on random stuff, especially if I can learn something or share with others, something I’ve learned — this is why I’m a TED conference enthusiast.
I enjoy reading for pleasure – majority of the time my preferences are less literary and more “beach reads”.
I generate a lot of typos – feel free to point them out to me (in this blog or anywhere), in most cases, it’s not that I don’t know the rules of grammar, it’s just that my brain can either finish a thought, or write well – rarely both. I exist to help grammar snobs practice empathy.
I love the concepts of life hacking – I hate inefficiencies and love deliberate practice. I especially believe that we should each be purposeful about how and where we spend our time.
What else do you want to know? How can we build a better relationship together? Hit me up with your questions.
*Editors Note: I heard a great tip once that if you find someone hard to understand you should imagine who they were at five and you might find them more likable. This is me at age 6 sporting the best of 1970s fashions. You’re welcome.
I read an article recently about surviving your 40’s that said
The 40s are when you become who you are
This created the opportunity for falling down the rabbit hole of “who am I?” and are we just yolks [you’re welcome].
Knowing who you are makes it possible to embrace onlyness and find your unique power — this, in turn, drives real impact. Important stuff.
The two most important days in a person’s life are the day on which she was born, and the day on which she discovers why she was born. – Anon
As I reflect on my unique best self I realize that similar to Patty’s thankful for childhood bullies post, my childhood experiences gave me ability to be comfortable being different.
I attended 10 different schools K-12 (I also skipped a grade, so more precisely, K-7 and 9-12). I was continuously forced out of my [socially awkward] comfort zone. Being frequently out of the loop on key foundational academic concepts, social norms and even popular lower school skills, framed my early reality (and self image).
My consistent experience was to show up lost, confused and out of sorts, and find my way to achievement, only to have to start over again the next year. I now understand this as building grit but, if you had asked me in middle school, I would have called it disappointment and suffering.
My college and early professional experiences followed a similar pattern. I was the first in my family to attend college. After college, I began my career in tech and toward an elite job, identifying and building skills for each of these new experiences as quickly as I could. In other words, I was again lost, confused and out of sorts. Dusting off and finding a new path forward became a core competency that has been the foundation of my professional success.
Not expecting to fit in, has made me comfortable in places that did not lend themselves to belonging — it felt natural to me to be the youngest (for a time) or the only (most of the time) or even just being the lone person who sees things differently. I am able to say the thing others are afraid to say, and be my whole self in a way that feels uncomfortable to others, because it feels normal for me to be different.
If you can’t fix it, feature it*
You see, my difference is my power, my strength comes from years of practicebeing different. I am comfortable being uncomfortable. I have resilience and the ability to chart a course where there is no existing path to follow. I have confidence in my ability to navigate an unknown situation successfully because I’ve done it so many times before.
I’ve been blessed with two twice exceptional daughters. Watching them learn about their own differences, I realize how frequently they are encouraged to hide these differences or feel shame about them. Teachers, friends and even well meaning parents, often push them toward the mean. As their mom, I encourage them to do the opposite, to use their full set of gifts and embrace and own their differences to set an example for others. You see, courage is contagious and when we step into our whole selves we give permission for others to do the same.
Every day I’m learning about the variety of lived experiences that exist around me. The programmer with dyslexia, and the journalist with ADHD . The complexity of power structures and the bias of privilege remind me that that each of us experience the world differently.
Normal is a myth.
We are all doing the best that we can. We are all a mess of guilt, shame and feeling like we don’t belong on our worst days, and powerful, strong and ready to shine our light on our best days. When we honor our unique strengths we own our power. Anything less would be to sacrifice the gift.
My wish for you
I wish for you to know that you are enough exactly the way you are. I hope that you find your own power in the fullness of your differences, and that you use that power to be a force for good in the lives of others.
I bow to the divine in you.
*Attribution apologies – I remember the moment where I heard this, but not the name of the person who said it.
Hello regular readers — feel free to skip this one — it’s not a leadership post. It’s a 45+ female self-care post, summarizing some of the cool products and habits I discovered that helped me feel better.
Since most people don’t have the blessing of extra time or the interest in comprehensive data tracking, I decided to document and share my findings in case they are helpful to others.
I get no kickback for any of these products, and [of course] your mileage may vary.
First let’s talk about what was working and what I was trying to fix. My diet and sleep habits were healthy. I don’t mean to brag, but I am an elite sleeper (why doesn’t Fitbit offer sleep challenges?). I had also been exercising about 2-3x a week (weight training and cardio).
In the complaints category there were several. Migraines, weight gain, joint pain, severe stiff necks, vitiligo, vertigo, and fatigue (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few). Generally I’d describe my situation as nothing was seriously wrong with me, and yet I began to feel I was aging a bit too rapidly.
I started my journey with several dr. visits and blood tests. I also began tracking exercise, food and sleep with Charge2, weight Aria 2 and added two additional tracking apps clue and 5 minute journal.
Doctor uncovered Vit D deficiency and confirmed my vertigo, vitiligo and migraines, but offered no real solutions. I began a series of experiments to try to see what I could improve. After a little more than a year, I’m happy to report I am feeling really good. Most of my complaints are either gone or reduced. The one I haven’t had any real progress on is the vertigo.
So far I am tracking three primary categories
Vitamin deficiencies — I found two products I love. First, Ritual multi-vitamin. I love everything about this company. Although I don’t need separate magnesium anymore, I also really loved this product . Improvements include mood (vit D), joint pain gone (vit D), lip color back (iron) strong nails, reduced neck pain (magnesium), etc.
Peri-menopause – This one is still a work in progress. I now have comprehensive personal data to support my perspective that reduced estrogen killed my metabolism. Or as I like to say, I’m well prepared for zombie apocalypse food scarcity. Most people will lose a pound with each 3,500 calorie deficit, I require a 8,400 calorie deficit to lose a pound. Not sure if that goes into #overachiever or #winning category, I’ll let you decide.
I have been toying around with a couple supplements that I do think are mildly helpful (this and this) but, sadly the only thing that I’m sure has worked is pretty hard core calorie reduction. Increasing exercise has been very helpful for mood and well being, but working out 5-7x/week for 9 months with moderate diet changes did not move the needle on weight.
Auto-Immune challenges – I’m still in discovery on this one as well. We are still in the early days on therapeutic probiotics and resolving auto-immune issues have no quick fix. That said, this is my favorite product. I like these for high quality ingredients, no need for refrigeration and included prebiotics.
Face – your friends who are selling R+F are not wrong — this is a great investment.
Eyes – I’ve found Felix Gray lenses helpful for migraine prevention. While the screen time wasn’t the cause, it was a contributing factor.
Neck Pain – I keep Salonpas in my purse for both lower back pain and neck pain. I am now also very careful to avoid a chill, especially during a workout (I just tuck a workout towel around my neck). I have learned that neck pain is a migraine byproduct.
Exercise – There is a lot about personal preference to sustaining an exercise habit. As someone who loved the results of exercise but not exercising, I’ve come to learn that I required structure and community to increase my enthusiasm. Things that I love include: Training and dancing with Angie,dancing with SWEAThearts, cycling at Revelry,OrangeTheory and regular walks with friends and family.
Workout Foundations – I’ve also been stress testing workout foundations, here are my [body specific] picks: Socks, Underwear, Bra
Scale – as I mentioned above, I have been using Fitbit scale, but I think this new product Shapa is probably a better strategy since it focuses on motivation in addition to measurement.
Massage, Chiropractic, Acupuncture — yup did/do all these — I find them generally helpful, but not cures. I find chiropractic the hardest for me to recover from, so I do it less. The cupping my acupuncturist did for me helped a lot with my neck recovery and massage is always great, unless I get it too close to my cycle, in which case I can guarantee a migraine will follow.
Meditation and Relaxation – As a chronically “early arrival” person, I’ve been using the Simply Being app to do 5-10 min meditation breaks in my car. I like it for the extreme simplicity. I have also grown to love Yin Yoga.
Workout drink – I don’t do these often, but I do really like this – it’s not a meal replacement, but it can help you cut your pre-workout meal in half, and still give you a bit more energy. I just use a shaker and mix it with milk, tastes a bit like strawberry quick.
So there you have it — all my oversharing and best recommendations in one post. What else should I try? What helps you feel your best?
In 2017 I had the good fortune of doing my first ever job search.
While I’ve been professionally employed for more than twenty [mumble] years, my past job acquisition process can be most accurately described as: occasionally agreeing to go work for someone else.
Before I start my next big opportunity (more on that later), I want to take a moment to reflect on what I learned and share one big idea that anyone can do to help with a friends job search.
For context, here are some stats and observations on my funployment
14 months to find a fit that both excited me and wanted to hire me — this probably shouldn’t have been a surprise… but it was.
I met/called/connected/engaged about 400 people
I had coffee/meetings 2-3 times a week
I pursued about 40 awesome jobs
Bias is alive and well and shows up in very subtle ways
My network is amazing — I had more than 75% response with LinkedIn messages I sent out asking for leads
Many people went way above and beyond with helpfulness — brainstorming, connecting and recommending me
In retrospect, the smartest thing I did was to create structure, community and accomplishment into this unstructured time. I shifted my energy to improving my positivity and health, and as a result, I came through both mentally and physically stronger. Huge shoutout to Angie at I Am Fitness and all my Sweatheart friends at DanceSweatSmile for making this fun.
Of course, every kind of help is appreciated in a job search: encouragement, coffee, lunch, brainstorming, job leads, etc. But I learned that one thing a few people did had an outsized impact, reminding me of my unique strengths.
This helped in two ways
Gave me words to describe my work.
Helped me stay positive in a time of waiting, rejection and extraversion overload.
Some amazing things people took the time to say:
you were tough, intelligent and had vision – I miss that
you have a great understanding of dependencies and how they are designed and deployed
you are such a bright, dynamic and interesting person
transformational leadership is your strength
you are always looking at how to create, disrupt and build the most effective organizations and teams
When you were leading we were at “peak collaboration and cohesiveness”. I appreciated that we were always working towards a strategic goal.
I am a huge fan and I would love to work for you again
Superpowers include pioneering new things, thriving amidst uncertainty, taking risks and building great teams
It is with great gratitude and humility that I wrap up this chapter, and extreme excitement that I begin my new impactful journey.
To all my friends, associates and colleagues, I am blessed to know you. I would be honored to have a chance to share my observations of your uniquely awesome superpowers. Put me on your list of people to alert when you are searching for your next job.
Taking a full year to focus my thoughts and energy around generosity was not easy, but it was very rewarding. I found myself much more resilient, with higher levels of positivity, and that was both needed and helpful in 2017.
In 2018 I’m turning up the heat on action. I believe that now more than ever, the world needs us all to do our part, to show up and do the work.
2018 is about getting sh*t done, personally, professionally and most importantly, in service of others.
Generosity in action = impact
Watch out 2018, you have no idea what amazing things you are in for, because words are powerful.
The single biggest theme I get asked about, [at any organized panel, one-on-one coaching conversation, formal Q&A or random mentoring interaction] is work life balance. This isn’t really surprising, we are working more hours and feeling more squeezed in our lives, so searching for life hacks, or empathy makes sense.
While I don’t really like the work life balance framing, I do have a make work betterstrategy that helps keep me in balance. At some point, I’ll organize my journey here into a TED-worthy story, but, for today, I will focus on sharing the strategy I use to manage my energy. This is key to my belief that I am not balancing work and life, instead, I’m balancing energy to help me thrive.
My strategy is really simple — I use the scientific method — try something, analyze, adjust, repeat. The trick is that every one of the conditions in my experiment is evolving, so the value is less in the solution and more in the a practice. A bit like life.
What does that look like?
Important to note, that theses lists will be different for each of us, there is no one size fits all here. The more you learn about yourself, the better results you will get. Here is my framework:
First, I inventory things that add energy. These include things like sleep, massage, yoga, meditation, learning something new, applying a new learning to a current problem, deep connection with people, helping others thrive and reading for pleasure.
Then I look at things that give energy when I complete them (but maybe not while I’m doing them). These include things like checking items off a to-do list, de-cluttering (email inbox, desk, calendar, etc.), exercise, finishing a big project.
Then I look at things that drain me of energy. These include negative people, uncertainty, minor physical discomfort (vitamin deficiencies, migraines, vertigo, etc. ), low blood sugar, extroversion overload, small talk, telephones, teenager drama, avoidable chaos, etc.
Lastly I look at my personal daily energy cycle. What times of day am I at my best and when am I more sluggish. Is that hard wired or environmental?
Now that I have my variables, I start to think about my rhythm within a day and a week. I look to tune the order of the kinds of tasks I need to get done, against the types of energy I have at a given time of day. I look to optimize both daily and weekly since I often can’t win this game every day, but over a week I have reasonable odds.
An example of what this looks like for me
Prioritize getting to sleep early as often as I can, to make sure I have enough fuel to get shit done the next day. I reinforce this habit with the reward of reading for pleasure at the end of the night.
Get up early to enjoy quiet, chaos free house and do low-effort tasks that build energy on completion (e.g., clear out my inbox, declutter my desk and drink all the coffee).
After I’m organized [and awake], do the bigger items — either exercise to build for a longer day, or some important work meetings and tasks [ideally both].
Be thoughtful about my propensity for low blood sugar. Have a reliable strategy for breakfast, lunch and mid-day snack and, if available, schedule a walking meeting in the afternoon to re-charge and connect with someone I care about.
Think about whoandhow many meetings I have back to back. Build in recovery time if I have too much required extraversion or negativity. I am at my best if I have a “work quietly” break after 3 meetings. If I can’t, I need a recovery plan. This might involve staying late to get some work done when the office quiets down.
I use my calendar to manage execution, being mindful of what personal commitments are hardest for me to keep, and making sure I build that into my weekly default template (e.g., I struggle to keep exercise commitments, so I add a few kickers — first, I put an extra prep 1/2 hour before, to remind myself to wrap stuff up and get my clothes changed. Then, I schedule a class that has a hard start time, so my responsibility gene kicks in and gets me there).
As I mentioned above, these are not universal, they are my truths [today]. Having teenage girls has increased my needs for quiet recovery options (reading, yoga, massage, etc), pre-kids that was not as important. Life and professional transitions increase my need for exercise and mindfulness to keep me open, positive and creative. Things like seasons (number of hours of daylight) and crunch times (e.g., school holidays, theater tech week, kids finals, end of quarter, and key work deadlines) add additional variables to work into my plan.
Most importantly, I check in frequently to this framework, especially when I notice my energy and positivity waning, this helps me maximize for flow and avoid burnout. I feel more in control, and more at peace with my choices, since, embedded in this framework is making purposeful choices about what not to do at all.
What about you? What are your life hacks for making work better?
You will remember, in 2010 I had decided to focus on giving back which is one type of generosity. That single goal was transformational to my personal and professional growth. Seven years later, I’m still reaping benefits from that single intention.
I’ve been listening to the audiobook The Innovators by Walter Isaacson and pondering Digital Disruption.
While great companies require customer centricity — great innovations often get hamstrung when the only input is customer feedback. What you need for innovation to thrive in the disruptive digital age, is a combination of deep customer empathy and a healthy paranoia that you are probably wrong.
We live in an age where the ability to recognize and process patterns has never been better. We have more analysis tools and more data points than ever before. We also have faster innovation cycles, that shorten the window of opportunity for great ideas to impact the market at large.
When you know that timing is the most critical component for startup [disruptive] success, you begin to realize that the best thing you can do to prepare yourself, is to create the conditions that help you succeed before you need them.
Building good habits into your ideation framework, can help you avoid missing an opportunity.
So the next time you are tempted to just end a customer feedback session with the what (or how) and not the why — check yourself. The next time you look around the room and notice that everyone thinks, acts and looks the same — check yourself. The next time you find yourself overly confident of your analysis — check yourself.
Insanely great is rarely incremental, and disruption is inevitable. Making it work for you is the hard bit.