Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


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What Your Shopping Cart Says About You

Cart_ResponsibilityI’m convinced that there are two types of people in this world: those who leave shopping carts in the parking lot, and those who put them in the “return your cart here” section.  At least, that’s how I see it now that airports don’t let you past security anymore.  Back then, there were people who met you at the curb, and those who met you at the gate.

I’m all about the cart section/gate people.

Returning the cart is inconvenient.  You have to go out of your way to do it.  You load your car then close your door.  You navigate around the oncoming traffic to push that cart into a tidy line, giving up a few minutes of your time when you probably have somewhere else to go.  But you do it anyway.  Why?  Shared responsibility.  You’re working together as part of a larger community.  It’s being considerate of other people.  Helping protect someone else’s property.  It’s about more than just you.

Same thing goes for the gate people.  You had to park your car, pay a bit out of pocket and walk a ways to bring a smile to someone you loved.  It’s bigger than you.

So many people today don’t return the cart.  They’re caught up in their lives.  They’re so busy!  Many important things to do.  Can’t possibly spare a few minutes to walk 50 feet to help someone else.  So they leave the cart tucked up on a curb, or precariously balanced between two other cars… An accident waiting to happen.

They are not part of a larger community.  They do not share in the responsibility.  It’s just about them.

Returning a cart seems like a small thing, and perhaps it is.  I think it is a symptom of something more though.  We demonstrate who we truly are in the small moments… the little things we do when we think no one is looking.   Are we looking in or looking around?

We inspire our employees when we model that which we ask of others.  Do we ask for urgency and good work, yet provide no feedback or take days to respond instead of hours?  Do they stay late while we leave early?

We teach our children responsibility in our day to day actions.  Do we tell the truth?  Do we follow through?  Do we tell our children to pick up after themselves, and yet leave carts lying around parking lots… too self involved to follow our own advice?  What will our children learn from us in the little moments?  What do we want them to learn?

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Requiem for Words

Sooner or later, death comes to visit us all. No matter how much we deny it, we can’t escape it. Hopefully, it is patient – waiting quietly in the wings as we live life brilliantly. But often, it is an impatient companion… touching us too soon and demanding that we feel its presence.

Death and I first met in 8th grade over Easter vacation. It announced itself when my choir director called. I remember Miki as a quiet, bright young girl who sent me 10 candy grams that Valentines Day, as she knew I had not received many the year before. She left suddenly and too soon. And since that day, I’ve met Death too many times. Generally, it’s been unwelcome but expected.

But tonight, my heart aches for a friend of mine. He’s lost a brother.

Last night, a young man laid down to rest. He didn’t get up this morning.

There is no reason. No cause. Just a few words to his loved one, and then silence.

Perhaps in the coming days or weeks, there will be an answer. Why? There will still be pain, and there will still be those last words.

Death expected allows us to prepare. Something like this though is a visceral reminder of how fragile life is. How brief. How words matter.

When I became a parent, I “prepared”. I wrote wills, established trusts – documenting the who, what and how of the days and months after I am gone. But what about the days before? Am I ready? Are you?

We take life for granted. Our routines are comfortable. We wander through the days and years of our lives, going through the motions. Enjoying things. Wasting things. Wasting time. Wasting words.

Words have great power.
The last words I said to Miki years ago were “see you in a week.” That never happened.
The last words I typed to a friend of mine who died in a car crash were “Love ya.” Those were good.
The last words I said to my Gramma were an apology, and “I’ll come next weekend instead.” I will regret those forever.

Last night, someone said words that were final. I hurt for the people who love him.

They say that actions speak louder than words. But words matter. Yours matter. Share them. Don’t regret them.

We say in my home lately, “practice being kind, not always being right.” But share your kind words too. Be generous. Give more. Give back. Time may be great or it may be scarce. I’m reminded again. When your journey on this earth is through, there will be many people who love you that are left behind. Many miles they would travel to be where you are then, but tonight, they are only a breath away.


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KleenexI was having a conversation the other day with a teammate of mine.  As we talked through a problem we wanted to solve, he said something interesting to me that got me thinking.  He casually mentioned that I had the “EQ” in our team….the emotional intelligence.

I’ve always been a sentimental person… frankly, a very emotional one.  And while I believe everyone feels things deeply, I think there are some people in the world that seem to feel “more”.  It’s the tender hearted among us: those of us who find our eyes welling up with tears during AT&T commercials or who know during any Disney movie about that one moment – that one song – that you dread because you know the waterworks are on the way.

Being emotional is a blessing and a curse.  In your personal relationships, it bonds to closer to your family.  You don’t leave anything unsaid as your heart speaks for your mind.  In professional situations, those emotions can be perceived as a barrier to advancement.  You may get frustrated easily.  Your disappointment is tangible.  So, you have to spend time learning to mask those emotions… hiding your true nature.  With your emotions in check, you project an aura of confidence.   Of strength.

But when did genuine emotion become a sign of weakness?  When did it become a drawback as opposed to a mark of bravery?

It’s brave to be genuine.  It’s brave to be vulnerable.

It’s brave to open your heart to others, risking pain and rejection on the hope that you can make something better.  It takes true grit, true strength of will to be the one who may take the bullet for someone else.

So many people mask their vulnerability. They mask their fear.  Safe in their cocoon, they take no risks… peering only far enough to see what they want to see and no more.

It reminds me of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”  Those among us who hide our emotions stare only at our own shadows, reasoning that we know the world we see, yet seeing no more than our own reflection.  Understanding no more than we allow ourselves to feel.

Then, there are those brave souls among us who embrace our emotions in work and in life.  We are freed from the cave and begin to walk into the light.  It is painful.  It hurts.  It’s confusing.  And it gets easier.  Will we like what we see or feel?  Perhaps.  But regardless of whether we’re bruised along the way, we see more clearly.  We are enlightened.   We no longer live in a thin veil of reality, but instead are bathed in the sun.   Living in the world of what is and what can be, we lead with hope and possibility.

Being an emotional person hurts.  We are often let down.   And yet, we are free.  Free to learn.  Free to love.  And free to lead.

I believe in freedom.  I’m just bringing a box of Kleenex along with me.

How about you?


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Genetics in Action

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Do you have a scar? I do. It slices through my left eyebrow – a leftover of a time I bulldozed my poor brother into playing a game that was downright dumb. I got my payback: a concussion and 36 stitches to mend skin and muscle. It’s subtle now, but if I lift my bangs, it’s still there.

What about a scar you can’t see? Where is yours? We all have them… something we did, something done to us or something passed down by people who were once as innocent as we were when we were kids.

I’m one of too many kids to count. Both of my parents worked hard to provide for the family, especially Dad. He is a doctor, and pulled a lot of overnighters. It was pretty common for us not to see him at all from Monday through Friday, with weekends being our special time. Now, kids compete for attention from their parents as it is. When time is limited though, that competition gets especially fierce. Everyone picks a “role,” digs in and tries to out-do everyone else.

For me, I was going to be the “perfect” child. I was going to get excellent grades, be a massive overachiever, win every award and never get in trouble. That’s a lot to aspire to when you are 10 years old. Plus, my dad is a genius, so you’re trying to live up to that as well. I worked hard and did pretty well, but it came with consequences. Since I was always striving for perfection, which is frankly unachievable, nothing I did was ever quite good enough. So I took on more and more, and lived in that constant cycle of fear that I was letting someone down. I was not good enough. Now, you can’t see this scar, but it’s long, deep and self-inflicted.

When I first started my career, I packed those bags and took them along with me. In the arts, there was always a better singer, a better dancer, a better anything. And as I transitioned into business and began to rise through the ranks, I continued to take on more and more… making myself “indispensable” because it was just easier for me to handle something. That way, it would be “right” the first time. It would be as close to “perfect” as I could get it.

That’s a recipe for unhappiness though. You become completely overloaded, overwhelmed and stressed out. Nothing is ever good enough, and you can’t truly move on in life because you haven’t fully invested in someone. You haven’t trusted someone enough to learn to let go.

While the quest to create something truly great is admirable, perfectionism comes down to issues of trust and control. You have to learn how to trust someone enough to let go of the reins and release control, providing guidance so they too have the opportunity to learn and evolve. It’s a basic tenet of leadership, and probably the hardest lesson I continue to learn every day. I’m getting a lot better, but there’s always another mountain to climb.

I’m a parent now, and my kids are great. But here’s where the genetics kick in. While my oldest son looks like my husband, his personality is all me. He is quirky, inquisitive and wants to try everything. He also has a major perfectionistic streak… one that already causes him undue stress at the age of 5. While there are many things I want to pass down to him, this is not one of them. I want to set him free as I work to do every day in my professional life. I want him to know that our imperfections are what makes each of us so special… So perfect. He may have a scar on the outside, on his chin, but I don’t want him to carry the scars inside that so many of us already have today.

What scars are your carrying around inside? What will you do today to help them fade away?

 

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