Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom


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A Boy and A Blue Balloon

Close up of a blue balloonThis morning, I had the honor to be a small part of something special.

After rolling out of bed before the sun came up, I was pretty tired.  So were the hundred or so fellow travelers I shared Southwest Airlines Flight #150 with this morning on the way to Sacramento.   Engrossed in our smartphones, on auto pilot, we picked up our bags and began to exit the plane.  That’s where the magic began.

As I stepped out the door and onto the jetway, I glanced up and saw a blue balloon taped to the wall.  Odd, but not remarkable.   Then, there was another.  And another.  In fact, the jetway walls were lined with bright blue balloons – far too many to count.  Confused, I stopped.  So did everyone else. I heard our flight attendant bristling with excitement, lining up the pilots and prepping them for photos and the surprise.  And there, nestled amongst it all was a sign – “We’re honored to help!  Yay, Mason!”  As my dazed companions and I got moving again, I was struck by the bright smiles on the faces of the flight attendants, the crew, the passengers… and me.

I have no clue who Mason is.  I don’t know his story.  I overheard that he was headed to Orlando, so I think he is a child, but why is he going there? What made this trip so special that a team pulled together to create a thing of such joy for him, for themselves and for all of us who were brief witnesses to the moment?

The background of his story may be bright or perhaps tragic.  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.  What hit home for me is how someone on that flight crew cared deeply about someone they barely knew, had an idea and led others with love.

The notion of love in leadership may be controversial.  As we build our careers, we focus on learning the ropes, connecting the dots, generating the ROI and building a great strategic plan.  Those are all necessary components to any great business.  But where is the love?  Where is the emotional connection that is so fierce, so deep and so passionate that it leads you to chase dreams, move mountains and inspires others to follow?  Data, metrics and business plans provide a framework for any good enterprise.  Companies and leaders become great though when they inspire people to believe, to get uncomfortable, to go out on a limb and to give.  We have to take that risk and bring love into the equation.  It’s love for the company, it’s culture, it’s team and its customers.     It’s spending the time to get to know someone else’s dreams, what they want to achieve, and then committing full force… being there to help them achieve that dream.  It’s investing in what’s in it for someone else.  It reaps greater rewards for the giver than you can ever accrue for.  Even more, it reaps rewards for your team as they invest emotionally.  They go father, reach higher, work harder and smile wider.  They’ve shared the joy.

I still don’t know Mason and his story.  I think it’s better that way.  What I do know is that Mason was a king this morning, and whatever mountain he may need to climb, he is stronger today and has a hundred strangers cheering him on from the sidelines.  I’m among them.

Traveling on business has its perks.  Frequent flier programs can get you a window over an aisle, free wifi and sometimes, a front row seat to greatness.

How can you lead your life with love today?  Who will be your Mason?

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A Birthday Card to Mom

MomToday is my Mom’s birthday.  I’m on the road right now, so I sent flowers and called, but I still did not feel like I did enough.  And as I sat here in the hotel tonight, I started to think about how I viewed my Mom way back when and how I see her today.

Way back when – aka in my foolish teenage years – I loved my Mom and was absolutely certain that I was smarter than she was and knew more than she did.  Kind of a given for a teenager.  I thought Mom was beautiful.  Picture Mia Farrow, and you’re seeing my Mom.  She has always been one of a kind too: a little kooky.  Our house was filled with strays of the canine and human persuasion.  Mom couldn’t sing, but she sure did blast those Broadway records at full tilt boogie.  And with as many siblings as I’ve got, our house was raucous to say the least – balancing right on the edge of joy and madness.  I remember Mom standing in the middle of it all, always full of folksy sayings: trying to teach us – sometimes hollering over us – the things we may need to know as we grew.  We colored on the walls, ate dessert for breakfast and generally figured we ignored her advice.  And now I am grown with a family of my own.  I see my Mother when I look in the mirror.  I hear her voice come out of my mouth.  And I’ve realized how much she taught me when I didn’t think I was learning.  To celebrate her today, here are a few of my favorite Mom moments.

1.   Were you born in a barn?  (Also, known at dinnertime by the variant “Close your mouth. You look like a cow chewing its cud.”)  My Mom was raised on a farm, so we got a lot of country references when Mom talked about manners.  Manners were big for her.  She taught us to say please and thank you, of course.  And she also taught us that the world may judge you by your manners as well.  Being polite and considerate, thanking people, being gracious – they are points of entry into business today, and while they may not be directly acknowledged, they are noticed and appreciated.

2.   Just put ice cream on your cereal instead.  OK, so Mom usually resorted to this when we ran out of milk, but to a kid, ice cream on cereal is paradise so we were happy.  We ate ice cream for breakfast more than once.  Mom was resourceful.  Mom was creative.  She encouraged that in us kids too.  When she ran into a challenge, she found a solution, turned a tough time into something fun and moved right along.  Times will be tough for all of us at one point or another.  What matters is how we respond to problems and find creative answers.

3.   Time to get dewormed.  Now, that sounds icky, especially when you know that no one in the family (canine or human) ever actually needed to get dewormed.   But Mom was all about preventative measures.  Sometimes, even if everything seems fine, it’s still worth digging a little deeper to make sure things really are as good as they seem.  They well may be.  Or, you could find something that needs tending to.

4.   Don’t forget where you came from.  Mom has regaled me with stories of how my ancestors fought in the American Revolution and others worked on the Underground Railroad; how Dad ran secrets for the Filipino Guerrillas and Resistance forces during the Japanese occupation in WWII; how my Aunties had the most beautiful hands and made the best longanisa (which is very, very true).  In fact, I’m still hearing new stories today.  Mom taught me to be proud of my heritage – that my ancestors stood up for what they believed in and I should too.  She taught me that I am part of something so much more than just “me” and that Family, both gone and yet to come, is your true legacy.

5.   Patience is a virtue.  In this world of instant gratification, it’s easy to forget that some things are worth the wait.  This is a hard one for me, but it is true.  I found my career late, my husband late… found myself late.  They were worth the wait.  Today, I find that I say this same thing often to my children and to myself.  Day to day goals and pressures can make you crazy.  Set a long term goal.  Know what you stand for.  Then slow down, enjoy the ride and keep your eye on the finish line.  It’s a good one, after all.  Now, Mom: I know you are probably mortified that I wrote this tonight (especially # 3), and I hope you know I wrote this with love.  I treasure you.  I treasure what you taught me. You are more beautiful today than you were all those years ago, and I am so darn grateful for you and all that I’ve learned.  I succeed at business and life because of the sturdy foundation you and Dad built.

Happy Birthday, Mom.