Ramblings of a Creative Mind

Thoughts on Work and the World from an Executive Mom

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Hashtags and holding hands…

I stayed up late last night following the hashtag and watching the Twittersphere convulse in waves of shock at Robin Williams’ sudden death. I’m not sure why I tuned in when I should have been sleeping. Perhaps it was the sense of being part of a community – coming together in confusion, anger, grief or fear that someone who was part of our world is no longer. Whatever it was, it brought back memories.

I had a friend in college who struggled emotionally. She was gifted, brilliant and successful – and yet I would often walk in and find her sitting in the same place she was when I’d left hours before. In her pajamas. Silent. Barely breathing. Looking for the light. Outside of a small circle of friends, she was always “on” – vibrant and exciting, larger than life. Even her closest friends only saw hints of what ran underneath. I think the only reason I saw it was because we lived together, frankly. I had a front row seat, and it frightened me. I didn’t know what to do or say during her dark times. At first, I used to go to my room to give her some space. But I would sit in that room wondering if everything was alright… how long would it last? She told me once that suicide ran in her family. Should I be worried? After a while, my worry drove me out of my room and to the couch, where we would sit together in silence – watching TV and occasionally holding hands. I don’t know if it helped, but what I do know is that eventually something would break the sadness, and we’d end up laughing. Life would click back into a familiar rhythm. Things would be fine… for a while. In my youth, I thought she got “better.” Now, I wonder if she did. I hope she did. Since then, we’ve lost touch, but every now and again, I think about her: how she is… if she is well… if she still struggles today.

The truth of whole Twittersphere thing is that we were probably all drawn to it last night by something more personal. If someone so gifted, so brilliant and so successful could only find solace in an ending, how many “ordinary” people – people you and I see everyday – are fighting the same battle right now? Whether it’s Robin Williams, your college roommate, a neighbor or a loved one, someone you know is struggling as you read this. How hard do they fight to win one more day? How many people are losing that battle right now?

It’s easy to take someone at face value. You say “Hi, how are you?” and get “great!” in return. And maybe that’s true. But, what if someone actually said something else?

“I’m afraid…”
“I’m lonely…”
“I’m sad…”

Would you be surprised? Shocked? What would you do?

At our core, we’re often pretty perceptive people. We sense when something is off, even if we can’t put our finger on what it is. What if we paid more attention to those feelings? Made more of an effort to reach out or ask another question when something didn’t feel right?

Would it hurt? Not at all.
Would it help? I’d like to think so.
Maybe if we all reached out to hold someone’s hand, we could change a life.



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Staring Down Dragons

Reggio_calabria_museo_nazionale_mosaico_da_kaulonTomorrow is a big day for work.  We are sponsoring a large event, and I am representing my Company there.  It’s a newer territory for me, and there will be a lot of people I don’t know at the event.  Normally, I’m not one to stress in new situations.  In fact, I often speak publicly for work.  Yet, as I packed my bags tonight, I found myself worrying over things that I really never worry about: what dress should I wear?  Will the competitor onsite talk negatively about my Company or me?  What will I say?  Even now, over an hour after I have finished packing, my stomach is in knots, and I don’t want to get on the plane in the morning.

So what am I going to do?  Get on that darn plane, of course.  Wear my red “look at me” dress – secretly, it’s like armor to a knight – and go out there and face my fear.

Sooner or later, we all find ourselves in situations that make us uncomfortable – or downright freaked out, insecure and scared – at work or in life.  We feel “out of our league, out of our element” or maybe just “out to pasture.”  We tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough.  The competition is too fierce, knows more than we do or just may eat us alive.  Our skills “aren’t enough.”  We feel like a fraud.  Stewing alone in our insecurity, we imagine all the bad things that are going to happen and ultimately cause them to become so.  Our fear is a dragon, bellowing the fire of failure.

No one ever promised that things would be easy.  Many of the most successful people in work and life have faced significant hurdles to get where they are today.  It doesn’t matter what your dragon is: financial, the competition, doubt or inexperience.

What matters is how hard you are going to fight to defeat it.  The only way to advance in your career is to know what you are fighting for and how badly you want it.  Facing those fears is going to be hard – that’s a given.  It may even feel like it’s going to kill you.

It’s easy to be brave in the good times.  To measure who you really are, see how brave you can be in the bad times.  See how willing you are to fight for a good cause and for the people who are depending on you.

For the record, my stomach is still a wreck, and though I can’t figure out what I’m really afraid of, I just know that I am.  I also know that, tomorrow night, I am going to rock that red dress, represent my Company and my Team well, and slay whatever dragon is plaguing me tonight.  Once I do, I will know more about myself and be a better leader and mentor for the people that I am honored to serve each and every day.