Finally, a new year’s resolution I can get excited about.
As I sat down to figure out our plan to say goodbye to 2018, I first stole a glance of a few pages in my newest read TED Talks, The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, required reading for our upcoming proposal for a TEDx talk. I landed on chapter 4 which focused on the through line. They describe it as the connecting theme that ties together each narrative element. From the Collins Dictionary: “a theme or idea that runs from the beginning to the end of a book, film, etc.”
In my holiday reflective mood, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What is MY through line?” What are those of my family, my friends? At Journeous we talk often about career prototyping and the key step most of us miss, which is to reflect on our experiences. What if, instead of starting by looking through the windshield, we began by checking the rear view mirror? What might we learn about 2019 by reflecting on the themes of 2018?
Putting the past behind us doesn’t mean that we have to forget about it, never to make the same choices again, or worse, make ourselves feel like we aren’t good enough and therefore need to resolve to be something more.
Rather than building the feeling that you need to somehow be better in 2019 than you were in 2018, what if you embrace the experiences the last year has given you and build on them? Reflect, rather than resolve. What did you learn? Where did you go? Who did you meet? How can you take the experiences you had along the way and use them to build yourself up? Capture what you’ve seen and enjoyed, what you struggled with, what you want to memorialize.
No matter where you are in your journey and what your through line of 2018 may be, pause and remind yourself: “I am enough.” And – what will my through line of 2019 be?
Here’s to a new year’s resolution that we can all hang onto.
Picture yourself holding one single flower seed between your fingers.
It may sound a bit odd, but trust me on this one.
Now you take that seed and plant it in a pot filled with soil. You spray some water on it and put it by the window to get some light. Over time, you continue to take care of its needs by watering it and trimming the dead branches. Eventually, the flower begins to take form and its colorful petals start to show. In this way, you get to see the results of your own efforts, a physical manifestation of the decisions you took to give that seed a chance to grow.
This same happens to us throughout our life – we are our own seed. From the moment we are born, our life is made by a series of decisions that impact that way we flourish and evolve. The beauty behind this is that, while life at times may seem like a big garden, we must remember that each seed still embarks on its own personal growth.
You see, I always felt like all the decisions in my life had already been made for me. Life to me seemed to come with a series of instructions: I had to go to school, get good grades, complete a college degree, find a job, buy a house, get married. The endless pursuit of the next decision of what I “should” be doing overpowered the present moment. I was searching for opportunities, wanted to follow new trends, placed expectations on my future, but never really took the time to stop, take a look around, and appreciate myself for who I already am.
This was until I was introduced to Journeous; through their interactive workshops of introspective questions, I discovered the power of decision-making and understanding the true motive behind those decisions I made. Yes, life had given me direction, but it was up to me to recognize and accept my own authenticity to be capable of working towards my true purpose in life.
I realize now that success isn’t necessarily about making choices, but about understanding why you are making those choices. When you decided to water your seed, it was because you realized that the soil was too dry. When you placed it on the window to give it day light, you figured it needed some nutrients to grow. When you trimmed the damaged branches, you saw they were getting in the way of its healthy roots.
Every decision has a reason, but it’s only when we observe and reflect about our actions that we become aware of what those reasons truly are. Our life is a reflection of our own beliefs and emotions. We have shaped our own reality and hold the power of our personal growth. While planning for the future may be inevitable, it is important to realize who we are and where we come from for us to move along a path that fits to our world.
But self-awareness is easier said than done. We may think we know ourselves, but do we really?
What is your own definition of happiness? Do you know what your true potentials are? What are some habits that form your personality?
It’s okay to not have all the answers, but we can only create our path by wanting to discover them.
Join me in The Self-Power Club series and, together with Journeous, let’s find the true power of who we are and who we can become to be.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein
Join us for occasional installments of The Self-Power Club, authored by students for students, as we explore personal journeys through career development and self reflection.
Last week as I was wrapping up a college workshop I’d facilitated, I shared what’s always a fun discussion – the mistakes I’ve made and lessons they’ve taught me over a couple of decades of work. One that always makes me smile is one of my first boss’s words of wisdom. He told me, “Success is based on three things: Luck, sponsorship and timing.”
At the time I brushed it off. I’d grown up hearing that success was about working hard, not something as uncontrollable as luck or timing. And sponsorship I chalked up as being synonymous with colleagues thinking highly of you. In retrospect I realize how naive I’d been.
Looking back, I can see how luck and timing worked both for me and against me at different times. But sponsorship was something I didn’t fully appreciate. The impact of a true sponsor is invaluable, and is different than those of mentors, which tend to get a lot more press.
There’s lots written about the power of mentors – and mentors are indeed great to have. I’ve mentored more than a hundred people in my career and while I care about their success, I’m not invested in it.
A sponsor, though, is different. As pointed out by Heather Foust-Cummings at Catalyst Research Center for Equity in Business Leadership, “A mentor will talk with you, but a sponsor will talk about you.” In other words, they’re the people who will be advocating for you even when you’re not in the room.
Because of this, sponsoring also means a sponsor is putting her or his reputation on the line – so sponsorship has to be earned. As Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of “Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor” puts it: “A senior person is not going to go out of their way unless you have proven your worth.” While sponsors are key in moving up the corporate ladder, Hewlett adds that “There is no way up in any career where you don’t need sponsorship,” says Hewlett. “At the end of the day, you need a powerful person to open doors for you.” So sponsors are at least as important to entrepreneurs as they are to those working their way up through big companies.
Twenty years after my boss shared his wisdom, I experienced one of the most visible examples of sponsorship I’ve benefited from in my career. My most recent sponsor, Orlando Harris, director of Career Services and Leadership Development at San Francisco State University, was one of our very early Journeous clients and exemplified what great sponsors do. He saw the connection between our solution and its ability to move the needle on key initiatives he and his team were focused on. But he recognized that his customers – SFSU students – wouldn’t get the full benefit if he implemented it in the traditional manner.
Instead of walking away, he engaged faculty partners in coming up with a shared solution. He championed getting our proposal funded and approved internally. He kept in close contact with the faculty and students who were part of Journeous to get their perspective. He proactively shared the early outcomes we were seeing with school leadership, reinforcing early support and generating interest from other faculty members.
As all sponsors do, Orlando took a calculated risk. In the process, we’ve built a mutual respect and appreciation for the other’s work and a true partnership that I think he would agree has benefited us both. Not every sponsor has the vision or the commitment to create meaningful change that Orlando has. But if you want to increase your odds of finding and developing a great sponsor, here are five ways you can do so. While luck has its place, you might not want to rely on it when it comes to developing great sponsors.
I visited my mom over the weekend who’s now firmly in the grip of her Parkinson’s disease. As it’s continued its progression, my sister and I have reminded her, often, to exercise, since that’s been shown to have some benefit against the uphill battle she faces. She’s gone along reluctantly in an effort to slow down the rapid march of the disease. But as my sister says, she’s now in the twilight of her life. When we’re honest, we all realize that any change will have a limited impact.
At dinner I encouraged her to take one of the trainers from the gym up on his offer to help her use a special walker-type contraption to make water exercise easier, since that’s the one type she’s usually up for. She nodded that it would be a good idea… but something told me that she was just placating me. So I said to her, “Really? Do you honestly think it’s a good idea? And are you really going to do it?” And she looked at me, paused the couple of minutes it now takes her to respond, and said, “No.”
My initial reaction was to be annoyed. But I thought for a minute and realized that it took guts for her to claim what none of us wanted to hear. She wanted something different for herself than we did, and she was going to do what she wanted to do. I realized in that moment that to try to convince her otherwise would make me a hypocrite.
We talk to young adults regularly about the power of owning their own values, interests and skills and making decisions that align with them. Sometimes those decisions are in line with what others around them want them to pursue – and often they’re not. Their friends, family and bosses are largely well meaning – they want what they think is best for them.
Having the courage to own what’s important to you when it’s different than what those around you believe takes bravery, strength and clarity.
While listening to guidance and insight from those who care can be invaluable, sometimes it’s useful to remember that guidance and feedback is a gift – and comes with a gift receipt. For my mom, she’ll benefit from less nagging – which isn’t bad. But I think about what happens when all of us get to make decisions about jobs and careers that fit with us. When we balance listening to those we trust with putting at least as much trust in our own intuition. As Beyonce said: “Don’t try to lessen yourself for the world. Let the world catch up to you.”
We recently sat down with Anja Bolbjerg of Athlete Story, a business focused on helping athletes transition from sports to new careers.
Pam was joined by former elite squash player Katherine Johnson (who we were honored to speak with at the Miami EY Women Athletes Business Network), and discussed the art of story telling and transitions: what should you do next?
It’s targeted to athletes, but has advice anyone looking to make a transition in careers can follow. Check it out!
At dinner recently, my husband asked about a workshop I’d facilitated, which led my daughter to ask about the specifics of what we’d talked about that day. My twins are now past the age where I can get away with a one-liner response they don’t understand. In true Elizabeth Warren fashion, “She persisted.” What exactly did we do in the workshop?
I shared that we were working with participants to uncover their values, and then capture them in the stories they tell about themselves. Stories she understood. Values, not so much. My daughter’s questions made me realize just how abstract personal values can be. Continue reading