Creativity Challenge: Doodling (Day 4)

My brain just needed a break tonight so I doodled. I don’t know that I feel like I’m getting more creative but I definitely feel like my brain is relaxing a little!  

#creativitychallenge Day 4 ✅

30 Days of Creativity: new business ideas (Day 3)

Attention wannabe entrepreneurs!  For day 3 of the Inc. article challenge (after about 15 minutes of over-analyzing what I should do) I decided to start a list of business ideas. It was surprisingly tough. I spent the most time on this challenge and didn’t come up with much. I’ll probably add to this in a future day. 

You can tell the state of my personal life is all about time management and making life easier. I would fuuuurrrr reeeeaaaaal pay some serious cash for a couple of these services (ahem, Stitch Fix service for family pictures and some type of in-home meal prep that actually results in meals that are fast, delicious, and healthy). 

I also don’t get why Apple hasn’t pulled its stuff together, stopped worrying about the dang headphone situation so much, and made a phone that can take two numbers. I see so many other people at work who are carrying around a personal and work phone. I don’t want to use my work phone as my personal phone. I need more life separation than that.  But I’m sick of carrying two phones around and the biggest deal is just getting two different numbers so I can have some separation. Ugh.  Pull yourself together, Apple or Google, and figure out a viable solution that works.  I’ve already put this idea out on Facebook for you to grab. I can’t do EVERYTHING for you. 

Enough about that. Let’s talk B2B. I’m experiencing some serious pain points around a need to benchmark new ways of doing things merged with lack of large funds to hire expensive consultants and lack of time to chase down a bunch of companies to personally talk to me and also figure out who is even the right person with the right information. As much as I ❤️ HBR, it’s just not cutting it in this case. I need more in-depth case studies or information and I need to be able to pay for it on an as-needed basis. I don’t need some companies annual subscription to get “thought leadership” that’s as deep as the kiddy pool. I need more meat, in less time, on more specific topics, on an as-needed basis. Mmmmmmkay?  

Maybe someday I’ll stop whining about what the world needs to do for me and I’ll act on one of these ideas. Bills, babies, and actually liking my job means that day is not today. 

Day 3 #creativitychallenge ✅

30 Days of Creativity: drawing (Day 1)

I saw an article on Inc. that was about how creating something (anything) every day for 30 days could change your life. We are content consumers and our brains are on overload. I know this is true for me.  Creativity drives more observant behavior, more mindfulness, and letting go of perfectionism. The article listed a bunch of other benefits but those are the ones that resonated with me. 

So, I’ve accepted the challenge and am setting out to create something every day for 30 days. At a minimum, I’m hoping to break through some big picture mental blocks I’ve been having at work. Ideal state, something even bigger comes out of this. Who knows. 

I spent a lot of time overthinking how I could kick this challenge off with a bang. I got stuck in analysis paralysis so I sat down with the basic intention to draw. I didn’t know what to draw so I just started with something that’s been on my mind: the lung cancer awareness ribbon. I have been trying to find a lung cancer yard sign since it’s Lung Cancer Awareness month so this is what evolved naturally from that simple starting point.  My first inclination is to explain why I don’t like it because it’s not creative enough but, no, I’m not going to do that. I am just going to let it be. 

Day 1 of the #creativitychallenge ✅. 

30 Days of Creativity: making a list of ideas (Day 2)

I can already tell this is going to start reaaaaallly stretching me pretty soon. I had a tough time figuring out what to do for today’s creative activity because *surprise surprise* I over-analyzed it.  So many options or zero options?  It’s tough for my brain to decide. I finally checked out the list of suggestions from the article and settled on making a list of ideas. 

I focused on how I can be more effective with my time and how I would use that time. The gist of it is I need to limit my screen time and be more planful when it comes to routine needs like grocery shopping and about how I approach my work day. Nothing too earth shattering there but the hard part is implementing it. Basically what someone needs to do is create an app that only lets me on certain applications (ahem, Facebook) at certain times of the day that I define. Since that doesn’t seem to be an option, I am going to start by leaving my phone 10-15 feet from my bed so I have to get out bed when my alarm goes off and I’m going to get a regular meal-planning and grocery ordering cadence going that isn’t on a weekend day. 

As for how I would spend my time, it comes down to hanging out with my kids (and I now have a list of a bunch of specific activities for next time we are wondering what to do on a Saturday), spending time with my husband doing date nights and allocating time for us to brainstorm our dreams (we are cheesy like that), and volunteering. I love to volunteer and used to do it fairly regularly. Getting married and having kids stopped that so I’d like to get back to it. 
I’d be curious to know how others are efficient with their time!

#creativitychallenge Day 2 ✅

A new kind of sadness.

I’ve lost people I’ve loved before so I thought I knew how it felt to be incredibly sad. You know, the kind where your heart physically aches and it feels like the world stops for a moment. I dealt with unexpected death when my aunt Kim died at age 49 in 2011 and my grandpa died at age 76 in 2013. I experienced the loss of someone who significantly shaped my personality when my grandma passed away at age 91 in 2012. But, for me, finding out my mom has stage IV lung cancer has been a new kind of sad. I haven’t yet found the words to describe the devastation.

I found out about my mom’s cancer the day I returned from a work trip to China. My mom told me over the phone and it was the kind of conversation where my brain shut down and refused to absorb anything she said. I thought it was the jet lag, but now I know it was the beginning of my emotional rollercoaster that has included denial, hope, anger, and frustration. I never really understood in movies how people’s first reaction to sad news is to be destructive or completely lose all self-control, but when I found out my mom had lung cancer I wanted to smash something. Or throw something. Or both.

I knew it was bad that first day when she told me it had metastasized to her bones, around her heart and along her spine. But, I’ve tried to maintain hope. I had hope that they missed something and it really wasn’t in her bones… but it is. I had hope she would have been in the 7% who are candidates for targeted chemo drugs… but she isn’t. Now I have hope that the chemo will shrink her tumor and the Mayo Clinic will have some cutting edge treatment that will completely cure her.

Deep-down I know that, short of a miracle, the best we can hope for are a few really good years with my mom. It feels like a betrayal to her to say that because I know she needs our strength and positivity to fight. But, when I let my guard down and really think about what we’ve learned about her situation the past few weeks my sadness inevitably creeps in.

I am sad because it’s not fair.

My mom is only 56 years old. She has been to the doctor countless times for back pain or a cough in the past year and they never thought to check for cancer. She quit smoking 16 years ago, lost 50 pounds and became very health-conscious. My grandma smoked for over 75 years and lived until she was 91. This is why I just assumed my mom would live until 90 because that’s how it should work.

That is what is fair.

This is not fair.

I am sad because I just started to understand how much I appreciate her when I had my son last year.

I’ve always loved my mom but I haven’t been great about prioritizing my mom. One thing those closest to me know is I am guilty of living in my own little world. I like to set goals and I become immersed in achieving those goals. School. Work. Running. This means I haven’t always made time for my mom to chat, go shopping or have lunch. I was too busy living in my own world. I realized this last year when I had my son, Luca. I understood that all the love I have for him, she has for me. Having my son has strengthened my relationship with her. I’ve loved sharing my life as a mom with her.

I am sad because my kids won’t get to grow up with such a vibrant and loving grandma.

This has been the hardest for me. I’ve had many wonderful memories with my mom and know we will still have many more together. I will get to cherish those for the rest of my life, but Luca is still so young and will likely know my mom mostly through stories I pass along, pictures I share, and videos we’ve taken.

I am sad because I just am.

I am usually a very positive person. I genuinely believe good things happen to good people. I think society is getting better, not worse. I don’t dwell on what isn’t within our control. So this is new for me. It’s an emotion that is difficult to accept but also difficult to deny. I am trying to cherish the time and memories I have with my mom but also grieving that she could be taken from this world way too soon.

Now, I must wipe my tears away, focus on the good times ahead with my mom, and hope that modern medicine can work its magic.

12 Days That Will Unknowingly Change You Forever

This article will take you on a walk down memory lane. These are some of the memories it generated for me:

  • My aunt passed away unexpectedly. I think about her at least a few times a week and am reminded of how much I loved her, miss her, and how fickle life can truly be.
  • I remember the day I was relaxing on my townhome couch, about a month after I bought it, and thought to myself, “On the balance sheet of my life, I now own this incredible asset… all by myself!”
  • I am making my 21 year-old self proud. The long hours at work, piles of homework, and mountain of student loans are paying off.
  • I have fantastic friends I’ve acquired over the years from various points in my life. I’ve purposefully stopped being friends with not-so-fantastic friends and it made me a better person.
  • I felt like I was in Sex & the City when I met Matt. It was exactly as described in this post – I decided to love myself more and ditch the jerks. A month later, I met my wonderful husband.

It’s worth a read (and maybe it will be the catalyst in #1 to change your life).

Thought Catalog

1. One day, while you’re running on auto-pilot through your daily routine, worrying about whatever it is you deem worthy of concern, questioning the past and considering the future, evaluating yourself with judgment for every way you haven’t lived up to your ideals for the day, a striking thought will cross you. The future is today. This is the life you’ve spent years planning out and waiting for, but you’re not the person you pictured would be living it. It’s in this moment that people make a decision that defines the rest of their lives. They either sit in the remnants of who they could be or they realize that the only person they can accomplish being is who they are on that imperfect, ordinary day. The people who live the happiest lives are the latter.

2. The day you meet your first, not-out-of-convenience, real friend. I’m not talking about…

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Lean In: my takeaways

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Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg is the ‘It’ book for women right now. I like to think of myself as a hip person (which is obviously not true since I just used the word “hip”) so I had to read it. Ok, I actually read it because my curiosity was piqued by the range of reviews – it’s great, it’s bad, it blames women too much, it is too idealistic, etc, etc, etc.   

My high-level review of the book is that I would give it 5 stars as an introduction to a topic that requires more depth. Sandberg keeps it high level and shies away from getting more specific about how women can really “lean in”.  What I’m hoping is this book is just a starting point for a more detailed discussion about women in the workplace.  The two most important points of the book for me were that: you still have to pursue the opportunity and women are too hard on each other (this isn’t a new learning for me, but it is always a good reminder to work against this phenomenon).

 

Connections are important, but you still have to do the work and pursue the opportunity.

It is easy to dismiss Sandberg’s success and, therefore, her advice because 99.9% of women can’t relate to her life. She is COO of Facebook and probably makes more money in one year than the average reader makes in 10 years. (sidenote: I just looked it up – her salary + bonus is probably 10x, but her stock options are akin to winning the lottery)  She has ‘made it’ – and she did so with an Ivy League education and a lot of connections along the way (seriously, who works at the White House while they are still in High School?!).

The reality is these are not good reasons to dismiss her advice.  She is where she is today because she was willing to leverage those connections and, most importantly, to put in the hard work along the way. Her connections and education opened the doors, but she still had to come up with the ideas and do the work that made her successful.  Networking and connections are very important, which I talked about in my last post (way back in February — don’t judge, I’ve been busy!).  But, they are like a resume. They will get you an interview and maybe a job, but they won’t make you good at the job. That is up to you.

I think the more important point she makes in this part of the book is that women tend to make career decisions in anticipation of future events, rather than waiting to see how events unfold. You need to build a good, authentic network and work hard, but first you have to be willing to even pursue the new opportunities. Women have the tendency to go for roles they believe will fit better with married life or family life. She provides an example where one female was worried about this before she had even had a boyfriend! The point she makes is: don’t limit yourself based on assumptions of what it will be like, because you don’t actually know until you try. I’ve worked with some amazing women leaders who also balance a family. It is hard and requires a lot of support from their husbands and family, but they make it work.   

 

Women need to stop being so hard on each other.

This is so true. This topic is worthy of having its very own chapter in the book. Sandberg covers two main competitions between women: as rivals in the workplace and the mommy wars.

In the first part of the chapter, Sandberg discusses and gives examples of women who undercut each other because they think there is only room for one of them to move up the ladder. I can honestly say I haven’t experienced this kind of female rivalry in the workplace. This could be due to the fact that, up until last month, I worked in a very male dominated function or because I tend to seek out people who have a more positive attitude. I don’t want to dismiss her examples because I’m sure this is true in some environments, but I’d say the rivalry for promotions is not gender specific.  

In the second half of the chapter, Sandberg discusses the divide between mothers who work outside the home and mothers who work inside the home. Once a day, I can count on an article in my Facebook news feed making one of these points: I’m not a bad mom for working outside the home, working inside the home doesn’t mean I just sit on the couch all day, people without kids don’t understand my life as a parent, and people with kids judge my decision not to have kids and don’t take my life seriously. If there isn’t judgment being passed about work choices, then it’s parenting decisions. I’m quite frankly amazed that we don’t have more criminals among us because that is obviously what the wrong sleep strategy or food regimen will create.

I’ll add a third group to what Sandberg discusses: females who aren’t mothers. I don’t have kids, but I have experienced the mommy wars. These are some of the most memorable comments I’ve received personally – “you want someone else to raise your kids so you’ll send them to daycare”, “it’s a fact that kids with two working parents just don’t turn out to be good kids.”, “you will change your mind about your career when you have kids.” Keep in mind that I don’t even have kids and people already have opinions about my parenting decisions that I haven’t even made… because, like I said, I don’t actually have kids (but I do want kids, if that counts). I’m sure these people believe they’re somehow preparing me for parenthood or giving me a different perspective to consider (or they really are just preemptively calling me a bad parent… who knows). 

To tie my tangent back to Lean In, Sandberg concludes the chapter by suggesting that women take life decisions made by other women too personally. I know this well and I’m sure there are a lot more women out there nodding their heads in agreement now. If a woman decides to work at home, it isn’t a reflection of what she thinks about the mom who works outside the home (or vice-versa). If a woman is happy being really good at her job, rather than striving for a CEO position, that decision should be supported and appreciated. The general message is this: rather than finding fault with one another, why don’t we seek to learn from the strengths of one another?

 

In summary… 

I suggest this book to everyone. Although it is a women’s leadership book, it transcends business and women. The ideas of being present, not being afraid to contribute ideas, and working together to make each other stronger are not gender-specific or business-only lessons. It is a quick and light read, but it forces you to ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I holding myself back because I’m making too many assumptions about what will happen? (just try it and see what happens!)
  • Am I contributing my ideas?
  • Am I building constructive, rather than destructive, relationships in my career and life?