Managing The Hell Out Of Life — Telling It How It Really Is
This is the second instalment in my series entitled ‘managing the hell out of life.’ The series is an eclectic collection of observations I have made about life — in the hope they can change our perspective for the better.
How I learnt about leadership
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
-John Quincy Adams
For me leadership didn’t start when I entered the work-place nor when I entered school — it started at home.
I saw leadership when my dad would do jobs and refuse to take money from the people he had helped because they had even less money then we did
I saw leadership when my mum would spend hours trudging around houses selling hampers and running a home catalogue so that we could have money for presents at Christmas
I saw leadership when my sisters stepped into to deal with some violent bullies at school who had hurt me without having to lift a hand
I saw leadership when our swimming coaches, all volunteers gave up 10 plus hours per week to stand on a pool side to help us become the best swimmers we could even at 6am in the morning
I saw leadership when my mum marched into the school after a teacher had wrongly accused me of stealing from my friend and didn’t leave until I was moved classes
I saw leadership when my dad drove for 14 hours solid from France because I was ill, we didn’t have travel insurance and I needed a doctor
I saw true leadership when times were tough. It consisted of courage, resilience and kindness.
Understanding what is of value
This is the view that I get up to every morning — along with ducks, chickens, dogs, rabbits and, of course, kids.
This is why I no longer earn a 6 figure salary and jump with joy when I find Aldi selling a Jo Malone like product for £2.79.
Value can be experienced in many ways, the size of a salary is just one of them.
And yes I know that bills still have to be paid and food put on the table but there are different ways of achieving this.
When I earned 6 figures, I employed an army of people to help me — I needed approx £4k per month just to keep the show on the road at home.
I didn’t have a relationship with the people who kept the ‘show on the road’, I wrote them long ‘to-do’ lists everyday. I didn’t really know my children as I saw so little of them. And I couldn’t work out why I felt so empty when I ‘had so much’.
But of course, it was like filling up on sugar — I was consuming empty calories. My work no longer inspired me, there was no real purpose to it other than to generate money and that was soulless and soul destroying.
The point to this post is that we have to have a purpose, something that makes our hearts sing. Sometimes that means a 6 figure salary and sometimes it doesn’t. That is not the measure of success having a purpose is.
Sharing our stories to help others
When I was diagnosed with post-natal depression, one of the things I decided very early on was to be honest and open about it.
I did that because I hid in the shadows for too long, ashamed of how I felt and that I couldn’t hold it all together because I believed other people could.
The reality was, for a significant number of people in my peer group, they weren’t holding it together at all. They just weren’t saying that’s all.
Had I known that, my path would have been easier to navigate, my expectations more realistic and I could have reached out for help earlier.
And that’s why I share, because sharing helps others understand that we all have peaks and troughs and everyone has their battles — that’s just life and actually that’s ok.
Catching people before they fall
I was out shopping with my children today. We walked past an elderly gentleman. I looked back, he had fallen, heavily on the floor.
I dropped my bags and ran back to help. The children followed, they know the drill. If someone needs help we go.
He was ok, we got a chair from the shop opposite to sit him on and luckily no major damage has been caused. His knee had simply given way whilst he was trying to walk.
His wife was there and holding my arm said “thank you so much to everyone for all of your help”. Her vulnerability and relief at the support and compassion of strangers was palpable.
But it made me think, let’s not wait for someone to fall in life before stepping in and let’s not fall in life before asking for help.
Today was a good day, we got to help someone when they needed it.
It would be great to a achieve that everyday.
That’s a KPI I can work to.
Fear versus trust
A couple of thoughts on fear versus trust.
One is finite the other infinite.
One grows stagnant whilst the other flows.
One becomes too full to allow anything or anyone in whilst the other always has room.
It doesn’t have to be a ‘leap of faith’ choosing trust over fear, it can just be common sense.
Passion and purpose
I read a lot about finding your passion and your purpose in life.
I may be atypical but I don’t think it’s that easy.
You don’t just wake up one day and ‘get it’ nor do I believe that it’s one constant thing throughout your life.
For me, Mother Nature, fate, reality whatever you what to call it has generally had to step in as I’ve been too blinkered, suborn and afraid of change to follow the signs. Somewhat ironic given my career in transformation but as the saying goes ‘the cobblers children never have any shoes’.
It has only been in the face of adversity that I finally get ‘something’, see a purpose and have allowed myself to feel and escape into a passion.
So, I guess it’s not about waiting for a eureka moment, a revolution, finding a quick fix or being saved. It’s just not going to happen and if it does it won’t be sustainable. Just like crash diets ultimately fail so will a life without genuine intent and truth.
I think it’s about:
- Embracing life, both the good and the bad
- Being open minded and curious
- Being patient
- Following your gut instinct
- Being brave enough to stick with your instinct no matter what conventional wisdom tells you
I haven’t crashed and burned yet despite a few close calls so maybe there is something in this.
Presenting who you really are
I’ve changed my LinkedIn profile. I changed it because I don’t want to present an ‘air brushed’ version of my ‘best self’. I want to present my true self.
I decided to do this because I realised that I will not attract people with whom I can make a real connection or find ‘my tribe’ if I do not present my authentic self.
So I’ve taken out many of the professional buzzwords that people often search for and replaced them with words that more honestly represent who I am, what I am interested in and what I do.
Again, it’s not a classic career move but one that gives me a better chance of meeting people who I can truly learn from, share my journey and hopefully also help them on their’s.
Let’s re-define success based on who we really are not who other people think you should be.
The irony of life
The irony of life. It’s all about reverse engineering . Upside down. Arse about face. Whatever description or metaphor you choose, it’s an inverse relationship.
- The beauty is always in the imperfection.
- I only started to appreciate life when I saw others loose theirs.
- I only started to accumulate real wealth when I reached my credit card limits
- I only experienced authentic relationships when I was too vulnerable to make any
- I only understood the impact of my actions when I looked at the scars inflicted on me by others
- I only understood my value when I admitted my failings
- I only worked out how to do something by getting it wrong in the first place
- I only learnt how to be truly sorry when others couldn’t forgive me
I’m not ‘there’, I’ll never be ‘there’ but now that I can accept that, I can focus on what is within my gift not outside of it.
Living to your values
I was interviewed via phone today to become part of a ‘prestigious’ network of women leaders. During the call I realised several things:
1. I have no real desire to be validated by the network. I simply want to interact with interesting people, with common values and to be intellectually stimulated.
2. When asked what I was most proud of in my career to date I found myself struggling to answer despite having been pretty successful (I think!). So I responded by saying that I was most proud of the fact that I was brave enough to step off the career ladder (career suicide be damned), face up to my post-natal depression and focus on my family when they needed me most. And then to come back, an improved version of my former self, unashamed to share my personal challenges, with a real desire to use them in a positive way to helps others.
3. I wanted to and indeed did cut the call short as my son needed to be back at school for his play and that was more important to me than obtaining a place in the network.
Despite all of this, they still wanted to offer me a place. There are costs involved so I’ve declined as the costs will eat into my family holiday budget.
Not a classic set of career moves it has to be said but true to my values.
Humanity as a foundation
If we start with humanity as our foundation and build from there we get:
- Compassion and understanding
- Trust and courage
- Relationships and connections
- Passion and motivation
- Creativity and innovation
- Value and purpose
And then we see that:
- Problems become solvable
- Potential becomes endless
- Happiness becomes reality
Embrace your humanity, trust and care for people, don’t fear and reject them as you will simply harm yourself.
Telling the truth
Being truthful can hurt, avoiding the truth can be harmful.
Telling the truth isn’t always easy but if it is done with the right intent and in the right way it can be liberating for all concerned.
What does telling the truth mean?
1. Telling your partner the truth about how you feel even if that means you don’t love them. Everyone deserves to be loved, if that’s not possible for you, set them free so that someone else can love them
2. Telling someone that the job is not for them. Everyone deserves to be given the chance to reach their true potential, if that’s not possible in their current role help them find where it is
3. Telling a friend why people retreat from them. Everyone deserves to have friends they can turn to in times of need and happiness. If they are pushing them away help them understand how to pull them in or whether they are really their friends
4. Telling yourself what it is that you really want despite the judgements or preconceptions of others. Everyone deserves to be ‘whole’, authentic and happy. Lying to yourself denies you the very things that make your existence of value to you and others.
To tell the truth with compassion and the right intent is where true freedom can be found.
It might appear bizarre, morbid or arrogant to write your own Eulogy. Even so, I’ve had a go at mine, to give me something to work back from while I’m still in a position to actually do something about it.
Life is a tricky programme to plan, you don’t have a ‘go-dead’ date or pre-agreed milestones.
It’s a lesson in ‘organic planning’, setting a direction, mapping a course, being brave enough to allow the programme to evolve and agile enough to respond to the unknowns. You need to test your outcomes quickly, identify and ditch the failed ones and implement the successful ones like your life depended on it — as it may well.
In the final analysis, when the programme ends and it’s review time, there are 6 key things I would love someone to be able to say:
1. She loved and was loved unconditionally
2. She responded to adversity with courage, resilience and care
3. She identified and admitted her weaknesses and failings without doubt or fear of judgement
4. She took responsibility for her actions and the impact they had on others
5. Whenever she got knocked down by life, she got back up and tried again
6. She extended the hand of kindness and genuinely cared
And there is my strategic plan for the rest of my life.
Inspired by my dad
Being the change we want to see
We see and hear about awful events and incomprehensible thoughts. We respond, we argue, we rant, we rave.
Does it change anything? Sometimes but rarely.
We need to be smarter in the face of adversity. We need to use our creativity to out wit the foe, our intellect to blindside them, our voices to render theirs useless, our collaboration to take them on and our resilience to weaken them.
At an organisational level do not do business that enables fundamentally wrong outcomes, enable and support creative and constructive solutions
At a movement level, raise the volume of your message, widen your reach, increase the peer pressure, spell out the solutions — be heard, be seen, be there
At an individual level, share your thoughts constructively with a clear change in mind, join a movement, lend your voice, boycott the organisations enabling the negative outcomes — use your energy to care and to drive change no matter how small
No one action will change the wrongs of the world but collectively, being smart, being creative, being heard and being kind gives us a fighting chance.
Returning to work
I am one of the many 1,000’s of women who stepped of the career ladder to focus on their families.
But now I’ve returned, the children are getting older, my brain aches for stimulation and I am bursting with ideas — although sadly not energy whilst I move slowly through the menopause. Even so, my brain works perfectly well whether resting or working.
In all honesty my career break has enabled me to learn more than when I actually worked. I want to inspire and help move the world of organisational transformation on — to deliver truly effective change.
But make no mistake, I’m still a mum and homemaker — these roles will always be my top priority. I have no desire to return to a 60 hour working week, build an empire or be that important.
I just want to use my brain, to do what I do well, without compromising the very heart of me — my family. I don’t think that this requirement is gender specific nor only for parents. I think that this is just a basic need that we all have to make the very best of our lives.
We are in the midst of the Fourth Revolution — we are looking at how to create life on Mars, surely we can create a more meaningful way to work?
I believe that we make our own reality, anyone interested in joining mine?
The second act
I’m a 46 year old, menopausal woman who has recently returned to work after being a stay at home mum for the last few years. I’m not done with my career yet, in fact I’m just starting and I’ve learnt a few things along the way:
1. Motherhood does not have to be the end of your career. Taking time out, becoming a mother allowed me to discover parts of me that I did not even know existed. It developed my logistical and multi-tasking skills to a whole new level and allowed me to return to my career more focused, more creative and with a much clearer purpose. You know what, I think that everyone should take time out, it’s critical to make space, to think new thoughts and discover new parts of you
2. The menopause is crap but it makes you focus on your health, create time to rest and set some much needed boundaries
3. Grief can break you but then you get back up, truly understand your mortality and start to focus on what matters
4. Being a good parent is so hard it’s untrue, no work challenge comes close so everything becomes achievable
5. Age is liberating, you learn not give too many fxck’s (brilliant phrase Mark Manson), finally acquire some wisdom and ditch the ego.
Seize the day, it’s never too late to be who you are meant to be.
And on that note, I’ll end this collection of random observations on life — there will be many more to come I’m sure……..