Welcome back! I took a bit of a hiatus at the end of last year to rest, regroup and reflect on 2016. Of late, I have been hearing way too many stories about people namely bloggers and influencers that have effectively worked themselves to the point of being depleted. In one recent story, a woman worked so tirelessly that she ended up in a mental hospital towards the end of last year.
Why am I sharing this?
At the end of last year, I was lethargic and couldn’t get a hold of my energy. I wanted to understand why I felt so sluggish. It was at that point that I took to my Instagram to share my experience. Although hesitant to be this vulnerable, I was blown away by the response. Many of my friends and colleagues telling me it was the universe’s way of getting me to slow down.
And slow down, I did…
I took time to rest and reflect. I had plenty of ideas during this time. I didn’t launch anything; instead I wrote them down. I did not do any paid consulting work during this time. My days were spent in the present with my kids, reflecting on 2016 and looking forward to 2017.
What I discovered is I was beginning to recreate the very thing I ran from when I left my full-time position in 2014. That thing that I was recreating was an unhealthy balance between work and life. Suddenly, I remembered the reason why building my business was important. It was important because I wanted to do work I loved and to live my life fully. Living fully for me is being able to continue building my business while tending to the needs of my 3 kids. It’s to provide a nurturing home and environment for my husband who works tirelessly for us while also traveling the world. Living fully and success also looks like me getting back to hobbies that once meant the world to me.
Success is a word that gets thrown around rather loosely these days. Nevertheless, what I described above is what success means for me in my own life at the moment. Working to the point of being in a stupor or worse a padded-room is a long way from what it means to be successful.
When I had to think of one word I want to represent 2017, “preservation” came to mind. Due to many things in the past few years, I need and will preserve my energy, my sanity, my privacy. I plan to preserve my legacy by safeguarding various effects of life and business.
More importantly, it appears that the preservation and/or protection of my civil rights and the rights of others will be in the forefront as well. There’s a lot to do on this front and I am up to the challenge.
These aren’t resolutions by the way. I am at the point of recognizing the error of my behaviors and habits; as well as new opportunities for my talents. As a result, action is already in play.
What I want you to know is there is absolutely nothing wrong with chasing your dreams and working hard. The challenge is making sure your work doesn’t become all-encompassing and worst yet- toxic. What do any of us have if our bodies or minds shutdown on us? The answer is: we will have nothing.
I have already accepted that the juggle and balance will not always be ideal, but I am dedicated to striving towards it and being flexible on the outcomes.
From these realizations, I have created a new movement/community called: Growth on my Terms. This is my commitment and charge to see that people frame success in healthy and achievable ways. To see what I’m up to, you can check it out on Instagram at: www.instagram.com/growthonmyterms.
You can expect a lot more HR, Technology, and Business commentary here this year, but please make room in your psyche and heart for more of my journey and a-ha’s too. I look forward to sharing and offering you more insights.
Let’s grow, uplift one another and kill it in 2017!
Please share with me in the comments section how you are tackling 2017 so far?
I had the esteemed privilege of attending TED at IBM last month in San Francisco. Admitedly, I was prepared to be impressed by their usual roster of inspiring speakers making strides in every field from technology to healthcare. However, there was something more at play at this year’s TED at IBM. I got the sense that IBM, the company wanted each of us to walk away with something more than what we had in previous years. My takeaway was the following: Although things in the world aren’t right at the moment, don’t fret as there are people working to solve the ills of society and more importantly we all have a duty to contribute in the same fashion. While IBM made no specific reference to politics or endorsements of any one candidate, their request that we all refrained from capturing pictures and posting to social media; in addition to the messages each of their speakers brought to bear sent a clear message as to which side of humanity they are on.
If nothing else, 2016 should have taught each of us that the huge global challenges we face are both diverse and emergent. Take speaker, Dr. Laxmi Parida for instance. Her talk at this year’s TED at IBM was about her work as a Computational Geneticist where she is analyzing the genes of crops to ensure our food is safer and sustainable. She shared with us that most of the calories we consume today come from just 12 plants. Dr. Parida went on to share that biodiversity in the tropics has dropped 60% and that the likes of favorite fruits like Avocado are under threat. Most notably, she warned: ” We are a global village. As scourge affects one part of the world it quickly spreads to the others.”
We take for granted everyday that we have certain necessities like food, water, housing etc. What if none of those things exist one day or exist in crippling shortages? Some of our fellow citizens of the world know this reality all to well. While we empathize with their plight we don’t often take a moment to consider whether we will be met with the same shortfall in our own lives.
As luck would have it, I ended up on the same plane and seated next to Dr. Laxmi Parida going back home to NY. You would never know she just delivered the talk of her life sitting next to her. She was humble and friendly as we chatted and shared a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. My kind of gal.
Next up is a particularly moving speaker by the name of Villy Wang. When we talk about empathy and putting ourselves in the place of another- no name stands out more than Villy Wang. Upon listening to her opening remarks for her talk at TED at IBM we all heard about her childhood which appeared to be marred by her fear and hatred of African-American people. You see, Villy was raised by a immigrant single mother in NYC who was one day unexpectedly mugged by some black teens. As we all cringed listening to this story, a bright spot immediately emerges as she explains how her own disdain of stereotypes against Asian people caused her to want to understand other minorities (particularly, African-American people) and the biases they faced. The more she examined other minorities the more she came to see the economic and social disparity faced by minorities. As a result, she started BAYCAT – a social enterprise designed to teach youth for low-income and underserved communities to capture untold stories to create social change. She brought one of her students with her to TED at IBM who she asked to stand for applause. There was not a dry eye in the theater.
Having compassion for one another begins with the genuine interest in not only listening to what others have to say; but understanding and acknowledging their reality. Villy lives this and it came through in her talk.
Some more inspiration…
What does the development of chemotherapy drugs have to do with curing the ills of governments? Apparently, the two are very connected if you ask Charity Wayua. Dr. Wayua is from rural Kenya. After earning her PhD in developing chemotherapy drugs from Purdue University she returned to Kenya to use what she new to cure the ills of the Kenyan government. Her goal was no simple task. She wanted to improve government services designated for small and medium businesses.
As result of Dr. Wayua’s use of cutting-edge technology and the utilization of methodologies used to cure cancer to cure inefficiencies in the Kenyan government, she was able to shift Kenya’s rank on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Data Bank from ranking 113 to 92. She noted that initially she believed the Kenyan government was corrupt. However, she has revised her thinking since working with them realizing that they were not corrupt in the way she first believed. Her belief is we all have a duty to roll-up our sleeves to create the change we want to see in our governments.
As we face our own dealings with corruption here in the U.S., this is a great reminder that we all have what it takes to be the change we wish to see in our government.
I could write so much more about the power of the speakers at TED at IBM, but it would never end.
What I took with me is this feeling of hope and obligation to refocus on that which is bigger and more pressing than my immediate needs. The world needs each of us to do our part whether in our own communities or at scale to cure the ills of society while making life better for others. It is time for us to use the spark within us to activate things that add value to humanity rather than detract from it.
This is a call to action I can get behind. What ideas will you “spark and activate” in 2017?
I am deep into a book called: No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need To Do To Have a Great Career by Larry Smith. In this book, he asserts that: “the grown-up world is where talent goes to die.” Reading this statement jolted me gratefully inside – as this is something I have come to realize in my own career journey and in the scope of coaching my clients in business.
You may be thinking that this statement is: “harsh” or “an unfair generalization”. Perhaps, you’re right, but I will wager that you are not necessarily wrong, but rather predictable. I say you are predictable rather than wrong, because you belong to a subset of thousands – if not millions of people who believe in a precept of work that is fast becoming a dinosaur. This precept of work includes: Choosing a degree field (preferably something that will allow you to support yourself upon graduation), studying hard even if you hate your field of study, finding an internship where you give your gifts away for free, only to search for whatever job the economy will loan to you. This my friends is the age old definition of success and job security. The unfortunate outcome of all of this is: The lot of unhappy people and wasted talent living and participating in a society that appears to being conversely impacted by a perceived lack of skilled workers.
While what I just outlined is not indicative of everyone’s career; it is the reality of the majority. Very rarely do I meet someone who says: I love my job and it is allowing me to utilize my full range of talents. In my head, I know of a handful of people in both my personal and professional circles who truly love the work they do. I know that “love” makes people uncomfortable, so let me define what “love” means in this context:
The handful that “love” their work are:
1)Doing work that aligns with their natural talents, interests and passions.
2)Fulfilled by the work, interactions and daily dynamics of the job.
3)Reinforced by having their basic needs for compensation, benefits, flexibility, long-term growth, challenge and continued learning met in return for their efforts.
Most people are not “in love” let alone fulfilled in the way I just described above. Every week, I observe the sentiments about work as we inch towards Friday. Most people, appear to be happiest from Thursday through Saturday. Sunday is a reminder that work starts in 24 hours on Monday – which brings on the inevitable social shares and/or griping about the drudgery that is returning to work. Put plainly, people are miserable and feel stuck.
Coming back to the title of this article which is: Is the “grown-up” world where talent goes to die? Is it true? I think it is. We start children off conditioning them to conform to the world rather than disrupt it. This conditioning often forces them to ignore their interests, innate skills and passions in favor of the road most traveled, lucrative and accepted. In doing this, we ship them off to university to study what seems like the best option for them. Sometimes it works out and other times a pivot emerges to the dissatisfaction of the parents, because of course we are supposed to have our entire life figured out at 22 – how reasonable!
Should we be lucky enough to get a job after graduation, more advice comes our way. The advice is: “Work hard, keep your head down, follow the rules and you will be promoted and successful in no time.” In “no time” is the operative word, because in this current economy promotions seem to be rather elusive and hard or good work is no longer a silver bullet for success on the job. By the time, people look up – they have a home, 2 cars, some kids, a dog, bills and a job that is a terrible fit for their skills and lifestyle; but the bills have to be paid, so onward with more drudgery.
For every person that works a job there is a dream and creativity deferred in the journey towards personal and professional success. We have all been conditioned to believe that holding a job whether it is a passion or not is a badge of honor – your right of passage into adulthood. More money, more bills, and more material effects are just a few of the things that define your adulthood in our current society. The problem with this rat race of superficial success is that it is superficial. Success is subjective and therefore much more to having longevity in your career than the degrees, certifications and clocked years of service.
Agreeing or disagreeing with this statement of talent dying in the grown-up or corporate world doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take a moment to realize what you want your life and contributions to stand for and taking stock of where you are so you can ensure that the two align. Here’s a hint: In the coming decades, success will not be defined by your retirement package, the money in your bank account or the amount of hours you worked – it will be about how you made an impact (however small) in your part of the world.
I spoke about success and what is means to be an adult in the modern world on my Periscope show: Ask Czarina Live. You can watch it below.
Last week, I shared my thoughts on the importance of speaking up when things have gone horribly wrong in society. I also shared that I would be hosting my “Black Out Show” as my first Ask Czarina Live after vacation. What I didn’t realize was how much extra courage and strength I had to muster up to get through my show.
It’s one thing to tell yourself you are going to do something monumental. It is quite another thing to recognize your accountability to deliver a message and story that resonates in spite of the difficulty of the topic.
Prior to the show, I watched the videos of the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile killings again. I watched the breaking news stories for the slain police officers and I immediately became emotional. I attempted to put on makeup to make myself appear as if I had it together, but the reality was I was a milli-second away from falling apart for everyone to see.
At the stroke of 10 pm, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I knew that I was speaking for more than just myself which pushed me beyond my very palpable fear. I remembered those two little girls pictured above and recognized the duty I have as their mother and as a woman to show them that nothing should prevent them from being fully seen, appreciated and heard in this world.
I want my daughters to know that raising your voice when others find it easier to be quiet takes courage. I am showing them through my own actions that speaking the truth in a time when it is preferential to lie takes strength. In the end, I hope they will see that business should not only be profitable, but socially responsible.
An hour and nine minutes later, I felt lighter and proud that I delivered on my promise. My viewers kept up their end of the bargain as they listened without starting any arguments, fights etc. All of this proving that we can have civil discussions around race issues and politics, if we first are willing to listen more than we speak. It also illustrated that we all can speak up without it being disastrous for our reputations and businesses.
As a friend of mine shared, you can’t go wrong when your words are from your heart and they are delivered with poise and professionalism.
In case you missed the show live, I am making sure to share it with my readers here. Thank you to those of you who have reached out to share your feedback on the show. It really makes me feel good to know, I made a difference by using my voice and platform.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with my friend and entrepreneur extraordinaire, Joey Price of JumpstartHR on his Business, Life, and Coffee Podcast. We had a great conversation about when I knew I needed to start my business and discussed whether women make better CEOs than men.
You’ll have to listen below to hear what I had to say about whether women are better than men at leading organizations. I think you will be surprised at my response. The one thing I learned for sure listening to this podcast is:
“We all have a story and we should share it as much as the universe will allow.”
Joey was able to capture my journey to entrepreneurship in a way that I have not in the past. Life often feels like thousands of vignettes that run into one another, blend and become distorted the further away from them you get. Asking the right question and a dose of honesty will always bring forth something compelling and useful.
Joey and I started on our social media journey at about the same time and have since become both colleagues and friends. It is pretty neat to see where both of us have landed respectively in our lives and businesses.
If you have a business, are thinking of starting a business or just have an interest in a story about someone who chased their dreams when everything was falling apart around them – you will want to listen to this podcast.
Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on the podcast below in the comments. Also, if you like this episode you will love the variety of his other shows- give them a spin!
Thanks for reading and supporting! I appreciate you immensely.