Many of us are looking forward at the success that will eventually come; reaching for those five-year goals. The truth is: Your future is this very moment. Often we are chasing after our potential, as if our life is unfolding ahead of us. Here's a quick exercise to make your future happen now.
This week there was a lot of book buzz—and not the Michael Wolff kind. On Wednesday I was thrilled to attend the launch of Anjali Kumar's Stalking God, which chronicles her hilarious and inspirational journey to find meaning.
And last night was the annual Business Book Awards. Drop the Ball was longlisted in the Personal Development category, but the book that took home the prize was Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein. It was only the second time that a woman won the award, and it was well deserved. Goldstein is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has spent three decades at the Washington Post. I'll lose to her any day. Best moment was celebrating the night with Nilofer Merchant and Jennifer Romolini whose books The Power of Onlyness and Weird in a World That's Not were also nominated.
When my son was 8, he asked for the definition of the word potential. I explained it meant to have the capacity to improve. I asked him if he had potential. He said no. I explained it again. He said, "No I understand what it means, it just doesn't get any better than this!" Most of the women I talk to don't have my son's overconfidence, which is a shame, because self-doubt can sabotage your career. The best antidote to self-doubt is having a group of peer mentors who can be your cheerleader but also hold you accountable for your ambition.
After posting a Task Rabbit job, I realized this: Men will apply for a job without reading the whole description, while women overanalyze the requirements to make 100% sure they are perfect for the role. Research proves that these habits are contributing to a leadership gap and holding women back. So ladies, go for it—you don't need to know all the details to throw your hat in the ring.
Zerlina Maxwell is a disrupter with an agenda. She's currently the Director of Progressive Programming for SirusXM. Before that she was sending all of us daily messages as the Director of Progressive Media for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and serving as one of its fiercest spokespersons.
Whether she's on TV as a regular commentator for MSNBC or on the stage with Lady Gaga at the 88th Academy Awards, Zerlina is fighting for justice and the most marginalized. Of course, being on the front lines has required relentlessness. When I asked Zerlina what she's had to #droptheball on in order to be such a powerful media thought leader in our 24-hour news cycle, she said, "I've dropped the ball on taking vacations." I can confirm this because I met with her two days after Christmas...at her office.
Fortunately she's since booked a Caribbean getaway. If a beach margarita isn't in the cards for you anytime soon, even a few hours in an environment that rejuvenates you, whether it's a spa, a museum, or your bed, can do wonders for your well-being. And if it's on a Saturday at 10am, check out Zerlina's show, Signal Boost, on the SiriusXM Progress Channel 127.
The cover of Angie Thomas' debut novel, The Hate U Give, captured my peripheral vision in a bookstore. I bought it and immediately became engrossed on my train ride home.
From the very first line, "I shouldn't have come to this party," until the very last, "I'll never give up. I'll never be quiet. I promise," you are transported into the anguishing journey of sixteen-year-old Starr Carter, who witnesses the fatal police shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil.
When his death becomes a national headline and a community protest ensues, Starr becomes torn between multiple worlds. I loved this book for how it deals with classism, racism, and violence with unwavering honesty—as only teenagers do. I didn't realize that it was a Young Adult novel until I turned the last page, breathless and then read the incredible reviews. There's a reason why The Hate U Give was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. And yes, it's being made into a movie that I can't wait to see.
Happy New Year! December 29th was my last day serving as Chief Leadership Officer at Levo. It’s been a life changing experience, largely because of what I’ve learned as a Gen Xer working in a company founded and run by millennials. Working at a tech startup was a challenging cultural shift from my previous employers, but years later I’m the beneficiary of our founders’ promise—to help women elevate their careers and to create lives that they’re passionate about. I’m leaving Levo on a higher note than I could have possibly imagined. And I’m proud to have contributed to the fastest growing network of millennial women leaders.
When I joined Levo in early 2013 I was a lifelong non-profit activist and leadership expert who had only worked for Baby Boomers or members of the Silent Generation in traditional workplaces. It took me three weeks to find the courage to ask our office manager, “Is there a phone here?”
“Do you mean a landline?” she replied, as if I had asked for Moses’ tablet.
“Yeah,” I confirmed sheepishly.
“No,” she answered, amused. “We don’t have those.”
I quickly learned there were exciting new things Levo did have: project management apps that fueled work transparency and productivity, yoga on Wednesdays, walls with whiteboard paint my kids were encouraged to draw on, and bosses that cared about how much sleep we got.
I used to think that a career was working 24/7—sweat, blood, and tears—for one brand. I’d negotiate a title and salary. Once I achieved a set of deliverables I’d ask for a bigger title and salary. Maybe at some point I’d move to a different brand. At some point I’d definitely retire. My career was what I did. But Levo has taught me that what you do is less important than the difference you make.
Now, my career is executing my life’s work of advancing women and girls in whatever way will achieve the most impact. In the near future that will include more public speaking, books, serving on the boards of Girls Who Code and Simmons College, working on a new venture to help women build the crew they need to #droptheball, and of course continuing to be a Levo contributor.
Over the past four years I’ve worked with some of the most creative and innovative colleagues any old-schooler could ask for. My biggest gratitude goes to Levo cofounders Caroline Ghosn and Amanda Pouchot, whose unwavering support has allowed me to fulfill my dreams. I also have to acknowledge Gina Bianchini, Fran Hauser, and Sheryl Sandberg, who invested in Levo and told me it would be a good bet. They were right. In fact, working for millennials was the best professional wager I ever made.
Thanks to all of you who have supported me in this leg of my journey to leverage women’s voices and talents. See you in the next…
Happy New Year everyone! Last year, my New Year's resolution was to choose one thing to drop the ball on and stop doing. I decided I was going to stop obsessing over my son's haircuts. After a rough few months, we made it through. And you know what? By the fall, he was caring about his own haircuts. I had this epiphany: Patience isn't just a virtue, it's a strategy. Watch and find out how to practice patience judo.
This week I did something I've never done before. I took a break from the demands of life and work and went to see a movie—during the middle of the day. It was supposed to be a "Bad Moms" reunion with my dear friends Reshma Saujani and Chloe Drew to see "Bad Moms Christmas," but we abandoned the sequel for "LadyBird," which was incredible. We laughed. We cried. And as the credits rolled I realized it had been too long since I had allowed myself to be moved so emotionally. I navigate so many of my days numbly responding to emails, texts, and tweets, focused on the next deadline. It was refreshing to drown out the noise for a couple of hours.
It felt so good, in fact, that I'm going to create more white space over the next ten days by ditching all things digital. I'm going to spend the holidays deeply feeling the love of my family and the gratitude I have for all of you who have supported me this year. I'll hop back on email, my site, my vlog and social media on January 2nd. Until then, I wish all of you a peaceful holiday, a prosperous new year, and hopefully some of your own ball dropping.
The holidays can be overly stressful. December is always the toughest for me and I usually find myself "ball backsliding," which is when a woman (like me) who has successful dropped the ball has a control freak meltdown. Mine was over sweet potato pie. Find out why and how to get back on track.