Before I gave a speech recently, the audience gave me a standing ovation before I even opened my mouth. It made me realize, I still needed to still deliver a fantastic speech, but I had already proved my value. Here's how to remind yourself of your worth.
One of my most rewarding volunteer experiences has been on the National Board Development Committee for Girl Scouts USA. I was a Girl Scout, as is my daughter, and it remains the largest movement dedicated to building girls of "courage, confidence, and character."
This week I was honored to be recognized for my service by two historic leaders, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan, our first Native Board Chair who is a member of the Ho Chunk Nation and Sylvia Acevedo, our first CEO who is an engineer and began her career as a rocket scientist. Kathy has taught me the importance of taking the high road and keeping the intensity down. Sylvia has inspired me to think outside the box, and to live outside of it, too. I'm wrapping up my volunteer term with Girl Scouts later this year. I needed to #droptheball, but I'll be incorporating the lessons I've learned from these incredible women into my own leadership journey for the rest of my life.
When was the last time you let a young girl see you cry? After my daughter overheard me telling a story about being left out by a friend, she told me she didn't believe me because she never saw me get upset. It made me realize: It's important for our kids to see our full humanity so they know it's okay to cry and can feel confident in dropping the ball. In order to teach our girls to be strong, we have to be vulnerable.
In the next few months I'm launching a new venture that wouldn't have happened had I not read Nilofer Merchant's The Power of Onlyness: Make Your Wild Ideas Mighty Enough To Dent The World. She sent me an early copy to get my thoughts but her book didn't inspire me to think, it inspired me to act—over and over.
Since reading this book I've found myself sharing more of my truth in meetings and scheduling lunches with industry leaders to get feedback about my new ideas. I'm not sure what Nilofer did to shut up the voice in my head that says, "It'll never work," but Cynthia (my name for my hater voice) has been refreshingly quiet for weeks. The only thing I wanted more of from this book was Nilofer herself. She opens with a riveting story about defying her family's plan for her arranged marriage and I was dying to have her personal story woven through the very end. But for anyone who is aching to stand more firmly in their uniqueness, and to leverage their contributions for good, this book has earned its placed in the canon of innovation.
One of the things I admire about Binta Niambi Brown is that she's a maverick. Her most recent maneuver is the perfect example: She left a prestigious law firm (where she was partner) to launch Big Mouth Records, an innovative label whose debut artist has already earned a Grammy.
When I asked Binta to share which balls she's dropped in order to follow her passion the list was long. "Oh, I’m all about dropping balls! I regularly drop the ball on managing personal business…I drop the ball on sleep, observing weekends...dating… and remembering to take mental and personal breaks…remembering to count to three and breathe before responding to something that’s upset me…but the biggest ball I drop, is remembering to forgive myself for past mistakes and allowing myself to learn from them and recover quickly. That last one is a shame, cause… I make a lot of mistakes!"
Binta reminds us all that being successful is not about being perfect, its about identifying and leveraging our unique contribution.
In the swirl of everything you do—running a household, running a Fortune 500 company—ask yourself, when was the last time you took a moment, stopped, and simply sat down? It wasn't until I had a friendly workaholic intervention that I realized this: The most successful people pace themselves. They don't burn out. They know that the to-do list will never end, and it's more important to take a moment for yourself. Try it. I promise you'll see the results.
Of all of the values I've tried to instill in my children, gratitude has been the most difficult. It feels like they often want more (especially toys), without an appreciation for what they already have. But this week I got a lesson in practicing what I preach.
For a first-time author, my book Drop the Ball has received enormous attention, including a coveted New York Times book review. Publicly, I was over the moon. But in my most private moments I was disappointed because Drop the Ball hadn't gotten so much as a mention in the one media outlet I read religiously, Oprah Magazine. Sitting down with my monthly issue of O and a cup of tea is one of the happiness practices I write about in the book.
Earlier this summer I decided that I needed to stop acting like a spoiled child. I engaged in a series of exercises to demonstrate my appreciation to all of the journalists and thought leaders who have helped me make the book fly. And guess what? As soon as I finally got to the place where I truly felt awash with gratitude, my dream finally came true. This week, Oprah.com published an excerpt of Drop the Ball. It was a reminder of the words I always tell my children: Until your heart is open, you're not in a position to accept any more than you already have. And the only thing that opens your heart is gratitude.
Did you use your vacation days this summer? I know I did, and as a former workaholic, that's a big deal for me. Here's what my millennial friends have taught me: The amount of time you put into something isn't reflective of your effectiveness (hello, burnout). Not using your vacation days or working nonstop doesn't make you a better worker. It's not a work ethic, it's a work fallacy.
I have the best day job ever as Chief Leadership Officer at Levo. This week I had the opportunity to moderate a panel on the power of presence for one of our partners, TRESemme. The panelists' answers to my questions were so thought provoking that I kept getting engrossed and then had to remind myself that it was my job to ask the next one. Dr. Lauren Hazzouri broke down the difference between self-esteem and confidence. Self-esteem is belief in your value. Confidence is belief in your abilities. We can have one without the other and we often conflate the two when we're trying to manage our anxiety.
Ally Love defined presence as energy and spoke about how to take responsibility for setting the tone in a room so that you're not constantly having to adapt to other people's energy, which can be exhausting. One way that you set the tone is by being what Lauren Maillian calls "unapologetically you." We are now in an era when being unique is valued and one of the most strategic skillsets is knowing how to leverage your difference. It's not easy, but that's part of why Dawn Hedgepeth told the audience that "presence is a choice." At the end of the day, embracing who you are and harnessing self-love to give others permission to be comfortable with themselves is a decision. You can learn more about how your presence changes everything by taking Amy Cuddy's course on Presence at Levo.
Self-awareness is so important. The next time you're completely annoyed or irritated by someone else's behavior, ask yourself (or an honest friend), do I do this too?