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?
Inspired by my girl Minda Harts, founder of The Memo, I've taken a 24-hour media break from the turmoil of our nation as an act of well-being. So this post is about dishes—more specifically, a pot. In my book Drop the Ball, I chronicle my struggle to create an all-in partnership with my husband, Kojo. In one of my weaker phases, I'd partially complete chores, like washing only my clothes and leaving his in the hamper, to protest our domestic labor imbalance and try to get him to do more (note: that doesn't work, ladies). Over time I figured out how to meaningfully engage him and he now does everything from managing our kids' social calendar to dealing with all of our snail mail. But every once in a while I regress back to this resentment behavior when I'm pissed about something totally unrelated. This week I washed a pot I used to cook my morning oats and intentionally left one of his dirty pots in the sink. I returned home from work to find this note. The lesson: Not only is passive-aggressive behavior ineffective in altering other people's behavior, it makes you look silly. Oh how I wish our President understood this.
One of the things that's been fascinating to me about the turmoil in our nation is how two people can witness the same event, yet interpret it so differently. Perspective is everything. So why is it so hard for us to change ours? Here's how to adjust the aperture on your own lens to positively impact your world view. Watch this if anyone has ever told you that you're "stubborn."
The weekend images from Charlottesville remain haunting. Young men emboldened with tiki torches reminiscent of the Klan, their facial expressions riddled with anger, claiming to be agents of justice for oppressed white people. Fortunately, America saw through their ridiculous rhetoric. And critical evidence that their agenda had nothing to do with freedom or justice was the lack of women among them. Though too often erased from the narrative, women have been at the forefront of every legitimate movement to advance civil rights.
One of the latest, #BlackLivesMatter, was founded by three: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. And the Women's March on Washington earlier this year was the largest single day demonstration in U.S. history. Women have also been the catalyst for the most fundamental ideals governing our society. The Greek philosopher Socrates, whose writings laid the foundation for ethics, was taught by a priestess, Diotema.
Qualities often associated with femininity, like caring and giving, are seen as weak by totalitarians and extremists because they are obsessed with systems of domination and destruction. Central to their perversion is the fake news that the most powerful person takes life instead of giving it. Which is why they must trivialize, demean, and deny the reproductive rights of the half of the population that births our nation. Fortunately, their "right" cannot unite. It only divides.
Americans who stand for justice are stronger than ever. The most resounding response from responsible leadership to the Charlottesville tragedy invoked one word more than any other: love. And the fact that renouncement of hate came from across the political spectrum is important progress. So, too, is the importance of women's voices and leadership. We honor Heather Heyer, who lost her life advocating for all of our liberty. I believe in our democratic right to assemble. I have even taken my children to marches to teach them the importance of civic engagement through peaceful protest. Believe me when I tell you: when there are no women at a rally supposedly promoting someone's rights, it's about anything but.
Once you've taken care of your own well being (I personally had to scream at my television for an hour), prayed for our country, and hugged your loved ones, one of the most important ways you can take action against the bigotry and violence that we saw in Charlottesville is to engage with the organizations that already do. The Southern Poverty Law Center is the leading organization that monitors hate groups and seeks justice for the most vulnerable people in our society, and the NAACP has a long legacy of fighting for civil rights. Let's support them and each other as our nation moves forward, despite those trying to take us back.
When women talk to me about their fear of dropping the ball, I tend to hear the same thing: "But what if it doesn't get done how I want it to be done?" Well, this happened to me—and I ended up with an eyesore of a refrigerator. But guess what...it's worth it. Watch and learn why.
One of the most humbling experiences since Drop the Ball came out is hearing from so many of you about the difference the book has made in your lives. I read every word of every letter, DM, and email, and often laugh and cry during the process. Since your stories have had such a profound impact on me I thought I'd start to share a few, of course with permission. Here's is Lisa's*:
Reading your book helped me to not only prepare for the biggest change that's coming in my life (motherhood), but also to stay centered, focused and at ease at the thought that all my life's sacrifices to grow professionally don't have to be put on a hold or even worse, at a halt. I am a 36 year old Puertorican that read your book and felt like you were literally inside my brain!
So many aspects of your life resonate with mine. My husband and I have what I think is an awesome, kick ass partnership. Both very passionate, aspirational, driven, and highly rationale, with previous incompatible marriages, who one day made a very conscientious decision that spending our lives together brings us immense happiness as a couple and makes us stronger as individuals. We typically flow flawlessly in our day-to-day lives...any impasse is quickly resolved with a negotiation. So when one of the hardest challenges we have had presented itself, I had no doubt we would tackle it with no problem. Was I wrong!
After almost three years trying to get pregnant, we made an extremely hard decision to move across an ocean to get the expert medical help we needed.. We work in the same company so telling our bosses that we both needed to work remotely for some months was tough. We knew it could put our careers in jeopardy and even though they accepted, encouraged, and supported us, we knew that our careers would take a hit. At that point I was uncertain about my lifelong dream of being a mother and the anchor that pushes passion through my blood—my work.
The weeks that follow were hard. Millions of doctor's appointments, daily tests, and a box full of medicines that would stir up my whole body. I was in another country, stuck inside a house where I attempted to work remotely everyday while having my body mutilated. That's when our marriage took its first big hit. I struggled daily with the thought of losing my career and saw it coming either way, if the procedure was or was not successful. The lack of human interaction, daily intellectual challenges, and even exercising was really unbalancing me. My husband just did not know how to manage my new troubled self. And then it heighten when we received the news, we were expecting twins. A miracle! But the multiple birth idea only lasted a couple of weeks. We quickly lost one of the babies, but were still blessed with one healthy growing girl. At this point, I had mourned the loss of one of my babies, I had gained 15 pounds due to all the hormones and steroids, and was both extremely happy and terrified about the baby girl that was developing inside of me. My unstable moods swung in my husbands direction, and made what were supposed to be the happiest phase of my life (pregnancy) not so happy.
Then, one day, I had a meeting with my boss’ boss. I've known her most of my life and consider her a friend as well as one of my mentors. She is also a Puertorican woman in her mid to late 30s married with two young kids. In my eyes, she has mastered both an extremely successful marriage and career. So when we start our skype call catching up about how I've been and how my pregnancy was progressing, I couldn't help but verbalize that it’s been quite hard. She knows the type of person I am and quickly catches on to the unspoken elaboration of my struggles. And then she says, I am reading this book, Drop the Ball. It was as if she completely saw through me and knew that the essence of this book was an intact replica of my struggles.
As I turned the pages night after night, I recognized the darkness I was going through and slowly deciphered the change in mindset I needed to get through it. I cannot express how much I needed to read this book in this exact moment of my life. It made me learn so much about myself. I realized I was more vulnerable than I thought. I was not in control of my life, my body, my present or even my future. It made me see a way out, a way to re-asses and adapt, to opening my mind to new possibilities that were okay as well. Slowly I began to put myself together. My husband's patience and support through the process was crucial. As I was reading I shared with him everything I learned. Now I look back and it melts my heart how he genuinely took an interest... he could have just turned the page and moved forward. But he didn't. He had the patience to listen to me, and to understand my thoughts and comments of all the passages that I read out loud to him. He knew that I needed our partnership to learn and grow, as much as I needed to learn and grow myself.
Today I write to you as I enter into my 16th week of pregnancy. We are about to board our plane back to Puerto Rico and settle back into our life after 5 months away. I feel stronger than ever and eager for this new chapter. I know that many changes are coming and I will have to Drop the Ball on many of the things that I used to do. But with our MEL list, lots of love, flexibility, patience and communication we will be the rock star parents that our baby girl deserves as well as the successful professionals that we strive for. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can truly say that my life was changed by the words you shared and that the still unbeatable woman inside of me will make sure to pass on this experience to other women like us.
*Name changed for privacy.
I've just re-read Micro-Resilience: Minor Shifts for Major Boosts in Focus, Drive and Energy. It's the fourth book authored by Bonnie St. John, the first African American to win medals in Olympic Winter competition despite having her right leg amputated at age five. She's now taken what she's learned as a Fortune 500 leadership consultant to help all of us live less hurried lives through small, intentional acts. I most needed the chapter on "resetting your primitive alarms" as I'm prone to have an amygdala hijack when the slightest thing doesn't go my way. Now, just two minutes of "conscious relaxation" combined with a "sensory reset" of lavender oil makes a world of difference. What I loved most about this book is that it's totally accessible—Micro-Resilience is 250 pages, but it reads like a pocket-sized manual for restoration on the go.
There is a picture of Reshma Saujani next to the word resilience in the dictionary. After losing two major runs for public office, she decided to serve the world in a different capacity—as founder and CEO of Girls Who Code. I'd argue that she's making an even greater impact: the non-profit has reached more than 40,000 girls in 50 states. When I asked Reshma how she's been able to launch a national non-profit and also be an incredible wife, mother, and friend, she admitted that she's had to let some things go: "I haven't kept up with my meditations or date night." No worries, Reshma. The first step to dropping the ball is forgiving ourselves for doing so, especially when we're tied up changing the world. You can join the movement to close the gender gap in technology by pre-ordering the first set of Girls Who Code Books, which will be released on August 22nd.
It happens all the time: When presented with a new opportunity, women will immediately list all the reasons they're not qualified for it or will go into instant self-doubt mode. Recently, when I was asked to interview Sheryl Sandberg for Glamour, I caught myself doing it, too. But then I realized something: It's more work to talk yourself into being a viable candidate than to assume you're already one.
This week I got mentored...by a 13 year old. With dreams of Julliard, Liz Williams is the most thoughtful and ambitious 8th grader you'll ever meet. When I asked her how she had managed to stay on the straight and narrow given the waywardness of some of her peers she looked at me like I had two heads: "I have three younger sisters. Between helping my mom take care of them, doing my chores, getting good grades, practicing violin, preparing for high school, and all of the other things on my plate I don't have TIME to get into trouble!" Lesson: When you're focused on your highest and best use, there's no bandwidth for foolishness.
She also had great advice for dealing with bullies: "You have to understand that they are only judging you because deep inside they are judging themselves." Liz recommended listening to AJRs song "Drama" to understand how dysfunctional haters (and fake news) can be and has even adopted it as an anthem. I downloaded it immediately and can't get it out of my head. Having lemonade with her, I couldn't help but fantasize about how all of the world's problems could be solved if we could just let Liz run it. I have a feeling that in reality, she'll be doing so soon enough. In the meantime, I'm doing my best to clear the way for her.