Nelson Madela’s Inspiration

Last week would have been Nelson Madela’s 100th birthday. As you may have seen, President Obama had a very public appearance in South Africa, honoring the inspirational anti-apartheid leader.
While Nelson Madela did amazing things politically, many of his thoughts and quotes can be applied to situations outside of politics. Mandela has been an inspiration for so many in Africa, but his influence and impact is absolutely global. Below are some of the quotes from him that I think can be applied to life and work, along with a few thoughts about each of them.
As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
I’ve seen this movement recently in many ways. On social media, there are so many people posting about confidence, body-positivity and being comfortable acknowledging the good aspects of ourselves, while retaining modesty. Those people are encouraging others to do the same. I follow @dalalovesdumbbells on IG and this was one of her captions I thought really epitomized this concept:
“Why do we allow self-loathing comments to be normal and relatable, while self-confident comments are cocky, self absorbed, even obnoxious?

Someone makes a joke about how ridiculous they look in an outfit, how much they ate last night, how many extra pounds they’re carrying around, and we all laugh and feel comfortable around them.
But if someone says “man I love my legs lately”, “I feel fire in this outfit”, “doesn’t my hair look good today?”, we’re threatened, off-put, and likely will decide we don’t like this person because they’re wayyy too into themselves.
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If you’re my friend and I love you, I don’t wanna hear you talking smack about yourself‼️Fuck that. I wanna hear you talk yourself up, hear you lovin’ on yourself, braggin’ on yourself. And if you’re not, I wanna figure out how I can help build you up to get you there.
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Being humble and being mean to yourself are not the same. 🙅🏼‍♀️ We compliment each other, but not ourselves. Why is that okay? Shouldn’t we love ourselves the most? Shouldn’t we be our own biggest fans? When you love yourself, you become the best version of yourself and then you’re a better friend/daughter/mother/coworker/lover/partner than you ever though possible.
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If your friends aren’t comfortable with you openly loving yourself, are they your friend? Should they be?
Let’s stop glorifying self loathing, and start encouraging more self love.”

I never lose. I either win or learn.
 
I know a lot of people have shared the importance of failing. One of the things my dad used to say all the time when I was skiing was “if you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough.” The reason why this is so important is really exemplified is in this quote. Losing is an opportunity to learn. If we don’t lose, we win, which is awesome. If we lose, we have an opportunity to learn and get better, which is also awesome.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave [wo]man is not [s]he who does not feel afraid, but [s]he who conquers that fear.
 
This is one of Mandela’s most famous and well-known quotes, but I wanted to include it because of a recent experience I had. When I started cycling a few months ago, I was freaking scared. Holy shit, riding a bike is so much more scary as an adult with clip-ins on a road with drivers who are on their cell phones all the time. Also, as we age, we fear things more easily. The nice thing about cycling is that you’re on a bike out in nature for a very long period of time, which gives you lots of time to think about a lot of things.
I was on my second or third ride when it really dawned on me how scared I was. My fear was causing me to go slower down hills, be more tense and uncomfortable, and literally almost give up so many times. On that ride though, I realized this and told myself I just needed to show up. I needed to get past this fear. A lot of human beings ride bikes. Not a lot of them die doing it. I had to find a way to mentally let go of that fear in order to be happy on a bike. By the time I got to the STP last weekend, I was still apprehensive about the ride, but it was no longer because I was scared of riding. It was because it was over 100 degrees and I was hopeful my back or knees didn’t give out on me. I finally felt like one with my bike. I was comfortable and relaxed, which allowed me to actually go really fast and have the energy to cross the finish line unassisted. It’s a little example of an every day activity where such a meaningful quote can be applied.
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Women of Influence

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Last year in November, I went to the Women of Influence event, presented by the Puget Sound Business Journal. The women selected for the award are not only professionally successful in their own right, but also contribute significantly to bettering the community around them. Every woman was inspiring and amazing, but there were a few things I thought were definitely worth sharing:
  • Amazon’s head of HR (can you imagine what a big job that would be?) is the only woman on Amazon’s S-team. There are 12 people on the team. Because she heads up HR, she is intimately familiar with the Amazon leadership principles and the one she spoke to the most was failure. She said they adamantly adore people who have failed in a big way and have learned from their mistakes, making them better able to handle professional challenges. You can read more about Beth here. I still find it interesting that at a company as innovative and forward looking as Amazon, there is only one woman in the highest 12 at the company.
  • After 8 or 9 of these women got up on stage and spoke about their inspirations and their successes in life, I turned to my friend Meredith and made a comment that I thought it was interesting that 1) every single one of these women had children, and 2) of the 5-10 minutes they had on stage, they all spoke about their children. I thought it was interesting because it’s not something I would expect to hear from most men when being honored. When Heather Redman got up on stage, she noticed the same thing. Heather talked a lot about leaning in, which to her meant not necessarily including conversations about her family at work. From my perspective, she appeared to be the most outwardly confident of the women. At the end, she spoke of the same observation I had, that all of these amazingly accomplished women spoke about their kids consistently. She said that was something she was going to take away from the night: that bringing that kind of empathy and kindness to the conversation in a professional environment should be embraced and done more frequently, rather than covered up or suppressed.
  • Dr. Rhonda Medows said “the third grade I knew I wanted to be a doctor” in the article here, but in person at the event she also talked about how people often discover their dream later in life and the important thing is to pursue it with balance. Rhonda was particularly memorable to me because she came from a poverty-stricken environment and turned that experience into her drive and passion to pursue medicine. In her article, I really liked this advice:
    • Question: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
    • Answer: My sons are 16, 18, and 26. I would share with my 18-year-old self the same lessons I have learned and now share with my sons:
      • Learn about yourself, your interests, your passions, your strengths and weaknesses.
      • Find your balance. Spend more time on the things that are important to you, view life as a marathon not a sprint, seek a positive work – life mix and the right mix of setting goals and seizing unexpected opportunity.
      • Don’t spend too much time trying to achieve other people’s expectations. Sometimes they are too low. Sometimes they reflect their own issues and not your own potential.
      • Respect people.
      • Put family first.
      • Embrace change and ambiguity, don’t wait for the perfect and miss what’s good. When you learn something new or have different experiences, it’s ok to change or adjust your priorities.
      • Define your own success by achieving what’s important to you after evaluating the options and the work you’ll have to invest.
      • Be true to and never betray your own core principles. You can change a job, change friends and partners but you will always have to live with yourself and your own decisions.
You can see all of the women who were honored here.

New Year’s Resolutions, Goals & Priorities

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I know it’s not Thursday – sorry about that! I thought better late than never, so here goes…

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s a new year! I can personally say that while there was a lot that happened in 2017, I’m quite happy for it to be behind us. I don’t have that feeling every year, but mostly due the macro things happening in the world, I’m happy to welcome in 2018!
As happens every year, people start to make goals and resolutions. I was fortunate to have some time to think about those things back in late November, but sadly I haven’t really touched it since then. Rather than share some of my personal goals, I wanted to share some ideas that I’ve read about coming into the new year and since 2018 began, that I thought were particularly interesting.
The first one comes from my coach, Max. She asked me to write a love letter to my future self. In it, answer the question of “what would make my heart sing?” I know, it’s woo-woo, but I think it’s a great exercise. She said to write in the letter 3-4 things that would make your heart sing this year, put it in an envelope and open it at the end of 2018.
The second is an article I came across on LinkedIn, posted by one of my role models, Arianna Huffington. Many years ago (probably 5 or 6), I went to a conference and Arianna was the keynote speaker. It is for sure one of the most memorable keynotes I’ve heard. She was ahead of her time and was discussing the negative side-effects of a hyper-connected life. She said she hypothesized that people in the future would actually start to disconnect from their screens and phones, as we begin to realize how negatively they can impact our social interactions and relationships. Ever since then, I’ve followed her on LinkedIn and love reading the articles she puts out.
This one in particular caught my eye because there are several tips in here I’ve personally been very conscious about and feel like I’ve done a great job mastering, or at least improving upon, but there are also several I still need to work on. My speculation is that all of us will see a few things in here and think to ourselves “oh, I’m really good at that,” (ahem, #11) and we will see a few things and think to ourselves “oh, I should really do that more.” (ahem, #12)
This article comes full circle to our conversation on Thursday in the team meeting about strengths and weaknesses. While I am a huge advocate of people aligning their work and efforts with their strengths and passions, I also firmly believe that acknowledging our weaknesses and making goals to improve upon them can also be beneficial.
As a Libra, I constantly go back and forth in my mind about this as well. On the one hand, I think “this is who I am, I should embrace it. I don’t need to be perfect.” On the other, I think “what’s the harm in putting a little effort in to improve something if it could make me happier?” Ultimately, it becomes and exercise of contemplation and prioritization. Some things are just who I am, it would take a lot of effort to change them, and I don’t know that the results and positive impact would be worth the effort. But some things are just little things I can be more conscious about, they don’t take much effort and they would have a hugely positive impact on my life and my happiness. So, I decide to focus on the latter and let go of the former.
This natural exercise also reminds me of another article I recently read on LinkedIn about the CEO of AirBNB and how he begins his day. His process is:
• Make a list of everything you want to accomplish that day. Be as exhaustive as possible.
• Group a few similar tasks together.
• Ask yourself for each group: What one action takes care of all of these? “It’s like a game of leverage,” Chesky said.
• Repeat the grouping and refining process until you have just a few big tasks.
I like that process of minimization and prioritization. Sometimes when we have so much on our plates, it’s easy to think we have to get it all done. In reality, there are many things that would have little impact if we didn’t get to them that day and it will greatly improve our sanity if we let them go.
You may be one of those people who always has a New Years resolution or two. You may gravitate more toward goal setting. You may never do anything and not really care. No matter which bucket you fit into (or if you have your own bucket), hopefully these thoughts and ideas give you some inspiration.