How I Spent my Summer Vacation
Remember that essay we were asked to write in grammar school every September? I know, it’s only mid-July and I’m jumping the gun, but with raging discussions on proposed back-to-school plans, and my husband’s annual “after July 4th the summer is nearly over” funk setting in, it suddenly feels like time to take stock. So what did I do over the past few months? Outwardly, it doesn’t seem like much. Inwardly, it felt like far too much.
I worked. But my focus has shifted a bit. I’ve been lucky to spend more time doing advisory work with clients, conducting Strategic Strike workshops to help executive teams expand their thinking and accelerate their decision-making around rapidly changing market issues. I love this work, and working with teams who are highly motivated to change, whether around product roadmap, go-to-market strategy, or their own internal operating principles.
I felt well. I’m so happy to report that continued ass-whoopings by my physical therapists, and ongoing tweaking of my voltage, have put me in far better physical condition than I have been in for a long, long time. I realize how extremely fortunate I am—and how fortuitous it was—not only to have had my DBS surgery prior to COVID-19, but also to be seeing far better results than are typical for patients who have had this treatment. Of course, this is no guarantee that my good fortune will continue, or that the battle is even close to over, but I will grab this good luck and hold onto it as long as I can.
I argued. With myself, friends, and strangers. I like to think that I tried to argue productively, but I admit to doing a fair bit of #asshat-ing. (Some topics are just too dumb to waste time arguing about, you know?) But I also learned the value of respectful arguments that helped me hone my opinions and back them up, so that I can more powerfully articulate what I know and feel. If you can’t change a mind every time you argue, at least you can get much better at stating your beliefs for the next time you do.
I tried to listen. I’m naturally a “What’s next?” optimist. Yes, I try and learn from the past, but I don’t like to dwell on it. I like to take what we know and move on and make it better. But in a world where it seems like “what we know” can be subject to merely opinion, and where I often feel we’re in the midst of a seemingly “post-factual” society, this has become increasingly harder. I’ve tried to listen more, and also be more selective to whom I listen.
I’ve struggled with my own inherent intolerance and racism. I’ve tried to reach out. Yet I’ve also felt isolated.
In addition to being an optimist, I’m also by nature conflict-avoidant. But this is a time that requires all of us to stand up and put skin in the game. Which can leave us raw, depleted, and exhausted. I know it has left me that way from time to time. But we can’t stop engaging with each other. None of us can.
I examined my place in the world. These past few months have been a time of great activism among many of my colleagues in the HR industry. I’m so proud to be part of a group of people committed to trying to make changes in the lives of individuals in the workplace. For too long I believed that valuing someone's mind and contribution—while downplaying their skin color, gender identity, or physical disability—was the same as inclusion. (The irony of being a PWPD isn’t lost on me.) What I was mostly undervaluing was a rich, powerful set of attributes and differences that must be recognized and celebrated. I’ve had to confront my own white privilege, which is not a one-time action, but an ongoing process. Given my own interactions with the world, how can I create spaces for people to be celebrated? If true leadership is about creating space for greatness, as I’ve often said it is, how do I create space for difference and inclusion as part of that greatness? How do I contribute to recognizing greatness and amplify differences at the same time?
There’s still plenty of summer left, so I’ll keep working. It's been a long spring, early summer, and year for all of us. Let's keep working together on ourselves and on the contributions we can make, so we’ll have much to celebrate when we’re together again.