The Scarcity Trap

The Scarcity Trap

One of my favorite techniques as a communication coach was given to me (albeit indirectly) by my daughter when she was barely 2 months old.

It was 2006, I had just had Stella, and was back to work with almost no childcare whatsoever. I was a train wreck. My identity was wobbly, none of the time management techniques that had worked for me in the past made any sense, and I was chronically exhausted from trying to front like I had it all under control. One night, in a state of desperation, I went online to seek out information on mindfulness, positive thinking, coping techniques for overwhelm… anything to get me through the next 24 hours.

I came across one piece of advice that made me furious:

Tell yourself a story of abundance... No matter what your schedule says, repeat this phrase to yourself:

‘I have plenty of time, and all is well.'

I wanted to punch that writer in the neck.

The Life-Changing Magic of Encouragement

The Life-Changing Magic of Encouragement

I remember the moment very well.

It was sometime around 1999 or 2000, and I had recently announced my decision to leave my job at Blanc & Otus for the greener pastures of Scient. Word had made its way around B&O that I was moving on, and when I saw our CEO, Jonelle Birney, approaching me in the hallway, I assumed she’d heard the news as well.

As she got closer to me, a pit opened up in my stomach. How would she react? Would she be angry at me for abandoning my clients and the few folks who reported to me at the time? Was I even a blip on her radar screen? I mean, jeeze, maybe she didn’t even know how to pronounce my name!

        
  
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     “Why do I always do this to myself??”      If my thoughts were audible, you’d hear this message with steady frequency.     This thought is always accompanied by a set of physical sensations: butterflies in the stomach, a dry throat, and my heart beating fast and hard.     It’s the thought that crashes through my mind just before I do something that scares me: like standing in front of a microphone, either to teach or to sing.     This thought then gives way to an internal dialogue that goes like this:     “Why do I always do this to myself??”     “I don’t know. It’s ridiculous. If you hadn’t said yes to this, you could be sitting on the couch with a book instead of having to run to the bathroom every 5 seconds to relieve your bowels in terror.”     Then, I think:     “It’s too late now. I’m going to front like I own this place, and let ‘er rip.”     Then I go out there and I crush it—usually.     Sometimes I fail spectacularly, but most of the time I do well. Afterwards, I get that “I was born to do this” feeling. This insane cycle of anxiety is so well known that when my husband can sense it playing out, he usually just skips to the end, and says to me, “Remember: you were born to do this.”     But lately, I’m getting tired of this agony-ridden thought pattern. I’m sick of the voice that accuses me of saying yes to scary things as if that were a bad thing. I’m tired of demonizing the butterflies and nervous stomach.     I’m over it. Enough is enough.     What I discovered in 2016 was this: when I aim the arrow of my life at comfort, it usually hits the target. But it’s not my favorite target. The comfort target often leads to thoughts like this one: “This is nice, but is this all there is?” The comfort target is definitely comfy, but it’s joyless. Flatline. Basic. Safe in that stunted, blurry way of feeling “safe.”     In contrast, when I aim the arrow of my life at joy, it requires a level of focus and tolerance for risk (read: terror) that the target of comfort would never demand. But when I hit the joy target, it leads to feelings so big, I can hardly find the words to express them. Words like transcendence, adrenaline, meaning, purpose, flow, aliveness, love and joy come close but still don’t capture the feelings associated with the joy target.     It turns out that butterflies, a pounding heart, and a dry throat are the hallmark sensations of aiming at the joy target.      So I’ve made a decision. When I experience these physical signs, instead of berating myself with “WHY do you always do this to yourself?” I’m going to repeat my Butterfly Manifesto and breathe deeply.         The Butterfly Manifesto      I feel you fluttering, oh stomach butterflies.     I feel you beating, big fierce heart.     I feel you going dry, oh throat of mine.     I used to think you were to be avoided.     But now I know better.     I know that the best moments of my life are just beyond you.     If I have the courage to move past you.     I was born for joy, not complacency.     I was born to feel alive, not to sleepwalk.     So bring it, butterflies. Bring it.     And if I’m lucky, I’ll see you again soon.        As we move into 2017, and 2016 becomes a memory, I say we bring on the butterflies.     Bring on the opportunities for joy that scare us to the marrow. Bring on the opportunities that take us out of joyless comfort and into experiences we could never have imagined for ourselves.     As the brilliant poet Mary Oliver asks,     “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”     I plan to aim for joy. Let’s  all  aim for joy in 2017. Let’s aim at joy like a band of fierce warriors with braids and rad looking cloaks.  It’s time. Let’s do it.     Merry Christmas, Happy Everything, and a Blessed New Year, friends.

“Why do I always do this to myself??”

 

If my thoughts were audible, you’d hear this message with steady frequency.

 

This thought is always accompanied by a set of physical sensations: butterflies in the stomach, a dry throat, and my heart beating fast and hard.

 

It’s the thought that crashes through my mind just before I do something that scares me: like standing in front of a microphone, either to teach or to sing.

Best Reads of 2016

Best Reads of 2016

My Favorite Reads of 2016

It’s that time of year, friends… it time to take stock of the year, and report back on what we read that was worth reading.

Normally, my list is dominated by fiction. But this year? Of my 10 favorite reads only ONE is fiction. It’s not that I didn’t read fiction, I did. I read plenty. But only one of them passed the “OH MY GOD… you HAVE to read this book…” test.


        
  
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    Ah friends. We come to it at last…  the final installment of Manterruptions, Mansplaining & Bropropriations.     To the men who have followed this series… two words:      THANK YOU.      It takes a lot of courage to go into the belly of the gender imbalance beast in our culture. It takes even more courage to take on the perspective of someone else, and these pieces were definitely written from a woman’s perspective for a female audience. So I honor you and thank you.     To the women who’ve been reading, I’m curious whether you’ve tried any of the techniques described in the two previous posts. Have you observed dynamics at play that you might not have otherwise noticed? Leave me a note in the comments, or send me an email. I live for feedback.      Bropropriations: When Good Ideas Happen to Other People      First, a definition:   Bropropriation (noun):     the action of a man taking credit for a woman’s idea, whether consciously or unconsciously.      Bro-propriation comes from the word “appropriation” which means: “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.”     Unfortunately, this issue has surfaced in every single workshop I have conducted for women on the topic of communication. It happens like this: a woman raises her hand, shoulders rounded, and says “What do I do when a male colleague floats an idea I’ve already suggested, even in the  same  meeting, and gets credit for it and broad support. Even though I got zero support when I floated the same idea.”      The Current We Swim Against   Bropropriation is really just a symptom of a bigger issue. Gender inequality is the air we breathe, the current we swim against.     According to research featured in the  Harvard Business Review :      ·         “Men get more of the critical assignments that lead to advancement than women do...”      ·         “On average the men’s projects had budgets twice as big and three times as many staffers as the women’s.”        ·         “...while more than a third of the men reported that their assignments garnered them a great deal of attention from the C-suite, only about a quarter of the women could say the same.”     In other words, bropropriation doesn't happen in a vacuum.      But here’s what I truly believe:      As with mansplaining and manterruption, I truly believe that 90% of these instances are   completely unconscious   on the part of our male colleagues. It doesn’t make these experiences any less damaging to our careers (not to mention sense of worthiness), but acknowledging this can take some of the rage and judgment out of the situation if you’ve had your idea cribbed.     (And to be clear, men who intentionally appropriate and take credit for a woman’s ideas are every bit as vile and toxic as the  women  who take credit for another woman (or man’s) idea.)       But if this kind of thing is woven, subtly, into the culture of business, are we powerless against it?  On the contrary. There is a LOT we can do.      FOUR Ways to Limit Bropropriation          1)        Amplify, Amplify, Amplify.   Fewer offices have thicker glass ceilings than the White House.  Female staffers in the Obama administration came up with a strategy for making sure their voices were heard, and it is, as New York Magazine  story’s  headline says,  genius.  The female staffers’ approach was simple, but did require some coordination: When a woman made a key point, others in on the amplification strategy would repeat it, and give her credit. This created an impression with the men in the room, and gradually, the men moved  out  of an  unconscious  position of appropriation (or disregard) of ideas that came from the women in the room. The strategy also began to cement in the men’s psyches that women were  sources  of good ideas. Obama caught on, and began calling upon women more actively in meetings. If it can work in the White House, it can work for us in our offices and conference calls. Consider how you might build an amplification strategy. Who would you tap to be on your team? Male  and  female?       2)        Hand the Mic Back.   If you are in a position of leadership, and you notice that a female colleague has been interrupted, or has had her good idea largely ignored, bring the conversation back to her: “Laura was onto something here, and I’d like to hear what she has to say on this….” It doesn’t have to be hostile or patronizing, just a quick mic pass back to the speaker so she can finish her thought.          3)        Up Your Game & Ask for Feedback.   It can be enormously useful to study the communication style of those whose ideas  are  supported over yours. Are there ways you can work on your own ability to influence, to make a strong argument, or handle pushback that would improve  your  ability to sell an idea? What kind of energy are you bringing to the table? Confident? Secure? Open? Before we place blame on anyone else for stealing an idea, consider looking inward first and doing a bit of self sleuthing.  Is there something I’m doing that is sabotaging my idea?   Begin to notice your body language and tone. Two of my favorite sources of insight on the issue of nonverbal communication are Amy Cuddy, social scientist, TED speaker, and author of  Presence.  I HIGHLY recommend her  TED talk  on body language. Additionally, the brilliant Olivia Fox Cabane wrote a book called   The Charisma Myth   that offers very practical techniques for upping your non verbal game.     Next, consider seeking the feedback of those you trust. You might ask, “Just now in that meeting, both Bill and I came up with the same idea. I floated it first, and it was ignored. Bill floated it and it received support. What could I have done earlier to gain more support?” Make it clear that you are seeking feedback, and not pity or a venting session. This is key. Otherwise, you’ll get empathy but not a whole lot of new insight.     4) Pause & Check In  If you've been reading my blogs at all, you will see this strategy repeated. Because it is powerful, friends. A Pause and Check In might sound something like this:     “Hey, I’m confused about something.”     (That’s the pause.)     “That idea you floated in the meeting is a good one, and I believe it actually came from me. In the past, when I’ve had bosses or colleagues float an idea of mine, they’ll give me a nod. But you didn’t do that. I’m sure there’s a good explanation, and I just wanted to check in and talk about it.”     (That’s the check-in.)     There are two ways it could go: 1) Denial/Shaming 2) Apology.      Denial and Shaming.  If the person reacts by making you feel bad for needing your idea to be acknowledged, you’ve been shamed and denied. If the person reacts by telling you “Team players don’t worry about getting credit…,” you are being denied and shamed. Now, to be fair, this person may not realize that giving people credit isn’t just good leadership, it’s actually furthering gender equality in the workplace. You might respond by sending the White House/Amplification article to him, and saying something like: “I think it’s possible to be a team player AND receive acknowledgment for good ideas. It’s good for women, it’s good for introverts, and it can help bond us as a team.”     Is it a bold move to push back on someone in a position of power? Yes. But it’s all about tone. If you maintain an unfailingly kind but firm tone, it’s much easier for the person across the table to take the feedback. If you allow anger, frustration or the great killer of dialogue—victimhood—to creep in, negotiations will break down, trust me.      Apology  If you receive an apology, consider it a huge breakthrough, and consider sending the White House article as well. Let your counterpart know that this isn’t a dynamic unique to your business or your team. It’s everywhere. And we can make such an enormous difference if we stay conscious and work together. Add him to your Amplify team, and watch your relationship grow stronger and your team stronger as well.     As I’ve said from the beginning, this work is not for the faint of heart. It’s work that requires mastery over some pretty gnarly emotions: rage, frustration, confusion, shame, anguish. And by no means am I suggesting you ignore those feelings. In fact, I highly recommend having a core group of women you can talk to and lean on as you move through these experiences (I would be lost without my core group of allies).     The key is that as we do the work of creating a more just and equal society, we process those feelings with people we trust, and then return to the table to build new kind of culture at work (and beyond). That table requires us to bring empathy, creativity, patience, enthusiasm and the ability to assume only the best about the people across the table from us.     We are at an incredible moment in time. And by “incredible,” I mean literally, it is almost beyond belief given the recent election results. Now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to be the change we are seeking in the world.     It can be exhausting to be constantly swimming against the current. But as Malcolm Muggeridge once said,   “Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream.”      And you, my friend, are not a dead fish.       You’re more like a shimmering, bad ass mermaid.     So I’ll see you in the water, sister.   

Ah friends. We come to it at last…

the final installment of Manterruptions, Mansplaining & Bropropriations.

To the men who have followed this series… two words:

THANK YOU.

It takes a lot of courage to go into the belly of the gender imbalance beast in our culture. It takes even more courage to take on the perspective of someone else, and these pieces were definitely written from a woman’s perspective for a female audience. So I honor you and thank you.

Manterruptions & Misadventures : Part I

Manterruptions & Misadventures : Part I

Thanks to this delightful election cycle (and by "delightful" I mean "vile"), I’ve been hearing the words “manterruption" and "mansplaining” every five minutes. In the next few installments, I’ll be offering some techniques and tools for women on the receiving end of these behaviors. And to our male allies, read on! The more you know, the more progress we can make together.
 
Let's start with manterrupting, shall we?

My Inner Ice Queen

My Inner Ice Queen

By 5:00 p.m. last Wednesday, I was completely drained and exhausted.

And no wonder, it had been an incredibly productive day: I started a blog post and had a fantastic coaching session with a brand new clientI got closer to closing two new accounts and sent out my first-ever piece of email marketing. In between clients and hours on the computer, I ran all manner of suburban mother errands.
 
I should have mentally high-fived myself (see “If They Only Knew…”), but the voice inside my head—the one I refer to as my Inner Ice Queen—berated me instead.
 
She said:
 
“You are so pathetic. You had a normal work day, and look at you. You want a NAP? Are you nuts? You have three kids, homework, and dinner to cook next. Get your sh*t together. Keep moving. Pour a glass of wine. Have another cup of coffee. Do something. But for God’s sake, have some self-respect and don’t lie down.”