In her own words –
“What would I tell my 52-year-old self? “Stay at home.” That’s the phrase I’ll remember forever as the mantra from my 52nd birthday, since it occurred just last week in the midst of the Corona virus. And while it is literally true of this moment in my life, to a great extent, it’s the thing I would have said to my 42-year-old self, and my 22-year-old self, and my 12-year-old self. Because “staying at home” is a good idea metaphorically if you understand it this way:
Staying at home is about knowing what is yours to do when no one else is watching. It’s about closing your eyes and getting very clear about your value proposition, and then spending as much time as possible gaining the knowledge, skills and disciplines needed to kick some serious ass when you unleash yourself on the world.
My value proposition has been more or less the same since I was about 11 (yours probably has been, too). I know how to get people excited about an idea. You can call that “marketing”, but I don’t. You can call that “leadership”, but I don’t. Those terms refer to the work that comes after the part that is really mine to do: clarifying and elevating the idea itself so that it can be made interesting and exciting to others. I can do that whether the idea is a social movement, an elaborate prank, a brand strategy for a political candidate, a menu for dinner for my family, or a new venture to help the rising generation of women lead in the workplace.
So that’s a lot about knowing what you’re good at (skills). I’m a big believer in “there are no short-cuts” meaning that if you want to get great at something, you need to do it a lot. And then do it some more. Maybe it’s why so many people told me that I reminded them of the crazy coach, Monica, on Cheer.
Yet “shelter in place” is, at its core, about discipline, and that’s the part that usually gets us in trouble. It’s why “staying at home” is so hard. It’s hard to confine ourselves to ourselves. It’s hard to look inward again and again. But as my long-time business partner (and best friend) Rachel Bellow and I have always said, “the only way out is through.”
From the start of my career (at Teach For America as a member of the Charter Corps), I knew that I wanted to live “out there.” I was drawn to solving complex social problems, like educational equity, access to quality early childhood, work force development, or creating entrepreneurial ecosystem for cities. My younger self wanted to leap right to where the action was, wherever it was. As Rachel likes to say, my vector drives OUT. Yet that’s not how you matter. It’s not how you radiate impact. This is definitely a “52 year-old self” realization.
I’ve learned that you matter more when, you connect to conversations that are bigger than you. To do that, you need 3 vectors. One that drills down (what is yours to do), one that yes, drills out (get me into the room where it happens), and another that points up to the big ideas. But you can only do that well when you know what is yours to do relative to that conversation. And this is why you must “stay at home.”
Feeling like you are “in the room where it happens” (e.g. the big, interesting conversations about ideas that matter) is pretty easy thanks to Zoom. But really driving the conversations that matter—that takes work. It takes expertise. It takes rigor and discipline and inward facing work. This is the work I’m doing now at 52. It doesn’t feel phenomenal. It doesn’t feel sexy. It feels hard. But I’m doing it with a sense of humor, a brain-trust built over many years, and complete clarity about where I live having nothing to do with restrictions of place.”
Participants in this project will be supporting the efforts of Dress for Success Worldwide – Central. We are all stronger together and it is my sincere hope that we will be inspired by each other’s stories. Now is the time to celebrate as well as encourage one another. Tell your story!***