After a brief but enlightening conversation with a colleague who teaches classes on storytelling, I Googled the word “storytelling” and, as expected, was gratified with 28,900,000 results in 0.79 seconds.
I was drawn to the graphics that were on the first Google result page which consequently lead me to a video entitled #TellThemNow. The simple premise of the video was to break down the barriers that we experience when telling those closest to us how we feel about them. Have tissues handy when you view it. [The video is at the bottom of this post.]
I learned at an early age that life is short, and we have a limited amount of time with which we can spend with those we love. In my early 20’s, I lost my boyfriend to Crohn’s disease, followed quickly by my sister who died of leukemia and then my father from a heart attack. My sister’s illness was prolonged, and I was able to spend time with her reminiscing about our childhood. We were both young and naïve about the illness, and we had every expectation that she would recover fully. It was a shock when she was gone. She was 32.
But the valuable experience of spending time with her during the days of her illness made me realize that I couldn’t afford to procrastinate. It became my mission to spend whatever time possible with the rest of my immediate family, showing them, telling them what they meant to me. I recognized that turning my back on that mission would haunt me for the rest of my days.
Four decades later, I’m still cognizant of that short life span. When managing a team in the corporate world, I made certain that I expressed my personal appreciation to my individual team members not only as contributors but also as fellow human beings. It takes some courage to do this, regardless of the recipient.
Express appreciation to someone below you in your organization, and s/he might feel you are being condescending. Express appreciation to someone above you, and s/he might feel you are being obsequious. My solution? Do it anyway. I have no control over what the recipient believes are my motives. The value of the exchange is only partially about the recipient. Yes, compliments or positive statements make recipients feel appreciated and valued, but it also gives you, the giver, a brain boost.
Tell someone today how valued s/he is.
I have a handful of favorite female authors that are quite literally badass writers. Some, like Amy Tan, don't allow their badass-ness to come through in their fiction writing at all.
Did you get a feeling that Amy Tan was a badass when you read The Joy Luck Club? No, of course not. But read her autobiography, The Opposite of Fate, and you'll get the picture. And when I call Ms. Tan and others badasses, I use the label with great affection.
There is nothing more appealing to a badass woman than another badass woman that can write well.
I suppose I became conscious of my predilection when I read the book You Are a Badass and was totally captivated hearing Jen Sincero describe my personality to a T. I immediately not only accepted the fact that I wanted to be a badass but celebrated the fact that I was not alone in my desire to be overt (dare I say, out of the closet?), and that I might even revel in my pursuit of the trait.
Now, let's be clear. We all know a lot of badass woman and men, but the ones I choose to applaud are not those who are misanthropes nor those who are malevolent. The ones I herald are those willful beings who speak their minds with great clarity and conviction mixed with a little sarcasm; those who can --in a word or three--define a situation and prescribe the most direct path forward, taking full responsibility in what her own role must be.
As women, we have a lot of work ahead of us. We've been working hard throughout our lives and careers, but rarely have we exited our silos in order work together.
Momentum is building in our fight for equity in our workplaces; we've got the attention of our male peers. It's a slippery slope between gaining their trust and alienating them (again). Each one of us must participate.
To quote Sincero, "Wanting can be done sitting on the couch with a bong in your hand and a travel magazine in your lap. Deciding means jumping in all the way, doing whatever it takes, and going after your dreams with the tenacity of a dateless cheerleader a week before the prom night."
I’ve only recently become aware of kintsugi, a Japanese method of repairing broken pottery. A special lacquer, typically mixed with a precious metal like gold, is used to mend the break while producing a piece that visibly displays the mend rather than disguising it. The result is frequently an object even more beautiful than the original.
The philosophy of the method is to illuminate the mend, giving value to the imperfection and highlighting the history of the object.
While one could reasonably argue that the nicks, breaks and scuffs that we as humans take on during our lives and careers are not cause for celebration, where would we be – what would we be -- without them? We would not be as valuable as we are, we would not have the experience we have or be the embodiment of the learnings we have received. We would be a shell, a facsimile of what we currently bring to the world.
I don’t necessarily advocate wearing our (broken) hearts on our (virtual) sleeves, however I do believe it is valuable to make visible the benefits of our experience.
In our hearts, most of our mended divits don’t feel like they are laced with gold or silver; the emotion of the discontinuity may still linger. But one must believe that the self-recognition of the imperfections, once reconciled with the exquisite lessons learned therefrom, make us more valuable humans to ourselves and to others.