It’s the very first thing I wrote down in my notebook. Act as if.
How exactly was I supposed to do that? Surely the trainer was going to reveal the secret during our first day of leadership training. Instead she took us on a year-long journey that started with THINK AS IF …led to ACT AS IF…and ultimately became the way things are. (or in progress of becoming.)
What is leading? It’s knowing when to talk and when to listen. It’s knowing when to lead and when to follow. It’s motivating people to do good work. It’s about having outstanding interpersonal skills. And staying focused on business outcomes. Always.
It’s all of that and so much more.
As I wrote down “Act as if” in my notebook I realized that some of the simplest lessons would be the hardest to apply.
Is there any dating that is more awkward than mommy-dating? Mommy-dating has all the fears and strangeness of “regular dating” with the added complexities of (1) the main thing you have in common is your kids (2) there are more people affected by the relationship than just you and the other mom. Namely, the kids. And also the husbands / partners / significant others.
Mommy dating is similar to regular dating in some ways —
First there’s interest. The moment you realize you have something in common with another mom. When small talk gives way to meaningful conversations that bypass bottle feeding, potty training, or soccer practice.
Then there’s the moment of “what do I do next”? Do we get together? With the kids? With the husbands? What’s the protocol here? And how do I suggest getting together without being totally awkward?
When you get together – especially if it’s a mommy only outing – it really starts to feel like dating again. Thoughts drift through your mind like:
You never miss an episode even though the show went off the air 15 years ago.
You think it’s not possible to watch too much of, or talk too much about, Seinfeld.
You get angry if anything interferes with Seinfeld (damn BASEBALL).
You reference the show daily.
You start a conversation with “helllloooo [fill in person’s name]”, gloss over juicy details with “yada yada yada”, and end with “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
When surprised, you yell “GET OUT” and shove someone.
You’ve left a meeting on a high note.
You have at least one pet named after a Seinfeld character.
When someone says, “you’ll never believe what so-an-so named their kid” you excitedly reply “SEVEN?!?” (One time I did this and my non-Seinfeld friends looked at me in bewilderment. In fact, the baby’s name was Seven.).
Apathetic. Until last week that was my attitude towards the PTA. With a demanding job and even more demanding kids I was positive I didn’t have time for the PTA. Not now. Possibly not ever. Though Jill 10-years ago imagined becoming a super-involved-soccer-mom, Jill today loves her job and needs down time.
My main source of school related information is my friend Rachel. My primary motivation to do anything is guilt (“Mommy, EVERYONE is going to such-and-such event”) followed by my intention to minimize the amount of time my children will spend in therapy (I accept they will likely need therapy; the challenge is to minimize how much time they require with a therapist).
If the PTA blink – or Rachel — doesn’t explicitly tell me what to do and when to do it, I ignore it.
So how did I go from a potential path of indifference to nominating myself for PTA president?
One day I told my therapist, “I JUST WANT TO BE ALONE.”
She replied, “I can’t believe I never noticed this before. You are an introvert.”
I am? Sure enough, she was right. I am an outgoing introvert, which I think makes me an introverted extrovert.
Most people describe me as an outgoing but I’m actually quite shy and often feel out of place. My therapist defined an introvert as someone who gets energy from within themselves, not from external factors such as a social environment. That is undeniably true.
Confession #1: Silence is my weapon
When Josh and I started dating I was very unsure…of everything. He embodied all the characteristics of a perfect boyfriend. I wanted to keep him interested. But he was a lot cooler than me (still is!) and I was certain that I must not fit in with his friends. I won him over, but making friends with his friends seemed impossible.
My response was to stay quiet. Silent, in fact, for a few years.
Eventually I got over myself and now I can’t shut up.
Confession # 2: The first meeting is the worst
That time between “Hi, I’m Jill” and the moment I find common ground with someone is alarming. My brain says, “Don’t be a bitch, don’t insult anyone, and for goodness sake don’t be BORING…wait, what was the person’s name again???”
The worst questions are: what do you do? what’s new?
WHAT’S NEW? Let’s see: are you interested in potty training? Temper tantrum control tactics? That I knit something I’m wearing? How my FIOS isn’t working properly? About my most recent attempt to stuff a pill down my cats throat? How I have 50 pairs of shoes but primarily wear Birkenstocks or clogs?
Confession #3: I fake it
I can usually connect with people but I still dread the get-to-know-each-other-phase. Maybe it’s because I’m not great at small talk. Or maybe it’s because I feel like wall flower in large crowds. When in doubt I revert to silence (see confession #1 ) or I fake it.
Like the time I started a new job and my first day was a company team-building event. Scariest work day ever. I was surrounded by a hundred new faces all wondering “who is the new girl” and I knew I had one shot to make an impression.
So I faked it. I summed up the courage to proactively introduce myself, crack jokes, and participate in the event. To this day my manager (now friend), doesn’t believe that (a) I faked it (b) I was terrified (c) I’m an introvert.
Confession #4: I prefer to be alone
I love to be around people — especially that fantastic group of people known as my family and that other group of fun people known as my friends. But I have a strong, natural desire to be alone. I need quiet time to relax, regroup, and rejuvenate.
This is a common trait of introverts as described in True Facts About the Introvert
“Contrary to popular belief, introverts do enjoy social interaction. They simply require less of it than their more boisterous extroverted cousin. As such the introvert seeks out the company of a few select people, also dogs and cats”
That explains A LOT.
So which is it? Introvert? Extrovert?
I’m still a little baffled about which camp I belong to so I’ll make up a new word: IntroExtroVertedness.
Noun. Adjective. Verb. (with made up words we have the luxury of using them in really interesting ways)
1. The state of mind of an outgoing, friendly person who wants to get past the newlywed phase of relationships quickly; Enjoys days of solitude.
Use it in a sentence: Her IntroExtroVertedness really shines through in this blog.
Final Confession: I love to blog
Blogging is great. I can write when I feel extroverted, about how I feel introverted, when I am all alone. I can read my words carefully to make sure I don’t violate anything mentioned in Confession #2. I can share without subjecting myself to immediate reaction. And I thrive when people make comments.
Who has “IT”? What exactly is “IT”? And why do I want IT so badly?
Is IT like grace – you have it or you don’t?
What are the undefinable but recognizable characteristics that make up the “IT factor”? IT here is defined as executive presence, not the people you call when your computer isn’t working (ahem, Rachel!)
Today I celebrate my 13th year at Cisco. In my religion 13 years is a milestone that leads to a Bat Mitzvah, reflection, and celebration. While I am clearly not an active religious participant (to the dismay of many family members), I do love a chance to reflect and celebrate.
So what have I learned?
How to market products and solutions. How to market to specific audiences. And most importantly, how to market myself. As a naturally shy person and somewhat of an introvert, the last one took quite a bit of getting out of my own way to accomplish.
Harmony is possible but I have to work really, really hard to maintain it. It’s kind of like walking the balance beam when you are completely uncoordinated. There are a lot of bruises to recover from with potential for long-term emotional scars.
I’ve accomplished a lot in 13 years. Despite a few career lulls, I am exactly where I imagined myself in 2013 (not that I had a long term plan or anything).
Going back to bullet two, it’s clearly possible to achieve personal goals even at an intensely demanding (but rewarding) company. In my 13 years at Cisco I have accomplished quite a few personal goals: got married (no small feat as we learned in my Get What You Want NOW blog), launched two babies, earned my black belt and life coaching certification, became a blogger, and got published (there’s still time to help me get published again. Vote for Discovered in a Skein of Yarn!)
An important part of being happy at work is working with people you like. Who you work with, and for, counts. A lot. I try to be someone that others enjoy working with, and for (that last part is possible because I finally achieved my long term career aspiration of becoming a people manager. I am spoiled with the most incredible team ever!)
Apparently I have some guiding principles I feel strongly about. They are: be present, be authentic, be candid, be a deliberate creator, have positive expectation. I’m still working on the “be present” part.
My passion is to help people discover their own passion and connect to work that is fulfilling and meaningful. I can do this every day in my current job. Score!
Give people a chance even when they don’t have every skill needed to do a job. That’s how I am celebrating 13 years – because Phylis hired me despite my total lack of experience. Thanks, Phyl for taking a chance on me – and happy anniversary to you, too!
The kitchen is the heartbeat of our household. Depending on who is cooking it’s where magic or disaster happens.
The Chaotic Kitchen: Managed by woman-who-never-learned-to-properly-cook (Me)
Step 1. Open the refrigerator at least 5 times hoping dinner will miraculously appear. This is the first sign of trouble: fully cooked meals are more likely to be found on the stove top or in the oven.
Step 2. Accept responsibility to cook dinner. Sigh…
Step 3. Find something simple to cook. Wish again that dinner will somehow appear without me dicing, slicing, or sautéing. Ask myself if I can afford a personal chef (the answer is no).
Step 4. Prep food. Find solutions for seemingly simple dilemmas like “can I substitute garlic and onion if the recipe calls for shallots?”. Seems risky. Opt to leave them out (and let’s not talk about the time I couldn’t remember the difference between scallions and chives.)
Step 5. Cook. If you can call it that.
Step 6. Yell at kids for being too close to knives and hot objects. Feel good it took this long to scold them.
Step 7. Smoke alarm goes off. What’s on fire? Dinner. Dinner is on fire. Must decide: save dinner or run around like a crazy person opening all windows and doors.