The Busy and The Quiet


There are very few times in my life that I am alone any more.  Especially, times where I am alone and not connected to someone or something via my phone.  This is one of those times (don’t be bothered by the being connected to my blog….that is a part of the relief).  The kids are off to a movie with Jon and I am due to a friends house in about an hour.  But, for these 45 minutes, I am alone.  No sounds around me in the house other than my fingers typing, and the hum of our house as the dishwasher runs and the laundry is in action.  

I realize in this moment how I have almost forgotten how to sit silently.  The things I should be doing race through my mind:  should I prep the food for dinner; is the laundry ready to fold; maybe I should squeeze a quick workout in; I haven’t called my best friends from high school/college in a long time and should take this minute to make that happen; I have been meaning to get back to the book I got half way through on vacation and now is the time; what could I start on to make this week go more smoothly.  So, I force myself to keep writing as a way to not relinquish this time to the constant to do list in my mind.  

When did this happen?  Was it the onset of kids that took all my quiet moments and turned them into times filled with things?  Was it my job progressing to the point where I don’t have time during the day to take a deep breath?  Did this set the precedent for “no deep breaths, ever”?  Maybe it is because our world is on at all times (email, text, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, etc.).  Maybe it is because Jon and I are productive people….and don’t want to let a minute not help us to progress something forward.  

In reflection, it is a choice.  I like to squeeze a lot into my life.  I enjoy the things with my family, and my job, and socializing as a part of our community.  I enjoy my friends, and the outdoors where we live and staying connected to friends from prior times in my life via phone, text, email.  I enjoy the busy.  

But, I also like the quiet.  The slight dripping I hear from the kitchen sink, the idea of a nap, being bored.  A weekend with no plans, the time to take a spur of the moment road trip.  The ability to answer my phone when my mom calls versus texting her I am in the middle of something.  The free brain space to dream about things that make me happy, without making a plan about them….simply imagining what could be.  

To live my life to the fullest, it takes the ability to do both of these things.  Not letting either the busy or the quiet dominate my time.  Being comfortable telling myself to redirect if I get too heavy on one side of the scale.  This is one of those moments.  I have been running too hard the last few months.  Not enough quiet, not enough writing, not enough open space.  It shows up in my health (sitting here with a cold), my kids (they show me my stress as if they are a mirror) and my temperament.  Time to redirect.  

There Should Be More Girls

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Tonight when putting Katharine (6 1/2) to bed and talking about her day, she asked me an important and hard to answer question.  “Mom, why aren’t there more girls in my mountain biking camp?”  First of all, mountain biking camp!  I know, only in Park City does a 6 1/2 year old have a bike nicer than I did at age 25, and get to go to a camp to learn to ride trails that I only got brave enough to take on 15 years ago.

She proceeded to say, “Having more girls would be more fun.  Plus mom, we can do anything that boys can do.”  Proud mommy moment.  After a few minutes, I realized that I had never answered her question.  Why aren’t there more girls?  I proceeded to tell her that at my work, I often times am the only girl so I know how she feels.  I shared with her that it would be more fun if there were more of us (not stated to her…and more productive, and more diverse in opinions, and better for business).  I told her that the good news is that I work with a ton of girls.  In fact, at my company, there are more girls than boys (we are over 60% female).  She gave me a bright-eyed smile.  I told her that in my office there are actually about 600 girls.  She proceeded to ask me if there were only a few boys because that would be “cool”, to which I said nope, about 500.  She was pretty jazzed that at my work the girls outnumbered the boys.  We talked about it more and I told her that it was actually really great that there were all kinds of people at my work…boys, girls, young people, old people, white people, black people (I know in Utah!).  She thought that it would be “better if in her mountain biking class there could be all kinds of people too.”

But, I never answered her question.  Why aren’t there more girls?  I want to protect her from some of the truths that are probably behind that question.  Maybe more parents believe their boys should be mountain bikers than girls?  Maybe society teaches little girls to choose ballet camp instead (trust me Katharine wants to do that too, and Matthew has never asked).  I avoided the question, hoped to teach her that girls can do anything boys can do, and vice versa, and hoped that what she remembers is that having all kinds of people in all things makes everything better.

What Advice Would I Give My 24-Year Old Self?

Today I was doing an interview with someone about being a female leader in marketing and in the staffing industry and was asked an interesting question….what advice today would you give your 24-year old self?

Oh my.  Lot’s of advice, much of which is not mentionable on a blog titled “Marketing Meets Motherhood.”  As I reflected for a moment on this, I thought a lot about Joe Haynes.  Joe was my first boss at Procter & Gamble.  He was a Finance Manager when I was a Cost Analyst.  Joe taught me a lot, and in reflection was a very influential person in my own journey as a leader.

So, what was the advice I would give 24-year old self?  It was one of the lessons that Joe taught me – to be authentic and inquisitive.  Joe lived a life of authenticity.  From the day that I met him, he was who he was with no apologies.  He told me early on to be comfortable in what I know, ask questions about what I don’t, and always be good with either.  I wish at many points in my early career that I would have listened to him more.  When I finally learned that I should and I could do this, I became more comfortable in my own skin.

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It is a lesson that I wish that learned earlier, and often one that I need to remind myself of today.  Each time I either succeed or fail at being an authentic leader, and trust me there are both, I think of Joe.  We are rarely in touch today, but I imagine Joe, retired from P&G, living a life of authenticity.  He may not ever know how influential this was for me, or even that he said it.  Joe, I hope that our paths cross again.

Being Grateful: Preschool Graduation

Time is such a hard thing to keep in perspective.

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Sometimes you wish it away, like those moments you are sick in bed with the flu and you just want your sickness to be over with.  You hope beyond hope that time will pass faster so you can get back to normal.

Sometimes you wish to relive it, like those moments you reminisce about your past.  The “remember when…” moments that seem to grow in frequency as you get older.

Sometimes you wish for more of it, like those moments when your list of things to do is longer than time allows.

Sometimes it moves slow, but for me most times it moves fast.

After watching Katharine’s preschool graduation yesterday, I am simply grateful for the time I have had being a mommy to this precious little one.  It is amazing how she has grown and what a wonderful caring, little person she has become.

Confessions of a “To-Do” List-aholic

We are in the middle of a relaxing beach vacation with our kids for the very first time.  Sunday was both of the kids first time playing at the beach.  Katharine was beyond excited.  As she played in the surf, giggles, an occasional squeal and moments of “this is amazing,” were what filled the air.  What a moment this was for her!  Her happiness filled our faces with joy just being around her.

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I sit here while the kids are napping after another fun filled morning thinking about my list of things to do both back at home and at work.  How in the world did my to-do list begin to creep back in my head?  Instead of heading upstairs to relax, or reading a book, I pull out my computer and begin down a path of checking email…almost out of habit.  Has my busy lifestyle made me incapable of just relaxing?  What the hell am I doing.

Today, I am confessing.  In hopes to not make this my path for the afternoon, I am writing this blog instead of doing my work email (oh damn- the notification of another email just popped up….hold strong).  I am choosing that a “to-do” list shouldn’t run my life, despite how busy I am.  I am choosing that by confessing, I am taking back control.  Working too much is not a forgone conclusion.  I refuse to accept that my email and my work list can control my life.  It starts today.

My commitment for this week is to get back on vacation, and stay there;  to start squealing with my kids on the beach when the surf touches my toes; to a margarita (or two) for lunch; and to a nap snuggling with my beautiful little kids.  I will be back next week!

Our Parenting Philosophy

The other day one of my friends asked me about our parenting philosophy, and why our kids are so well adjusted.  I was flattered, and didn’t quite know what to say.  I don’t think that Jon or I have ever explicitly spoken about our parenting philosophy.  Is that strange?  Maybe others of you out there have a philosophy, or a way you do things.  We feel so often that we are just learning as we go, and our kids are a part of that journey with us.

After the moment, I reflected on this, the more I believe that we probably, although unplanned, do have a parenting philosophy.  We talk with our kids about a few things consistently that I hope are lessons that they could keep in their life for a long time:  1)  being healthy and happy; and 2) making good choices.

1.  Helping our kids be healthy.  One of the most important things that Jon and I want to teach our kids is about making healthy choices.  We tell them often about the choices we are making (at least the good ones!), and how they make us “healthy and happy.”  Most notably, this is how we talk about going to the gym, heading on a bike ride, eating salads and getting good sleep.  I am hopeful that by them hearing and seeing these things from us, they will pick them up in their life.  I had a proud parental moment last week when Katharine was telling me that she shared a few of her favorite things with her teacher Miss Cournti….going to the gym, skiing and biking.  Win!!!  I can only hope that this continues.

2.  Helping our kids be happy.  In reflecting on this one, I think the way that we are helping our kids learn to be happy is by showing them how.  This is not to say life is happy-go-lucky in every moment, but I am hopeful by celebrating what is happy, they will see so many ways that they can make their own life this way.

3.  Helping our kids make good choices.  If there is one thing that I have learned as a marketing professional, it is that language is everything.  Early on with our kids, Jon and I decided to use the language of “choices” within our parenting.  If something goes wrong, a tantrum, one of them hitting the other, we talk to them about how that isn’t a “good choice.”  I love what these words stand for.  We all make choices about how to act and live our life, and those choices have consequences both good and bad.  By helping our kids to understand this early, we hope that they can learn to be in charge of their own destiny.

Sounds prettty philosophical to me!

Commitments: Shape the Future Through Lessons Learned

Over the last two weeks, I have spent time setting my work goals for 2015.  I like this process every year as it is a time to reflect on where I have come over the last year, and it helps to drive clarity as to what I want from the next year. This year it is particularly gratifying as feel like I am coming off the best year ever for my team (thank you to any of you are reading this!).  As I set up for an even better 2015, I reflect on the lessons that I have learned this year.

1.  The Power of Attitude.  However cliche this may sound, I continue to be reminded as each year passes how important my daily attitude is to accomplishing things.  This year a handful of work challenges reminded me of this more than ever.  It is hard to maintain a positive attitude each day, and everyone has ups and downs.  This year, more than once, I stepped away from my desk when I had a bad attitude and it helped tremendously.  And, those times I didn’t, it dramatically impacted the effectiveness of my decision making.

2.  Worrying Won’t Get You Anywhere, Acting Will.  I am a born worrier.  My grandmother was a worrier, my mom is a worrier, and thus, I am a worrier.  Often times, when I am left with downtime, I fill it with worries.  At the end of the summer, I was driving myself crazy worrying about how back-to-school was going to go, and how I was going to handle another year with Jon traveling.  Finally, I just decided to act.  Today, we have some help now with the kids a few days a week after school and I feel more balanced because of it.  It wasn’t a hard solution, but one that I couldn’t see while I was worrying.

3.  Ask for What You Want.  You can call this “leaning in” or simply being clear.  One of the hardest things about this lesson, and unfortunately what I have struggled with before, is that you have to know what you want to ask for it.  Without asking for it, the people around you will not infer from your actions what it is.  You have to make it explicitly clear.  When you do this, it will be hard, but it is a critical step in reaching your goals.

Most days I feel stronger than I did a year ago, and I believe recognizing the lessons of last year will help make next year even better.  My commitment for today is to shape the future from the lessons of the past.

Being Thankful: A Purposeful Direction of Thought

I began writing this post on Thanksgiving Day as I was feeling I needed to have the obligatory “I am thankful for…” post on the blog.  It was rough.  Although I am thankful for so many things, what I found myself doing was writing what I thought I should write versus the things that were on my mind.  The original intention of this blog was to write from my heart and my head, and not to write what I thought people wanted to hear or what I “should” write.  So, for that day and for the last week or so, I stopped writing.

Once I lived through this writing crisis, I became increasingly more skeptical.  All of the “Thank You” messages that I saw in my Facebook feed and of all of the articles I was reading on other blogs about thankfulness didn’t seem authentic.  I wondered if those were real thoughts from people or if they were just posting/writing about what they thought they should say much like I had been about to do.  So much of our world today is about broadcasting our social “status.”  Therefore, how much are people broadcasting thankfulness versus being truly thankful?

Tonight, I am a little less skeptical.  I have decided that this broadcasting of thankfulness is a good thing.  We all have a lot going on in our lives every day and night.  Our brains can get filled with worry, stress, to-do lists, work, family and so much more.  Being thankful requires a purposeful direction or redirection of these thoughts and energy toward celebrating the good in our lives.  By being purposeful, does that mean it is isn’t real?  I don’t think so.  The forced thought, and ultimately broadcasting of these thoughts, helps to move my mental energy toward what is good in my life and away from what may be dragging me down.

As a way to direct my thoughts toward thankfulness, I will start another category on this blog describing things in my life that I am thankful for.  Look for this, coming soon!

Commitments: Continue To Grow As A Leader

I have had one of the hardest weeks of work in my career this week.  It has caused me to look internally, and to evaluate myself in earnest as a leader.  I don’t know what it is about the work issue that made this self evaluation come in, but it made for a few nights of little sleep, a strong need to get my workouts in, and now a need to write a blog about it.  What I have been spending time evaluating is my strength as a leader.  I am good at some things, and not so good at others.

So, here are my top five leadership commitments for 2015:

  1. As a leader, give your time to developing the strengths in others.  As we grow in our career, we are often valued for the individual contributions that we make.  In the transition to a leader, the value you create has less to do with your personal contributions and more to do with your team and what they can deliver.  This shift from an individual contributor to a leader takes time to learn, and forces purposeful reallocation of your time.  Instead of your time being about you and your work, it is about your people.  If you are taking up the majority of your time, or the limelight, your team isn’t, so change it.  Allocate your time to the development of others and you will succeed.
  2. When helping a team member develop, keep the end goal in mind.  Sometimes when you are actively coaching an employee to help them improve, it is easy to get so granular in your coaching that it feels to them like you are unsatisfied with their every move.  Often, you see “your way” as the only way to do something, and your coaching is working to shape their behavior to “your way”.  As the leader, if you focus on the end goal for the individuals development, instead of the specific gaps you see in their daily work, you will bring your feedback in effectively as versus on every small thing that they may be doing differently than “your way”.  And, in the process, you may find new ways.
  3. Listen to truly understand.  Allow your point of view to be molded.  Just because you got to your position of leadership, doesn’t mean that you know everything.  To get the best out of your team, spend your time truly listening to the perspective of your people.  Their practical experiences and creative thinking may bring out a better solution than you ever could have determined on your own.
  4. Focus on alignment.  Being misaligned, particularly on some of the most fundamental things in your business, is a poison.  When I say alignment, I mean alignment upward within your organization, sideways, and downward to your direct reports.   Your job as a leader is to bring things into alignment to drive the most effective results.
  5. Recognize when you are in over your head.  Every leader, and every employee in an organization, gets in over their head at some point.  It is inevitable in a changing workplace and helps us to grow and stretch.  The key is to recognize it, accept it, and deal with it by building capability around you.  You show strength by giving in to this, and partnering with people around you to develop a solution.

My commitment for the week has less to do with this week, and more to do with the next year and beyond.  Based on what I learned in my hard week at work, it is even more important.  I commit to continue to grow as an individual and as a leader in the hopes that it helps those around me.