Archive for June, 2014

Ability vs. Attitude

From my daily Runner’s World Quote of the Day: 

Ability is what you are capable of. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. – Lou Holtz


We talk a lot at work about employee attitude, and why it matters, even for our smartiest of smarty pants. I like this quote; it reminds me of why attitude is as important to me as ability.

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More Capable Voices

This past week, a friend’s child was diagnosed with cancer. A baby, just a few weeks out from his 12 month birthday.

I’ve been in a stupor, completely out of sorts. And then I’ve felt badly, like I’m co-opting someone else’s tragedy as my own.

My cousin is a powerful writer and a heavy thinker, and he thoughtfully reached out with the following words:

Just because it is not your child doesn’t mean you are not unsettled, despondent, and worried.  You might find yourself unknowingly, perhaps even in your sleep, reaching outward, driven by the full force of the love inside you, fingers flexing again and again around weightless air, trying to shield a sick child from his sickness that is everywhere and nowhere. It is not your child. You are not the parent but the connective tissue exists. The diagnoses of cancer in a young person resonates out beyond the specificity of one family unit.  Expressing that impact, especially when you are not directly involved, can be discombobulating.  You might feel apart of the story but simultaneously far away


My favorite poet suggested in a poem that we should all slow down, throw out explanations that give contained, manageable meanings and instead just tell stories. I also know when telling a story falls outside my capacities as the narrator, it is important to not give up but rather turn to a more capable voice

He then provided to me a short story by Lorrie Moore, “People Like That Are the Only People Here” It’s hard to read, but this week was a hard week to live, and I found catharsis in reading it. If you’ve been following Marianne and Hugo’s story, it may be cathartic for you, too. I hope, anyway.

I personally have no comfort to give, but I can give you a story, and a more capable voice than my own.

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Well, this was just the most fantastic thing in the world to read.

I said to someone a few months ago: “I want my daughter to see me enjoying my work.” I don’t want her to grow up thinking working is a slog or something you do because you have to and your real life starts outside of business hours. I want her to think that the time spent not with her was worth spending where I did. I want her to know that, yes, you have to work, but also, that’s a GOOD thing.

That’s how I was raised, and I consider it be a very nice thing my parents did for me. Both my parents have great careers, careers they approached differently and based on what the family needed at the time; my mom stayed home when we were young, and doubled down on her career once I (the youngest) was in college, capitalizing on the volunteer work she did while we were in school – and she’s now one of the leading experts in her field. I’m glad that’s the environment I was raised in.

In that spirit, I want to share with you the graduation speech Shonda Rhimes gave at Dartmouth graduation this spring.  It’s so good, all of it, I just want to cut and paste the whole thing for you, but here are the parts I really, truly, loved. And please note, by sharing this, I am not suggesting for even a second that my daughter will think less of me if I didn’t work. Of course I don’t think that is true. But having a career is the person I am right now, and I want her to know me for how I am.

On Doing It All:

And this is the thing that I really want to say. To all of you. Not just to the women out there. Although this will matter to you women a great deal as you enter the work force and try to figure out how to juggle work and family. But it will also matter to the men. Who I think increasingly are also trying to figure out how to juggle work and family. And frankly, if you are not trying to figure it out, men of Dartmouth? You should be. Fatherhood is being redefined at a lightning fast rate….

If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the trade off. That is the Faustian bargain one makes with the devil that comes with being a powerful working woman who is also a powerful mother. You never feel one hundred percent okay, you never get your sea legs, you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost.

Something is always missing.

And yet.

I want my daughters to see me and know me as a woman who works. I want that example set for them. I like how proud they are when they come to my offices

Ditch the Dream:

You know what I wanted to be? I wanted to be Nobel Prize Winning Author Toni Morrison. That was my dream. I blue sky-ed it like crazy. I dreamed and dreamed. And while I was dreaming, I was living in my sister’s basement. Dreamers often end up living in the basements of relatives, fyi. Anyway, there I was in that basement, I was dreaming of being Nobel Prize Winning Author Toni Morrison. Guess what? I couldn’t be Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison. Because Toni Morrison already had that job and she wasn’t interested in giving it up. One day I was sitting in that basement and I read an article in the NY Times that said it was harder to get into USC Film School than it was to get into Harvard Law School. I could dream about being Toni Morrison. Or I could do. At film school, I discovered an entirely new way of telling stories. A way that suited me. A way that brought me joy. A way that flipped this switch in my brain and changed the way I saw the world. Years later, I had dinner with Toni Morrison. All she wanted to talk about was Grey’s Anatomy. That never would have happened if I hadn’t stopped dreaming of becoming her and gotten busy becoming myself.


And also, mostly because I wish more people had told me to not be such an ass when I was in my 20s:

Here’s the thing. Yes, it is hard out there. But hard? Is relative. I come from a middle class family, my parents are academics, I was born after the Civil Rights movement, I was a toddler during the Women’s Movement, I live in the United States of America all of which means I’m allowed to own my freedom, my rights, my voice and my uterus and I went to Dartmouth and earned an Ivy League degree.

The lint in my navel that accumulated while I gazed at it as I suffered from feeling lost about how hard it was to not feel special after graduation…that navel lint was embarrassed for me.

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