Fear of success

When I quit my job in the corporate world recently, most of my colleagues were excited for me. They assured me that they knew I would succeed at any chosen path. It was a confidence-booster. I was grateful for their kind words.

There were people who seemed very worried and concerned for me, leaving the “mother ship” as I used to call my former workplace. What would I do if I did not find another “gig” right away? Or if it did not work out to be self-employed?

To be honest, fear of failure was not on my mind. I am more concerned about decisions I will make about which direction to pursue. Since I was a young girl I wanted to do LOTS of different things in my life. I still remember being very distressed when someone asked what I was going to be when I grew up (around age 6). I listed off a bunch of things: teacher, writer, doctor, actor, store owner, etc.

The woman who had asked the question had good intentions, I suppose, but she laughed and said, “Oh honey, you can’t do ALL those things. You will have to choose one (or two).” I was immediately sad and surprised too. Seriously? You could only do ONE thing in your life?!? Crap!

I suppose that was much more true then than it is today. So she was not really trying to burst my bubble. She just did not understand my intention. I got bored easily when I mastered things. And I suppose that might have been a clue that I had an active imagination and could create compelling visions of possibilities in my life (and maybe a sign of a.d.d.)

It never even occurred to me that I might try one of those careers and fail. My parents, bless their hearts, had helped instill confidence in my abilities, and in my resilience. I still remember my Dad teaching me about “meta-cognition” when I was in grade school. Thinking was important, he said, but understanding HOW we think (or learn) is even more important.

Recently as I was completing an application for a fellowship I had a major realization – sometimes I have a greater fear of success than I do of failure. Huh? Who is afraid of success?

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As an introvert, I have often looked to leaders or people who are very successful in their careers (say, in public speaking) and thought: that’s so awesome. But I would hate to be surrounded by all those people all the time… yikes. While I like some professional acknowledgement, fame has never really been a goal for my life. I value my privacy and solitude too much.

It did not occur to me that success can look a lot of different ways, or that I could succeed in a career and set appropriate boundaries around my time and space. When you are successful, people seek you out. I guess another of those fears has to do with the future – if I succeed, people will have even greater expectations of me. I will have greater expectations of myself as well.

Where does that end? Oy! The thought makes me tired.

Right now I am considering my definition of success, first of all. For some people, that means money, a nice home, a fancy car, a corner office. I am not the kind of person that craves a lot of material things. I feel pretty weighed down by things, actually. I love going on vacation adventures, so regular travel is part of my success definition.

I love time and space. I love the ability to think, learn new skills, take classes, design workshops and collaborate with my favorite people. The spaciousness of my days has been a distinct benefit to this sabbatical, and I am trying to figure out how to build this into my new gig.

My hubby might say that success means I can retire early and do whatever I want. While that is a lovely idea, I actually enjoy working, when I do the kinds of things that make my heart sing. Success is about giving back, because to some extent, I feel I have already succeeded in my life. Sure, I failed at certain things I tried. But I learned so much along the way.

Truly I am happy in my life, right now, and I appreciate the wealth of my relationships. Ultimately is that not the best measure of success?

Happy weekend,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Starting my Summer Sabbatical

This weekend we visited our families in Bemidji and relaxed after a busy week of finalizing my corporate position. While I am excited to start my “new thing” I also know that I need a break from the intensity of work for a while.

In the corporate world, it is not as common to take a break of more than 2-3 weeks (at the most) in the U.S. as it is in academia. But I have been dreaming of a break like this for quite some time now. I expect it will be ~2 months for me, and will conclude with my 2-week honeymoon Sept 5-19 with my husband (1 year wedding anniversary).

In the academic world, typically sabbaticals have are granted as a year free from teaching duties that could be devoted to research, travel and writing. Traditionally this occurs in the 7th year. Sabbatical is related to the biblical “sabbath” in origin, the day of rest referred to in Genesis. Leviticus refers to an entire year of rest in the 7th year, as a way to respect the natural rhythm of crop-harvesting, and allow the land to lie fallow.

I love the concept of cycles of intentional activity balanced with intentional rest. An over-focus on productivity in our culture seems to rob us of the ability to rest and play without guilt. We feel like we have to “earn” our rest, and then, if we work very hard and have saved up a lot of money, maybe we can retire formally and finally rest.

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Personally the idea of going from full-time work, to full time retirement has always seemed weird to me, and not at all desirable. Work often gives us a sense of purpose and satisfaction, even while it can be the source of stress and struggle at times.

If you love your work and it is well suited to your skills and interests, it is something you may not wish to escape. While you may decide to “down shift” in your later years, or work less than full time, the idea of going from 100% to zero has never appealed to me.

Granted, in the days when work was largely physical and humans had a limited capacity for this enduring effort, it certainly made sense. Today, knowledge work demands high focus during “productive time” but can also require rest and intentional play for creative generation.

What if more of us had a more flexible approach to work and life, where we could take a couple of months off every year to recharge and refresh? How might this affect our quality of work, our quality of life, and perhaps even the planet and the environment?

My theory is that quality vacations and sabbaticals may afford the kind of down time that helps us appreciate what is good about our lives, and also what is missing. This time off has required us to put away some savings, and make some sacrifices in terms of luxuries and spending. To me, it is entirely worth it. I have planned 2-2.5 days a week to “work” and plan for my consulting launch.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity and shall make the most of it. My husband tells me the time will go fast, and I am sure it will. I have a stack of books, some Udemy courses to finish, a road trip with my sister, and other connections to renew. I shall savor my journal and writing time, will meditate every day, do yoga, dance and perhaps create some art.

What would you do with a nice, juicy sabbatical of a month or more? I would love to know. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Muscle memory

I have recently taken on some new challenges, started learning some new things.

  1. Dance! – I made a pledge to myself back in January, took a foundations class, and then I also followed on with another Zumba class. I will do more of this, especially now that my schedule will be more flexible for the next couple of months.
  2. Massage – My massage therapist gave me a 90-minute lesson on how to give a massage to my hubby. I’ve been wanting to learn, and to have a non-sexual way to connect through physical touch. I wanted to learn how to properly do this without giving myself carpal tunnel or hurting my back over the massage table.
  3. Motorcycling – I took an intro class to ‘Cycling and Scootering. I did a lot better than I thought for only a 4-hour class. I am now more motivated to study for my permit and take the longer “Basic Rider Course” sometime in August or September.

What do these three activities have in common? All of the teachers spoke of the practices as building up “muscle memory” over time in order to make certain parts automatic. While learning new skills, we often have to think and focus intensely. This is all new and our minds and bodies need to make the connections necessary to master the skills. Then they take practice, repetition and time in order to build up the muscle memory that allows for less conscious effort, a more fluid and easy feel.

muscle memory
Photo credit link – Snowmie (Stop Your Tricks)

I started considering the muscle memory that drives many of our daily habits. Have you ever gone out to do an errand and ended up driving somewhere automatically even though you did not consciously want to go there? Your mind was somewhere else, but your body knew where you usually go (work, the grocery store, etc).

I thought about the muscle memory of playing the flute (started in middle school) or the saxophone (started in high school). My teacher told me that it was a good thing I started on the flute and then moved to saxophone because the movements are more precise and delicate. Apparently it is more difficult to go the other way. Hours and hours of practice on the flute helped me “convert” the muscle memory of the similar fingerings on the saxophone.

When we embark on a new chapter in our lives, there is no muscle memory yet for how to do our daily work. We need to suspend judgement and be kind to ourselves while we are learning. All of our efforts are part of the feedback loop of mastery, even if they fail, even if we shift too quickly and cut the engine while not allowing enough throttle to create momentum.

There are ways to visualize and help to create muscle memory even more quickly. One motorcycle instructor told us that even practicing our hand and foot motions in the evening for 10 minutes while sitting in a chair watching t.v. could help us master the skill more quickly. The memory is formed not just in our muscles, but with the help of our brain, and this is what world-class athletes do before their routines.

As I visualize my next chapter, I associate feelings of ease and excitement. I see myself learning new things, and having my back, giving myself encouragement if I make mistakes. I build up these muscle memories and know that in time, the practice pays off, and the learning accumulates. Confidence increases, and satisfaction as well.

What kinds of muscle memory do you access regularly?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Throwback Thursday – Love over fear

**Re-posting an edited blog from February, because it is very relevant to the feelings I have as I navigate the final two days of corporate life. Thanks for reading and commenting! **

Recently I started practicing a new mantra, as I began to consider my actions in light of love or fear. This came from some reflection on yesterday’s blog and a conclusion I came to in seeing my work situation in a new way.

I started asking: “How can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?” It became apparent to me, when I realized that in leaving my current position soon, I am not leaving my team. I am showing them what it is to be brave and to take on a new challenge. For months, I worried, anxious about who would “look out” for them when I am gone. But by staying in department that constantly demands more from them, without providing the resources, I am just keeping a broken system intact. It’s like being a brick in the wall. But it may be a wall that needs to come down. Staying there is not an act of love, on a long-term basis.

Acting out of love rather than fear seems to require that we “re-wire” our brain in new ways, because fear is familiar to us. We are used to doing things the way we have habitually learned to do them. Learning a new way requires practice and commitment.

I took a break from my work and headed to the gym for a quick treadmill run, to clear my head and get my endorphins flowing over the lunch hour. I practiced my new mantra: how can I act with more love and less fear in this moment?

What changed: I put my phone away and began looking into people’s eyes, smiling if they met my eyes. I paid attention to my body while I ran, instead of feeding myself mindless distractions with my iPod or phone. I used my run as more of a “breathing meditation” rather than an excuse to check out from my life.

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When I got back to my desk, I focused on bringing more love and less fear to each interaction with my coworkers, each email, each phone call. I kept asking myself that question: how can I act with more love in this moment? It radically changed the amount of work I was able to get done, and the purposefulness in which I was able to complete the work.

When my husband returned home, I talked with him about my discovery, and then had a conversation about a topic I had been avoiding. I had not been sure how to talk about it. I was honest about feeling afraid before, and about how that has held me back sometimes. He was very open, and he was hearing me. He did not make me feel ashamed about that. He listened and he supported me. I felt much closer to him than I have in a long time.

It brings tears to my eyes as I write this, because I realize how often I have been acting from fear rather than acting to bring more love to all my interactions. I am extending compassion to myself also, knowing this is conditioned behavior, and it is not a character flaw on my part. I am exceeding grateful to recognize it now, and to be able to start consciously “un-conditioning” that automatic behavior. While it feels familiar, it does not serve me. It does not serve anyone.

When we choose to act to bring more love into our experience, rather than to react out of fear, we radically change the orientation of our lives. We bring new energy into our relationships, and into our spheres of influence. Some people may respond in confusion, as they are not used to this type of interaction. But most are grateful for this approach, and feel our caring.

***

I will start again in August to use this mantra regularly. I need it as much for myself as for others. I am eager to see what a difference it makes as I embark on a new chapter of my journey.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

 

 

The final countdown!

I woke up this morning with the song in my head by Europe: the Final Countdown!

For a video from YouTube:

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Link to the YouTube video

I love the 80’s hair and the head-banging musicians. I had to re-read the lyrics of the song because I guess I really never knew them.

With only 5 days to go, I feel excited with a little nervous trepidation. There are a lot of things I want to complete this week, and yet I know I have time for what really matters. Anything that is forgotten or does not occur is probably not important.

I will make sure to have my contacts secured on my new phone/computer. I will have lunches with people and one dinner with a project team that is still developing a product that came from our Innovation Jam efforts. I will make sure to transfer any final information to my team that they might need in order to get things done.

I will clean out my desk and take home any personal items. I guess I will turn in my work laptop and phone, so probably good to have any personal things cleared off there as well.

Since this change has not happened overnight, and I have been intentional since March about readying my team for this eventuality (even while they did not know my specifc plan) I feel ready.

I slept well last night. I am ready for this. I will savor these last days with gratitude.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Leaning into discomfort

For the last couple of days I had the privilege to observe a “culture transformation” facilitation 2-day session with a colleague who is a professional consultant. It was an intense but productive couple of days. In my usual fashion, I am still processing internally the lessons I observed about the group and about myself.

This was unlike other sessions I have personally conducted, but many of the issues were similar. My goal was to learn as much as possible, be of help when I could to the facilitator, and consider how I may apply these lessons to my future work.

I realized during the process that I would have to lean into my discomfort, meeting 15 leaders of R&D and business cross-functional partners gathered for this meeting. Only 1 of the leaders was a woman, along with the admin and the HR director, and the rest were men. (With the facilitator and myself, there were 5 women total, less than a third of the room).

The first day I was a bit overwhelmed by it, actually. I pick up on the emotional states of others quite easily, and it felt like my empathy channels were flooded with input. By the end of the day, though I was invited to the happy hour and dinner that followed, I was desperately in need of a break from the action to quiet my mind. Fortunately I had this, about 40 minutes between others leaving the room, and joining them for the informal portion of that day’s events.

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It reminded me of how I typically feel after attending one of my own team meetings where I am fully engaged and “on” the whole day. But since Latin America teams rarely re-convene before 7 or 8pm to have dinner, the break in between is typically longer. Usually that has meant I sacrifice sleep, since we return to the hotel around 11 and it takes me an hour or two to calm my jangled nervous system after all the people interaction.

As a morning person, I seldom sleep past 5am, so a 3-day meeting leaves me exhausted and depleted, even if it was a productive event. So I plan for this, and I ensure that before and after these meetings, I have plenty of solitude, writing time, meditation. I go on walks, do yoga, sit with my cat on my lap when possible, and allow for the impressions to seep and filter into consciousness.

Leaning into discomfort is possible because I know myself. I realize it does not indicate anything has gone wrong. These preferences may be hard-wired or habitual, and I am aware of when I must step into it. The observations of interactions between people fascinate me, and this particular group had a few real characters. The “lab” of human interaction is at play, and while it can be challenging, my curiosity typically redeems the discomfort involved.

I typically enjoy interactions 1:1 with people and in small groups, where I feel I am able to focus my sensory “data collection” if you will. I am curious about how my comfort level may evolve over time and with practice. Right now I am allowing for the learning, as challenging as it is, and being patient with my discomfort. It is all part of the growth process, and for that I am grateful.

Happy weekend, amigos.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Curtain call

Today I will tell my team about my career decision news. My director scheduled a mandatory conference call so I could tell them in my own words what I intend to do, and that I will leave the company in early August.

It is interesting that my subconscious was working on this task as I slept last night. I had a “naked dream” last night. I was the only one without clothing, but somehow I did not feel at all self-conscious. I am choosing to interpret this to mean that, though I am making a somewhat vulnerable choice and I am totally exposing my goals, dreams and plans before they are fully baked, I am ready.

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In reflecting this morning in my journal about the message I hope to deliver, I started realizing that it boils down to this: I want to reinforce the idea that they are a “small and mighty” team. But I also want to model courageous change. Instead of leaving them feeling abandoned, I want them to realize how strong they are and how resilient. While I worried plenty about who would “protect them” if I left, I now know everything will be fine.

Sometimes our fears of being who we are get in the way of taking our next steps for development. Speaking personally, I know how vulnerable it is to admit a dream to someone else, knowing they may not understand. They may tell us: you’re crazy! They may induce doubt that are dreams are worth pursuing, or fear that we may fail.

But being who we are, and exposing that truth about what we desire is fundamental to our longing as human beings. I think Glennon Melton Doyle said this in a conversation to Liz Gilbert during a podcast. Her desire was to be known for herself, for the truth of who she is.

My dream this morning helped me realize that I am the one who needs to accept myself as I am. Whether others do or not is really irrelevant. But at the same time, it is being my best, brave, true self that may help them do the same.

May you feel free to be who you are and live your dreams and desires.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com