Your one word of the year

In 2013, Fast Company published an article on choosing one word to focus on that year.  Never mind New Year’s Resolutions but one word, one purpose, one driver to focus on for the year.

Similar to my personal BHAGs, I adopted this one word idea for personal use.  2013’s theme was focus and 2014 theme is gratitude.  Both shaped how I was going to approach situations, events, and commitments for the year – both personally and professionally.

To come up with my word, I often go through the following activities:

Reflect

  • What were some of my favorite memories from this year?
  • What could I have done better?
  • Which BHAGs did I complete this year and which ones did I miss?

Envision

  • What are some of my in-the-works, draft BHAGs for the coming year?
  • What do I have planned?
  • What do I want to learn?

My word of the year also shapes what ends up going on my personal BHAG list.

I want 2015 to be something big and life-changing.  My one word for 2015?

I can’t wait to see what fearless brings in 2015.  What’s YOUR one word of the year?

The value of personal BHAGs

As we wind down 2014, one of my favorite things is to reflect back on what took place the past eleven months and look forward on what I’m excited for in the coming year.

For the past few Decembers, I’ve created personal BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) inspired by organizations that follow Jim Collins’ philosophy.  From reading twenty books to getting to wheel pose in yoga to visiting a new country, the goals are meant to be a mix of ones I am certain I capn accomplish and others that are daunting and far-fetched.

As I begin to brainstorm new BHAGs, I always review my current BHAGs and see which ones I’ve accomplished and which ones I’ll miss.

This year, I had fifteen BHAGs and only managed to accomplish 2.  That’s a 13% success rate.  I shared this with a friend who then asked me what the point  was of making BHAGs if I was only going to miss most of them.  Her question stung although very valid.  I did ask myself… “well, what is the point?”

I took a look at my 2014 personal BHAGs:

  • Save an additional $X amount
  • Read 20 books
  • Go to a new country
  • Run a total of 300 miles
  • Be able to do a wheel in yoga class (check – hello upside down world!)
  • Finish one module in Rosetta Stone
  • Be able to swim five laps
  • Be in the 15lbs weight lifting in boot camp
  • Go to a new state or province (check – Greetings Atlanta!)
  • Take my mom on a holiday
  • Complete 10 hours of coding
  • Take a public speaking course
  • Be able to do forty pushups in a row
  • Trapeze lessons
  • Private (going to keep this last one to myself)

I didn’t end up doing most of them.  I didn’t even end up completing the one I thought would be the easiest – reading twenty books.  As of December 3rd, I’ve only read twelve.  But of the books I did read, one was Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices and several were Haruki Murakami.  I chose books that challenged me as a reader and a thinker.

Same with the run 300 miles BHAG.  In 2013, I had complete a running race as a BHAG and at the time I wrote that goal down, I hadn’t run more than ten minutes since tenth grade gym class.  In 2013, I ran my first 5k and then 10k and fell in love with the race.  In 2014, I set my eye on a half-marathon as part of my getting to 300 miles.  I ended up running three half-marathons from February to October but sadly those plus training did not equal 300 miles.

When I reflect back, the value of my personal BHAGs isn’t completing them and giving myself a gold star.  The BHAGs provided me with an opportunity to explore new hobbies, new interests, new passions.  I learned what I like (running and yoga) and what I hate (following cookbook recipes1).  It was in trying to accomplish my personal BHAGs that gave me most meaning.  The journey is the reward.

So here I am at the last month of the year and starting to think about 2015’s BHAGs.  Will I have many?  Chances are yes.  Will I complete them all?  Not a chance.  I’ll be surprised if I finish more than two but I’m excited to see what it will take to complete them.

Share with me some of your BHAGs or New Year’s resolutions.  I would love to take a peek and see what I can borrow.

1 I had this silly idea one year of cooking once a month from a recipe book. It failed miserably.  I tend to be more of an innovator and creator in the kitchen than a recipe follower for better or worse.

What my favorite childhood books taught me

I was recently invited to a baby gender revealing party where the guests were asked to bring a childhood book with a handwritten message in lieu of a traditional Hallmark card and gift.

It’s been awhile since I last bought a children’s book so I was a bit at loss of what book to get.  As a lifelong reader, I thought back on what books were my favorite to brainstorm for the expecting couple’s gift.  What came to mind were two books that I still love to this day.

Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman was first read to me in Kindergarten.  The story is about a baby boy who receives a blanket at birth.  As the boy grows up, he brings his blanket with him everywhere, eventually turning the beloved blanket into a raggedy fabric.  Unable to part with the blanket, the boy’s grandpa turns the blanket into a jacket which the boy lovingly wears until the jacket also becomes teared.  The boy’s grandpa turns the jacket into the vest, and the same activity occurs, and so the vest becomes a handkerchief, and eventually into a button, and over time the boy looses the button, leaving the book with a sad, unresolved ending.

As a child, the story resonated with me.  It taught me that just because something has been loved, used, and tired, it doesn’t mean that it automatically gets thrown out and forgotten.  With a different eye and a fresh perspective, a beloved but destroyed blanket can be reused and turned into many, many different items.  It’s like one of those Ikea hacks that we often see on Pinterest.  Missing a few bolts?  Turn that Ikea Malm desk into a bed frame!

The second book that came to mind was The Balloon Tree by Phoebe Gilman(1).  The Balloon Tree is about a young princess whose father, the King, leaves the kingdom for a few days.  The king leaves the princess’ uncle in charge and tells the princess that if she gets into any trouble to release a balloon and he will see it and rush home.  As soon as the king leaves, the uncle locks up the princess and orders for all the balloons in the kingdom to be destroyed.

Unknown to the uncle was that the princess knew a secret passage to get out of her imprisoned room.  The princess goes on a long search throughout the kingdom for one balloon to release and call for her father.  Unfortunately, all balloons seem to have been destroyed.  Through ongoing persistence and resilience, the princess eventually finds a balloon from a wizard and plants the balloon under a magical tree that grows multiple balloons.

I adored this book as a child because of the pictures, the idea of balloons everywhere, and because the princess’ name was so similar to mine.  I eventually chose The Balloon Tree as my gift over Something From Nothing because I loved the can-do, positive attitude of the princess and the resemblance of the story to Hamlet.  Princess stories often involve the princess being helpless and needing saving but The Balloon Tree princess took control of her own situation and came out the winner.

It was a pleasure to be able to provide a gift to the expecting couple during this exciting time in their lives but I think I got a bigger gift from this activity than they did.  Thinking about what book to get provided me with the opportunity to return to a time where reading was simply for enjoyment and entertainment and also allowed me to reflect back on what made my favorite childhood books so special and how they made me feel.  It reminds me of that Maya Angelou quote,

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I couldn’t remember much of the story of Something From Nothing and The Balloon Tree at first until I did a bit of googling but I did recall how they made me feel and how much I loved them.  What are some of your favorite childhood books?

(1) As I write this, I just realized my two favorite books as a child were from the same author! 

In response to HBR’s article on Lean In

If you follow me on Twitter or on LinkedIn, then it’s not a surprised I’m a huge fan of Sheryl Sandberg and Lean In.  I came across this article from Harvard Business Review, It’s Not Women Who Should Lean In; It’s Men Who Should Step Back, which I highly disagree with.

Here’s a comment I left for the author:

As a woman in the early stages of my career, I very much disagree with this article and James’ analysis of Lean In.  The book isn’t telling us to copy men but rather guide women to overcome hesitation.  I’ve seen young women new to the workforce who are often time hesitant to speak up at a meeting for the fear of being wrong or going against the grain compared to young men in the workplace.  I, myself have experienced this, and it took a couple of years before I had the confidence to “lean-in” and speak up.  What Sandberg’s book does do is help guide women to gain confidence and a voice earlier on.  She’s bringing to the forefront what society is dictating and how to overcome societal and environmental norms that taught young women for the first 18 years of our lives to be quiet, play nice, and be agreeable.

And to address your question on “why is it the women who should be copying the men? Why can’t it be the
men who could be well served by taking a page out of an entirely different book: that of the very women Lean In is advising to change?”

As I mentioned previously, Lean In isn’t suggesting that women copy men.  But let’s say for argument sake that it was.  The book was written to guide women readers in their development and to provide insight for male readers into the challenges women face in the workplace.  And as much as I would be surprised and delighted if men stepped back, it’s much easier for me to take control of my actions then convince a whole gender to “lean back”.

What do you think? Is he right?  Am I way off the ball with my interpretation of the book?

The Book Club: Lean In.

I finished Sheryl Sandberg’s much buzzed about book, Lean In, last night.  As I sit here reflecting on the book, Sandberg’s message, and my thoughts, I’m trying to see what value I can add to a whirlwind of conversation that has transpired from her novel.

Before the launch of her book and since the days the book launched, praise, criticism, positivity, scoffs have been shared.  Some have argued why women should read the book and others have rolled their eyes at it.  My favorite criticism was from Simona Covel at Inc.com, “Stop Selling Me Porn” who while I agree that work-life balance books have become the “new porn” for women, I think she missed the message of Sandberg’s book.

lean in

As a young, ambitious, twenty-something, I’ve struggled with being heard and at times I have been overshadowed by my male peers at the same level.  I drew parallels to many of her stories and cringed reading Sandberg’s lesson on hand raising and being acknowledged in meetings (or Sandberg likes to refer to as “leaning in”).  I personally dealt with hesitation and pulled back when I should have been leaning in.  I was lucky to be able to overcome or in my case, forced to overcome it.  Early on I had a great male sponsor who openly asked for my opinion and having provided a dumb response my first time, I made sure not to let that happen again.  I also gained tenure at the start up I’m with and colleagues – both senior and junior staff – started to turn to me for questions and advice and I had no choice but to start contributing to meetings or watch the team backtrack.  Sandberg’s book would have came in handy before I entered the working world.

Depending on where you are at your career and personal life, this book will speak differently to you.  As a twenty-something in the early stages of my career, Lean In offers great, actionable advice I can put in practice to help me steer the next 5, 10, 15 years of my career.  There were many messages, stories, facts that made me reflect, cringe, fume, and nodded in agreement.  Here are the five key aha! moments of Lean In:

1) “A 2011 McKinsey report noted that men are promoted based on potential while women are promoted based on past accomplishments“.  This struck a chord.  I first saw and recognize this in high school and have seen it multiple times since.

2) The most important decision you will make in life will be the partner you choose.  Find someone that will put in 50/50 and be there along the ride.

3) Be your own advocate.  When hard work and results aren’t being recognized, it’s up to you to promote yourself, make the ask, and challenge yourself.  Change the results of the McKinsey report and focus on both your accomplishments and potential.

4) The movement goes both ways.  We need to promote, encourage, and be inclusive to men who choose to stay at home.  Same with women feeling shut out in the office, stay at home dads also face the same barriers.  Openness and inclusiveness need to go both ways.

5) Be authentic.  Be human.  Sheryl Sandberg has been able to capture a following because not only is she willing to raise subjects that are uncomfortable but she’s authentic.  Her experiences, her ambition, her outlook clearly has resonated with millions of women from all ages.

Sheryl Sandberg has been a trailblazer for women in tech.  She’s bringing to center stage a topic that has been shied away from and has been hushed for too long.  As the topic continues its momentum, I’ll be leaning in with a close ear.

Hello, Influence – A visit to Klout

Last night, I had the privilege to visit the Klout headquarters in the SOMA district of San Francisco as part of the Bay Area Girl Geek Dinner*series.  I’ve been to several of their events before including ones at Yelp, Genentech, and Thoughtworks and had always left feeling inspired.  The events are a great way to meet other females in tech as well as see the host company’s head office and learn more about their culture.

klout

You’ve been pinned by Klout!

Like many tech companies in the Bay area, the Klout office was vibrant and eclectic – from its wooden, high ceilings to the meeting rooms named after famous celebrities – the office showcased Klout’s dynamic culture.  The event began with Klout’s Director of People and Culture, Katelin Holloway, sharing her take on Klout’s culture and how the process to being a Kloutlaw (a Klout employee) required going through a series of interview to assess your skills and also if you will fit in with their culture.

The dinner went into a series of speaker and panel discussion.  The speaker that resonated with me was Klout’s Community Manager, Sahana Ullagaddi.  Sahana spoke about her move from working in a more corporate setting in New York to working a start up in San Francisco.  Mirroring a lot of what I did when I first moved here, Sahana reached out to influencers on social networks that she found inspiration and asked to connect.

I reached out to anyone who influenced me even if they weren’t in my reach, I still reached out.  I found the less expectation the more invested I was to learn from them.

– Sahana Ullagaddi, Community Manager @ Klout

That’s the thing I found when I moved to a new city and had to rebuild a network.  I emailed, Facebook messaged, inmailed, and tweeted at people who I thought were interesting and who I wanted to learn from.  To my pleasant surprise, I had a good response rate.  When you are genuine and authentically reaching out or as Sahana put it, “authentically curious” without any agenda or expectations, people are more willing to reach back out and connect.   I encourage you to send a cold message to someone whose career, lifestyle, beliefs, etc. you admire and see if they are willing to have a 20 minute coffee chat with you.  You’ll be surprised at what genuine sincerity can bring.  And when you’re one day in a position where people are reaching out to you, remember back to those who helped you and pay it forward.

*Girl Geek Dinner is a not for profit run by volunteers that connect female “geeks” together through sponsored dinners at organizations such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.  There are city specific chapters with the Bay Area chapter being one of the largest ones.   It’s a free event however getting tickets to one of the Bay Area Girl Geek dinner can be challenging.  They usually run out within seconds of them opening the event on Eventbrite.  If you’re in a city where there’s a chapter, I highly encourage you to attend an event.

A book recap: Basic Black

“It’s not about whether you can do it all, it’s about whether you can be happy whatever you’re doing”

– Cathie Black, former President of Hearst Magazines

Off of a book list recommended by Levo League, one of my favorite career development sites, I read Basic Black by Cathie Black, former President of Hearst Magazines.  If you ever read any Cosmo, Marie Claire, O: Oprah Magazine, or Seventeen between 1996 to 2010, then you in one way or another have been touched indirectly by Cathie Black.  My saving grace during high school was the now defunct CosmoGirl magazines. #rip

Black’s book was interesting.  For the past two years, I’ve had a growing interest in the career paths and struggles of success women and hers was one that I was only vaguely familiar with.6a0133ed1b1479970b0133ed6a4295970b

Black’s book touches on creating a 360 degree life which she defines as achieving balance in life and creating a life where you get deep satisfaction from all angles – personal life, work, and family.  Throughout the book, she goes through her experiences, her temperament during her early working days, and her strive for success, perfection, and achievement.  As someone equally as ambitious and as passionate about making an impact, I related to her drive and dedication.  When you’re in the middle of the action and all you can see is that ladder and each step you need to take, it’s hard to sometimes step back and look at the situation and appreciate what has been given to you and what you have earned.

I remember when I was in high school, I baby-sat these adorable kids whose parents shuffled them from one activity to the next.  Dance class, track, soccer, tennis lessons, music… it never stopped.  I would listen to the kids go on about their activities in exhaustion.  I barely had time to work part-time and study for chem class, let alone do all those activities on top of that.  Looking back now, it makes me wonder what we, as a society, gain from pushing kids into so many different activities.  While it is so important to let kids explore new and different interests to help them develop into interesting adults, I wonder if we’re raising a generation of overachieving, over-competitive individuals that will view adult life as a rat race.  My generation already feels the pains of constant competition.  We’re one of the first generations where discussions on can women have it all, work-life balance is ongoing.  At the pace we’re going. will the next generation need to have an actual class on this?  Is this the future society we want to create?

Cathie Black’s book dedicates a section on achieving balance.  She asks her readers to reflect on what’s important to them and what they are looking to achieve.  Her advice:  Have your all – not anyone else’s.  What worked for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.

Overall, her book was a great read.  Easy layout so you can flip through to sections that appeals to you the most and it incorporates real examples of her time at Hearst and other publications she worked at.  A must read for anyone in the media industry.

Other interesting read on this topics:

Pursue a Lifestyle Not a Job – Lost Gen Y Girl

Why a Lifestyle Business Could Be a Better Fit For You Than a Startup – Sean Ogle