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Nice Girls Don't Watch the Bachelor
Nice Girls Don't Watch the Bachelor

Episode 7 · 1 year ago

Episode 7: Defining Success on your own Terms

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Defining career success is simple: what do you want, what is the price you have to pay to get it, and are you willing to pay the price? Simple, yes. Easy, nope! Just the first part, knowing what you want, can be the journey of a lifetime. In episode 7 of NGDWTB, I share stories from my life and career and what they taught me about defining success on my own terms.

Hey guys, it's Marissa or leadershipspeaker and author of Lean Out, the truth about women, power and theworkplace, and welcome to episode seven of Nice Girls Don't watch the bachelor,where we discuss all things women and all things work, and today we're goingto talk about defining success on your own terms, which really, at itscore, is the message of lean out. Lean out, like some people believe, does not mean quit your job, it doesn't mean to be less ambitious. It simply means leaning out of anyone else's story for who you shouldbe and what your career should look like. And it's really being it's about beingthe author of your own story and your own life, and I thinkthat sounds like a great idea, perhaps in theory, but how does thislook in practice? What does it mean? So that's what we're going to talkabout today. I'm going to share some stories from my life and andmy career and what they taught me about success. Now, my first realepiphany about all of this is a story I've recounted before, both in thebook and on this podcast, so I'm just going to quickly recap it.I was up for a promotion at the time. It was a google andI was very ambivalent about it because I had worked super hard for a longtime, a great performance scores was really doing the best that I had inmy career. At the same time, however, I didn't want to bea manager and in order to get the promotion, the policy of Google atthe time so is is at an order to advance beyond the level where Iwas, I had to start managing people. So I felt conflicted about the promotionand after a lot of personal reflection, I decided to go for it anyway, because I mostly felt like that's what I should do. I thoughtmaybe, you know, it's a confidence issue. I don't know. Itjust felt like the thing I should do. So I went for it and Ibegan interviewing people to join my team. So when performance review time came around, I was now eligible for this promotion and I'm the manager sits medown in the conference room and she tried to let me down gently. Shesaid that for political reasons that have nothing to do with me, I didn'tget the promotion. Now she felt terrible because this had been sold to meas a done deal, and I was, of course, very shocked and angryand she was great. She was a really supportive manager. She feltterrible and asked what she could do to keep me happy until the next promotioncycle. So I said I'd think about it and I get back to herand I remember, on my way home from work that day, kind ofmolling this all over and I asked myself, okay, well, what do Iwant? What do I really want? Just be honest with myself about it. Well, I knew I didn't want to be a manager and Ididn't want to stay on the project that I had been on for two yearsat that point. I loved it at first, but I was really boredand itching for something new, and that's kind of what I realized that ifI had gotten the promotion, I would have had to stay on that currentproject for at least two more years and I would have had to manage people. The two things that I didn't want is what I would have to doif I had gotten the promotion. So not getting it means I could remainan individual contributor and change projects now. At the same time, I felt, you know, I deserve something for all of my effort, but ifit wasn't that promotion, then then what was it? When I really thoughtabout it and I was really honest with myself, there were two big,maybe three big things I wanted from Google. When was money too, was time, time to work on this side project that I had started, whichwas this women series. Like I wanted my manager's blessing that I could spendten percent or whatever of my time during the week building it out as apassion project. And the third thing was I wanted compliments. Now, wheneverI say this on stage there's inevitably a bunch of women like really nodding,looking at me like yes, like is that so hard? And the menin the audience are always, when I say that, staring at me likeI'm an alien, with these blank stares like what is that? Because Imean you want compliments. It means women...

...enjoyed to be recognized for their theirhard work and contribution. And you might say everybody wants that, but womenappreciate being verbalized. And I had been watching and old Chris Rock stand upthe other day and he said, you know, women only want three things, food, water and compliments, or need three things. I was like, you know, here's a dude who gets it. So anyway, thenext day I met with my manager and I told her the truth. Iwanted money, time to pursue my side project and compliments. I probably saidit more politically correct in that way, but I was kind of nervous aboutbeing so honest with her. But she thanked me. She said it wasactually very helpful to know what I wanted or to me. was like,you know what's really helpful for me too. She said she was all in supportingme with the new women series and that she would look, you know, the money thing. Probably we couldn't do anything about till promotion cycle,but she look into it. And then she's like and by the way,you're dress in your hair look amazing today. Just kidding, she didn't say that. So anyway, two weeks later I'm sitting at my desk and Isee an email come in from my managers, like boss or boss's boss, andI open this email. It's just to me and in it he thisis the managing director of our team. He goes on about all the thingshe knows I'm doing to contribute to the business and like all these details,and he also said at the end of the email that the managers on theteam decided to pull the discretionary budget for that quarter and give me a spotbonus. Now, I mean it was a large sum of money. Iwas totally not expecting it and I was floored, like I had asked forwhat I wanted and I got it. And Look, I realized stories don'talways end so neatly in a bow like this. The point of it is, though, to get what I wanted, I first had to know what itwas. Might seem insane, but it took me almost eleven years torealize I was working hard for things I didn't necessarily want. What I wasdoing was, instead of figuring out, you know, what does Morse orwant and then trying to make that happen, I was just going along with ascript of how things were supposed to happen and and not thinking much aboutit at all. Frankly and in retrospect, not getting the promotion, getting firedfrom facebook, these were some of the best things that happened to me. First of all, it took not getting what I want, not gettingthese things, to realize I truly never wanted or need of them in thefirst place. and, perhaps more importantly, they really freed up the space themental energies open doors to things I actually did want. I mean justsupport for the women series. Eventually is really what formed the basis for leanout. So if I'd become a manager, I don't think I would have workedon that at all. So, to sum up the point, wehave to consciously reflect on whether we're going after things because we truly want themor because we're following along with the script of what we are supposed to want. Last year I was giving a talk to about a thousand women at ahotel in the Midwest and during the QA portion, one of them got upto the MIC and she asked if I thought women could really have it all, and I get this question a lot. So I turned it around on herbed and I asked her what did she mean by that? You know, how is she defining all in that question? This is my trick toget someone to keep talking while I figure out actually how I'm going to answertheir question and what I'm going to say. So by the time she was done, I figured it out and I eventually answered her by saying that ofhaving it all, if all means having a high powered career, making itto the top of the ladder, breaking the glass ceiling, making tons ofmoney and being home for dinner five nights a week and, you know,being the class mom or volunteering at school...

...functions and going out for dinner withyour spouse once a week and having close, connected relationships with all your friends andnurturing your relationship with your family members. And No, I don't think wecan have it all. I mean we can't all be number one andeverything in all areas of our life. We all have a finite amount oftime and energy and we can only decide where to direct it. Part ofthat is accepting if we put our focus and attention on one thing, bydefinition it means we're not focusing somewhere else. In other words, it's a tradeoff. Being a rich CEO means more of your focus and attention has togo to your career and lest your relationships, and vice versa. And there's nojudgment here, just a matter of life. So of having having itall, as being the best in all these roles. The No, Idon't think anyone can have it all, men or women. But if welook at our lives more realistically and we accept the tradeoffs inherent in our decisions, then we can see the question a bit more, bit differently and maybemore practical. In other words, I think we can have it all ifwe define what all means to us as individuals. On the one hand,career success is simple. What do you want? What's the price that mustbe paid to get it, and are you willing to pay that price?It's very simple but very challenging. Just figuring out the first part. Whatdo you want? Is The journey of a lifetime. So let's not confusesimple with easy. It's simple, but very challenging and rewarding, I'd say. So how do you approach it? How do we figure out number one? What do we want? Again, it's a lifelong journey and and it'snot something you can come up with during an afternoon workshop. Much of itinvolves simply paying more intention deliberately paying attention to your thoughts and feelings and cultivatingself awareness, and one way to do that is to simply start by noticingthe way things make you feel, not that you have to do anything aboutit right then and there, but collecting these observations and paying attention to deliberateit intentional way. Eventually dot start to connect, and I'll give you anexample of what I mean a story that happened to me. I was atfacebook. It was my second week of facebook. Actually it was the same. It was at the sales conference in San Francisco, the one where,if you've read the now you know that's where I met Cheryl Sandberg and hadthat faded meeting. But after that meeting, sometime later that day, our keynotespeaker got on stage for the conference and it was Elizabeth Gilbert, whowrote eat, pray love, and I love her and I love that bookand I was super excited to hear what she had to say. And shehad just written a book, I think was called the big magic. It'son creativity. So her keynote was all about creativity and fear and I'm sittingin the audience and pretty much toward the back listening and slowly my excitement turnedto he said was anger. I slowly felt my blood getting hot, startingto boil. I was getting angry listening to her. I know the soundsweird, but it was for a couple reasons. One is this is ahuge passion area for me, creativity and fear, one that I had spokenabout on stage of Google but that I really yearned to go more deeply intoand talk more at length about. So I was straight up jealous, likehere's a you know, a person on stage which at this point I thinkI started to realize that I love being on stage. And she's talking aboutfear and creativity. She's talking about people who don't sort of pursue their dreams, like writing. So she's basically talking right into my soul and I knewshe was right. I was very much...

...afraid, but perhaps more than that, there was this feeling like I should be up there talking about this,not her. I could do such a better job, like if there's somany things I know I would say, and of course I'm very humble,so I did not say this out loud, I just kept it to myself,but I actually had to walk out in the middle of her presentation becauseit worked me in a way I can't describe. And when I'm pacing outsidein the whole am thinking like why is this is bothering me so much,and the truth was, as the only difference between Elizabeth Gilbert and me andthat moment to me was she had actually done something about it. She actuallywrote a book, she actually went after being a speaker and talking about creativity. She not only did she write a book on creativity, she's written lotsof books. And what have I done at that point? I had donevery little, almost nothing, when it came to pursuing a similar type ofdream. So there was like an envy, but more than anything it was angerat myself, anger at myself for not having taken any steps to dowhat I knew somewhere in me I was meant to do. And the onlydifference between us, as I was sitting here stewing in self righteousness about it, when this woman it actually went after her dream. And so paying attentionto that reaction it gave your again, I didn't act on it right away. This is my second week of facebook. I wasn't going to like leave andtry and start your new career when I had just started my job there. But it was a moment that stuck with me and when I went backto many times when I've come to this question, is you know, whatdo I want? Sometimes we can't get there by thinking about it logically.We have to sort of observe how we react to things and think about whatthey tell us. What is it that we're reacting to, and that momentI was reacting to my anger at myself for not facing my fear and startingto write, and seeing her on stage sort of was this moment where Irealized that's kind of something I want to do and although it didn't make ahuge splash or effect on me at the time, it was something, likeI said, that you start to connect these similar dots over time and itpaints more of a picture of the kinds of things that you want in theperson that you want to be. So these things provide clues. But thenwhat right? Like, okay, so maybe you have some idea. Problemis you cannot keep it in your head. You can't figure it all out inyour head simply by observing and thinking. That's a huge part part of it, and it's the start. I mean self awareness is the foundation onyou know this, on what this is? Self awareness is the foundation upon whichthis stuff is built. But it must be coupled with action. Youhave to experiment, set goals, take on a creative project, having agoal for yourself, no matter how arbitrary, and I'm talking about like a goalthat's not related to your job. If you have a feeling that whatyou're doing now is not your true calling. That I mean a goal to figureout what that is, not some goal related to your job, becausehaving a goal for yourself, no matter how arbitrary, teaches you something aboutwho you are, what you like, what you don't like and what you'recapable of. Now, if you had told me this ten years ago,my eyes would have rolled so far back in my head they would have fallenout and rolled a clock cross the floor, like who is time goals? Itjust seems so trite and Cliche, but I am a total convert now, and I'll tell you the story of why, how a creative project reallychange the trajectory of my life. Another story you guys know a lot aboutis the time, but it's difficult time. I went through a facebook when Iwas the target of this really powerful senior executive who really bullied me theentire time I was there, and it was a really, really difficult experience, and it was in the summer of...

...two thousand and seventeen. had beenthere about a year by that point. I gone through all sorts of upsand downs when it came to dealing with this woman who I referred to inthe book is Kimberly and sort of how to handle the situation on a daytodaybasis, because I was in a really I had been in a really darkplace. It was around that time in the summer I had decided, youknow, I need to write. You know I have this book in meand it needs to come out, and this is the perfect time to reallydevote myself to figuring out what to do with this, how to write abook, what my first step is, and I decided that summer I wasgoing to write the book proposal. is in a very dark place and thiswas sort of one tiny light that I could aspire toward. And I startedwaking up super early every morning and working on this book proposal from half hourto an hour before the kids got up, before I needed to go to myjob. And it sounds like, Oh man, that you know,that's tough. You got to wake up early on top of all this stuffyou had to do, but I kept doing it and a remarkable thing happen. All of a sudden, you know, working on this proposal in this bookand telling the story of what's happening to me almost in real time atthis incredible effect on me when I went to the office at facebook every day. Suddenly, the attempts to undermine me, the slights, the all the thingsthat had felt so heavy before, we're all of a sudden sort ofrolling off my back. I had this attitude toward them, this relationship towardwhat was happening is very different. It now sort of felt like I hadthis teflon coating and that these things didn't bother me like they used to.And what I know now is the reason that I have felt this way wasbecause writing the proposal felt like I was taking things into my own hands,that I was going to write the story of my life and how this ends. And you know, or at least this part ends, how the nextchapter begins, and I don't want to give that power to anybody else.And once I started taking that power back and taking action toward the you know, this goal that before then and seeing, you know, just unreachable, nowthat I was taking steps toward it and I was expressing myself creatively,it acted as this buffer toward whatever was going on in the office during theday. I just didn't bother me as much. And what ended up happeningwas the proposal get working on the proposal gave me this tremendous feeling of powerin a situation where otherwise felt very powerless. And what I've learned over the years, both from reading and doing, is that our wellbeing is fairly proportionalto how much we feel in control of our own lives, and even thesmallest creative project or goal can give you a sense of control that acts asa buffer to sort of the chaos and the insanity of the world around us, which we can't control anyway. So there's science to back this all upas well. It's pretty clear the effects of setting goals and achieving them,because doing so not only moves you closer to the direction you want to go, but it builds up your confidence. In the meantime, like a lotof times, big changes in the pursuit of our dreams feels way to paralyzing, you know, changing jobs out of nowhere or becoming a writer when youhave written anything but email and fifteen years. It just sounds daunting. So wetend to just see it as a pipe dream and and to dot tothat is to set these small goals and do a little bit every day,or most days or in phases to complete them and then when you're at theother end you kind of look back and say wow. To sum up thepoint, goals and creative projects can be the crucible where you learn about yourselfand what you want, and while you pursue them, they have the sidebenefit of giving you feelings of power and...

...being in control of your own life, which leads to increased feelings of wellbeing. So when you experiment and set goals, you learn what it is that you want and what it is thatyou don't want, which can be just as helpful. Now, to befair, there certain times where your big goal can just be surviving the day. We've all been there. I've been there many times when my kids wereall babies. On the weekend, I mean just surviving to Monday was mygoal. So you have to adjust. When we're talking about having it all, you have to adjust your definition of also the context of your life atthe time. Sometimes all is going to be more ambitious and that's natural andthat's the natural course of life. So it's restate that part. I dobelieve you can have it all, so long as you're defining what all meansand as long as you accept the tradeoffs of those decisions. So, likeI said earlier, career success is fairly simple. What do you want,what do you have to do to get it and what are the tradeoffs?Are Willing you are you willing to pay the price? And the bulk ofthe work is in number one and that's why we spent more time on ittoday. But I want to end on tradeoffs because I'll see you'll share astory about tradeoffs and how I pay the price almost every day over the yearsI get asked a lot, you know, how do you manage it all?Single mom of three, I had this demanding career and a commute andhousehold to run. It's a lot. So people often ask you know,how do you do it, and I always have the same answer, whichis I had I have had to lower my standards, and it's kind ofa joke, but it's kind of not, because what it really means is I'vehad to get laser focused on what is most important in each area,each role of my life, and let the rest go. So when itcomes to my kids, my relationship and connection with them is number one.I'm constantly, you know, surveying myself, checking in with myself and sometimes withthem, like, do I feel connected to them? Am I spendingthe right amount of quality time and everything else? I mean, of courseI keep them fed and clothes and bathe, but do they have probably too manyhot dogs in a week? Probably, like. Could they eat healthier?Yes, so I feel guilty about that. Yes, but I work. I'm letting it go because there's I'm only one person and there's only somuch I can do. I have to prioritize what's most important, and Ido the same thing in each area of my life. Oh, how doI figure out? Again, how do you figure out what is most important? So I want to share with you, guys. I talked about this inthe book. It's a little mental device I came up with. Itreally helps me figure out what matters and what I should let go, andthe mental to first I'm going to tell you the story of how I cameup with this mental device. For those of you that read the book,Her name's Doris. But before we get to Doris and explain how I cameup with Doris, many years ago my son was young, he's about five, and he was scared shitless of et, the movie or rather he was theactual time is going to say person alien, et eat. He wasso scared of et we weren't even allowed to say the letters EC in thehouse. Just probably why I was called it eight anyway. So, dyou know, it's not a big deal. He's afraid of ET, who cares? I was terrified of Freddy Krueger or whatever. But the problem itpresented, excuse me, was that my son was convinced that when he wouldwalk into the my bathroom, which was the master bath, the only placethat had a bathtub in the house, he was convinced when he walks inthere each he would be waiting for him, sitting there in the bathtub, andthis was terrifying to him, although I think that's scene of et inthe bathtub is fairly adorable. It's like a very cute fear to have,but for him it was not. So he wouldn't go in my bathroom oreach time he did it was like a struggle. So every bathtime I wouldjust fight with him and it was just...

...a whole thing. So one dayI got frustrated and I yelled at him like how could you be a WHO'sget in the bathroom like how could you be afraid of something it's not evenreal? When I heard myself say that, I thought Shit, I'm afraid ofa lot of things that aren't real. It was a time of my lifeI was really trying to start writing, but I had it's terrible fear postingit on my medium page. Thought it was terrible and I thought,you know, that's not really either. Fear when you're five years old worksthe same way as doesn't at fifty years old. What changes is our perspective. I'm old enough to know et is actually not real, so he's nota threat. The only difference between my son and I is I've had thelife experience in the perspective to understand that his fear is not real and silly. So being of fear works the same way at every age. The onlything that changes our perspective. I thought, Huh, I wonder when I'm eighty, what will I look back on now in my life that I wasafraid of? That was so ridiculous and of course I kept coming back tothis fear of writing. When I thought about it from my eighty year oldperspective, it seems so much sillier than it seemed just moments before. SoI came up with this mental device, or I imagine myself at eighty yearsold, and I mean I come up with the whole story. In thecharacter. I'm like sitting on a porch, wearing a Mumu and drinking a glassof Scotch and smoke into joint and I call I call this person Doris, which is, I know, silly, because this person is me at eighty. I don't know why I gave her a name Doris, but that'sjust how it happened. Probably, like was thinking of golden girls in theback of my mind. Love that show. So I was picturing, you know, myself out there in the lane with my girlfriends and this character Doris. And when I'm presented with things in my life that I feel worked upabout, her afraid of, I then in my mind, sort of takemyself to Doris and talk to her like, from that perspective, what is shetelling me? And most of the time she's telling me that what I'mafraid of or what, you know, I'm concerned about is not real andit's ridiculous. So it helps me see from that perspective what's worth getting upsetabout or worked up over or, you know, being afraid of. Mostof the time it's actually very little, very few things really matter from thatperspective. So when it comes to paying the price, I mean I've paida big price in the transition from the corporate world to starting my own businessand becoming a writer so late in life, etc. It's a big price topay, mostly in terms of salary and sanity. I had a greatjobs to Google and Facebook, and this was, you know, putting mywhole life savings on the table and risking it for something that's not a financialrisk taker. It's a big price to pay. So Doris has been instrumentalin helping me remain focused on why I paid that price and what will matterwhen I'm eighty. Having stayed where I was doing the same thing at eightyseems like a much scarier thing than having taken the risk and gone out ofmy own so that's it for today's episode on defining success on your own terms, but of a practical angle. What do you want, what price doyou have to pay to get it, and are you willing to pay thatprice? I wish you all success on your own individual and personal journeys andI'll see you next time. A nice girls don't watch the bachelor. Thanksfor listening.

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