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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 leadership speaker and author of Lean Out, the truth about women, power and the workplace, 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 going to talk about defining success on your own terms, which really, at its core, 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 should be and what your career should look like. And it's really being it's about being the author of your own story and your own life, and I think that sounds like a great idea, perhaps in theory, but how does this look in practice? What does it mean? So that's what we're going to talk about today. I'm going to share some stories from my life and and my career and what they taught me about success. Now, my first real epiphany about all of this is a story I've recounted before, both in the book 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 and I was very ambivalent about it because I had worked super hard for a long time, a great performance scores was really doing the best that I had in my career. At the same time, however, I didn't want to be a manager and in order to get the promotion, the policy of Google at the time so is is at an order to advance beyond the level where I was, I had to start managing people. So I felt conflicted about the promotion and 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 thought maybe, you know, it's a confidence issue. I don't know. It just felt like the thing I should do. So I went for it and I began 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 me down in the conference room and she tried to let me down gently. She said that for political reasons that have nothing to do with me, I didn't get the promotion. Now she felt terrible because this had been sold to me as a done deal, and I was, of course, very shocked and angry and she was great. She was a really supportive manager. She felt terrible and asked what she could do to keep me happy until the next promotion cycle. So I said I'd think about it and I get back to her and I remember, on my way home from work that day, kind of molling this all over and I asked myself, okay, well, what do I want? What do I really want? Just be honest with myself about it. Well, I knew I didn't want to be a manager and I didn't want to stay on the project that I had been on for two years at that point. I loved it at first, but I was really bored and itching for something new, and that's kind of what I realized that if I had gotten the promotion, I would have had to stay on that current project 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 do if I had gotten the promotion. So not getting it means I could remain an individual contributor and change projects now. At the same time, I felt, you know, I deserve something for all of my effort, but if it wasn't that promotion, then then what was it? When I really thought about 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, which was this women series. Like I wanted my manager's blessing that I could spend ten percent or whatever of my time during the week building it out as a passion project. And the third thing was I wanted compliments. Now, whenever I 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 men in the audience are always, when I say that, staring at me like I'm an alien, with these blank stares like what is that? Because I mean you want compliments. It means women...

...enjoyed to be recognized for their their hard work and contribution. And you might say everybody wants that, but women appreciate being verbalized. And I had been watching and old Chris Rock stand up the 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, the next day I met with my manager and I told her the truth. I wanted money, time to pursue my side project and compliments. I probably said it more politically correct in that way, but I was kind of nervous about being so honest with her. But she thanked me. She said it was actually 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 supporting me 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 I see an email come in from my managers, like boss or boss's boss, and I open this email. It's just to me and in it he this is the managing director of our team. He goes on about all the things he 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 the team decided to pull the discretionary budget for that quarter and give me a spot bonus. Now, I mean it was a large sum of money. I was totally not expecting it and I was floored, like I had asked for what I wanted and I got it. And Look, I realized stories don't always 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 it was. Might seem insane, but it took me almost eleven years to realize I was working hard for things I didn't necessarily want. What I was doing was, instead of figuring out, you know, what does Morse or want and then trying to make that happen, I was just going along with a script of how things were supposed to happen and and not thinking much about it at all. Frankly and in retrospect, not getting the promotion, getting fired from facebook, these were some of the best things that happened to me. First of all, it took not getting what I want, not getting these things, to realize I truly never wanted or need of them in the first place. and, perhaps more importantly, they really freed up the space the mental energies open doors to things I actually did want. I mean just support for the women series. Eventually is really what formed the basis for lean out. So if I'd become a manager, I don't think I would have worked on that at all. So, to sum up the point, we have to consciously reflect on whether we're going after things because we truly want them or 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 a hotel in the Midwest and during the QA portion, one of them got up to 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 her bed and I asked her what did she mean by that? You know, how is she defining all in that question? This is my trick to get someone to keep talking while I figure out actually how I'm going to answer their 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 of having it all, if all means having a high powered career, making it to the top of the ladder, breaking the glass ceiling, making tons of money 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 with your spouse once a week and having close, connected relationships with all your friends and nurturing your relationship with your family members. And No, I don't think we can have it all. I mean we can't all be number one and everything in all areas of our life. We all have a finite amount of time and energy and we can only decide where to direct it. Part of that is accepting if we put our focus and attention on one thing, by definition 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 to go to your career and lest your relationships, and vice versa. And there's no judgment here, just a matter of life. So of having having it all, as being the best in all these roles. The No, I don't think anyone can have it all, men or women. But if we look 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 maybe more practical. In other words, I think we can have it all if we 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 must be 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. What do you want? Is The journey of a lifetime. So let's not confuse simple 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's not something you can come up with during an afternoon workshop. Much of it involves simply paying more intention deliberately paying attention to your thoughts and feelings and cultivating self awareness, and one way to do that is to simply start by noticing the way things make you feel, not that you have to do anything about it right then and there, but collecting these observations and paying attention to deliberate it intentional way. Eventually dot start to connect, and I'll give you an example of what I mean a story that happened to me. I was at facebook. 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 had that faded meeting. But after that meeting, sometime later that day, our keynote speaker got on stage for the conference and it was Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote eat, pray love, and I love her and I love that book and I was super excited to hear what she had to say. And she had just written a book, I think was called the big magic. It's on creativity. So her keynote was all about creativity and fear and I'm sitting in the audience and pretty much toward the back listening and slowly my excitement turned to he said was anger. I slowly felt my blood getting hot, starting to boil. I was getting angry listening to her. I know the sounds weird, but it was for a couple reasons. One is this is a huge passion area for me, creativity and fear, one that I had spoken about on stage of Google but that I really yearned to go more deeply into and talk more at length about. So I was straight up jealous, like here's a you know, a person on stage which at this point I think I started to realize that I love being on stage. And she's talking about fear 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 knew she 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 so many 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 because it worked me in a way I can't describe. And when I'm pacing outside in 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 and that moment to me was she had actually done something about it. She actually wrote 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 lots of books. And what have I done at that point? I had done very little, almost nothing, when it came to pursuing a similar type of dream. So there was like an envy, but more than anything it was anger at myself, anger at myself for not having taken any steps to do what I knew somewhere in me I was meant to do. And the only difference 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 attention to 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 and try 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 back to many times when I've come to this question, is you know, what do 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 what they tell us. What is it that we're reacting to, and that moment I was reacting to my anger at myself for not facing my fear and starting to write, and seeing her on stage sort of was this moment where I realized that's kind of something I want to do and although it didn't make a huge splash or effect on me at the time, it was something, like I said, that you start to connect these similar dots over time and it paints more of a picture of the kinds of things that you want in the person that you want to be. So these things provide clues. But then what right? Like, okay, so maybe you have some idea. Problem is you cannot keep it in your head. You can't figure it all out in your 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 on you know this, on what this is? Self awareness is the foundation upon which this stuff is built. But it must be coupled with action. You have to experiment, set goals, take on a creative project, having a goal for yourself, no matter how arbitrary, and I'm talking about like a goal that's not related to your job. If you have a feeling that what you're doing now is not your true calling. That I mean a goal to figure out what that is, not some goal related to your job, because having a goal for yourself, no matter how arbitrary, teaches you something about who you are, what you like, what you don't like and what you're capable 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 fallen out and rolled a clock cross the floor, like who is time goals? It just 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 really change the trajectory of my life. Another story you guys know a lot about is the time, but it's difficult time. I went through a facebook when I was the target of this really powerful senior executive who really bullied me the entire time I was there, and it was a really, really difficult experience, and it was in the summer of...

...two thousand and seventeen. had been there about a year by that point. I gone through all sorts of ups and downs when it came to dealing with this woman who I referred to in the book is Kimberly and sort of how to handle the situation on a daytoday basis, because I was in a really I had been in a really dark place. It was around that time in the summer I had decided, you know, I need to write. You know I have this book in me and it needs to come out, and this is the perfect time to really devote myself to figuring out what to do with this, how to write a book, what my first step is, and I decided that summer I was going to write the book proposal. is in a very dark place and this was sort of one tiny light that I could aspire toward. And I started waking up super early every morning and working on this book proposal from half hour to an hour before the kids got up, before I needed to go to my job. And it sounds like, Oh man, that you know, that's tough. You got to wake up early on top of all this stuff you 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 book and telling the story of what's happening to me almost in real time at this 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 things that had felt so heavy before, we're all of a sudden sort of rolling off my back. I had this attitude toward them, this relationship toward what was happening is very different. It now sort of felt like I had this 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 was because 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 next chapter 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, now that 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 the day. I just didn't bother me as much. And what ended up happening was the proposal get working on the proposal gave me this tremendous feeling of power in 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 proportional to how much we feel in control of our own lives, and even the smallest creative project or goal can give you a sense of control that acts as a 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 up as 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 lot of 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 you have written anything but email and fifteen years. It just sounds daunting. So we tend to just see it as a pipe dream and and to dot to that 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 the other end you kind of look back and say wow. To sum up the point, goals and creative projects can be the crucible where you learn about yourself and what you want, and while you pursue them, they have the side benefit 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 that you don't want, which can be just as helpful. Now, to be fair, 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 were all babies. On the weekend, I mean just surviving to Monday was my goal. 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 at the time. Sometimes all is going to be more ambitious and that's natural and that's the natural course of life. So it's restate that part. I do believe you can have it all, so long as you're defining what all means and as long as you accept the tradeoffs of those decisions. So, like I 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 of the work is in number one and that's why we spent more time on it today. But I want to end on tradeoffs because I'll see you'll share a story about tradeoffs and how I pay the price almost every day over the years I get asked a lot, you know, how do you manage it all? Single mom of three, I had this demanding career and a commute and household to run. It's a lot. So people often ask you know, how do you do it, and I always have the same answer, which is I had I have had to lower my standards, and it's kind of a joke, but it's kind of not, because what it really means is I've had to get laser focused on what is most important in each area, each role of my life, and let the rest go. So when it comes 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 with them, like, do I feel connected to them? Am I spending the right amount of quality time and everything else? I mean, of course I keep them fed and clothes and bathe, but do they have probably too many hot 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 so much I can do. I have to prioritize what's most important, and I do the same thing in each area of my life. Oh, how do I figure out? Again, how do you figure out what is most important? So I want to share with you, guys. I talked about this in the book. It's a little mental device I came up with. It really helps me figure out what matters and what I should let go, and the mental to first I'm going to tell you the story of how I came up 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 came up 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 the actual time is going to say person alien, et eat. He was so scared of et we weren't even allowed to say the letters EC in the house. Just probably why I was called it eight anyway. So, d you 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 it presented, excuse me, was that my son was convinced that when he would walk into the my bathroom, which was the master bath, the only place that had a bathtub in the house, he was convinced when he walks in there each he would be waiting for him, sitting there in the bathtub, and this was terrifying to him, although I think that's scene of et in the 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 or each time he did it was like a struggle. So every bathtime I would just fight with him and it was just...

...a whole thing. So one day I got frustrated and I yelled at him like how could you be a WHO's get in the bathroom like how could you be afraid of something it's not even real? When I heard myself say that, I thought Shit, I'm afraid of a lot of things that aren't real. It was a time of my life I was really trying to start writing, but I had it's terrible fear posting it 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 works the 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 not a threat. The only difference between my son and I is I've had the life 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 only thing 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 was afraid of? That was so ridiculous and of course I kept coming back to this fear of writing. When I thought about it from my eighty year old perspective, it seems so much sillier than it seemed just moments before. So I came up with this mental device, or I imagine myself at eighty years old, and I mean I come up with the whole story. In the character. I'm like sitting on a porch, wearing a Mumu and drinking a glass of 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's just how it happened. Probably, like was thinking of golden girls in the back 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 up about, her afraid of, I then in my mind, sort of take myself to Doris and talk to her like, from that perspective, what is she telling me? And most of the time she's telling me that what I'm afraid of or what, you know, I'm concerned about is not real and it's ridiculous. So it helps me see from that perspective what's worth getting upset about or worked up over or, you know, being afraid of. Most of the time it's actually very little, very few things really matter from that perspective. So when it comes to paying the price, I mean I've paid a big price in the transition from the corporate world to starting my own business and becoming a writer so late in life, etc. It's a big price to pay, mostly in terms of salary and sanity. I had a great jobs to Google and Facebook, and this was, you know, putting my whole life savings on the table and risking it for something that's not a financial risk taker. It's a big price to pay. So Doris has been instrumental in helping me remain focused on why I paid that price and what will matter when I'm eighty. Having stayed where I was doing the same thing at eighty seems like a much scarier thing than having taken the risk and gone out of my 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 do you have to pay to get it, and are you willing to pay that price? I wish you all success on your own individual and personal journeys and I'll see you next time. A nice girls don't watch the bachelor. Thanks for listening.

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