Category: Blog

It’s Not You, It’s Me

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Today marks exactly 6 months since I dislocated my knee on a seemingly boring day of family vacation to Belgium. The mechanical failure was both tiny and quiet (I calmly said “ambulance” repeatedly while falling to the ground in slow motion) and spectacularly monumental. Infinite PT, 3 different braces, 2 sets of crutches and a cadaver MCL allograft later, I can now drive a car again as of a week ago and today am *this* close to being able to walk with a normal gait once more.

At the outset, when we thought this was a 2-week annoyance, I believed the universe’s lesson here was “slow down”: read a book, take a breath. As the situation progressively revealed its severity (100% MCL tear, no way to recover on my own), I thought maybe this was a lesson in giving up control and accepting help. Needing help bathing, cooking, dressing or getting shoes off & on does humble you. Severely. (NOTE: endless thanks to my family, friends, health specialists and colleagues who jumped in to helped me get to this point).  

But at this moment, I think that the lesson from all this is…there isn’t a lesson. Yup. None. To quote my therapist “you don’t have to spin this into something positive – you can accept it as negative”. Sometimes life is truly random, statistically anomalous and without deeper meaning. So, now the question is one of character and the choice is mine for how to react to and whether I will grow from this event.

I can say I feel truly changed through this experience. I appreciate things I didn’t even notice 6 months ago. I am hyper-aware of my privilege – including and especially during the time I was bed-bound post surgery, but still able to earn money & stimulate my brain interacting with Showpad teams & customers. Being able to buy a wheelchair to get around while you can’t bear weight is a privilege. Having a family and personal network who could support me is also a huge privilege. I appreciate individual acts of empathy, service & compassion in a way I never did before. I can accept help (somewhat more) gracefully. I also appreciate the power of my body in a new way and regret the years I have spent speaking poorly towards it because of its size or shape.

I’m not yet at peace regarding my feelings about being the center of negative attention, but even noticing “gee, I’m not comfortable being the center of negative attention” has been its own awareness revelation. I used to love a spotlight & a mic, but being the object of pity for so long was one of the harder things for me to deal with even when I knew those sad faces came from love. I have felt the desire to blend into the background as “normal” in a way I have never before felt as a reaction to this.

During this period, I missed so many things that feed my soul (working out in groups, dance, spin, travel, volunteering, being alone), but can now truly see the role they play in my life and appreciate them as such. I also recognize that I need to come down from the soul “fast food” that was helping me escape & pass the time. I’m looking at you, Love Island.

Looking ahead to 2024, I don’t want to escape or pass the time, I want to be present. I want to keep my new eyes, gratitude and awareness even as I add back in some of the endeavors that I formerly thought defined me. I lost them for quite a while and well, I am still me – hopefully changed for the better and a lot more awake than before.

In Ghent with my amazing team the week before MCL reconstructive surgery. I'm hiding crutches behind me in this photo.Petting Zoo Oct 23

Individual Practice for Strong Teams

Individual Practice for Strong Teams

I chose my current role at Showpad in large part because I wanted to play a specific role on a strong team. The opportunity to join a team of peers, who are experienced in their own fields but share a common goal is what you might think most Exec teams look like, but many are complicated by formal or informal hierarchies. I was thrilled to find a real “Supergroup”-like opportunity in Showpad and am thrilled to be coming up on my first year of service.

Early in my transition to the job, and really fresh in thinking about what a great team looks like, I had the blind luck to find myself on an airplane seated next to a member of my favorite team (band), Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers. Yes, as I approached my row, I spied the incomparable guitar hero Gibb Droll sitting in the same row indicated on my ticket (YES!). 30 seconds later, I also realized I was wearing the tee shirt from his gig the night before (NO!). Gibb was generous with his music chat and gave me the gift of insight into the work needed for the band to create the ecstatic and totally unique musical experience production that the bring every night.

Noisemakers: Chad Wright, John Mailander, Bruce Hornsby,
John (JT) Thomas, Gibb Droll and JV Collier
The moment Gibb realizes he’s been seated with a superfan
who has a lot of questions

The magic of seeing Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers is that every show is different. You can go (and I have) to 4 shows in a week and see no songs repeated. Fans bring requests on pieces of paper brought back to Bruce before the show that may inspire the night, but what becomes the setlist is always different & co-created between the players and the audience. There were times in the early days where I could actually feel adrenaline & stress by looking at the band members as they tried to read Bruce’s beautiful mind as he skips though his catalog, old Americana classics, jazz & classical music and weaves them all together live. It is both stressful & awesome <strawsome?> and, even as an audience member, I am never more awake or dialed in than when this goes down on stage.

The most surprising insight from speaking to Gibb at some length was the rigor with which he practices on the road. He typically practices 5+ hours a day while touring just to be dialed in enough to be able to improvise that night. Being professional means practicing your instrument individually so you can be sharp enough to improvise with your team when it matters most. Being there for the team means having spent time in the woodshed alone to heighten your skills and bring more to your position on the team – not coasting in for 3 hours of glory and heading back to your room to chill.

And so, as I find myself rounding out my first year as part of team Showpad, I am reflecting on what I can do to sharpen my skills to show up for the team in an even more meaningful way – thinking through not just Customer Success theory and my experiences, but what it means to be at this exciting stage of technological impact to what great Customer Experience in the very near future. It has never been more true that standing still will be tantamount to being left behind. And thus, off to the woodshed I go….

Portable Wisdom in time of Transition

Portable Wisdom in time of Transition

Today, I am turning the page on the COVID-era of my career and next week, I embark upon a new adventure with some newly earned skills and perspective. I’m fortunate to have worked with many wonderful people through the years. What you will find below is a compilation of their lessons on leadership and general wisdom on which I have reflected in this time of great change.

What follows is NOT garbage advice….

“It’s never as good as it seems and it’s never as bad as it seems” From the mind and lips of the unstoppable Rod Favaron, my boss for many of the last 10 years, this goes through my head every time I see folks getting too worked up about something one way or the other – in the world, in politics, in business and in life.

“If you can’t tell who is in charge – it’s YOU.” These words of wisdom from John H. Bell apply to meetings, brainstorms and groups of people who can’t decide where to go for dinner. Don’t wait for permission to pick up the pen and add structure to a situation that could use it.

“Don’t obsess on working on your weaknesses to the point that you forget to steer into your strengths” – Paraphrased from Heather Brunner when she was generous with her time to help me with a project. I’ve used this with many many people. Be aware of your strengths, but cultivate your superpowers and get into a spot where they will make the most differences.

Seems wrong to take wisdom from a movie with a character called “Cole Trickle” but here we are…

“Rubbin’, Son, is Racing”Days of Thunder. Distributed, virtual work means that opportunities for passive aggressive behavior and unspoken disagreement abound. They are a cancer in any organization. Now is the time to cultivate healthy conflict and drive it through to conclusion.

“Get the poop on the table”Dianne Borges. Ok, so Dianne has also said MANY more elegant things, but this is the one that I use day in and day out. Get a problem, conflict, issue, concern onto the table where it can no longer be ignored. It saves time and drives decisions.

Shoutout to the “Framily Gals”

Cultivate a kitchen cabinet” – adapted from Michelle Obama‘s response to a question about how she decides what to share on social media. Sometimes you need to sleep on a thought or take the input of others before making a major decision. I’m blessed with 2 kitchen cabinets: one of other CCOs on LinkedIn to thing through career items and another of accomplished friends in other fields who know me well. They both provide valuable counsel and ballast when I am about to do something out of emotion.

This movie doesn’t age – watch it again

“I’m not dead yet” from Monty Python & the Holy Grail. Yes, I have kids. Yes, I’m over 40. Yes, I’ve done some cool things and NO I’M NOT DONE. Not by a long damn shot.

And one from me “You are the only person in charge of your happiness”. If you are not pursuing the development and maintenance of your own happiness as fiercely as you are the happiness of your spouse, your team or your kids, it’s on you and you alone to dig in and pursue change.

Thank you to my extended tribe for their support & wisdom – especially in these last 3 years. And with that, as Bruce & John Hornsby wrote: “There’s a hard and distant prize, I probably won’t reach it, but I think I’ll try.”

Bruce from the Sheena Easton video for “Strut”. This is the energy I’m taking into my next chapter…
Leadership Austin: 60 for life

Leadership Austin: 60 for life

We’ve entered graduation month from Leadership Austin’s Essential Class of 2019 (Best Class Ever). This is a group of 60 artfully assembled professionals from a w-i-d-e variety of fields and professions drawn together by a common interest in learning more about issues facing Austin & how to apply their talents to keep us moving forward. The program starts with the retreat where we took the photo above & lots of hyperbole – you’re in the class you’re meant to be in, you will make lifelong connections, yadda yadda. It seems insane for a group of full grown adults and then…

9 months, many classes, 1 retreat and 59 1x1s later, I can confirm the hype is true. On Monday I had my 59th 1×1 class conversation, completing my rounds of connecting with my classmates individually and I felt a little…sad. I started making myself feel better by saying that I finished the “first round” and could start over.  I also spent a little time thinking about why Leadership Austin is so unique & special:

  • At this time in my profession, I spend most of my days needing to have the answers instead of being in an environment where its cool to be a complete amateur – and that’s OK
  • I have lived in Austin on and off for 15 years and recognized…TWO of my fellow classmates. Everyone else moves in such different professional, personal & geographic circles (we’re intentionally assembled across the 10 City Council districts and the surrounding counties).
  • At 42, I have learned a vast amount about the city I live in that I have never understood before. From Central Health, to the dynamics of Travis & the surrounding counties, to how the Medical Examiner’s office works, it was shocking how little I knew. Building an engaged, educated electorate is a serious calorie burner and most of us are just acting off of advertisements & influencers.
  • I walked away from EVERY SINGLE 1×1 with a colleague inspired by something – what they do, how they do it, their personal passions – and have an even deeper appreciation for the the diversity of the city we are building together.

I am grateful to count these folks as my new Austin colleagues and look forward to staying in touch with and inspired by them. If a desire to learn & contribute more to our city resonates, applications for next year’s Essential Class are open until July 30. Additionally, there is also a way for the public to participate in the 2 day Beyond Diversity training that is being given as part of Mayor Adler’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities here. Personally, I have found time spent investing in myself and my city time well spent indeed.

Women Alone Together

Women Alone Together

Last week, I spent 5 days in southern Utah both doing and learning a lot. I have a lot of new data on how my body works (resting metabolic rate, V02, body composition), new skills from workshops (cooking, meditation and posture), and inspiration from new workouts (Drums Alive, MELT, Ultimate Barre, yoga). I also spent a lot of time walking, hiking and staring at my new desert animal friends. But that’s not what this is about.

This was my first solo vacation. I knew it would be a break from responsibilities. What I didn’t anticipate was the pleasure of being away from living my life like someone’s watching: always prepared to be “on”, setting an example by visibly making the right choices and striving to be a good role model. Austin still in some sense feels like a small town with lots of cross connections, but somehow in Utah I was no one’s mother, wife, friend, colleague or boss. Losing the need to define myself in any relative terms was a gift in itself and I spent 4 days trying to get in touch with what I wanted and doing that. On one morning included skipping planned hikes and all manner of intellectual enrichment in favor of drinking coffee in bed and watching Under the Tuscan Sun in all its cliched glory. I cried. No regrets.

Because the Red Mountain Resort is known for being super female solo traveler friendly, it was packed with a diverse group of other women who needed a break from playing their roles in life as well. Some had hard choices in front of them, some were recovering from physically or emotionally devastating occurrences, many were stressed by the daily demands of the “sandwich generation” – running their own families while now also being in charge of the care of their parents. Interestingly, quite a few shared secrets and intimacies me that that can’t or wont tell their friends in the real world. The break from being yourself also means that no one has the context with which to judge you or in any way change their opinion of you. WHAT A GIFT.

I highly recommend the programming at the Red Mountain Resort and have already attempted to incorporate some of what I learned there into my life at home. But, as I dive back into real life today, what I want to maintain is the ability to listen to what it is that I truly want, the courage to share more of what is actually going on in my head and the openness to try to grow – awkwardly – surrounded by people who actually know me.