Late in 2013, Sarah asked me if I would share my story. I thought, “What Story?” I have a story to share. But, she kept asking me. So, we finally set a date in April 2014. So now that I was committed, I had to figure what my story was.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t think I am reasonably successful. I just never had a plan. I’ve always been opportunistic about my choices. So, I wasn’t sure if my choices had some sort of story behind. So, I started thinking about it and I discovered that I did have some insights about my success.
The first insight I shared was my early pre-occupation with labels and my decision one day to walk away from them. See, I was that high school girl that won awards at Math Club competitions, advanced to the State Science Fair with my research, lettered on the Swim team and was a leader in several social clubs. My classmates weren’t always sure what to do with me – I set the curve on tests. But, I still liked to have fun. I could have been a nerd – a term I abhorred thinking of pocket protectors and Marty McFly. But, I was definitely a Geek of some sort.
So, I mentioned to my two adult daughters that I was planning to call my talk “Confessions of a 50 Year-Old Geek.” The one told me I wasn’t a Geek, I was a Nerd. So, of course I had to do some research to figure out which was right. I found this neat infographic about the differences (you can find an infographic about anything these days). Turns out, I thought parts of each fit. That made me realize that actually, I had lots of labels over the years – earlier Bossy and Stubborn, but more recently Confident, Persistent and Persuasive. So, I figured I ought to just throw all those labels away and just be who I wanted.
That said, I did realize that there are some guiding ideas for my life and here they are:
- WORK HARD. My whole life, I’ve gone at whatever I am focused on 100% (okay, maybe sometimes 110%). It feels good to work hard. It feels even better to look back and see what you’ve accomplished. So, I don’t mind working hard.
- BE CURIOUS. When working hard, I’ve always been amazed at what happened when I asked “Why?” – Why did I get that result? Why does this make sense? The question lends itself to other questions – How can this insight impact our business? So what does this mean that we ought to do next? It’s actually focusing on these bigger questions that makes the hard work you’ve been doing payoff.
- BE SMART. Just because your going to invest time and effort into something doesn’t mean it has to be painful. Do some research. Learn a new skill. Find experts to help your thinking. Read up on what others have done. Don’t waste time on things that can be done an easier way. Step back and organize the work before just jumping it. Look for ways to streamline your efforts and get a bigger bang for your investments. It’s not so much that I’m lazy. I just hate wasting time by doing things dumb ways. Working hard feels better when you are productive at it.
- PLAY HARD. Life is just too awesome to just work hard. The whole point is to enjoy life. I admit my family keeps a busy calendar. We are constantly going. But, I take time most days for some fun too. There’s almost always time for a quick swim, a hard charging bike ride or maybe even a trail run. Of course, I train for triathlon as my fun. But, find out what your fun is and make sure you do it as often as possible. Of course, when I am not working I’m willing to try all kinds of adventures. You just have to find the thing that gets the adrenaline rush going. Enjoy the payoff of the three parts above.
Today, I know I am lucky. I love being a professor. I love sharing what I’ve learned. I love seeing others learn something new and be successful. And, I’m grateful that organizations like Linking Indy Women exist to help us inspire each other.