Live It Up!

John:    One of the hardest experiences I ever had was losing my parents at a young age. They were absolute rocks in my life for as long as I could remember. My wife is experiencing now, as her parents are in poor health, and she is afraid that today she will get the call that they are gone. While she still sees them frequently, they don’t get around as fast as they once did and, eventually, they won’t be around anymore. Words can’t describe how much I’ll miss them when they’re gone. I know quite well that the same thing will eventually happen with me. I will eventually lose a step, can’t get around as fast as I once did. And I will wonder whether or not I should be living life to the absolute fullest today instead of saving for tomorrow. But I still believe tomorrow will come and I need to be prepared.

Question for my three friends: do you live for the fullest today instead of saving for tomorrow?

Jen: Tough question! When I was 13 my mom was diagnosed with mixed connective tissue disease following a pregnancy that almost resulted in her death (and my sister’s, who was born in the car weighing just over 3 pounds!) Fortunately they both survived, but there were several years where every single day I thought it could be my mom’s last. She has since survived numerous blood clots, pulmonary emboli, AMIs, infections and more. My entire family lived for the moment, through every decision from choosing filet over sirloin to outlandish vacations over stay-cations. One day, my mom saw a car she really liked, and later that day my dad showed up at home with a brand new Candy-Apple-Red Mustang GT 5.0 convertible. I still have no idea how he pulled that off financially, we were far from wealthy. They made a lot of other seemingly crazy decisions over the years. When I was in middle school, they decided the Sunday as spring break was over to load up the car and drive from Bozeman, Montana up to Edmonton, Alberta ‘just because it would be really cool and make a great story!’ And they were right, it makes a great story!

It was not until more recently that they settled down somewhat. My mom is going on 23 years sick, but breakthrough medications have given her a second chance. As a result of these outlandish whims, I now lean towards a more conservative and steady approach. I suppose I don’t need to experience the risk or thrill of it.

No matter how you choose to live your life, do it authentically and own your choices. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

What does living to the fullest really mean anyhow? For my parents, it meant sports cars, traveling, months-long international cruises, parties, and living a life that is book-worthy. For me, living to the fullest means doing whatever makes me feel complete, no matter what circumstances surround me. This usually comes from simple things like spending time with my children just watching a movie, reading a book, or talking together. It’s different for everyone and I don’t fault my parents for their choices. In a way, I find it admirable that they tackled life as they did instead of sulking or giving up on life. Reflecting now, I’ve just realized while writing this that it’s probably why my mom survived the worst of the years. No matter how you choose to live your life, do it authentically and own your choices. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.

Molly: In this point in my life, I am all about the balance between living for today and saving for tomorrow. However, I’m in this position now because I focused on saving starting in my early 20s. I always set aside part of my paycheck for savings in addition to what I put into my 401K. I worked extra hours and invested in myself by pursing professional certifications and education. I didn’t really think about whether or not I was living in the moment, as my peer group and husband were following similar professional paths. Popular phrases were “pay your dues” not “work/life balance”, and we followed suit without question. It wasn’t until my late 30s did I stumble on finding my sweet spot with saving for tomorrow and living in the fullest. I fiercely protect my family time and use my paid time off without guilt. I do not have regrets of grinding early on in life, as I’m reaping the benefits of being able to balance it now.

I work to live life to the fullest today, but I dream and plan of my tomorrow.

Trish: John, I work to live life to the fullest today, but I dream and plan of my tomorrow. I think of what retirement may look like, where I may want to live 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 20+. My tomorrow is what drives my today. My answer is as simple as that. I look forward to hearing what Jen and Molly’s thoughts are. I also look to you, John, to ask this same question to #fourfriends a year from now.

 

Originally published on 11.15.18 on LinkedIn

By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour and Patricia Graham

Strength in Vulnerability

John:    If you have been told that showing vulnerability in the workplace is a sign of weakness, think again. All of us are vulnerable. None of us are immune. We may put up a false bravado to hide any sign of weakness, but your team sees right through it. One of the strongest work relationships I have ever had is because I was willing to show my vulnerability. We were working on a financial spreadsheet, and I kept pushing saying we have to finish by the specified deadline. She said, “Why are you pushing so hard?” I said “because this is the only thing I am good at. I suck at everything else. I suck at my marriage and I suck as a dad.” Because I was willing to show my weaknesses, she opened up and now we are amazing collaborators. But who knows what would have happened if I chose to stay within myself and refused to open up.

 

Question for my three friends: describe a time when you showed vulnerability and it was a sign of strength, and not weakness.

 

Jen:   In my college years and early career days, I would push forward with a “fake it til I make it” mentality. It was a false display of confidence to cover for lack of experience. More recently, I have swung the pendulum. I readily admit when I don’t know something and follow the statement up with an offer to learn or find out. A time when I showed this same vulnerability and it was a significant experience is related to my current role and the interview process. I was transitioning from a senior leadership role over a handful of departments in a mid-sized hospital to the chief executive of a small hospital- yikes! I did not want to over promise on my abilities, but I also didn’t want to lose the opportunity. I played up my strengths and quickly admitted my weaknesses and areas where I knew I would need to grow. I expressed an honest desire and willingness to close the skill and knowledge gaps.

I still don’t know everything but I DO KNOW that I never will…

 

I did this at the risk of losing the job. However, it worked in my favor and I got the job. I found out during my orientation that the leadership team places significant value on transparency. Good, bad, ugly- after all, it cannot get any worse than the truth. When I interview candidates to hire on my team, I am more focused on their personality, work style, motivations, and fit than their skills. In fact, aside from very rare situations I don’t bring them in to discuss their technical skills. I tell candidates I can teach them anything except how to be a good person and make good choices. Looking back, I believe my interviewers were seeking the same information about me. I have learned so much, and learn more every day. I still don’t know everything but I DO KNOW that I never will- and that is the key to balancing success with fulfillment.

 

Both are vulnerable-the egg to cracking and the hammer to a sticky mess…

 

Molly:  Well this question was timely in that I forgot it was a half day today for my youngest. He sat in the office for over an hour while the school tried to call me and my husband. We were both out of town and worse, I was on a flight to New York (5 hours). My husband called friends and family frantically from his meeting in Chicago. Being the champ that he is, my son quietly read his book until he was picked up. I took it as an opportunity to tell all of our kids that I messed up royally. I made no excuses of which I could share many (crazy schedules for a family of five, two different school calendars, blah blah blah). I want my boys to know that their parents are not perfect, we make mistakes, and take responsibility for them. I shared how I felt powerless to fix the situation at the time and was worried sick, but we can make a plan to ensure it doesn’t happen again.  I make a conscious effort to share with my boys how I make mistakes in both my personal and professional life hoping it will become ingrained that no one is perfect and trust is built when we own the mistakes and make it right.

Trish:  As leaders, we participate in all sorts of professional leadership coaching and training. I actively look for opportunities in addition to those activities provided by my employer. Several years ago, I completed a comprehensive professional leadership version of the Myers–Briggs Personality Type Indicator test and received a 30+ page results analysis document to pour over. The results of this particular test documented my strengths, challenges, and opportunities. It also had a section that documented how others would best work with me and I with them. One particular area in the analysis that was very interesting said that in communicating with me, others should, “Be bright, be brief, and be gone.” Wow. Did I have THAT low a tolerability for stupidity? Was I THAT impatient? Did I want people giving me information and getting out of my office the second they were done? I knew that being patient is a weakness for me (and it still is…but I am a work in progress). Many of the leaders in the organization quietly took their results and worked on themselves. I took my results and immediately did something quite drastic. I shared my results word-for-word with my management team. Talk about being vulnerable! The team and I laughed at some of the items as my team found some of them very true and also took note as a team member stated that “this one is sooooo me, too!” I realized that there was so much power and collegiality in being so raw as to show these results. Later, as conversations with my managers would occur, we would laugh together as they would give me a dig while saying, “I need to talk with you about an issue, but I promise to be bright, brief, and will be gone!”

by John R. Nocero, Jennifer RawleyMolly Downhour & Patricia Graham

Originally published on LinkedIn on 10/25/2018.