I’m Rachel Garrett, a Career and Leadership Coach helping women re-invent their careers after the priority-shifting (and mind-blowing) milestone of becoming a mom. I work with clients, like you, to break out of your vision of what the “perfect career” and the “perfect mother” look like and we start re-building your life based on the things that are important to you.
Ten years ago, I was in a Digital Marketing role at a large financial services firm. After a successful career building websites and digital experiences, I had a stomach churning feeling that I was ready for my next move. I knew I wanted something different, but I had no idea what it could be. I felt stuck, disappointed and like I should have this figured out already!
In that space of uncertainty, I decided to get involved in the many other activities available at my organization. I became active in the company’s women’s leadership development and networking group. While in the network, I connected with powerful, female leaders at all levels of the organization. A year into my work with these incredible women, I became pregnant with my first daughter, which sparked the idea to create a Workplace Flexibility event. We invited the most senior female leader in the organization at the time for a keynote speech, with a follow-up panel conversation about the organizational needs of working parents and the direction workplace flexibility was headed. I worked tirelessly to coordinate the event details and promotion on top of my day job. I was LIT UP by the process, the momentum and the excitement that grew with what seemed like a movement my colleagues and I were building.
The day of the event I was 9 months pregnant and feeling my strongest pregnancy symptom—EMOTION. I pinned the lavaliere mic on our keynote before her talk and walked to the back of the room to take in what I along with my co-conspirators had created. A standing room only, packed audience. An energy that was hopeful and supportive and HUNGRY to know more. Our speaker started her talk with a heartfelt working parent meltdown story in which her overwhelm had caused her to forget something for her son’s class. In that moment where priorities came into the foreground, she chose to spend the extra time doing right by her family instead of attending the senior level meeting to which she was already late.
I looked down at my growing belly, riveted by her words and taken with the intense energy of the room. I felt more alive that day than I had in many years of my digital career. Something shifted. All the clues for my next move were right in front of me, but I couldn’t see them. I was fearful for how I was going to juggle work and family in my own life.
After my daughter was born, I started a new Digital Marketing role that was part-time and flexible. I knew it was a safe move, but also that it was the right move for me at the time, given my priority shift. I was able to work with great people, use my strengths and years of expertise AND control my schedule. My friends who were struggling to stay afloat would remind me often that I had the dream situation for a working mom. And for the most part, that was true. But there was something nagging at me throughout this time. It showed up when I mentored some of my colleagues and coached my friends through their career challenges. It was there when I presented to a room of employees and felt comfortable being myself, sharing stories to demonstrate my point. Or when I obsessively read articles about the disparity between men and women in senior leadership roles and the gender pay gap. When Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic article, "Why Women Still Can’t Have It All" appeared in July 2012, it rocked my world and was all I could talk about for days. All the clues were there, but it took time and space, supportive people and running a marathon (yep, best rut-busting tool out there!) to get me to trust the evidence and build a case for my career transition.
When I work with clients who are seeking clarity about their next step, I say, "It’s OK not to know right now, but walk through your life with an openness to finding the clues, and when you find them, notice how they feel in your body." If you’re stuck in your head, listen to what your body is telling you with butterflies, or fireworks or flow.
My clients create a list of past projects, programs, conversations and brief moments when they felt ignited, curious and alive. And then they open their eyes to the moments they brush off in their every day life as "silly" or "nothing." They know those moments were something and by acknowledging them and giving them space to grow—who knows if that something can turn into THE thing.
When I was nine years old, my mom returned to the workforce after a 13-year career break. Financially, we were struggling, so my parents decided to forgo finding an afterschool babysitter. Instead, I became your stereotypical eighties latch-key kid, walking home from the bus stop on my own, with a Papa Smurf keychain that said, “Don’t Lose These Keys!” and an afternoon that was a blank slate.
Having grown up to that point with a stay at home mom, I struggled with all of the new-found freedom at first. In the first few weeks, I called my mom two or three times an afternoon—and you can guess how this went over with her employer. She had to cut me off, limit me to one 5-minute conversation and then I was left to figure out how to fill the rest of my afternoon.
Then it happened. I found myself an inspirational mentor I could check in with five afternoons a week at 4PM, Eastern Standard Time.
I was riveted by her energy, optimism and belief that anybody could be anything and that anybody could get through anything.
I was taken by the confidence and authority in her words—even when she didn’t look like anyone else I saw on TV. Already at nine, I was aware that my body was bigger and different than most of my classmates, so to see someone standing in her power simply as herself was a tremendous relief. I was grateful to know that this was possible.
My relationship with my mentor grew over time. On the days her show was a bit sensational for my taste, I simply used it as background fodder for snacking and homework. But the days when she dug into the human experience: resilience, persistence, empathy, compassion, finding courage to stand in your convictions—I was hooked.
I leaned most on that personal leadership foundation built during my mentor sessions in the initial weeks after my parents died in a car accident when I was eleven. I went to therapy and had the unconditional support of my extended family—but it was the Oprah Kool-Aid that truly kept me going. I’d seen first-hand how people could survive the most horrific tragedies and live to talk about it on the show. I often thought about how I would share my story with Oprah, and how she might grab my hand and tell me that I was brave. In that moment, when the rest of my family was reeling in grief and had no clue what to say to me, in my mind, Oprah knew how to be with me and I would feel in my bones that I was brave. I believed it. And it was that belief that started so small and grew to become all that I am. A survivor and someone who knows with every cell that anybody can be anything and get through anything.
Looking back on that time now with my coach training, I know my conversations with Oprah televised in my mind, were my pre-teen version of visualization that kept me in the space of explaining my resilience, my compassion for myself and my belief that I was going to make it through. I remember keeping it to myself thinking I was either just a super fan or a little crazy—but that was actually quite an insightful strategy for an 11-year-old!
Now that I’m in the business of helping people step out of their fears and into a life of their design, I call on my early training often and I’m certain that these were the days I first fell in love with this work. I’d be lying if I said I gave up on my mentor conversations. When I’m struggling with something in my business or in life, I picture myself in Oprah’s Santa Barbara backyard, filming our Super Soul Sunday episode and somehow, I always find my way back to being both brave and truly seen.
By sheer coincidence or not, my oldest daughter took her statewide English Language Arts test the same week I was preparing for my first leadership workshop with a new coaching group that I am thrilled to be joining forces with. Tensions were high in my neighborhood, where over 50% of students opted out of the controversial state testing this year.
Walking my daughter through our reasoning behind the test being a non-negotiable in our household, while simultaneously navigating my own fears and creeping doubts about stepping into this new space of training women how to be leaders—work that is directly connected to my WHY—was nothing short of surreal. "Of course we want you to do your best, which we know you will do, but we also want you to practice taking a test. To know that this may be hard AND you can do hard things in life. We want you to know that we love you and you’re going to be OK, no matter how you do. We’ll work with you to help you learn from your experience of taking this test. This is all a chance to learn something new in your life."
As the words left my mouth, I knew they were also meant for me. That may or may not be why I had tears in my eyes as I spoke. Meanwhile she turned to me and said, "It’s OK, Mom. I know. I’m actually excited for the test!" So, perhaps the pep talk was a bit more for me than for my march to the beat of her own drum kind of girl.
I sent my mentor off to fourth grade and decided to create some space for myself to practice, to move through the fear, and to be imperfect.
I danced it out to my favorite power song, Sara Bareilles’ Brave. Then, I wrote the word, "COURAGE" in all caps across the white board hanging above my desk.
I told myself, "My first time walking through this is going to be truly rough. Right now, I’m simply learning the content. It doesn’t need to sound good yet." Imperfection in progress. I’ve learned this lesson with my writing over time and I’m completely on board with writing a "shitty first draft." (Thanks, Anne Lamott!) Somehow, a shitty first pass coming through my voice has always been tougher to bear! No better time to learn. "I’m excited about the test!" Oh yes, what an exciting chance to practice. And I’m not just practicing, I’m expanding.
Every time I tripped up my words and became frustrated, I thought about my WHY.
Get more women into positions of power.
And I redoubled my energy and my efforts. I thought of the rapt faces of my imminent audiences. I visualized telling a room full of 30 women to stop apologizing and imagined the impact that very statement could have had on my early career.
In day two of my preparation, my daughter was home sick and begged to watch me practice part of the workshop. My immediate response was nothing short of sheer terror, but then I thought—if I can teach her these skills at age 10—imagine how badass she’s going to be? I walked through a couple of my slides and she was FULLY engaged. "What are filler words? What do you mean by up-speak? Oh yeah, why do people talk that way?" Smiling from ear to ear, she interrupted me to say, "Mom! You are such a good coach. I could listen to this stuff all day."
In that moment, I’d already won. She saw my fear, my hard work and the space I created for imperfection—and it was worth it for me, because getting to my goal as exactly who I am was more powerful than my fear. I’m proud to learn that lesson at my age and if you can learn it at 10, imagine what else you can do.
One of my closest friends often teases me when it comes to making plans, "You say no a lot." I simply smile and agree whole-heartedly. Yes! Yes, I do say no. I do the mental math to avoid overbooking. On the weekend, if I’m struggling to make something fit in, I assume it won’t. If it feels like something I "should" do instead of something that I want to do, I politely decline.
I wasn’t always this way. I was as crazed and addicted to busyness as most people I know. But all of sudden, I was having thoughts that I wanted to leave our beloved urban Brooklyn neighborhood for the suburbs. I wanted to take a summer off and spend time upstate. Those changes felt simultaneously overwhelming and necessary. At the time I was also making the switch from my corporate job to building my own business and as part of my transition, I revisited my values and the life I wanted to create for myself. And there it was. Peace had snuck in under the radar as one of my core values.
It felt like too many changes at one time to leave my corporate job AND our neighborhood and family support, so I said to myself, "If peace and calm is so important to me, how do I bring it into the life I’m currently living? How can I add peace without making dramatic changes?" As it turns out, this was quite a fun exercise!
I made a list of peace possibilities:
Add non-negotiable writing time into my week.
Decrease subway time.
Plan a vacation in February, the shortest but feels like the longest month.
Go to fewer crowded school events with a gazillion screaming kids—especially when my kids are not asking to go!
Take walks in the middle of the day.
Add buffer time into my schedule—as in not scheduling my day with back-to-back appointments.
Add more unstructured time into my life and less weekend overscheduling.
Set clear boundaries about when I can see people and when I can’t. Don’t say, "We should get together." if I don’t mean it.
Don’t apologize when I can’t see people. I’m either available or I’m not. No need to apologize.
Implementing my new possibilities was as liberating as making the list. When I would get an email from a fellow parent saying, "Will we see you at the Pajama and Pizza Party at the preschool?" I would simply say, "I’ve stopped going to those things." Instead I’d take a walk with the kids or take them to the park. Ah, peace—why have I not chosen you before?
Even beyond the overt ways I’ve diminished noise in my life with less commuting and crowded school events, the addition of clearer boundaries with plans and relationships has helped me to wipe out the mental noise that kept me from the peace I was desiring. I know I’m clear on my commitments and I don’t have a lot of maybes taking up valuable space in my head. In looking at this list now, I can say that of all the changes I’ve made in my life in the past 4 years, these were among the easiest to stick with and have made a tremendous impact on my happiness and wellbeing. Some people thrive in scheduled, busy lives. I’ve learned I’m not one of them—and I’m OK with that. It may mean that things move more slowly than I would have expected, or maybe it doesn’t. Either way, I’ll find out—and with my peace list in play, I’ll be much more fun to be around in the process.
I’m not the coach who will advise you to quit your day job to find your dream job. In fact, as a coach, I help you find your answers instead of advising anything based on my own experiences. I also help you mine the data of your life to discover options you didn’t know were possible.
That said, there are many clients who come to me in a dark place. They’re in toxic work environments. They’re hunched, curled up in stress and panic-stricken—cortisol racing through their veins. If I owned a compassion blanket, I would swaddle them in it. Instead, I create a space where they can loosen the release valve, fall apart and reassemble themselves in a world where things are going to be OK.
Because things are going to be OK.
It may feel like this shit storm of a job and a life is your only choice. It’s not. You have options.
With some clients, when they know they need to leave—they create an interim plan to help them get there. They set new boundaries in their role to create time and space to reflect on what they want. They network, they hone their stories and they make their search a priority WHILE they’re at their jobs. They may not be knocking it out of the park at work, but they’re doing well and what they need to do to get the job done. For some, this is possible and it’s a busy, but exciting path forward.
For others, their paralysis takes up so much mental space and energy, even the smallest baby step feels like an exhausting marathon. The idea of looking for a job while they have a job sounds practical, but completely impossible. In the midst of a crisis of self-esteem and confidence, the exercise of listing strengths and passions feels more like a creative writing assignment than self-reflection.
When I sit across from someone tangled in knots like this, we open an investigation.
What would a reboot look like? Is a short break—or better yet, a sabbatical—to figure it all out possible? We brainstorm all the data points that need collecting so an informed decision can be made.
Here are some of the questions we ask to go beyond the fear and emotion and get grounded in the facts.
What are your monthly expenses?
Can you decrease your expenses for a period of time?
Do you have enough savings to take a short break? And if so, how long would it be?
If you don’t have the savings, is there a more temporary, flexible job you can take on for a period of time to create more space for you?
Given that we are in a time of streamlining organizations, is there a way to raise your hand for severance or a package at your company?
Do you have a temporary way to cover health insurance?
If you have a partner, are you and your partner on the same page about your break?
Do you have the emotional support of your family and friends?
What are your goals for your sabbatical?
What action will you take during your break to refuel and rebuild?
What do you want to learn on your break?
Then, they crunch the numbers. They map out the scenarios. They review their choices that are based in data and reality and not in fear. For some, that exercise may be enough to remove the anvil from their backs. Simply knowing there’s a way out if they need it, is a way to help them begin to move forward with their search while still in their jobs. And for those who decide to take the sabbatical, they show up in my office with wide smiles that glimmer—one part pride, one part disbelief and the rest knowing an entire world is theirs for the taking.
Last weekend, my 10-year-old daughter and I snuggled on the couch and watched Hidden Figures. If you’re the one person left in the country who hasn’t seen it, the movie, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, tells the story of the critical role female African American mathematicians played in the nation’s space program in the early 1960’s. In segregated Virginia, these women faced overwhelming discrimination—and yet they overcame relentless obstacles to advocate for themselves and their work. They took risks to make their voices heard. They had the foresight to think ten steps ahead of the white men in charge. And they had the loyalty to bring their colleagues and friends along in their journey.
My eyes welled up as the opening credits rolled (at which point my daughter grabbed my hand) and I’ve been wearing my emotions outside of my skin ever since. The beautiful storytelling struck me at my core and reminded me—I’m exactly where I need to be in my career—supporting women to find their voices and their confidence, to become the leaders they want to be. And as the mother of two daughters, I’m driven to figure out a way to spark this confidence, determination and leadership in my girls early and often.
As with any parent, I don’t always get it right, but here’s where I focus my energy when I feel like I’m killing it as Mom and Chief.
1. Understand your past I wouldn’t be where I am now, a business owner, a woman with a voice and the belief that gender equality will be a reality in my lifetime—without the millions of women who fought to get here. From the Suffragettes, to Coretta Scott King, to Gloria Steinem, to Margaret Sanger to Bell Hooks to Malala Yousafzai to countless others. We are standing on the shoulders of these powerful women and must deeply understand what they fought against and the successful tactics they used because these fights are not over. While we have made tremendous progress, these battles are in front of us yet again. For my daughters, that means I must provide their feminist education with inspiring and exciting books about our foremothers. It means, that both my husband and I plant seeds in conversations about how far we’ve come and the pride we have in that journey.
2. Dream big I’m grateful to have had parents and an extended family that told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. As a child of the 70’s, I danced around my room to Marlo Thomas’, "Free To Be You and Me" and man, did I take it seriously! And while I was unsuccessful in getting my girls interested in the classic album (sigh), they’ve internalized Marlo’s message because it’s in my DNA and in my every move in creating a business and forging my own path. We take our dreaming to the next level by visualizing what it looks like to actually achieve those goals, breaking them down into small steps. "Ok, you want to be a singer. Let’s sign you up for singing lessons or a chorus so you can see if it’s something you enjoy doing. People who become singers do both of these things." Even if my daughter doesn’t become a singer, she’s learning at 10-years old that you can break your big dreams into small steps and in taking those small steps, you can learn if this goal is the right one for you.
3. Challenge the status quo Our girls who are following all the rules and achieving high honors in school aren’t succeeding at the same rate in their professional lives. In her Huffington Post piece, "The Dark Side of Girls Success In School", Tara Mohr suggests that our "good girl", rule-following approach to girls’ school achievement is not the necessary skillset needed for career success. Mohr writes, "To blaze a trail, women and men need to know how to experiment with their ideas when they are messy and imperfect. They need an ability to take considered risks, challenge authority and respond to criticism with a thick skin." In parenting practice, you can imagine this approach can create quite a conundrum! If we teach our kids to challenge the rules, will they ever do what we ask them to do? And the answer is, maybe. You can begin to spark this conversation around hot parenting topics like bullying, peer pressure, honesty and doing what you believe is right even when people in authority are not. Yes, this may come back to you when you’re laying down the law—but parenting need not be a democracy. When homework needs to be finished and school must be attended to on time, opinions can be voiced and validated, but the parenting loophole of, "this must be done" can supersede all else. The trick is to provide your kids with the flexibility to practice taking risks in an environment where you can support them in the face of fears that arise.
4. Be you and only you Your daughter has a unique perspective and filter through which she sees the world. By helping her tap into her intuition, find her authentic voice and create ways to express it often even in the face of fears—she will continue to develop the type of confidence she needs to excel in her career. I began to understand this only about six years ago. After one of the larger presentations I gave to senior leaders as a digital marketer, I received the following feedback from my supervisor, "Your unscripted moments were far better than your scripted moments." In other words, when I was myself, trusting in what I knew—I was stronger and more confident in my work. While I often wish I’d learned this lesson earlier (which is why I incorporate it into my parenting), I’m glad I know it now and can bring that nugget into my preparation for any coaching session, workshop, keynote speech and relationship.
While I have the same challenges of other working parents--getting the kids out the door in the morning for school, teaching my girls to choose kindness with each other instead of deploying an elbow—the moments when I see my 7-year-old use her brilliant comic timing to put a smile on our faces after a tough day or when my fourth grader turned business coach tells me not to offer my services for free—no matter what—I know something’s working.
Often when my clients come to see me about a career transition, finding a new job or returning to work after a career break, they bring with them a long list of fears. Fears that have been holding them back from taking that first step in their search and fears that they use to pummel themselves when the optimistic thoughts about their careers roll in.
"I’m worried I’m going to take a job where I’ll be on all the time and I won’t have time for my family."
"I’m scared I’ll take a role where I’m doing the SAME thing I’ve been doing for 15 years and I’m dying for something different!"
"What if I need to take a pay cut?"
The thing that they want the most—whether it’s flexibility, something new, more money—is typically the area they fear they will betray themselves. While we acknowledge what’s coming up for them and why—we also work together to say, "You know that thing you’re afraid you’re going to do? Let’s decide you’re simply not going to do that!"
You can make a commitment to yourself that you will:
Identify your highest priorities for your search—and with dogged determination seek those things in every role for which you apply and in every company with whom you network.
Ask the right questions and talk to the right people to vet for the flexible culture you seek.
Know your numbers so that you’re solid on what salary you want to make.
Only pursue roles where you can grow and learn.
Refine and hone your story so you can build the bridge of how your past expertise translates to the needs of the new role.
In making this commitment, you’re recognizing that you may need to stay with a job you seriously dislike (I don’t use the "h" word) longer than if you took any job. Taking any job is one of the things you fear and, in most cases, you don’t need to do that. You’re being thoughtful about your next move. You’re focusing on what YOU want this time, and the freedom that brings will refuel you in those moments that bring you crashing down in your current situation.
Now, let’s make it official. It’s one thing to make a promise in your head and it’s a whole other thing to put that sucker down in writing. I’m not saying it’s legally binding, but when you make a contract with yourself, you experience an entirely new level of accountability.
Here’s how I work with clients to make a contract with themselves:
Identify your top 3 MUST HAVE needs for your next role.
Write a short contract that looks like the sample, below.
Hang it where you can see it daily.
Read it daily.
I, Rachel Garrett, on this 10th day of April in the year 2018, declare that I will make the following priorities in my job search.
Flexibility I define flexibility as the ability to work from home one day per week. If that is not possible, it can also be that I am able to work from home "every so often" to go on a school trip, help when a child is sick, go to a doctor’s appointment or take care of a home task that can only be done in my presence. It means that I am valued in my role and that my employer understands that if I’m able to complete my life tasks, I will be more productive at work.
Salary Ideally, I want to make X and will not take a role for lower than Y.
A Competent Leader Who’s Not An Asshole An inspiring leader would be a dream come true, but I would also be happy with a competent leader who allows me to run my own program and be supportive when I need him/her to be. I promise myself that I will do all that I can to learn about my new leader before taking a role, whether it’s interviewing others on the team or trusting my gut when asshole red flags appear in the interview process.
With every opportunity, I commit to reviewing these three priorities to make sure they are present in that new role AND I also commit that I will NOT accept a role if these three variables are NOT present in the opportunity.
__________________________ PRINT NAME
In my experience, the contract puts clients at ease by requiring them to get clear on their priorities for their search and in reminding them that it is possible to put their priorities first. Once you’ve put the contract in place for your career—the possibilities of where this approach can work are endless. Romantic partner contract anyone? For all of my type A’s out there, this is where you’re going to leverage your expertise in documentation and order to find what you really want in life. And for everyone else, getting your priorities out of your head and onto paper can make a huge impact in getting what you want.
This past fall, a coaching group that I belong to asked me to create a two-minute video where the assignment was to introduce myself and then provide insight on a topic with tools and a strong point of view. My topic was perfectionism. Cue the foreshadowing.
I’m quite comfortable writing a provocative and vulnerable blog post, then promptly sending it out to thousands of strangers.
I’m also at home speaking my truth in front of audiences of varying sizes. In fact, I’ve learned that it gives me an unparalleled adrenaline rush.
And then there’s video. As a former digital marketing professional, I’m well aware that this is a critical channel for me to master to make a broader impact. My logical side also creates a beautiful equation that should be the fuel propelling me over my resistance. Video = written content + invisible audience. There, that explains it. Now, go!
Cut to three hours later, and I’d written scripts that were taped to the wall above my computer. My eyes were darting about trying not to look like I was reading a script. I tossed my script—stopped and started a thousand times, then finally banged my head against the desk in despair. My entire body was rejecting this assignment. But why?
During my 20th procrastination trip to the bathroom, I decided to take a long look at myself in the mirror. I wanted to scream, but instead I addressed my Inner Critic eye to eye. “Miller The Killer!” She’s so suitably named after my 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Miller, who seemed to thrive on my frequent tears. “Why are you holding me hostage today? Why don’t you think I can do this?”
She was thorough.
“Your voice sounds nasal.”
“You don’t have anything new to say.”
“They won’t like you.”
“If you don’t speak perfectly, they’ll think you’re inarticulate.”
“Just sit in your yoga pants and write your blog posts. With those you can edit and edit and edit…”
It went on and on until I landed my best mental DROPKICK. She was on the ground which gave me time enough to throw some choice words at her and then keep her down with my conviction. “You’re going through something. I get it. You don’t like this and you’re new to it so you’re not great at it yet. And that’s exactly the courageous place you’re going to start. It will NOT be perfect. It may not even be good, but it will be done, and you will have moved through this shit-storm of self-hate. Now show yourself some fucking compassion and let’s do this thing.”
After my ceremonial ripping of the script, I wrote the word “compassion” on an index card and taped it above my laptop. I made sure Miller the Killer (MtK) was still limping in the corner and I gave her a look that kept her frozen in place.
I pressed record. I thought about having fun, helping my favorite clients and how relatable imperfection can be. I stumbled a bit, but kept going. After one take, I decided I was done with this activity for the day. It was as good as it was going to get this time around and it was actually pretty good. MtK even gave me a silent nod. Until next time!
Our inner critic—that voice in our head that tells us in the harshest of terms how inadequate we are—provides only one opinion. And that opinion is the one that channels our deepest fears, protecting us from anything we perceive to be dangerous—even digital video. As with everything else in our lives, it’s our choice whether or not we believe that voice.
When you feel that paralyzing resistance before trying something you know you must do, try my dropkick approach:
Acknowledge the presence of your inner critic.
Give him or her a name that gives you a visual of who he/she is to you.
Give your inner critic a chance to voice the fears that he/she is feeling.
Now, do your best mental dropkick!
Choose a new way to look at your task at hand.
Stare your inner critic down once more right before moving forward.
Go for it!
Note how different it felt this time around.
It would be quite the trick to learn how to make your inner critic disappear for good. When you learn that one, please share! The good news is that when you become more aware of her, she begins to take long vacations. That said, she often decides to helicopter in at the precise moment you’re inches away from your goal. And if she does, don’t fret. You’ll be prepared to break out that well-practiced dropkick. Hi-yah!
One evening, shortly after finishing dinner, while sitting at the kitchen counter with my two young kids, my husband was doing the dishes across from us.
"Ugh, I need a back massage", I whined.
To which my husband replied, "I’ll give you one later".
"What?!", blurted my 6-year-old daughter,
She continued, "Dad makes us dinner, cleans up after us, and next he’s going to give you a back massage?!"
I looked her straight in the face and simply said, "girl, build the castle in which you want to live". She didn’t say another word.
I repeated the story to my Mother. She loved it, and shortly thereafter had a bracelet made for my 35th birthday with the inscription, "Build Your Castle". I’ve worn that bracelet every day since, and have had that mindset, all my life. With lots of support and help from others, I’ve built a successful career, friendships and family...wonderful, challenging and fulfilling works in progress.
However, this past October, I found myself struggling. My "works" weren’t crumbling, but I wasn’t sure what I was building professionally. Why am I working this hard? Is this really what I should be doing for the rest of my life? Do I even like what I’m doing? I was lost. I was depressed. While on a business trip for professional development course required by my fabulous employer, I had mental meltdown. I knew I needed help.
Rachel and I first met several years ago, while members of a local running club, just as she about to leave corporate America and launch her coaching business. I thought she was pretty amazing then, just as much as I do now. Although we only stayed in touch through social media, and hadn’t seen one another in years, I knew she would be a perfect starting place.
We spoke over the phone at the airport, while en route home from the training and met in person shortly thereafter for coaching sessions. We talked it through. And I wrote about it. She questioned me and my thinking. Then, I hashed out. Over days. Over weeks. We made some connections. And dug a little deeper. Payed attention a little more. Our coaching sessions didn’t conclude with a concrete answer, but the overall understanding and belief that I need to spend more time doing what I love.
My "aha" moment was when she reminded me that "it’s all in me".
I am a connector. A networker. A hostess. A good friend and entertainer. I am a community builder. I wasn’t sure what that meant for my current or future career; all I knew is that needed to spend more time doing it. I was inspired. I was motivated. With that motivation, I registered my Sister and I for the NYC Girlboss Rally. We brainstormed ideas, hustles, blogs, businesses over lunch and hours-long professional headshot lines. We have five kids under the age of seven between the two of us, and could have stayed in that line for days without complaint, ‘cause we were lovin’ on our brains, our badassery and the fact that our kids were with our husbands for 12 uninterrupted hours (AMAZING!).
I will remember that day forever. It was there, that Jam Program was born. Jam Program is a passion project, a side-hustle and a creative outlet for my Mom, my Sister and I. Our daughters are joining us for the ride, too. We left the rally with name ideas (luckily, my sister’s secret talent is naming things….kids, pets, parties, blogs, companies, etc.) and a loose understanding of the product, experience, service it would provide.
We knew… The focus would be multi-generational The focus would be on girls and women The focus would be on story-telling and sharing The focus would be on connecting The focus would be on supporting The focus would be on doing The experience would be unique
Since December, we have hosted monthly networking Jamborees (in the homes of "Jamborettes") with over 100 participants dispersed between NYC and Connecticut. Our aim is to build multi-generational networks and communities in attempt to create a "modern village"; a place where we help one another, support one another, give, take, and swap skills, stories, struggles and hustles.
Jam Program is only several months old but we’ve been having fun and working hard to build something deeply meaningful to us and hopefully, our communities.
Ashley Rigby is Sales Manager for Herman Miller, Inc. a research-based, furniture manufacturer and has been a contributor to the architecture and design community for over 14 years. She is considered a subject-matter expert on learning space design and designing for the growth-mindset, sharing her research and thoughts on the topic at The New School, Fashion Institute of Technology, Cornell University, University of Michigan, University of Connecticut in addition to over 50 architecture and design firms. When she's not in the classroom for work, her kids or otherwise, she's exploring New York City with her family, throwing parties in their postage-stamp-sized backyard and doing way too much laundry. She is at her best when helping others cultivate a growth-mindset, develop diverse networks and inspiring personal and professional communities.
If you’re the only woman in the room, I see you. If you’re fresh off a promotion and feel paralyzed about your next step, I’ve been in your shoes. If you know you must give intense feedback to a member of your team, but you keep avoiding him, there’s a way through this. If you’re the one senior leader on your team without an advanced degree, your knowledge base may feel oh so small compared to everyone else (but remember so is your debt!).
These are the moments we feel the insidious impostor syndrome that tells us,
"I don’t know what the F I’m doing."
"I should have partied less in college."
"I don’t belong here."
Our desire to belong in a room, on a team, at a company, in a family is core to who we are, and yet we confuse belonging with fitting it. In her latest book, Braving the Wilderness and in an article for Oprah.com, my spirit guide, Brené Brown, digs into the difference between these two concepts.
"Belonging is not fitting in. In fact, fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging. Fitting in, I've discovered during the past decade of research, is assessing situations and groups of people, then twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them. Belonging is something else entirely—it's showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are—love of gourd painting, intense fear of public speaking and all."
So, if the impostor syndrome that plagues us is simply a mask for our desire to belong, and our path to belonging is allowing ourselves to be seen as who we truly are, then our task here is straight forward. We must uncover who we are and translate that into the leaders we want to be. Here’s how I work with clients to create a Leadership Statement to do just that.
1. Define your values Choose 5 core values that guide your life. If you’re struggling to come up with 5, a simple Google search will provide you some lists of values you can use as a starting point. My values: Courage, Connection, Inspiration, Peace, Fun.
2. Identify your strengths What are your superpowers? For what do people naturally seek you out? Choose 3-5 strengths—and if you’re in a place right now where it feels like you don’t do anything well—ask 5 people what they see as your strengths. I find these responses both eye opening and validating! My strengths: Motivating others, Storytelling, Connecting people and companies and pets and…
3. Crystalize your Why Why do you wake up in the morning? What makes you tick? Who do you want to serve? What problem do you want to solve in the world? If you don’t have this nailed down, go to Simon Sinek’s popular TED Talk for inspiration and clarity. My why: Get more women into positions of power.
4. Put it all together Now, throw it at the wall and make it stick together. Don’t worry about using every word that came up in the process. You need not be too literal here.
As a storyteller, connector and motivator, I’m driven by my courage to seek inspiration in all people and to help them become the best versions of themselves. Fueled by words and transformations, I rise each morning to make a more equal world for my two daughters, by amplifying women’s voices and getting more women into positions of power.
5. Practice Before that big meeting, critical presentation, negative feedback session, wedding toast—read your statement. Remind yourself of who you are. Be THAT person, unapologetically.
Once you decide to stop trying to be John who kills every presentation with his hilarious stories or Anna who wow’s the audience with her meticulous data and research—incredible things begin to happen. You begin to lean into what you do best. And people will notice. They will see how comfortable you are in your skin or they will think you look great, but won’t know why. This is what it’s like to truly do you. It’s self-acceptance. It’s belonging. And while impostor syndrome will never completely go away, your access to your true self will always be your path to conquering it.
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