Leadership Flashback

I am simultaneously excited about, and dreading, this month.  September is always fun month – the start of fall, my birthday, back to school, etc.  But this month is packed with travel.  I’m in Austin this week, then at the end of next week I head to Alaska for over a week (work with a little personal trip to kick it off), and then I get back to Houston for a week before flying to D.C.

I knew well in advance that would mean I’d need some help here on the blog.  So while there will be a handful of new posts from me, there will also be some wonderful guest posts (including every September Fashion Friday – can’t wait to debut this week’s!) and a few of my past favorites.

This leadership post, entitled Leading Past The Fear, ran last March and still rang true to me today when I was sifting old posts:

Today, we’ll tackle when leading, or the chance to lead, has you shaking in your boots.

When I interviewed Diane Yu from NYU for the book, I appreciated her candor.  The first thing she shared with me was a that leadership IS HARD.  Not for the faint of heart.

There’s this idea that leadership is all success and prestige and honor.

But leadership can mean loneliness, hard decisions, intense pressure, and tremendous responsibility.

Fortunately, she went on to say that you should still lead if given the chance.  Just go in prepared for what’s ahead.

Very recently, I was given the opportunity to lead in a way and within a timeline that was completely unexpected for me.  Do you know what my reaction was?  Nausea.  Fear.  A strong desire to step back and say, “no thanks, I’m not ready for this.”  My closest friends were encouraging me and cheering me on while I was ready to tuck tail and run.

The opportunity, on its face, was exciting.  But there was some quantifiable risk that accompanied the opportunity.  Unpredictable personalities and an unknown outcome.

Some days, you feel ready to tackle those challenges with abandon.  However, given the fact that I’d had to tackle a fair number of new leadership opportunities this past year, this challenge just left me tired.  Ready for a little of the familiar.  The low risk way of life despite the low return.

I took the challenge anyway. 

As you know if you’ve read this blog at all in the past, I am a strong believer that these opportunities come from God.  Not as a result of luck or timing or karma, but because God has a plan for my life and this is part of how He would like to use me.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t say no to certain opportunities.  You absolutely MUST say no to certain opportunities so that you can make room for the yeses that matter.  This was a yes that mattered.  This was a yes that, if I took it, could show others that God can do big things.  Because there’s no way, on any normal timeline or in any normal circumstances, I should have this opportunity.

So I said yes.  I still felt completely nauseous.  I still do.  I’m still shaking.  But with great (smart) risk, comes great reward.

BTE With A BFF

My mind doesn’t shut off.  It just runs and runs and plans and lists and analyzes.  It’s actually getting worse with age instead of better.  It’s why I have a hard time falling asleep.  Like that movie How Does She Do It All where she just lays there in be making lists.

One thing shuts my brain off.

Loud live music.

I love going to concerts but because of my nutty schedule, friends with fewer time on their hands, a limited “extras” budget, and the kids, I don’t do it very often.

However, my best friend always gets us tickets to see Better Than Ezra at House of Blues when they come through town.  I’ve been going to BTE concerts since the mid-90s in law school in Nashville when they first hit.  They’re from Baton Rouge and they played the HOB Friday night before the LSU game in Houston on Saturday.  It was a zoo!  An absolutely wonderful, loud, hysterical rockin’ zoo.

We got there just before they went on in our skinny(ish) jeans and high heels and dark eyeliner just like we’ve been dressing for concerts for ages.  As the familiar music filled the room with drums shaking the floors and crowd belting out the lyrics, my brain turned off.  All I could think or hear or feel was the music.

bte

bte1

There was this moment when they started singing a song from their album which will release next week called It’s Gonna Get Better.  Let me tell you, there’s something about shouting “It’s Gonna Get Better” with a room full of strangers.  It’s been a hard couple of weeks and this was like medicine:

 

On this Labor Day, I’m grateful for a break from the labor and an opportunity to turn back the clock a couple of decades with my best friend.

Fashion Fridays: Bargain Shopping

How do you find cute additions to your wardrobe, especially your career clothes, at a reasonable price? 

The answer to this question constantly eluded me, and with three young children I have to watch when and where I spend dollars on myself.  Plus, quite frankly, I hate the messy chaos that pervades so many brick and mortar discount stores, and I’ve had incredibly limited luck finding high end pieces at secondhand stores. 

So my darling friend Kristin introduced me to ThredUp after she’d made a few killer finds. 

Have you shopped here?  It’s a very well organized on-line consignment store with an incredible selection of higher end items with little to no wear!  And your first shopping outing you get 30% off!  What!?!?!

You can select your style or just pick a category (outerwear) and size (they add equivalent sizing – why doesn’t everyone do this?) and “waa-laa” –  style on a budget!

Even better than any second hand or last call I’ve been to, anything that doesn’t work can be returned for FREE! 

I received my first polkadot box this week with five blazers/jackets, a pair of shoes (Kate Spade) as well as a pullover for the boys (the kids selection has more limited options with less of a delta on the deal – but the women’s section, wow!) for $200!  Not everything worked, and one item disappointingly smelled like cigarette smoke because they must not clean them first, but here’s a look at the items I kept:

This velvet teal blazer was about $10:

jacket

These plummy heels were 75% off of retail Kate Spade shoes and in excellent condition:

heels

My biggest steal of a deal was a high end leather jacket which retailed for $700 that I acquired for just over $100.  However, I didn’t like how it fit, so back it went (which means I spent less than $75 for heels, a blazer, and a kids pullover). 

 They estimate your savings against retail, and while it may be inflated, it still came in pretty impressively at nearly $1500 savings versus the new retail cost. 

What’s your favorite way to save money on career wardrobe pieces?  How do you look sophisticated one a limited budget?

How Darkness Tries To Crowd The Light

light

When we let people or food or drink or pride or ignorance or materialism grow in spaces that are meant for generosity and discipline and patience and wisdom and selflessness, then we stand ill-equipped to resist the lion stalking us constantly.  When we abandon self-control, also translated as a sober mind, we lose right along with it the strength to resist the enemy from a position entrenched in our faith.

Writing over with my sailing dreamers at God-sized Dreams today, won’t you join me for the story?

Leading Past The Rejection

{So grateful to have been asked to author the Voices column for the ABA’s Perspective magazine this quarter.
This was published last week:}

No, thank you.

You’re not a fit for our current needs.  

Thank you for applying, but we have no position available.

I received probably a hundred or so of these responses in the fall of my second year of law school.  I selected a few markets for my employment search and those markets weren’t particularly interested in having me.  After flying myself to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I earned a clerkship at a firm I didn’t know in a city I had never lived.

It was one of the first times professional failure set me up for extraordinary opportunity.  

In the four and a half years at that law firm, I tried numerous small cases my first year of practice, found a new specialty practice area in my second year, and was elected to lead the young lawyers association in my third year.

I met with another “failure” on a professional and personal level, but it opened a door to a tremendous career opportunity in Houston, Texas where I met the love of my life with whom I now have four year old triplets.

Often, after speaking at an event, women come up to me and say, “You’re amazing, I don’t know how you do it all.”  That’s because they’ve only heard my one minute autobiography.  In truth, that’s the only snapshot we see of many successful women leading in law and beyond today.

It’s a 160 character Twitter description.  A 40 word thumbnail bio.  Who lists, Lost four cases last year?  or Screamed at my kids last night because I only had two hours of sleep?

No one.

You post the pretty pictures on Facebook.

You display the biggest awards on your shelves.

You note the most impressive accomplishments in your biography.

Can I let you in on a secret?  Every amazing leader I have met shares about failures they experienced along the way.  When the ABA Commission on Women’s Chair, Mary Cranston, my longtime mentor, asked me to author Learning to Lead: What Really Works for Women in the Law, she opened the door for me to ask some remarkable women how they became successful leaders.  Almost every woman had stories of professional failure.

Senator Mazie Hirono shared that she lost the Hawaii gubernatorial race to the same person she later ran against for the United States Senate seat and won.  She encouraged women, “Dust yourself off and get back up.  But learn something from the defeat.  Allow the loss to provide you with the perspective that makes you stronger, so you can succeed the next time you dare to run the race, take the test, or seek the promotion.”

Justice Elrod of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit shared about her own disappointing career setbacks, “You have to be willing to lose and fail and embarrass yourself.  I was passed over for two state district bench nominations before I ran for judge. It is not over if you “lose” or “fail.”  I learned something through each of those periods.  I learned more about people and the system and how much I really wanted it.  There is life after defeat.  Sometimes, it is an even better life than had you never taken the risk.”

You have to lead past the rejection.

You have to lead in spite of it.

You have to realize that sometimes it is through the failure a better opportunity emerges.

Once you know what you want, tenaciously fight to achieve your goal.  There will be set backs and losses.  If it was easy, everyone would achieve success. {==>Click to Tweet}

Hang in there, sister.  It’s worth the effort.  

And if you’re one of those fortunate ones who achieved your goals, share your setbacks too.  It inspires those still climbing the mountain to focus on the view that lies ahead.