Exhaustion Does Not Equal Success

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I had an incredible opportunity to attend the 5th Anniversary Lunch for the Center for Women in Law in Austin Friday.  The honoree was my long-time mentor, Mary Cranston, and the keynote speaker was Arianna Huffington.

She has a new book out, Thrive, which I received but haven’t read.  However, her remarks came from many of the lessons she shares in the book.  One came from an incident that occurred to her seven years ago when she was completely burned out.  I couldn’t believe the story.  She followed the retelling with this comment, “Exhaustion and burnout are not the price of success.” 

Whoa.

Preach it, sister.

But it’s becoming success currency.

We tie our exhaustion level directly to our place on the career ladder.  The more exhausted we are, the more successful we must be, right?

If we were exhausted after achieving that big win, then surely we’ll have to be even more tired to meet the next goal?

Can you lead and still be rested?  Can you achieve without ulcers and sleep deprivation?

The answer is yes.

The answer is you can’t lead without finding a place of respite.  Rest.  Relaxation.  Replenishing.  Restoration.

You won’t have a clear head.  You won’t be your most strategic.  You won’t be able to set an example for the women following your lead.  You won’t make it without burning out.

Exhaustion has to stop being the currency to greatness.  Huffington quoted President Clinton as saying, “Most of the major mistakes I made in my life, I made when I was too tired to know what I was doing.”  (She said he didn’t specify which mistakes.)

But it’s true.  It’s when you slip.  It’s when you fall.  It’s when you lose your clarity, your vision, your way, your drive.

Leadership means more than just what you do for others.  It’s how you treat yourself.  Find some time.  Find a place of rest.  Make a proactive plan to set aside time to refill your reserves so you can bravely step out into the next leadership opportunity.

How To Jump Start Your Monday

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5.  Eat Something.  Healthy.

There’s lots of science and research that talks about making sure you don’t skip the most important meal of the day – breakfast.  But more important is WHAT you eat to give you the boost you need.  Whether it’s eggs or a fruit smoothie, take five minutes to make something that gives you the energy you need to tackle what’s ahead.

4.  Make A List. 

I’m a list girl but have gotten out of the habit as the list grew a little overwhelming.  You don’t have to make a list of everything you have to do – make one for what has to get done that day.  Or that week.  Make the list in an order that makes sense for you.  You can order the list of actions from easiest to hardest so you can cross two things off quickly (e.g., make dinner reservations, return the teacher’s email…), or make it in order of priority so you don’t get bogged down by the things that don’t have to get done by day’s end.

3.  Phone A Friend. 

Seriously.  You were too frenzied to catch up over the weekend, but pick up the phone by lunchtime to just check in on her weekend.  Find out if her child is feeling better or she got the second interview or how her hike went.  She’ll appreciate it and you’ll feel better for connecting.

2.  Squeeze In Some Exercise. 

I am the world’s worst at this, so if you knock it out on Monday you’ll have already crossed something off your list.  If you were too busy to get on the treadmill in the morning, then run stairs at your office over lunch or walk across downtown if it’s pretty outside.  You don’t have to break into a sweat in your suit to still get moving and feel better about your health and stress level.

1.  Practice Thankfulness. 

Again, all the science is there.  But I have far more practical reasons.  You focus on what you choose to focus on.  We are so fortunate.  We live in a free country and most of us have more than anyone else in the world.  You have a cell phone.  You have food.  You have a roof over your head.  You probably have a job.  Write it down.  Where you can see it.  Today, I’m grateful I got to kiss my husband goodbye, jump into a car that has new tires, drive to a job with colleagues I enjoy, and will be able to fix dinner for three very funny preschoolers.  There’s a song I used to sing in high school that captures my sentiments about all this, and more, “Thank you Lord, how could I ask for more?”

 

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo.

Fashion Fridays: The Finishing Touches

Have you ever seen a woman with the perfect outfit and there was just one thing awry that threw it off?

I have.  Heck, I’ve been that woman.  (I won’t even start with panty lines because when my pants got too tight, I know I had that!)

But there are few things you should consider when putting together an outfit to polish it off:

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1.  Manicures/Pedicures.  Honestly, I have little budget or time for these, so I keep my fingernails trimmed, filed, and bare.  But I do try to get a pedicure every month, a necessity in Houston spring and summer, in case I decide to wear a peep toe shoe.  If you do not have well groomed feet, keep them in heels or loafers.  Don’t wear open toe shoes with chipped polish.  Also be mindful of the polish you select.  Kelly green may be a lot of fun, but it won’t blend in at a financial institution or law firm and makes it harder to take you seriously.  (And it should go without saying but don’t wear sandals to the office.)

2.  Undergarments, particularly your bra.  Get fitted for a bra.  Every other year, if your size has changed.  Find undergarments that fit you well and stay put.  I’m the world’s worst on bra straps, constantly losing one no matter how much adjusting I do, so often I resort to a well-fitted strapless bra to keep from fidgeting when I’m speaking or in a big meeting.  Of course, make sure your bra straps do not show!

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3.  Hair color/roots.  This is another hard one if you have a lot of premature gray like I do (seriously, I was going gray in law school at 22).  I have budgeted a visit to the salon every eight weeks and by week six it’s getting hard.  However, I get highlights in an attempt to blend the growth.  If you are a solid color at your roots, and there’s a dramatic difference from your color, make your appointments more frequently.  Bold changes in colors from root to growth take away from what you’re wearing.  This photo is a lovely example of muted growth so it can be done.  (If you have any solid tips on what to do in those interim weeks, post in the comments for the good of the order.)

What is a small thing that takes away from the polish of an outfit?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Into the Great Wide Open

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I’ll admit it.

I’m a crazy Tom Petty fan.  So much a fan that he’s the only musician I mention in my About page.

I sat down to write today’s leadership post and all I could hear running through my head was Into the Great Wide Open….

I wondered what it had to do with leadership.

Everyone I’ve talked to says leading is hard.  But they quickly follow that statement with leading is worth it.

Sometimes, after fighting your way uphill, through the forest, you reach a clearing.

You look around and think, oh, this is why I was fighting so hard.  This was worth getting lost and scratched and rained on and frustrated.

You step into the great wide open.  A whole new level of possibilities and opportunities and a brand new view.  Your breath catches in your chest because you had started to doubt whether it was really worth it.

Unfortunately, staying out in the wide open spaces can also make you an easy target.

So take a deep breath, enjoy the view, but don’t stand still too long.  Say a prayer, set your sights for the next mountain, and keep moving.  This isn’t a rat race.  This isn’t keeping up with the Joneses.  This is striving for the best on a daily basis.  Enjoying each victory, savoring it, taking it in, but never becoming complacent that you’ve reached the pinnacle.  I hope I’m setting out for the next set of stunning vistas when I’m 90.

In the words of the great Tom Petty, The sky was the limit…

Fashion Fridays: What Up With The Ankle Strap?

It. Is. Everywhere.

Y’all, what up with the ankle strap?

Theoretically, they are cute.  I even look at those rows of ankle-strap pumps, SOME of them, and think, “ooooh, super cute.”  I thought this when I took a turn down the DSW aisles this past week.  They are everywhere.  Not just at shoe stores.  EVERYWHERE.

Go look at Ann Taylor’s suit section (oh, they’re running a sale on their suits, FYI).  Go on, I’ll wait – http://www.anntaylor.com/suits/cata000013?trail=&pageSize=14&gridSize=md&catid=cata000013&goToPage=2&fRequest=true

Every single skirt suit is featured with big thick ankle straps.

The cover photo for “white hot” on DSW’s home page this week showed four kinds of shoes, and guess what?  They ALL had ankle straps.  There are 136 options for ankle strap pumps on their website right now.

So today is just going to be my public service announcement for the return of the ankle strap, and it’s not good news:

Virtually no one looks good in these shoes!  Well, let me rephrase.  Virtually no one looks good in these while wearing skirts or dresses.  If you want to wear them with pants, go knock yourself out.  (And I assume everyone has the sense not to pair them with a short.)

Because folks, a lot of these are thick ankle straps.  But once you have an ankle strap, of any size, cutting your leg where you are supposed to be slim, well, it’s no good.

Here are women that struggle pulling off an ankle strap of nearly any size:

1.  Me;

2.  Several of my friends who wholeheartedly concur;

3.  Anyone that is short to middle height;

4.  Anyone who has thick calves or ankles;

5.  Anyone who is carrying more weight than they are comfortable with.

Here is who looks good in an ankle strap:

Women over 5’10 who wear smaller than a size 8.  Yep.  I don’t know about the girls you hang with, but in my circle, that’s a pretty small subset of folks.

So who is buying all of these ANKLE STRAPPED SHOES?  Surely we all have full length mirrors.  (If you do not own a full length mirror, buy one this weekend.  You can pick one up for about $10 at Wal-Mart.)

Here is a potpourri with commentary just for you on the shapes and sizes of ankle strapped pumps circling the shoe markets this spring.  Hopefully, this will be on a loop in your head as you venture out shoe shopping:

ankle4 I may be in love with this shoe.  You remember my obsession with gray shoes?  And paired with camel, sigh.  But there is no possible way this shoe is going to work for me.  Unless I promise, in writing, to never ever wear these with anything but trousers.

ankle1Y’all, this is an adorable striped summer wedge.  But you pair that thick strap with that thick base and you’re going to look like a platypus.  Cut the strap off I beg you and let the wedge (and your leg) shine.

ankleBecause the big thick strap wasn’t going to do enough favors for you, let’s shorten the heel and color it salmon.  Nope.

ankle2This peep toe stiletto ankle-strapped bootie is lace.  Lace.  None of the words in that sentence should ever be written again.

ankle5One strap was not enough.  Two straps were not enough.  Three straps?!?!  Someone, stop the madness!

ankle3This shoe should never be worn out of the bedroom.  Period.

Okay, I’m done.  You can have your Friday back.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.