Exhaustion Does Not Equal Success


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.” 


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


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!


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.

My Annual Rant About What America is Doing to Our Girls

Oh mercy.

I try to stay off my soap box, I mean that really preachy soap box, but about once a year I just can’t take it anymore.

Last year, you may remember my rant from little bit’s completely inappropriate ballet recital outfit.

Most of you probably missed the previous year’s rant about the Family Circle “advice” column that set me off (because I had about 10 readers at the time!).

But this Sunday I lost it.  I was simply trying to outfit little bit with a new pair of shoes.  Becoming frustrated at the Stride Rite prices, I decided to visit a few children’s clothing stores that also offered a limited selection of shoes.  Among my stops were the not-particularly-reputationally-racy Gymboree and Carter’s.  GYMBOREE and CARTER’S!  Wanted to make sure you didn’t miss that these are stores that don’t carry teen clothing.  Or adult clothing.  Or stripper clothing.  Supposedly.

Ahem, I’ll rein it in a little.

Since it is April in Houston (or is supposed to be anyways, tell that to the 50s we’ve had this week), I thought I ought to pick up a pair of shorts.  Little bit picked up an adorable pair of purpled striped knit shorts at Gymboree which I said she could have because they looked about right from a length perspective.  Then I looked at the tag.  They were a SIZE 12!  The shorts that would probably been about the right length for a 4 year old wearing a 5T were a SIZE 12!

I can see you nodding your head because that is exactly what happened when I posted this information to Facebook.

I got an unreal amount of comments to this post: “Is there anywhere that sells preschool shorts that are not micro mini?!?! If not, she may never know what it’s like to wear shorts!”

Here were some of the comments in response:

* We just try to find capri pants – no recommendations here.

* Yes, capris and cut offs.  Not sure who designs shorts that short, but we won’t be buying them.

* I started sewing again for just this problem.  My girls mostly wear skirts with attached shorts because they are longer.

* We shop second hand for older styles but it’s getting harder every year.

* Just wait, mine is 9, I break into hives when we go clothes shopping.

* The shorts for tweens and teens are so short that there is literally no inseam and if they girls do anything other than stand up they show everything.  It’s indecent what’s marketed to young girls.

* We have the same experience.  In a restaurant the other day I was embarrassed and appalled to see a 14 year old wearing shorts with her butt cheeks hanging out.

* We put leggings with sundresses because the dresses are too short on their own too.

* We buy boys shorts.

* Prosti-tot wear.  I cut and hem winter jeans.



I am stabbing my keyboard viciously as I even type this.  What the hell?  I am sorry, but what the hell?

This is not an issue for one category of people.  This is an issue for you.

Are you a Feminist?  This continued degradation and sexualization of young girls should outrage you!  It defies any progress that has been made and reduces young women to objects.

Are you a Christian?  The slippery slope is ever more steep and dangerous.  When four year olds can’t find clothes to cover up more than their rear then we are in trouble.  Pray all you want, but we also need to be taking some action and finding alternatives.

Are you a father, grandfather, or brother?  You know how men look at women.  You know what it does to see every shred of skin pranced in front of you.  Do you want everyone who passes your daughter, granddaughter, or sister to be thinking those things?

What on Earth?  So here is a very simple recommendation, short of taking up sewing which I know I’m not going to do so I’m not going to recommend it to you:  STOP SHOPPING AT THESE STORES.  Any store that believes micro mini is the appropriate length of short for a four year old or a fourteen year old doesn’t deserve our business.  And maybe if enough places see an impact, and hear an outcry, we can affect change.

Everyone laughs at this idea.  Like one person can’t affect change.  But you know what?  Even if no one else follows this recommendation, I will not personally be supporting them with my hard earned money.

Shop somewhere you see encouraging appropriate attire.  Some of the recommendations by commenters I personally went and checked out and agree that several of them have solid options:

1.  The Children’s Place - they are incredibly reasonable, and the girl on their cover page as I was typing this was in shorts that nearly hit her knees!  (They do have shorter shorts, but they have a lot of “skimmer” shorts.)

2.  Land’s End - again, they have shorter shorts available, but they also have Bermuda shorts and cute skorts that are longer.  (Y’all they also have some really cute, but modest, swimsuits and shorts for women!)

3. Hanna Andersson – pricier, but a pretty broad selection of longer shorts and summer skirts that are age appropriate.

And one last thing.  I said age appropriate in that last little blurb, but y’all, the length I am seeing is inappropriate at any age.  Women have got to set an example for our girls by dressing with some dignity and self-confidence and realize we have more to offer the world than our chest or rear.  It’s gone too far.

Got Manners?

Y’all, I’m talking a lot about kids this week.  But there have been several situations crop up that made me want to spend much of this week tackling the issues.

Today I am so excited to host Virginia Johnson, a long time family friend, and manners EXPERT!  Seriously, it’s her business.  She’s guest posting on manners for our kids.  I love her tips and she has an excellent e-book called Mimi Rules, A Kindness Guide for Young Ladies, you must download.  While it’s geared for 9 to 13 year olds, I’m taking many of the tips and applying them in our home now.  Without further adieu, here’s Virginia.


It saddens me to watch our young people barrel through their days without so much as a “hello, how are you?”

Their ears are glued to cell phones; unable to hear instruction (aka ‘tools for life’) from mom or dad.

Rarely is the door held open for an adult.  Food is shoveled from plate to mouth in a matter of seconds.

Manners are not medieval, a thing of the past – they are here to stay and make everyone look better.  And when they look better, they feel better and eventually have confidence to handle most any situation.

When I tell high school boys, “manners help you on the court, the field AND out to dinner with a young lady,” the room gets quiet.  I tell girls that the first tip on my list of ten must-know manners is first impressions count!  You have approximately 15 seconds to make a good or poor impression.  (And that goes for everyone, really.)

If one does not have ‘social savvy’ during an interview, your GPA won’t get you the job!  With social skills dwindling for all ages and experience levels, top notch manners and social ability will not only set you apart but can get you the job!  Manners allow you to gain confidence and authority in social and business arenas.

The good news is our young ones are sponges and can learn the ropes long before they reach high school.  They model what they see.  Why not have a ‘fancy’ sit-down dinner once a week?  Calendar the time each week to set a nice table (teach them how to do it), make dinner, and eat together as a family.  While you are seated around the table, discuss and practice these table-time tips with your children:

1. When you set the table, the bread plate is on the left, dinner plate in the middle, water on the right (B-M-W).

2. Have the kids wait behind their chair until you come to the table.

3. Pass the bread, rolls, or muffins to the right.

4. Cut one piece of meat at time.

5. Eat slowly, with mouths closed (food or drink is not to be heard).

6. ….and there is much more!

This is about more than just table manners.  It’s the start of a conversation about respect and social grace.  The time you invest in developing your children’s social skills builds their self-esteem, self-respect, and respect for others.

vjohnsonVirginia is the married mother of two grown boys and the owner of Manners Plus which offers a variety of etiquette programs that teach leadership skills and the social graces to all ages, from eight to eighty!  The workshops are fun, informative and often involve food.  For more information, contact Virginia Johnson at www.mannersplus.com
Photo by Elizabeth Messina, Words by Virginia Johnson.