I have wanted to write about a conversation I had since the second it ended. It ended two weeks ago. And it happened around the table. Only a different sort of table.
The table of 2020 is Zoom.
And the conversation was a leadership class meeting.
Not where you would traditionally encounter authenticity and connection, but boy was it there.
I’ve had the privilege of serving on the advisory council for the Institute for Energy Law’s Leadership Class this year. I’ve been a speaker in the past, but this year I’ve actually gotten to work on the team building the curriculum. This is the space I love to work in the most.
Deep conversations with young leaders about communicating effectively, building inclusive environments, growing meaningful relationships and resiliency. It was this last topic that was our monthly theme for October.
As I led the discussion on resiliency, I shared not only the research on the topic (whatever it’s been called over the years – adaptability, growth mindset, grit, optimism, resiliency…) but also told stories from my own life. If you are willing to share your own failures and setbacks, people can see a way through their own challenges to building a fulfilling career and life.
You know it by now. Parents divorced when I was in middle school, didn’t see my dad for years, lost all our belongings and mom on food stamps until she got a teaching job, went to school on grants and work study, tons of rejections in law school, lost a job after law school, and on and on until you get to me now.
Plenty of setbacks.
Well, we had this conversation, intimate and authentic, around a table. Each of us at a different table, me at my kitchen table, all over Zoom.
Then, this breathtaking thing happened. We broke into small groups. Groups facilitated by advisory panel members. My group had eight people.
Each sharing their own stories of setbacks and failure in incredibly deeply real and unvarnished words. Failing tests, abusive workplace, difficult family circumstance, getting fired, moving countries, long tenure without work.
I could not believe it.
None of us knew each other.
This is the place I love to get to with those I meet – the real and deep story behind where they are today. But usually it takes ages.
An email came through from another advisory team member, which I didn’t see until afterwards, entitled THIS IS SO GREAT! “The young leaders in my small group are sharing personal and difficult challenges. Being very vulnerable. It is awesome.”
When did we get too scared to share our stories?
When did we become so insecure or fearful or apprehensive that we would be rejected that we stopped telling the where and why of who we are?
Resiliency is defined as the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity. How much fuel would it give us if we knew the true stories of those we see as “heroes?”
I was listening to Annie Downs That Sounds Fun podcast with Gabe Lyons on the 2020 Election this week and, among other really insightful comments, he said this:
We have quieted ourselves. We’re not sharing what we really think because we’re concerned the person doesn’t agree with us. So we back away from having these real substantive conversations, we get really quiet. 15 years ago we’d battle it out, we were okay being wrong, we didn’t mind sharing. Quieting isn’t good for society. Share. You don’t have to do it on social media. Start saying this is off the record. The greatest conversations of change happen around the table.
What conversations should you be having?
Who should you be encouraging by telling your truest stories?
What table should you be sitting at?
You all know I’m a big fan of the table. I even started a little neighbors table in my front yard a while back because I hungered for these authentic conversations (even if it has been a little unused as of late).
This is the perfect time for conversations of honesty and resiliency.
People are lonely. Disconnected. Out of sorts.
Maybe you can have these conversations at your front yard table or at your kitchen table over Zoom.
But we should all be sitting around the table talking to one another. Sharing what connects us. Sharing our failures and setbacks that make us human and make us OVERCOMERS.
Don’t let an angry election cycle and global pandemic shut down these important conversations.
You be the one to start.