About a year ago I became a blonde. Well, sorta blonde – brown with some highlights is the technical description, I guess. It all started when I was out to lunch with my mom in my hometown and we ran into a bunch of teachers and none of them recognized me. Over the years, I had gone from light brown to dark brown and my mom finally confessed that I should “lighten up.”
That’s when I met Stephie; I picked her out of a bunch of pictures on the salon’s website and in short order, she put a bunch of highlights in my hair and Poof! I was on my way to blonde, well, er, blondish.
Stephie and I have a lot in common except she’s about 20 years younger than me and she knows how to blow dry your hair so it looks good. We both don’t like to drive. We both hate roller coasters. We both like Halloween. We don’t like Brussels sprouts unless they are fried with tons of salt. And we crave popcorn daily.
Yesterday Stephie paid me a complement like none other. “When I read your blogs, I feel like I’m right there with you,” she started. “You should write a book!”
Wow, Stephie, that’s pretty nice of you! You angling for a big tip?
Truth be told, I’d love to write a book. I’ve started a bunch of them over the last few months. One is about female corporate travel (of course), one is about love, and one is something along the lines of an epistolary novel. Epistolary is a big word for “letters.” So, that would be a book written in (mostly) letters back and forth between people. I like the idea of this one best of all because I love letters – real letters, the ones that come to your door with stamps on them.
Last Friday was my big day at Penn where I spoke to students on “Lessons in Leadership.” I had had a long week and I really didn’t know what to expect. I figured, maybe 10 students would want to hear how a Russian major parlayed her background into a career in financial services. Turns out, the people that administer LIL are good marketers and more than 40 students turned out to hear my tale! I was shocked and then happy. They listened to me talk about how I went from non-profits to academia and finally the capital markets as if I held the secret to unearthing hidden treasure. “How do you network?” one asked. “When you started at the investment firm, were you scared you’d be unprepared and show how little you know?” “I’m majoring in English and fear it will have no relevance.”
I figured out some semi-respectable answers to these and other questions that went something like this: 1. Network means lunch. 2. Yes, I’m still scared I’ll be found out. 3. You will know how to write, which will set you apart from everyone else.
But it wasn’t until later in the day, when I was coming home on the train, that it hit me. The real secret to navigating your career and finding out what you love to do is simple: Have fun with it.
Several years ago I had to present at my firm’s national sales meeting – and I had to do it in four consecutive break out sessions. Presenting to people you work with (and for!) can be stressful. Scary. I remember thinking, “Oh, just have fun with it.” And Friday when I was climbing the stairs to enter Leadership Hall not knowing what was truly expected of me and wondering if anyone would even show up, I again thought, “Oh, just have fun with it.”
If most pressure is self-imposed, then it stands to reason the antidote is humor and just finding a way to entertain yourself through it.
Write and tell me your leadership lessons and secrets to success.