saying how awesome you are is… awesome

I wanna be awesome.

I’m learning I am not alone in the fact that writing my self assessment at annual review time could possibly be the single thing in the work world that I detest doing the most.   As I sit here and reflect on why that is, it really takes very little time to get to the heart of it.  It makes me feel weird.  And saying good things about myself makes me feel all braggy.  Which, again, makes me feel weird.  Mind you, I can go on and on and on about the places where I could use work.  That part comes easy.  But it’s not the whole truth and it’s also not gonna win me credit for my time and energy that I put in, credibility from my experiences, and it sure isn’t gonna make me popular with my leadership team!

I came across this article the other day that was titled “The Right Way to Speak to Yourself”  and I thought,”Well duh, of course, that makes sense.” I mean when I look at my son Sam, who is 8, I so often marvel at his willingness to share an honest assessment of himself  “Oh yeah, I’m not very good at shuffling cards yet, my hands are kinda small”  and “I’m a good dancer because…  well because I am awesome.”  We come into the world with clear vision into ourselves only to cloud it – or at least the ability to speak about it, along the way.

The article is interesting becuase it’s a quick read on remembering to think about this as we manage our relationships with others as well as ourselves.  The idea that “possibly it’s because we grow up in an academic setting that emphasizes critique over admiration. Perhaps it feels arrogant — unseemly even —  to speak to ourselves with the effusive praise and positivity that Dorit [the first grade teacher] spoke to her class. It might even feel dangerous to go easy on ourselves. If we did, maybe we wouldn’t accomplish anything at all. Maybe we’d devolve into laziness.”  Hmm.

I read on.  And then there it was.  The word.  Love.  Could I answer the question if I am worth it to myself, could I love myself enough, to carve out time each week or month to support and care for my own story?  Could I take myself to the classroom once a week to spend a few minutes reflecting back on mistakes I’ve learned from this week, things that went well, places I shined?  Could I privately mark down progress I’ve made?  Progress I want to make?  I think know I could.  So will I?

The article made me want to spring into action – to try to get a tactic, something tangible, that can help me take myself to the classroom once a week.  I didn’t surface alot of ideas that felt right for me, so for now, I pledge to at a minimum – carve out the time in my calendar once a week to create space to write a few pages of my story and mark my work.  My hope is, when mid year and annual review times come along, this space will help me turn self assessment loathing into love (or at least like), and that I’ll not only be able to call out where my hands are too small for shuffling, but also when I’m…. well awesome.






my comfort zone (a poem) – unknown author

I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I wouldn’t fail.
The same four walls and busywork were really more like jail.
I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before,
But stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor.
I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much.
I said I didn’t care for things like commission checks and such.
I claimed to be so busy with the things inside the zone,
But deep inside I longed for something special of my own.
I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win.
I held my breath; I stepped outside and let the change begin.
I took a step and with new strength I’d never felt before,
I kissed my comfort zone goodbye and closed and locked the door.
If you’re in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out,
Remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.
A step or two and words of praise can make your dreams come true.
Reach for your future with a smile; success is there for you!

footy socks, butter knives & king leonidas

In August or September 480 BC, the Battle at Thermopylae (aka the gates of fire or the hot gates) ensued and has now become synonymous of what courage looks like when faced with overwhelming odds.

Xerxes of Persia had amassed a huge army and navy, and set out to conquer all of Greece. The Greeks needed to block the advance of the Persian army at the narrow coastal pass of Thermopylae, all the while blocking the Persian navy by Sea – a mind numbing feat.  During the first seven days of battle, Greece’s King Leonidas was able to hold back the Persian army of hundreds of thousands, with a seemingly far inadequate force of just 7,000.

During the battle a local resident betrayed the Greeks by revealing a small path that led behind the Greek lines and allowed for the Persian army to take hold of the advantage. Decisively, Leonidas dismissed the bulk of the Greek army, and himself remained to guard the rear of the pass with around 1,500 (300 of which were Spartans who’ve been made famous over time).

While the vast majority of the last stand Greek soldiers were killed at Thermopylae, the critical role they played in holding off the Persian army for several days was, in large part, the reason for the decisive victory over the Persian fleet at sea.  Had it not been for King Leonidas, his 7,000 and then later the ~1,500 last standers, Athens would have surely fallen.  Stalling the Persians at Thermopylae allowed for the Athenians to strengthen the Greek fleet and win at the Battle of Salamis – proving as the pivotal win for the Greeks.

I’ve always been a history buff, and being Greek, well this story has it all.  But aside from all that patriotic gush – this story is about leadership and courage during tough times.  As a man among men, King Leonidas was indistinguishable from his men in battle, but stands out as a Leader among Kings today.  As was customary, he put on his armor and braided his hair as along side his men, marched in and stayed behind in the last stand, facing certain death.  He did so with passion, purpose and a clear understanding of the bigger picture that his leadership in that moment of time contributed to.  And when faced with the challenge of Xerses’ demand to Leonidas for the Greeks to handover their weapons, Leonidas simply replied “Μολών λαβέ” (Come and get them!)

Thankfully, nothing we’re doing in our work lives today provides that kind of pressure!  But it is still a good reminder of how critical it is to stand up as leaders and stand as one force in the face of challenge and adversity.  When you need to take a hill in footy socks rather than boots, with butter knives rather than elite weaponry, we must rely upon our passion and purpose to drive us forward.  When you have big hairy challenges in front of you where you feel as though you are just 7,000 against hundreds of thousands – remember Leonidas.

Let’s sack that hill together.