Last month Carmen Medina and I spent a week at O’Reilly Media in Sebastapol, Calif., taping a learning program called, “Be A Brave, Big-Hearted Rebel at Work: Get Unstuck, Find Fresh Perspectives.” It is based on our book “Rebels at Work” and explores skills and capabilities in much more depth than the book.
For four long and exhilarating days, from Monday to Thursday, we interviewed brilliant and fascinating people like Brice Challamel, Jeffrey Davis, Maria DeCarvalho, Paul Furey, Adam Grant, Paula Prober, Maria Sirois, Linda Stroh, Peter Vander Auwera, and Tenneson Woolf.
Each of us also taped our own short segments, sharing practical advice, exercises and personal experiences on topics like introducing new ideas, enlisting support, recovering from failure, etc.
I was ecstatic – and I rarely use that word – with learning from such wise, generous people, and from giving away what has helped me and helped me help my Fortune 500 clients.
That Thursday night I went back to my lovely Airbnb room overlooking a vineyard, watched the tapes, and thought, “Oh no.”
I talked too fast, flailed my hands too much, came across at times as hyper, and tripped over words in my excitement to ask guests questions. Oy, oy, oy.
On Friday morning I went into the studio for the final day of shooting. We had to tape an important program introduction and do several segment introductions and wrap-ups.
After what I had seen of myself on tape, I switched gears, speaking slowly, calmly and deliberately. Hands and arms relaxed.
The producer/director, Kirk Walter, called, “Stop the cameras,” and walked over to me. “Lois, what’s wrong? You seem off.”
I told him I was tired, confessed how disappointed I had been watching the tapes, and explained I was trying to be much more professional this morning.
“Lois, you were you. We need the real you here this morning with all that energy you bring.”
Kirk’s words might be the kindest and most truthful thing anyone has said to me in a long time. Just be yourself.
Just be yourself.
Over the past month I’ve done several things to stay true to myself. For example, I took down a long-running blog called “The Other Lois Kelly” because all my ideas are from the real me vs. from different “branded” personalities.
Sadly, I also caught myself trying to back pedal into the land of the safe, polished and controlled.
My new Book, “Naked Hearted: How Bullshit, Parkinson’s and John Lennon Changed My Life” is out on Amazon, but I haven’t started to get the word out. (Well, I guess I have now.) Why? I worry that I’ve revealed too much of the real me. It feels uncomfortable.
To which my 20 year-old son said, “It’s good to be uncomfortable, mom. It means you’re entering a growth cycle.” ( Maybe I don’t want to grow that much.)
Here’s the smacked on the side of the head part of the story.
This weekend at the Squam Lakes Science Center in N.H. I saw a poster for a program called: "Staying Found: Finding Your Way Without a Map or a Compass."
Smack! How can I stay found? No hiding, going back to “safe” work or over-editing myself?
When interviewing Dr. Maria Sirois, a psychologist with extensive research into positivity psychology, she emphasized that optimistic, resilient people who bring their whole selves to work are contagious in a good way.
“People say, ‘Wow, she’s brave enough to do that, maybe I can, too.’”
So I’m going to Stay Found. And accept my hyper-curious, exuberant, fast-talking style. Even the Boston accent that wants a seat at the table.
Please, please join me in showing up as yourself.
The air is fresh, the breezes are gentle, and boy oh boy the views are spectacular when you see things for what they are.