Cruel Optimism and Bubble Baths

Uncategorized Jun 09, 2022

(First appeared in WRAL TechWire.)

If you’ve been following us here, you are familiar with our analogy for burnout… a never-ending marathon where somebody keeps moving the damn finish line.

Today, I want to talk to my cheerleaders who are standing on the sidelines holding bottles of water and signs that say, “Find Your Happy Pace!” I know you mean well, but be careful you’re not unintentionally slipping into the realm of “cruel optimism.”

Cruel optimism is a phrase invented by Lauren Berlant and adopted by Johann Hari author of Stolen Focus.  He describes it as taking a really big problem with deep causes in our culture (like burnout) and offering a simplistic individual solution in upbeat language.

Here’s how it plays out for our marathon runners.

You’re hot, tired and on mile marker ‘who knows what at this point’.  You’re scouring the countryside for a viable off-ramp when friends on the...

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Because You Can't Run Forever

Uncategorized Jun 02, 2022

So last week I wrote about the never-ending marathon that is burnout. You cross that coveted 26.2 mile marker only to discover the finish line was moved. You keep running a little dazed and confused and think to yourself, “what fresh hell is this?”

That’s what burnout can feel like.

But the reality is we can’t run forever – none of us were built to run indefinitely.

So what do we do? We look for off ramps.

One off-ramp, while tempting, can actually backfire on you. Can you guess what that is?

Quitting your job. (Hello, Great Resignation!)

Here’s what happens. You’re exhausted and burned out. So you say, “Drop the mic! Deuces; I’m out.” It feels GREAT to quit. You throw open the door to the next chapter, smiling ear-to-ear.

(Quick caveat: changing jobs can be the best thing that happens to you. I know. I’ve made a career from reinventing myself many times over…but before you hit send on that resignation email,...

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Who Keeps Moving Your Finish Line?

Uncategorized May 26, 2022

(First appeared in WRAL Techwire.)

Okay… I’m not a long-distance runner. Never have been…never will be. Marathons are built for a special kind of person. But as I continue to interview executives for my series on burnout, one analogy keeps coming up.

Imagine you’re running a marathon. You’ve trained for months, and you’ve made it through arduous hours of running. And then… just as you approach the 26.2 mile marker, just as you think relief and a glorious shower are ahead, you discover… oh, God no… it can’t be…

Somebody has moved the finish line. 

Shoot me now!

You already knew running 26.2 miles was going to require everything in you, and now you have to keep running. You have no idea where the new finish line is. You don’t have a clue when you’ll get to stop. And what the what?! Other runners are sprinting past you!  How did this happen??

Your legs feel like lead. You want to collapse on...

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Personal Fulfillment Isn’t the Responsibility of your CEO – It’s Yours!

(First appeared in WRAL TechWire.)

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.”

– Nelson Mandela.

Greetings from Lambertville – the sweetest little town you’ve probably never heard of.  Known as the ‘Antiques Capital of New Jersey,’ this town sits confidently on the banks of the Delaware River showing off its eclectic art galleries, charming coffee shops, and the inn where Aaron Burr fled after he killed Alexander

Hamilton. It’s a whole vibe.

On Sunday, I made the 56-minute drive from Philadelphia to Lambertville with a singular mission – to dial in my craft of public speaking. On Monday morning, I climbed to the second floor of an old lace factory where the world’s most rigorous and intensive keynote speaker training goes down. In order to attend you have to be invited and you have to be committed to the idea that a speech has the power to change the world and the people in...

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On Leadership: Insight & Advice from Microsoft Vice President, NCSU Grad Rashida Hodge

Uncategorized May 12, 2022

(First appeared in WRAL TechWire.)

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Rashida Hodge, Vice President of Data and AI Customer Success at Microsoft. It was easily one of my favorite conversations of the year. While our full interview will be available on the Reinvention Road Trip podcast in the next two weeks, I couldn’t wait to share a few of her leadership nuggets.

Nugget #1 – “We all have thorns; but we don’t talk about them… and we should.”

Right off the top, Rashida wanted me to know that she’s a woman of Caribbean soil and a child of perseverance. She draws on both in her leadership roles. And while she gets a lot of attention for her many awards and achievements, she is quick to remind me that there is more to her than her professional milestones.

“Hey, I’ve been through some things. I’ve been denied, and it’s important to remember that we can build from our circumstances regardless...

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In Search of Personal Fulfillment... How Much Responsibility for this Should Companies Assume?

Uncategorized May 05, 2022

(First appeared in WRAL Techwire.)

Here’s a relatively unknown fact about me. I’m a true crime junkie. I can’t get enough of these six-part, real life “who-done-its” and unsolved mysteries. I listen to podcasts, watch documentaries and like so many of my true crime aficionados I believe, beyond a shadow of doubt, that if I were invited to help solve a crime, I would have the chops to untangle the web of evidence and sift through the dead ends to find the culprit.

I’ve been putting these amateur sleuthing skills to work by interviewing some of the top executives in the region to better understand the cultural changes happening within their companies. We’ve covered burnout, leadership, hybrid work environments and the new rules of employee engagement. These perspectives are important because there’s a culture groundswell afoot. Companies everywhere are asking critical questions around supportive work environments and the...

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Hybrid Work is Here to Stay

Uncategorized Apr 28, 2022

(First appeared in WRAL Techwire.)

We’re interrupting our series on burnout this week to share a few highlights from a panel discussion I participated in on Tuesday hosted by the Kenan Institute-affiliated Entrepreneurship Center and the Research Triangle Foundation. I was joined by Jami Stewart, vice president of customer experience for Cisco Systems Inc. and Arvind Malhotra, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Professor. We discussed Designing Work for Attracting & Retaining Talent.

If you missed it, enjoy a few of the highlights captured by Rob Knapp, External Affairs Associate at Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise.

Hybrid work scheduling is here to stay, and it points to a broader incentive that companies can offer as part of employee recruiting and retention.

“’Hybrid’ is the word we use, (but) I think the real thing is ‘choice,’” said Jami Stewart, Cisco Systems Inc.

Offering choices requires trust, however, and...

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Burned Out? Try These Secrets to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

(First appeared in WRAL Techwire.)

Greetings from Boca Raton! This week’s blog is inspired by the Florida sunshine and glass of cucumber water. Two weeks ago, I shared that I was taking April off. More specifically, I blocked off any openings that had not already been scheduled and reserved them for me.

What a difference a choice makes! The act of preserving and protecting my time has already paid off in ways I would not have imagined. By deciding to say ‘no’ to new appointments, I built in more margin this month than I have in years. That one decision made it possible to schedule a quick trip to visit my son at Florida Atlantic University and drop in on a dear friend in Pompano Beach. Margin. A gift that I’ve clearly taken for granted.

This down time has brought me back to a book called Burnout – the Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Dr. Emily Nagoski and Dr. Amelia Nagoski. I’m rereading it, and like most things, it’s taken...

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Crispy Crunched Burnout! We All Are Feeling It... Now Let's Find Solutions!

burnout recovery Apr 07, 2022

(First appeared in WRAL Techwire.)

I’m taking April off!

Kinda. Nineteen days ago I snatched every block of uncommitted time I had this month and held it for me! I’m treating it like recess, so whatever I feel like doing, I’m gonna do.

My “come to Jesus” happened when a friend called to download her day and I teared up. I didn’t have it in me. The straw. The camel. I didn’t have it in me to care. As awful as that is to admit.

That feeling is called compassion fatigue and it’s one of the first signs of burnout. So, I did what any self-respecting human would do who makes a career out of personal development – I finished crying and bought a slice of salted caramel cake from Nantucket.

When I finally pulled myself together, I realized this was less about her and way more about me, my lack of emotional boundaries and my season of overcommitment.  Fast forward to today and I feel really good. I’m bringing more of the good...

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It's Time to Get Your Mojo Back - And Sprints Are Better for You than Marathons

(First appeared in WRAL TechWire.)

I am NOT a marathon runner. And running 26 miles is NOT on my bucket list.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand the satisfaction of training for something this coveted. Putting that medal around your neck signals dedication, discipline and determination. The thing is I’ve always been wired for a different race – sprints.

I’m a huge fan of sprints—for work, hobbies, and even workouts. Sprints keep me engaged, excited about my work and full of anticipation. But so often in my conversations these days, people are still talking about their day-to-day as if they are training for a marathon.  They’re describing it as monotonous, predictable and dare I say it…boring. Our daily routines have become one of dragging ourselves out of bed…to kitchen for coffee…to home office for virtual calls…to living room for TV and back to bed again. When life becomes a zombie-walk, we lose so...

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