Be bold. If you are going to make an error, make a doozy, and don’t be afraid to hit the ball.
-Billie Jean King
My parents immigrated to the United States in the 1950s. Their story is one of typical immigrants: no money, no language, a distant relative, but lots of promise in the unknown. I often compare their upbringing – children of war – with mine – product of the American dream – and I worry that their spirit (and those of many like them) will fade with upcoming generations. Clearly, hard work was at the core of what they brought here, but it’s more than that: it’s a story about courage and boldness. It’s about letting go of what you have, for the hope of something better. There is no guarantee that being courageous will ever work out, but the act alone is worth the consequence.
In my meek attempt, I’ve tried to highlight this spirit into actions that we can take today within our careers (or our homes).
Get dirty (aka, make lots of mistakes). This may sound odd, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of a dirty house and filthy kids. Let me explain. When my children are engaged in an activity, I usually can tell how committed they were to it by the degree of dirt left behind. For example, the field by my house has these pyramids built in varying heights. We’ve been visiting these pyramids since my children could crawl and, of course, each time they try to climb them. They have succeeded in reaching the top a few times, but most of the time they just come out looking like unshorn alpacas. Children don’t worry about getting dirty or stumbling; they accept it’s a part of the process to get to the top.
Eat lunch (preferably with others). Most of us think it’s a badge of honor to eat a quick lunch at our desk. I am totally guilty of this and probably cancel 90 percent of my lunch dates. In reality, what is achieved during a meal (or coffee break, or whatever) can make a huge difference in your relationships – and relationships are what your career is made of. Relationships are the key to success. My father came here knowing two people and made a life for himself by building connections with others. Make the time for others.
Take a day off (even if your kids are not sick). I admit, as a working parent, I save my days for my children. The result, however, is that I wear myself down until I get sick, impatient, or worn out – exactly the type of person my family and coworkers want to deal with. Not. Give yourself permission to take a day or a few days for yourself. Don’t worry what others think because, in reality, they really don’t care.
Quit your job (and have breaks in between). My parents had a lot of pride, and if they were being mistreated (which happens when you’re the outsider) they had enough courage to walk away from the situation – that’s how they ended up being immigrants in the first place. If you’re not in a good situation or need time off, then take it. Don’t worry about the gap in your resume. The person who will judge you for it isn’t someone you want to work for anyway.
Stand up for what you believe in (even if it’s not popular). You really have no option but to take a stand for what you believe in. Don’t ever compromise your value system. This doesn’t give permission to discount other people’s belief systems, but there is enough opportunity for multiple perspectives. Always do it with kindness and humility. There is nothing pretty in conceit or vulgarity.
Be real, be yourself. Embrace who you are. That’s why you were given a seat at the table to begin with. Accept what you don’t know. It could be worse – you could be sitting at a table and literally not understand a word anyone is saying.
Courage image on home page via Shutterstock.