I ask myself every day as part of my daily kickoff, “Deana, who needs you to bring your best work to them today? You and WHO?”
Note, it’s not “What is the best thing to do today?” Or “Why am I here today?” It’s who.
Over the years since I’ve held this daily practice, I’ve had a surprising variety of answers. Often, it’s my daughters, who need a society that doesn’t prejudge them as women. Sometimes it’s specific colleagues with whom I’m working on a project, to support their business vision. Sometimes it’s a wider group, like “any woman who….”
I’m in the middle of designing a leadership development program. It’s nearly fully formed, about 2 stoops short of full evolution. I experience these final phases as, “Urgh, this is going nowhere, let’s start again from scratch!” This frenemy feeling likes to trip me up before I go live with any work, especially anything new or impactful.
Lois P. Frankel describes “Mistake #59 – Striving For Perfection” in her great book Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office and says “We would be much better off using the time we spend perfecting already good work products… on new and creative endeavours”. Tara Mohr calls out a hiding strategy of “endless polishing”. This good-girl habit delays women from getting their work seen and heard. At the top of my CV, I could write “Many Very Shiny Projects Waiting To Be Released Into The Wild”. Some of my best work is sitting as email attachments in my drafts folder.
Today I got a new response to my question. Today, my intention was to help “any woman who second guesses herself, who needs support to know she can move ahead”. Despite physicians healing themselves, I didn’t make the connection between my task of program design, and this daily intention at first. (Watch out for that super-sneaky hiding strategy: denial of hiding).
As I continued to reflect, my intention for the day deepened to: “women who are nearly rebels, or considering becoming rebels, but aren’t there yet – like pre-rebels. Prebels.”
Ah-ha! I thought some more about prebels. That is exactly how I feel, oftentimes. If I weren’t scared of being a rebel (strong, brave, thick-skinned, unconcerned about personal security), I’d definitely be one.
Flashback to hour 20 of childbirth: the usual agony, exhaustion & confusion. In full alignment with the stereotype, the midwife was calling me to push, and despite being unable to speak in sentences by that point, I did manage to express my most certain view which was, “I CAN’T DO IT!” Mr Deana leant over (I recall he was laughing) and said, “But you ARE doing it!”
I try to remember this. When the deep stubborn NOPE, this is TOO HARD, I am TURNING BACK, I am STOPPING HERE comes up, I think “But you ARE doing it”. The slides or the workshop or the email is good enough to release into the wild. One small “But I AM doing it” after another.
So today, my work is all about letting the Prebels know… You’re already doing it. With every tiny action that gets your work seen and your voice heard, you’re already staging a rebellion, even if it feels like a deadweight in the gut and wet ropes across your shoulders, just keep going. Your frenemy polisher voice is wrong-headedly trying to keep you safe from revolution, so it’s getting louder precisely because you’re moving ahead.
And that intention – my work today is to support pre-rebel women – that intention changes my approach and influences decisions around the program design. Today is not about getting it right or perfect or shiny. It’s about getting it out there.