It’s a new year! And as part of the new year’s tradition, we make resolutions. Typically, our resolutions are about doing:
- more of something that we already do
- less of something that we do too much
- stopping entirely something that we shouldn’t do at all
But how often do we make a resolution to try something NEW?
When was the last time that you tried something totally new? As adults, we focus on perfecting what we know. But it is less often that we explore the unfamiliar. Trying something new brings freshness into our life. And freshness brings energy and optimism. Think about your kids or when you were a kid. Every day is filled with new. You ride a bike for the first time, taste a jalapeno pepper, or make a new friend. When your days are filled with new, you fly out of bed in the morning to see what is in store.
Freshness also helps us to be more creative and become better problem solvers. By trying new things, you make new mental connections and often meet new people. You change the way that you think about things. A wonderful friend of mine recently invited me to take a horseback riding lesson with her as the teacher. I have been on horses in the past, but I do not ride. And quite honestly, I never really understood people’s love of riding. But I went to my friend’s barn with an open mind and excitement to try something new. And in just over an hour, I learned so much. I learned that my friend is an amazing teacher. I learned that English riding is really hard and steeped in history. I gained a whole new insight into a sport that I knew almost nothing about. My brain and spirit were whirling with fresh.
And have you ever noticed how interesting it is to spend time with people who continue to embrace newness into their world? I have a friend who is an avid cook, but wanted to push his love of food beyond cooking. He decided to study charcuterie and the art of butchering meat. He interned during his spare time to learn this new craft. He discovered a totally new side of food, met people who were very different from himself and gained some incredible knowledge. He was inspired. And when he shares his experiences, he is inspiring. Cool.
In this new year, make a resolution to do something that you have never done before. Your goal can be simple or challenging – whatever motivates you. But make your goal achievable. One of the greatest energizers of doing something new is the feeling of accomplishment. When you are trying something new, you don’t have to do it well. You just have to do it! My goal two years ago was to do a flip off a diving board. I had never done one before. But I got my courage up and figured out how to do it. This year, my son is going to teach me how to ride a dirtbike. And in exchange, I am going to teach him to knit.
What’s new for you?
In her highly visible role as CEO of Yahoo combined with the impending birth of her first child, how can Marisa Mayer best help working mothers? Although Ms. Mayer is only pregnant and we have not yet seen her approach to blending work and family, Ms. Mayer’s work-family choices might further a societal undertsanding that balance is not the only goal for working mothers.
She is, without a doubt, a remarkable business woman. At 37, she has helped to lead Google to greatness; she has been nominated to the Wal-Mart Board of Directors and Named CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. But she has also declared that motherhood will not impact her focus on work. “I like to stay in the rhythm of things. My maternity leave will be a few weeks long and I’ll work throughout it,” she told Fortune.
Marisa Mayer may demonstrate that mothers should have the same permission to drive high powered careers as fathers, without the expectation of being the primary parent. Having children does not make one unfit to be CEO. Having a child does not automatically dictate that a person will decrease the focus or time devoted to a job. Women should have the opportunity to choose career as their priority without judgment. Men have done this for generations.
Among female CEOs of fortune 500 companies, and there are now 20, the vast majority have children. Carol Bartz, a recent Yahoo CEO, has 3 children. But most of these women are clear that they have prioritized career over childrearing and have established infrastructure at home to relieve them from many day to day childcare responsibilities. As a CEO of a major company, you probably aren’t working part-time and may miss a child’s baseball game. When the CEO is a woman, this may be criticized as absentee parenting. Many of these women have husbands who stepped out of the workforce. These husbands support their wives career ambition and the needs of children at home.
As a society, we continue to judge these women more harshly, than their male counter-parts. Will Ms. Mayer prioritize work-family balance? Probably not. Should she? Not necessarily. Did Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, Lou Gerstner?
Let’s keep an open mind as we watch this story unfold.
Every family has its stories. There are funny stories, sad stories, remarkable stories and just plain old stories. The stories are familiar and make family members feel connected in a very special way.
In my family we have a collection of stories that have become family folklore. The telling of these stories often begins with “Tell me about the time…”. It is remarkable to me that we can tell the same stories again and again and they don’t get old or boring.
As a child, my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles introduced me to the joy of family folklore. I heard reverent stories and hilarious stories. According to family folklore, my paternal great, great grand-father was a lighthouse keeper in Ireland. The stories about him share insight into a different time and way of life. In contrast, one of my favorite stories is about my maternal grandfather, whom I adore, taking his children out for iced cream. As the story goes, he reached a point of such frustration with the bad behavior of his kids that he kicked the running board of his car as he was holding a tray of iced cream. He unfortunately missed hitting the running board with his foot and hit it with his shin – ouch! In pain, he threw the tray of iced cream up over his head. In disbelief, my mother and her siblings watched the iced cream fly through the air and fall to the ground. I love this story about my mom, her siblings and her father. It is so real. Stories connect generations.
I now hand down stories to my children from my youth. Sometimes my stories are serious. Sometime my stories are silly. But my stories make the personalities of the older generation in our family more vivid. My kids and niece and nephew giggle in delight when my brother and I recount crazy tales of our childhood. It is fun for them to envision their parents, aunts and uncles as little kids.
My favorite nights are when I am sitting at dinner with my kids and they request to hear the stories of their births. The fact that I can tell each of their personal stories, rich with detail, makes them feel incredibly important. As parents, we all do this. Jamie Lee Curtis captures this idea beautifully in her book, Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born. In this book, a parent tells the story of her child’s birth. The child knows the story by heart and asks immediately to hear it told again. As the book ends, you know that the ritual of telling this story is core to fiber of their family.
I also love recognizing when we are making a family folklore moment. When he was 4 years old, my youngest son bought a fishing lure with his own money. On his first cast, with the new lure, he hooked the most enormous snapping turtle that you have ever seen. We reeled in the turtle, took pictures and salvaged the lure. It was wild. And we retell the story all the time. The memory of the event will never be lost because it has become part of our book of family folklore.
Be conscious of the value of family folklore. Oral tradition has existed since the beginning of time to share history. Share stories with your kids and capture memories when they are being made. Story telling has defined entire cultures. Take the opportunity to create a culture of connectedness in your own family through family folklore.