Know your voice

Your voice. How do you use it? You have to know your own voice, what you believe it, what you stand for, and what matters to you. Once you know your voice, you have to find out how to make it heard. It took me until I was in my early twenties to know what my voice looked and sounded like. Even now a decade and a half later, there are times when it might be strong, but still quivers. Mostly the last ten years have been a time to hone my voice, decide when I am going to open my mouth, and when I will work harder to make it heard.

Recently I came across this article titled: “The Best Designers Bring Their Own Opinions” with such a great quote, I had to share it:

“Knowing your voice—what you believe and why you believe it—and effectively incorporating that into your work can help set you apart from everyone else. There’s very little else that can do that for you.”

What I love about this quote is that it says “effectively incorporating that into your work” – it does not say conversation or meeting, it says work. That could mean how you incorporate your voice into your project, your new product design, your app. It could mean in your artwork, your presentation, or in closing a deal. It could even mean in how you deliver bad news or how you interact with your co-workers. Your voice is a part of you and not something that you can take on or off. It lives in all you do.

At times you might be in situations where you feel like your voice is a quiet flutter and your authentic voice is not strong, loud, and bold. You might not feel comfortable to speak up and put your career on the line, or take a stand with a friend. Over time that quiet flutter will get stronger and louder and our true voice will stand strong. Be ready for it. It will happen.

Tired, but puzzle pieces galore.

Yes, it is Friday. It has been a long week. Last night, well actually 3 nights this week I came home from work, skipped my run, slipped into my pajamas, and curled up on the couch to work for the rest of the night. There are some crucial deadlines happening in the next few weeks that require my attention. I have had back-to-back meetings all week, which means that my true focus time on emails, writing, and strategy is at night in my sweatpants, glasses, and The Voice on DVR. It is my life this week. What is funny is I do not really mind. I love the variety of projects I have to think through and execute on. What I miss is my daily run and book.

It is funny to me that the hardest part of my week is the lack of movement. It has become an addiction for me. Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we have to make different choices. Even if I did not need to come home to write and strategize, I am not sure I have the energy this week to strap on my LunarGlide 5’s. If I had a window for this week, I think I would either slide into a steaming hot bath, or crawl into bed. Why? Well, I am tired.

You might think, wow. You need to find a balance, and yes, I do. What is great though is that right now I love what I am doing. I like the vast variety of projects I am working on, that I constantly have to think of how it is all going to come together. It is like a puzzle that you have to put together, but you do not have the picture on the top of the box. Instead you have to figure out what the puzzle is going to look like without a guide or a map. Funny right? Isn’t that what life is all about? We do not have a map, and if we did the world would rip it up, smash it into a wad, soak it, burn it until we can handle that blank puzzle, and design the pieces new everyday.

Sometimes we have days where we are able to connect all the dots, and finish the puzzle and other days where we can barely find all the edge pieces amongst the 4000+ other pieces. Isn’t that what makes life interesting? If we kept putting together the same damn puzzle (that only had 10 pieces) wouldn’t you be so so so bored? I would. I love the adventure of putting together what I know, meeting new people in the process, learning about their life, finding out how they fit in my puzzle, or I in their puzzle, and finding out what glorious picture ends up in front of me. Then I smile and start all over again with a new puzzle.

For now though, I look forward to some sleep, and time with my better half. I have earned it.

Have a little faith…

I have blogged before about the emotion that comes when you hear a song, or you hear the words in a song. Last night after a long day, I was literally pooped, a bit frustrated, and slightly emotional. So instead of the usual routine when I come home from work, which is to immediately go for a run, I got comfy and curled up on the couch for some mindless television.

After catching up on some Modern Family, we watched an episode of The Voice, where one of the contestants sang John Hiatt’s song: “Have a little faith in me.” I guess after a full and exhausting day the song and words just hit me in an emotional way. Obviously I have heard the song before, but at that moment a whoosh of emotion hit me. Earlier in the day I had struggled with understanding why someone in my life has had some tough blows over the past few years, and for some reason it was effecting me yesterday. It was tearing at my heart. The lyrics: “When the road gets dark and you can no longer see…have a little faith in me,” got to me and made me think of things differently.

Maybe this song is about a couple in a relationship, or maybe not, but what came to me was about a higher power watching over us. I needed that last night. Sometimes we get so sucked into the shit that happens, we let it bug us, we agonize over whatever issue is causing us anguish, and forget that it is just a day, we can start it over freshly tomorrow. “Have a little faith.” It was just what I needed. It made me perk up and remember all that I am grateful for in my life.

Sometimes a cheesy singing competition, a snuggle on the couch, and words that poke into your heart is just what you need to shift your thought, and change the negative thoughts in your head to ones that truly matter.

Have a little faith.

Her voice must be heard.

Last Friday, October 11, was the second ever “International Day of the Girl.” A day to celebrate girls, and hell yes a celebration was needed. Then a roll up of each sleeve and getting down to business. Do you know what the International Day of Girl is all about? The United Nations website states:

“On December 19, 2011, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/170 to declare October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child, to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.”

I am humbled to know that this day exists. We do have a few days in the calendar year that champion women, but sometimes I think the teenager or young girl is lost in that conversation. They are deal with first world problems like pressure from their peers (girls or boys), body image, rape, teen pregnancy, negative portrayal of girls in the media, or abuse, or third world problems such as genital mutilation, sex trafficking, violence, hunger, disease, and child marriage. Some of these issues are both first and third world problems.

My thoughts at the moment go to education, role models, and mentors. Do girls today have good role models? Where some might be privileged enough to have someone like Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook as their role model, others may need to have someone very tangible, local, and present as their role model. Do women in local communities have the time, patience, and dedication to be there for girls? Are you there for a girl in your life? I do not know many girls locally that need a mentor, but it has made me think more about being one.

Nike, Inc. started The Girl Effect many years ago. This year for “International Day of the Girl” they have put together The Girl Declaration. You will want to watch this video from The Girl Effect. I love near the end, where it says: “This is for every girl in the world. Who has a voice that must be heard.” I am also sharing the full text of The Girl Declaration below the video. Please be sure to explore The Girl Effect website about the Girl Declaration. Share it with others. Girls voices need to be heard.

Keeping things inside

I was talking with a few individuals over the weekend, and the topic of keeping things inside came up. It made me think about growing up and how we are taught to communicate. Growing up my dad always said that children were to be seen and not heard. We were not given a forum or safe place to speak up and say what we felt. Often I knew that I disagreed with my dad, but if I spoke up and said what I really felt, I would hear the wrath of my father. He always felt it was disrespectful to go against his viewpoint.

Ah, the anguish I felt to have to keep my thoughts and feelings inside. My home growing up either had thoughts and feelings put under carpets, stored in the attic, or they came out with rage and anger. I never saw the balance of real communication. However, somehow I was always fascinated with how others communicated. When I saw a man gently interact with a woman, I was fixated. When I saw a couple communicate amicably even while in a heated discussion, I was intrigued.

It was not until I was in college in my early twenties that I found my voice. I can almost remember what it felt like. I was writing a paper for a Sociology class, and in the process of writing that paper, something shifted and I knew that it was a pivotal moment in my life. I had found my voice. Ironically, the paper I was writing was on the topic of “voice” and in writing that paper, my voice had surfaced.

I no longer keep my thoughts and feelings inside. My dilemma now is to continue to work through the balance between speaking up and saying what I think needs to be said, and how that voice comes out. There is a graceful way to be bold and direct, but also to do it in a way that the other person can hear what you have to say. If you are angry while being direct, you can piss someone off, offend, and turn them away. Speaking gracefully for me is a work in progress. I do not always do it right, but I am learning along the way. The important part is that I speak, use my voice, and have it out in the open.

Do you keep things inside, or is it easy breezy for you to say what you think?