Stop doing stuff that is making you miserable.

  1. Honesty. Be honest with yourself, with clients, with issues, with everything. Of course, you aren’t telling all the truths to everyone, and you should be strategic about what you share and with whom, but telling the truth frees you from worry more than anything else. I was pitching a multinational company for business in 2020, and as I was preparing for the pitch, I realized that if I was in their shoes, I may not want to take the risk with a smaller firm like mine. I started down the path of trying to smooth over what I perceived as weakness but that “just f’ing tell the truth” voice spoke up in my head, and I leaned into it. I started the pitch by saying that I probably would have the same doubts about us if I was in their shoes. I leaned into the fact that we were small, and I told them why I really wanted to work with them and some of the ideas I had for them. It was honest and raw…and true. They picked us, but even if they had not picked us, I would have been okay because you don’t second guess yourself when you tell the truth.
  2. Inspiration. You can’t work your ass off if you aren’t inspired by something bigger than yourself, and you won’t enjoy any of it if you can’t inspire other people. One of the older definitions of inspiration is to “breathe or put life into the human body.” Inspiration animates you. 2020 and 2021 were really tough years for me personally, and I started off 2022 needing a couple of surgeries. As I struggled with the aftermath of the surgeries, I started falling behind at work. I had a few days in early March when it felt like I couldn’t make anything work. I started making a list of everything and everyone that inspired me — that breathed life back into me — that animated me. I watched videos of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings. She was breathtakingly inspiring, and when she started crying — I started crying — and I felt how much those tears needed to come out. I put my son and daughter on that list and thought about how ridiculously funny they both are even in the middle of sadness or chaos. I put some of my favorite songs, a few quotes, some great art on that list, and soon I was vibing with what an awesome world we live in.
  3. Kaizen. Constant improvement. I ask myself every day what is one thing I could do better tomorrow. How can I get fractionally better at something? The focus on small but consistent improvement is what keeps you sharp and paying attention to little things. All big things are made up of little things. If you pay attention to the little things, you keep moving forward.
  • Women have to be seen as both good at what they do and nice.
  • Disproportionate focus on physical appearance (and the general comfort men feel in commenting on women’s appearances…especially when they look disheveled as heck!)
  • Women have to educate men about gender inequity even as they have to fight the inequity to ensure their own survival and success.
  • Define success for yourself…in detail…before you set goals for yourself. In 2017, I experienced the maddening deflating reality of consistently not achieving the goals I had set for myself that year. No matter what I tried, how many coaches I hired, I kept falling short of what I had set out to do. I was talking to one of my friends about it one evening, and she said, “you have never failed at anything you really want to do.” (Insert face plant emoji.) Before you deem yourself a failure, ask yourself if a goal you have set for yourself is really your goal. Is it a “I should” or “I want?” It’s not failure to get something you don’t really want. I’m pretty sure that’s called good fortune!
  • Trust yourself. Then, trust your girlfriends. Only listen to people who are aligned with the previous two sources of insight and guidance. That intuition of yours has been sharpened over the years. It has been sharpened on the honing steel of all that you have observed and experienced and absorbed. Trust yourself first. Then, trust the people who know you for real…for real for real. These are the people that help guide you to what will make you truly happy.
  • Stop doing stuff that is making you miserable. You don’t have to do anything that makes you miserable. Seriously, you don’t have to. I remember when I — an intense introvert — realized that I don’t have to attend networking events to stay connected to and grow my network. More importantly, this realization came with the bonus realization that I wasn’t fooling anyone — I looked as miserable as I felt. But if I connect with people 1 on 1, I’m so there for the connection. This changed my life. The goal is not to attend networking events. The goal is to create a strong network. And everyone does that differently.
  • Start doing stuff that brings you peace and joy. If you can’t name at least one thing at the end of every day that you really enjoyed or that made you laugh, you should “check yourself before your wreck yourself” as Ice Cube would say.
  • Always, always, always remember that if you argue with an idiot, there are now two idiots. Don’t fall for the temptation to argue with an idiot. No idiot has ever stopped being an idiot because a non-idiot argued with them. You don’t have to engage where there is nothing to gain. I have an idiot in my life who tells me (every time I see them!) that if I “just stopped focusing on all this inclusion stuff,” I “could really make something of my life.” My answer (every time!) is “I hear you.” It can be a coworker at work, a boss, an uncle, or anyone else that you would avoid if you could, but you can’t; “I hear you” says just that. You heard them.

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Arin N. Reeves

Arin N. Reeves

a fierce advocate for justice, a geeky catalyst for smarter thinking on inclusion and equity & a firm believer that most rules were meant to be broken