Cindy Solomon

Cindy Solomon

Take the Courageous Leader Quiz and Make 2021 Awesome

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New Years are for … Taking Stock & Making Changes

Aw. You thought I was going to say lovers, didn’t you? You’re so cute. I do support lovers. But that’s not what this is about. 

No, this is about the news. Not the fake news; the real news. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this. Maybe it’s just me. But doesn’t it seem like all of a sudden there’s awholebunchofthingshappening? 

I’m talking about major moves going down after years in the works. Barriers being broken. Things that have been ripening for a while suddenly coming to fruition. Yes, vaccines. But also some seriously bold business decisions. 

Like Adena Friedman’s board diversity proposal. TSLA on Nasdaq. Water futures on the Merc. Dylan selling out (someone should check on Bob). IKEA’s catalog. Sigh. Anna’s promotion. Yay. And Apple finally launching some decent headphones. 

A lot of things are coming together too. Salesforce buying Slack. Buzzfeed and Huff. Snickers devouring Kind. Goldman Sachs getting its assets to Florida. Musk landing in Texas. G-level cyberattacks!

Things are happening, people! Can you feel it? These aren’t rebounds from a depressing year, they’re big, bold, courageous leaps. And you can too!

Hold onto your bubbly. This might sting a little bit.

Short story. Back when we were all still getting on airplanes willy-nilly, I sat next to one of the world’s foremost actuaries. And, let’s face it, I talk to people. I can’t help it. 

 

Anyway, this world-class insurance data cruncher said the average life expectancy for someone like me (privileged, frizzy haired, white, college grad) is … 96 years! Not 88 like Google says. Not 77. Ninety-six. Pfffft!

 

Want to know what else he said? He said retiring at 65 is Victorian-era hogwash. Back then, people didn’t live that long so insurers got to keep more money. Retiring at 65 these days? Totally random.

 

And, get this, when you retire, actuaries actually lower your estimated life span. Yep. Retiring shaves a few years off of your life! Why? Because the lack of purpose, lack of stimulation, fewer social interactions make your cognitive function decline. Then you say, “Oh, poor me. I’m getting so old.” Then you buy the proverbial farm. Boom.

 

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, I deplaned in a state of shock. As I walked to baggage claim, I did the math. Let’s say I’m turning 50 this year (wink, wink). That would mean that I have nearly five decades more to live.

“Every one has two lives. The second begins when we realize we have only one.” — Confucius

Which brings me to the coronavirus, 2020, and the fact that we have wasted an entire year hoping and praying for the return of “normalcy.” Admit it. We’ve all been waiting to see what happens. 

 

We stopped living our lives, following our dreams, intentionally choosing, and deciding, and leaping. We just put our heads down on that grindstone and worked like the maniacal workaholics our id desperately wants us to be. 

 

Here’s the upside and it’s a really good one: 2020 also gave us a gift. The gift of perspective. 

 

I have one client who realized she hates her job, her commute, and doesn’t love the people she works with so she’s making a move. Others love where they are but still want to take advantage of this golden opportunity for change. When it comes to your role within your organization, try asking yourself …

What did we pull off despite everything?

It’s so easy to focus on what went wrong, especially in 2020. Instead, try looking at what went exactly as planned, despite all the obstacles. What went even better than expected? What was unique about those wins? Could you learn from and replicate them?

What did I do that really got my team jazzed?

Looking back on your year, what actions did you take that really energized your team? Did you give them ownership of something? Encourage them to stretch? Spend more time on their development? Help them revel in their successes? Could you do more of that in 2021?

Did I grow my sphere of influence?

Communications were kind of a free-for-all in 2020. Did you leverage any of that freedom to make valuable new connections? Did you spend time strengthening your network, making new friends, getting to know colleagues? How can you follow up to strengthen those relationships?

Have I been using my time productively?

Sometimes meetings are fruitful and efficient. Other times, they pull us away from what we should really be doing. What could you do in 2021 to make sure you’re more productive with your time? This isn’t about getting out of things but it is about respectfully saying no to what doesn’t serve you and your goals. It’s about making sure you and your team are where you need to be to get the job done.

Am I a shooting star or a mossy rock?

Look back over the last 12 months. What actions did you take to stretch and grow out of your mossy comfort zone? How did you push your career, knowledge, experiences, skills forward? How could you 10x that for 2021? Get those things in your calendar right now.

“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” — Mary Oliver

Oh, Mary. I love her, don’t you? This crazy pandemic pressed a giant reset button for us all. A button that needed to be pushed. Now, we have an opportunity to make real, meaningful choices that will define our remaining decades on earth. A chance to ask ourselves whether we’re really, truly living the lives we want or allowing ourselves to get mired in waiting games and excuses.

The best part? This year, of all years, we have been out of our tired, old habits for so long that we’ve actually been able to break them. Now, we can start making productive choices about what new habits we want to create. Both professionally and personally.

Yes, making fun of 2020 was hilarious. Dear 2020, your Mom’s here to pick you up. Cue the hindsight jokes. Don’t forget to sanitize. Ho, ho, ho. The laughter got us through. But honestly? January 2021 will be no different from December 2020 unless we make it so. Highlight that. It’s real.

Nothing will be different about the new year unless we make it so.

So, we’ve each got one wild and precious life. And we’ve got a ton of years left to go. What will we choose to do? Will we finally turn off notifications on the weekend? Will we sign up for that leadership seminar? Volunteer for that huge project? Leap to a new company? Actually use our vacation days? 

Do me a favor and share with me in the comments one leap, personal or professional, that you’re consciously choosing to make in 2021. How will you stop being a bystander and set yourself up for success? How will you stop waiting and start taking action?

I’ll go first. I’m going to become the redhead I’ve always wanted to be. I might also throw out that jar in the fridge. And get those Grateful Dead crocs. Kidding! I hate crocs.  Your turn.

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1 thought on “Take the Courageous Leader Quiz and Make 2021 Awesome”

  1. Love your post, Cindy. Clever and fun – just like you 🙂 I’m going to get greedy and talk about TWO things I’m want to “leap” into next year with more intention. First, be more active in fostering social and political discourse that bridges the divide in our deeply polarized nation. Lots of important, memorable things have been said by past presidents, but none are more salient and vital to the survival of our democracy than the prophetic words of Abraham Lincoln – “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Second, I’m going to look hard at shifting my business toward more teaching and less consulting. I want to spend less time implementing systems and processes and solving problems for a handful of clients – and more time with more people, guiding them in understanding the core principles and practices for creating a high-performance culture of trust where people love to work and customers love doing business. Thanks for the opening.

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