Special Note: As I am getting close to writing my 200th weekly business column for The Press Enterprise, a daily newspaper in Southern California, I’ve looked back and realized that all that I’ve written probably should have a home here as well. So every few days I’ll post a new (old) column. Hope you enjoy!
What Did You Love?
Originally published by The Press Enterprise in 2010
What did you most love doing when you were a kid? I had only thought about the answer to that question in bits and pieces. I also had never realized the importance of answering that question in the framework of the rest of my life and work. When I was very young, what I most loved doing was creating things. With my brother, the two boys who lived next door, and the kids up the street, we created everything from plays and musicals, to dance routines and ice capade shows. We built forts in the woods and dams in the stream behind our houses. As I grew up, that focus on creating things became more formalized as I became passionate about taking ballet classes almost every day of the week.
Somehow, after I graduated from high school and moved on to college, I started to forget how much the art of creation added to my life. Society started to train me on how the cogs in the wheel of a business are supposed to act – show up on time, follow the rules, do not question why things are done. While I may not have followed all of those rules, even in my relatively short time in the business world, I internalized the rules so much, that I often times did not even realize that I was following them.
Why does all of this matter in the business world? What does having a love for creating dance routines as a kid have to do with performing well as a business leader? It matters because when we forget what our strengths are, we do not bring our best selves to our work. What I loved doing as a kid was a natural indication of who I am as person and what makes life most meaningful to me. If you come to the conference table understanding what you are best at, what you can contribute, and what you are most passionate about, you will begin to add more value than you ever thought possible.
It was when I became a CEO at the Girl Scouts in Southern California a few years ago that I truly started to create art through my work again. I could see that our organization needed some dramatic changes and I started to realize that staying within the confines of the business rules I had internalized would not lead to the solutions we needed. I started creating things again – creating a new physical atmosphere in which our girls, volunteers and staff could experience Girl Scouting; creating a hand-drawn stick figure cartoon (Sally the Girl Scout) to explain some of the changes our organization was going through; creating videos for our organization’s YouTube channel. After I started that process of creating things again, I continued to grow into it and embrace it, and truly feel more engaged in my work than ever before. It means that my organization is getting the best of me it possibly can.
My art may not be fine art – I can not paint, I can not play an instrument, I can not even sing. My art is about finding ways to make the world around me better through the things I create. I give people a new way to look at things. I try to add value to what already exists by shedding new light on things and putting them in a new context. Your art may come in a different format, but whatever art you bring to your work can change the game for your business.
Sometimes as kids, when we do not yet know what society expects of us, we actually have more clarity around what our strengths are and what we are truly passionate about. For me, the act of creating is where my strengths and passion come together – my sweet spot. It took the act of thinking about what I loved as an 8 year-old to remember that. What did you love doing as a kid? What is your art? Where is your sweet spot?