December 1, 2016
I love Ganesha. I have his image all over my apartment. In a copper statue from Mumbai, in a little children’s figurine from India, in a beautiful clay image from Indonesia. I even have a little puppet magnet of his image in my office on a file cabinet. Ever since I went to India at 26, Ganesha has been my ‘guy.’ According to Wikipedia (I know…but just love me), “Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom.” Ganesha has been my soul mate helping me through my work challenges, my travels, my writing. I find his elephant face and smile comforting.
So it was a bit of a shock to discover that while “he is popularly worshiped as a remover of obstacles, traditionally he also places obstacles in the path of those who need to be checked.” Well, arrgh. That’s no fun. I thought Ganesha was just going to ‘fix things’ and then I didn’t have to do the hard work on my own. Boo.
Over the last three weeks I have worked with folks who have shared with me their explanations for ‘defaulting’ to a stance of powerlessness. Someone else should take care of it. The boss, the supervisor, Mom, Dad, the district, those ‘in charge.’ Why should it be them? That’d be uncomfortable and downright outside their comfort zones.
I get it. I curled up this weekend in a hotel room. Watched iTunes, had a massage, ate good food. I snuggled under the covers, scrolled through Facebook, posted on Twitter, read, meditated and recuperated from a three week work stint. And I realized that beyond my work, there has been a US election and a few other big changes that have left many grieving. This has been a long and challenging month. And now in the spirit of my female Boomer colleagues, I am putting on my ‘big girl underpants’ and dealing. I am ‘sucking it up, Buttercup.’
When I was 30 years old I went to my superintendent and complained about my principal. I told him the principal wasn’t doing a good job and that he should be fired. (I am still amazed I did this but…)
My superintendent said, “Wow. It sounds like you aren’t happy. Maybe you should leave and work elsewhere.” I was stunned. And shocked. And amazed he didn’t take my side and fix things. (I was young…but not that young…) I went straight to my assistant superintendent of HR and cried. And then I realized I was in charge of my life, of my work, and of my actions. It took a while, but I went back to that superintendent and told him I had thought about what he said and while I disagreed with him, I realized I had a few ideas about what I thought I could do in the district at a different level. He looked at me and said, “Good for you. Now let’s talk.”
And so I say to you, “Let’s talk.” The ever fabulous Seth Godin kicked my butt this past week with his daily blog. Here is an excerpt. “If we’re actually powerful, if our voice, our effort and our contribution matter, it’s time to get to work. This is enervating. It would be so much more comforting if it were up to someone else. Whatever system we are living in or with, it would be nice if it were responsible for what happens next. On the other hand, knowing that we can connect, publish, inspire, lead, build, describe, invent, encourage and (especially) teach, means that there’s no one better than us and no time like right now. And if it helps, go find, organize and connect with others who feel as committed as you do. Of course it’s frightening. But it’s important and it’s our turn.” Read the full post here.
It’s not somebody else’s turn. It’s our turn. Tag. We’re it. I’m getting to work with Ganesha cheering me on. Join me.
The Women in Leadership Institute has concluded. A small but mighty group descended onto New Orleans for real talk, laughs, learning and some time in the French Quarter(!). Meanwhile, the work of women in leadership is ongoing. Harvard Business Review has an article that says it like it is. ‘Women Need to Realize Work Isn’t School.’ One line says it all. “To be successful, we must do the very thing we were always taught not to: be disruptive.”
Barbara Kingsolver lives the advice from article above in her piece featured in Britain’s The Guardian, “Trump changed everything. Now everything counts.” One line. “With due respect for the colored ribbons we’ve worn for various solidarities, our next step is to wear something on our sleeve that takes actual courage: our hearts.”
And for deeper reading, a reminder from the great Maria Popova, whose weekly newsletter, Brain Pickings is an awesome Sunday morning read for those of us nerdy, liberal artsy, spiritual, fiction reading, philosophy lovers who need a hit of enlightenment in 3 or 4 minutes. This week she reminded readers to check out Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit for some sane advice on how to take responsibility for our freedoms and do so in a civil way.
About Jennifer Abrams
Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's latest book is Swimming in the Deep End: Four Foundational Skills for Leading Successful School Initiatives. Her previous publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.
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