These days I’m out talking about my new book, and I find it takes courage to really show up. I love to write and I love the one-on-one time I get with those I meet on the road. I love talking about my book to small, intimate groups. I also get a thrill out of sharing remarks when I have the backdrop of some videos and slides that keep me on track. The hardest thing is giving impromptu remarks in front of a large crowd about this book. I’m trying to ‘translate’ a new way of thinking, feeling, and living to business people and the words don’t always come out smoothly. Kinship and kindness aren’t talked of in business settings yet, but I figure they could be, if enough of us keep pressing on about them.
That was the set up at Google last week. I was to do a ‘fireside’ chat with an absolutely lovely woman, Nathalie Sajous, their director of US News and Publishing, in front of 300 Google employees. Don’t get me wrong, I was honored to be asked to do this. In fact the photo above was taken on Google’s rooftop just before I was to speak.
The curveball was a beautiful, 31- year old woman, who presented just before me and gave prepared remarks about her incredible success story. One of the products she developed was a jump rope that plugs into a power source, for countries in need. Then, in her 4-inch heels, she began to jump rope. On stage. Flawlessly.
A small part of me became dislodged. I trudged to the stage feeling like an alien who’d invaded this convention. I knew in my brain that all the Googlers really wanted was for me to share some wisdom. To offer a few nuggets from my book that could help them. To model grace. But suddenly I felt the need to be funny, clever, hip. Hip? I guess I try, but really hip and I only know each other when my right one hurts. What I was feeling was raw vulnerability. Could I use the right language to reach these minds, rich with exciting, evolving success and get them to also ask of themselves, ‘who am I, really?’ and ‘where does this lead?’ Afterward, I felt like I’d failed them.
Anyone who’s read my book knows I’m in recovery, and I have a place to share such fragile moments. In the quiet of a safe room, I spoke about this… my disappointment at not living up to my own impossible standards (ugh!), and showing up as just me. Perhaps I missed an opportunity to influence this group, who will assuredly go on to influence the world. When we can verbalize our unsettled feelings to a friend, spouse, therapist, whomever! — we can better understand them. That’s being emotionally fit, now that I mention it.
Who knows, maybe I did impact a few. I got several questions about how to find a spiritual path, so some did hear the importance of that. I was pretty adamant about the need to speak up to your leadership when practices aren’t congruent with why you chose to work there. I asked how many women had participated in the walk out and the majority raised their hands. That was a very cool moment! We have to take some ownership of where we work, all of us. You may not be heard, but at least you try.
So what’s the moral of this story? Just show up for life exactly as you are, fully human. No gimmicks needed. And have a safe place to tell on yourself when you don’t.