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Archive for the ‘career’ Category


There is so much hullabaloo over Sheryl Sandburg’s book, “Lean In”that I decided to look through it to understand reasons for the fuss.

Much of her premise, that women essentially underestimate and undersell themselves, is familiar to me –  having either read about it over time or witnessed those characteristics in person throughout my career.  I’m among those of my gender mates labeled “ambitious” and have been ‘affectionately’ called a bitch from time to time because I accept authority easily and hold others accountable.  Those traits are more difficult to come by in women and I don’t know whether that’s due to nature or nurture, frankly.  But I can say that I’ve identified more strongly with men than women over the years and seem to have nurtured more professional friends of the opposite sex.

It’s true that men are raised with the expectation of earning a living and supporting their families.   The more money he can make, the better lifestyle he can provide.  They’re also taught to be strong and to assume power as their birthright.  I’m talking power over their destiny because that’s the role of a man.  Of course there are always going to be the artistic types who defy society’s expectations.  It’s my guess that swimming against that tide for those men can probably be as difficult as for the woman who aspires to take control of her life and aim for an office in the corporate executive suite.  Both are defying stereotypes and that usually involves swimming upstream.

But I think there’s a real distinction to be made between men assuming power as a birthright and actually having real self-confidence.  Portraying strength is an image they learn to cultivate.  But dig a little deeper and discover that many of those fellas don’t actually feel strong inside.  Some drink to ease their tension and muster courage.  And though Sandburg attributes self-doubt to women, there are many men who also feel like frauds internally and learn to compensate for that by networking with other men to create quid pro quo relationships.  You do this for me … I do this for you.  It’s the way of their corporate world – developing allies to protect their backs and help them succeed.  It’s their understood reality.

Sandberg writes that men will attribute their success to innate qualities and skills.  Women will say they got lucky, or worked really hard or had help from others.  When asked about failure a man will say he wasn’t interested enough or didn’t study enough where women might attribute failure to an inherent lack of ability.

I’d like to suggest that only women are telling the truth in those two examples.  Because men are raised to “fake it till you make it” it’s natural for him to continue to put his best foot forward to preserve his image while women are better able to absorb what could be the objective truth.  Nobody reaches the pinnacle of a profession alone.  Good timing has always played a role as well as people who’ve helped – either directly or as part of a team.  Think of any successful man in the world, read his bio and examine the team around him throughout his career.  Smart leaders choose the right people with whom to surround themselves.

The fact is, corporate America is used to having men in charge.  There’s a style of conducting business that’s well suited to a man’s psyche because men created it.  Women have always had to fit in to play the game.  And some women are comfortable with that role while others aren’t and there are plenty of guys who will never become part of the executive suite either.

My mother always told me that I could do anything I wanted and she ‘knew’ I’d be successful at it.  My father owned a business and was clearly comfortable being in charge.  Maybe as a combination of nurture and nature I’ve also been comfortable as a leader.  And yes, with hard work, good timing, smart choices, help from people who believed in me and success over the years I’ve achieved a professional self-confidence too.  But more important to me than climbing to the very top of an organization was keeping a close distance to the product we were creating, in my case, television projects.  That’s where I found my joy and the idea of being relegated to a business office overseeing a couple of levels of management who managed the product was not my idea of fun.  So I climbed as high as I wanted to and the money I made was better than most, certainly good enough to pay for all my expenses and all of my conservative wants.  I’ve never been a big acquirer.

So a corner office with a view in the executive wing was not what I aspired to.  And there are plenty of other women … and men … whose passions lead them in other directions too.  We don’t all have to run companies to make a difference in lives and our communities.  As long as we’re paying attention to the beat of our own drums and fearlessly living our lives, I believe we’re leaning in.

The real take away from her book might be an invitation to women to dream big, feel their fears and do it anyway.  That’s what most of the male species does and women are equally capable as they.

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The discouraged Nenene suffering from writer's...

I think I’m going through the phenomenon writers call writer’s block (although I just read a writer’s diatribe that it doesn’t exist.  He says if a writer can’t write, she’s not a writer.) Each time I sit down to write to an idea I’ve had, nothing but the first line comes out.  And when I push myself to continue, sentences form, sure enough, but they go nowhere with no point being made.  It’s maddening and it’s tiring.

It’s also unfamiliar to me.  As a professional developer of ideas that get concocted from thin air and build into television events or projects it stands to reason that the prolific creativity machine should be well oiled to avoid misfires.  It’s not.

Writer's Block

Image by thorinside via Flickr

This writing thing is a different medium.  And I’m not so bold as to actually call myself a writer; I’m not (see Mr. Writer expert?).  I’m practicing to become one.  To find my voice.  To develop a style.  To stumble upon a genre.  And to be honest, because truth-telling is one of those necessary virtues in non-fiction writing, which seems to be my preference.  At least for now.

After participating in a 4-week non-fiction creative writing series for women, I came away a little more practiced and fluid, but with no principles to stash in my back pocket to help with construction.  She said there were none.  Maybe that’s the case for creative writing.  But certainly there are things to remember when putting fingers to the keyboard with the intention of making the material interesting to people.

Barnes & Noble.

Image by _e.t via Flickr

As I write I’m sitting in the Barnes & Noble Cafe with a stack of writing and pop culture magazines to get my juices flowing.  This technique always worked during my TV years.  Bring a notebook, grab some magazines and books, peruse them and brainstorm new concepts.  And in fact, as soon as I sat down with my tall decaf and biscotti, this notion of spilling my guts occurred to me.  Maybe if I actually record my stuckness, I’ll become unstuck?

My years of television creation appealing to a mass public has taught me that if you want people to watch, you have to give them something they can identify with, become fascinated by, aspire to or become informed by.  And you have to target the right crowd.

Well my crowd is the boomer population, particularly boomer women with professional backgrounds because that’s where I am in my life.  Working to discover “next” that’s as exciting as what was.  And to share the process as I live life unencumbered by the daily routine of deadlines, expectations and management challenges.

But I digress.  My dear friend in California is in the throes of self publishing her first book.  How cool is that?  We worked together in radio many moons ago and she’s moved on to a number of things, one of which keeps her passion for writing alive.  I can’t wait to buy a copy.

For now, I’ll continue to muddle my way through.  I’m discovering writing to be an interesting challenge.  And I got a gig as a community columnist for our local daily paper.  I hope to make those pieces interesting.  And I really really hope I don’t experience this kind of obstacle with my deadline looming.  I have 3 in the can, so to speak, ready for tweaking.  Cross your fingers for me.

gif for avatar used on Webpages/Weblogs

In the meantime — tell me, how do you oil your writing machines?  Please oh please share!  Now on to my magazines!

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It’s autumn here in East Tennessee and it’s shouted its arrival in a big way.  I’m talking colors here.  Big, bold, vibrant, HELLO LOOK AT ME!  colors that stop you dead in your tracks to gawk at the amazement of Mother Nature.  And today was the perfect day to enjoy the full show in the Smoky Mountains.

Fall seems like such an oxymoron.  Trees pop with color in such a vivacious tribute to life and yet the glorious show is a prelude to death.  After a couple of weeks the leaves shrivel and drop to the ground into brittle debris, ultimately becoming fertilizer to new life.

This bold season feels like a metaphor for mid-life.  These are the years when many of us leave our professions behind to re-invent new lives.  To discover new passions, friends, experiences.  And in many ways I feel more alive now than the days I was engrossed in my paid working hours.

Work life was thrilling for me yet was surprisingly predictable in its unpredictability.  Make sense?  Every day we had a new show to produce or stories to write or projects to continue with the same constraints to face and paradigm to follow.  Every morning I knew what my office hours were likely to be.

Now each day offers a blank canvas to paint whatever picture comes to mind (metaphorically speaking since I don’t paint).  And I can invent what my next years may look like.  I’ve grown my hair longer, dropped a few pounds and have become quite active through bicycling, horseback riding, hiking and attending more yoga classes.  I feel like I’m on the cusp of something new.

Is autumn to winter as mid-life is to old age?  Could this time period be our final hurrah?

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Sheet music to "Give My Regards"

Image via Wikipedia

Lately I’ve started writing much more than years past (have you noticed this blog?) It feels like the right creative outlet especially as I explore this new period in my life, Act Three.

Creative expression has always been a driving force for me. When I was a kid I dreamed of singing and dancing on Broadway – heck, I’ll say it, I wanted to be a star.  My mother schlepped me to auditions all the time, each with the same heartbreaking result – CHORUS! Evidently my voice sounded great to me and had I been the casting director I’d have won the lead hands down.  But – c’est la vie.  As each heartbreak gave way to the next bout of courage and the next resounding NO THANKS I finally figured it out.  My future wasn’t going to be on stage.  Time to move on … and then I discovered… back stage!

Voila!  Back stage became the perfect fit — stage manager, show producer – change to radio producer, on to TV producer, then into management, and on to departmental leadership.  Once I set my new sights I started hearing yes yes yes yes, which is a lot more fun than a childhood filled with no’s.

A passion was ignited and my drive was born.  I couldn’t get enough of work – it’s all I wanted and the only thing I did.  Weekdays consisted of a minimum of 12 hour days and weekends were spent perusing magazines, newspapers, books or watching TV – all in search of the next great idea for a show or a promotion or a special or a series.  And I never got tired of it until … I did.   More than 30 years later.

Shockingly my drive has let me go.  It no longer consumes my waking hours, nor does it deprive me of sleep.  I’m blissfully free of its grasp.  And I don’t miss nor mourn it.  I’m enjoying the sense of freedom from the need to keep pushing.

Equally surprising is that my interest in making a creative contribution hasn’t waned.  In fact it’s starting to blossom again.  But it’s not associated with need to do.  It’s more like inspired to do.

Is it possible that I’ve actually kissed my drive goodbye?  I guess time will tell.

How about you?  What drives you?

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