All posts tagged Life Advice

“At 57, I Don’t Lean In”

“Congratulations,” Sheryl Sandberg said with a smile as broad as the years that separate our generations when I told her that at 57, I’d recently gone back to a corporate job. “At this stage, I’m standing up—not leaning in,” I continued. This statement did not generate another high-five from the Facebook COO and author of Lean In, a new working woman’s manifesto for success.

Glancing at my business card, Sandberg said, “I’ll find out who you can talk to about Lean In Circles at your company,” before turning to greet another BlogHer ’13 attendee in the crowded Skyline Ballroom in Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.

A corporate layoff in 2006 interrupted my 30-year marketing career. When I returned to corporate life after six years of teaching and writing, I knew my future called for a new outlook. I had been the prototypical MBA-owning, globe-trotting, leaning in career girl in my twenties, thirties and forties. Now, I’m a fifty-something woman standing up for the pursuit of personal satisfaction and enjoyment on the job and for living every day as if I’m worth it, because I am.

* At 57, I don’t lean in at work because I don’t feel the need to prove myself anymore. I believe in myself and know that I will deliver value.

* I don’t lean in because I already take a seat at the table. I speak up when needed and not just to be heard.

* I work for satisfaction in a job well done and the personal growth that comes from that, not to position myself for the next big move.

* I’m standing up at work rather than leaning in because I know the importance of a meaningful job. It requires my energy, but it’s just a part of my life, not the whole.

* I’m past worrying whether everyone likes me. I’m not sure I like everyone anyway. But I can figure out how to work with them, and that’s what counts.

* I want to see what’s around and ahead of me, and you can’t do that when your nose is leaned-in to a corporate playbook. I will travel the rest of my life gazing at serendipitous experiences outside those pages.

* I still haven’t heard from anyone in Sheryl’s office about the Lean In Circles at my company. It’s unfortunate that she missed the true significance of going corporate again at 57. There is meaning to be found, purpose to be had, and passion to be explored.

My generation must stand up and be counted. We are in vigorous pursuit of the ultimate goal—a life well lived.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., center, poses with students for photographs after her speech at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea
Photo: Woohae Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on LifeReimagined.arrp.og
Life Reimagined AARP “At 57 I Don’ Lean In

It’s Not Wishy-Washy To Be Square

ESD COLLEGE GraduationHail to Purple Hail to White, Hail to Thee Northwestern

The last lines of Northwestern University’s Alma Mater sprang from my lips. As an adjunct faculty member I had just witnessed 96 master’s degree candidates in the Medill School’s Integrated Marketing Communications program walk across the stage. A handshake with the Dean certified them as professionals and alumni at the same time.

Getting dressed at home, prior to the graduation, I discovered that my rental cap was too small. No amount of bobby pins could secure it. One head bob too many or ever so slight would topple it to the floor. What to do? Luckily I remembered that my Mother’s college mortarboard sat in my dresser drawer. Luckily we had the same hat size.

I found Mom’s graduation cap in her closet after she died. Her name was clearly printed on the silk label inside. It didn’t seem right to give or throw it away. She graduated top of her class from The College of St. Mary of the Springs (now Ohio Dominican University) in Columbus, Ohio in 1940. She went on to teach elementary school until she had children. She then instructed her children during summer vacations with reading and math workbooks, writing on a double-sided black board in the playroom. Mom was all about learning.

Mom was also all about dressing appropriately and when it came to wearing a cap and gown, the cap should sit squarely on top of the head. Flat, not angled.

“Flat is the proper way to wear the mortarboard. Do not wear it on the back of your head,” she would say. “I don’t care if you think it’s unattractive or crushing your hair, this is the way it is meant to be.” I wore a cap and gown for the first time during kindergarten graduation and even then Mom made sure I wore it “regulation” style.

As the graduate students lined up to process into the auditorium I found myself repeating my Mother’s advice:

“It’s meant to be worn flat. Really it looks better that way,” I said in a friendly yet knowing tone. “Lose the bobby pins and stand up straight and tall. It won’t fall off.”

Mom’s advice fell on deaf ears and many a mortarboard slipped and slid as the group marched to the stage to the untraditional and rousing tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Graduates held their caps on with one hand while shaking the Dean’s hand with their other. One cap completely crashed to the stage floor in front of the Dean.

Mine, however, stayed put throughout the conferring of degrees and a series of upbeat speeches that dispensed advice both thought-provoking ¬– have an account balance of goodwill¬ – and head scratching – don’t be wishy-washy.

Don’t be wishy-washy? What odd advice I thought at first. But then the speaker explained that the opposite of wishy-washy is taking a stand. He encouraged the graduates to have a point-of-view and be prepared to support it because without a point of view one must depend on others for movement.

As I pondered his words I realized that it was Mom’s strongly supported point-of-view on graduation attire that was keeping my cap squarely on my head and me moving across the stage confidently. I felt squarely ready to go out and conquer the world on my own terms. Hail to Mom.

And the Transition Goes On

“Why don’t you just say it, you’re retired,” a male friend said after my layoff that produced an unemployment check and a Cobra health insured life.

“I’m not retired,” I insisted. “I’m in transition.”

At lunch with a working friend from the good old days of full employment and a certain path I shared the nascent beginning of my blog.

“I’m writing about women in transition.”

“You’re always in transition,” my male lunch partner said.

He was right. Whether in a job or not, I have always felt in transition. I prefer to think this makes me an expert on the topic rather than someone who always looks for the next patch of greener grass.

When I told my sister about the potential job offer she asked, “Aren’t you enjoying your semi-retirement state?”

Semi-retirement? Is that what my life looked like to the outside? It didn’t’ feel like that inside.

The five years that I didn’t report to an office, I still worked. Not at a corporate office doing the same thing. But I worked. From a home office or at a borrowed desk. At various things. Consulting projects. Committees. Content development. And mostly teaching.

Two hundred students–give or take a few–have sat in my classes and been mentored over coffee and during office hours. Teaching has been the hardest work I’ve ever done. By myself. In front of a room of young adults hoping to advance their careers with the material they are learning in my class. Finding new ways to fill the hours, to bring the principles and theories alive. A three-hour, one-woman show running for 10 weeks straight. Each week required a new script and the ability to improvise.

“I never want to retire,” I tell Husband, who is on the brink of retirement. Teetering so close to being able to nap at will on any one of our couches. To putter in any number of puttering spaces in the house, garage, or outside. To being able to do something else as soon as he discovers or defines else. To being in transition.

Retiring sounds old. And I reject being old, while fully acknowledging being older. So I’m rejecting retirement and accepting rehiring into a new role in a familiar field. Or as I prefer to look at it, I’m just entering one more transitional phase in my life of transition.

Fashion Faux Pas or Face Plant?

Coming of age in the 70s I was more than a fashion faux pas, I was a fashion face plant. Nothing can explain away the dress I wore to the junior prom. I looked like a picnic tablecloth on the bottom with a matching place mat on top. Since I can’t find the picture, which I know I saved, you’ll have to use your imagination.

Large red and white checked gingham fabric. Long skirt accented with a ruffle. Halter-top attached to the skirt, also accented with a ruffle. Straps crisscrossed in the back and buttoned into the top of the skirt. My father made me dance around the living room to make sure nothing fell out of the square piece of material over my chest. Since my chest amounted to nothing at the time, I was safe.

Ruffles play a major role in my best wardrobe worsts. My early choices for formal dances at college all had ruffles on the bottom and unfortunately a few had gathered sleeves with ruffled edges. And there was the ruffled yellow dotted swiss bridesmaid’s dress accessorized with a matching floppy hat. Of course that was chosen for me and truth be told, the whole time I wore that dress I squelched the urge to cry out, paraphrasing Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, “I’ll never go dotted swiss or ruffles again.”

Of course it took a whole new decade and career before I found my ruffle replacement. Half the fun of going to work in the mid-‘80s–for me¬–was wearing the businesswoman’s bow tie. Floppy or stiff. Bright red, blue or black. It didn’t matter. I simply liked the ritual of tying it. And it announced my competence without me saying a word.

I first learned about power dressing from The Women’s Dress for Success book written by John T. Malloy. His advice to women hoping to be taken seriously by others (men) in the workplace: look like those others (men) as much as possible. My closet was full of men’s styled dark colored suits that I wore with white, blue, or an occasional pink shirt, when I felt rebellious, and a bow tie. Simple jewelry, gold or silver stud earrings and maybe a pearl necklace rounded out the corporate career gal’s look.

I took all of Mr. Malloy’s advice and added my own twist. Looking at my first-day-on-the-new-job picture I wish I had applied Coco Chanel’s advice: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” I wore a dark gray pinstripe suit with modest shoulder pads and a light blue wing-collared shirt with pleated front. A bow tie in the same color as the shirt flopped under my wing collar more than it stood at attention. A necklace of alternating silver and lapis-colored beads lay under my tie. Thank goodness I just wore matching silver studs.

In the 90s my bow ties and starched shirts gave way to flowing scarves and silky blouses. Then I went casual, business casual and then work from home casual. Today the most flounce in my wardrobe is found in the pashmina-style scarves warming my neck in overly air conditioned and under-heated environments. I am aware of the return of the bow blouse to the workingwoman’s closet but have resisted. Much as I have resisted anything in red and white checks. Neither bows nor gingham fit my style anymore.

Car Wheels

I’m starting to smell something fishy and I think it might be me. Husband and I have turned into the guests, who like fish, stink after three day – or so said Ben Franklin. We planned on arriving at my brother’s house Dec. 23rd and leaving again on Dec. 26th. We planned on having enough time for two extended family dinners, wrapping and unwrapping presents, and one family movie day. We didn’t plan on hitting a pothole on an entrance ramp to the highway while traveling at entrance ramp speed, and breaking two wheels. Now all I want by New Years is my two right wheels.

We also didn’t plan on being in the middle of the first big snowstorm of 2012. This wouldn’t be noteworthy except that the new wheels happen to be in Chicago and their shipping will be delayed due to weather. Funny thing, once the new wheels arrive and are installed they will just reverse direction and drive us back to Chicago. Not so funny, perhaps.

So while the car sits in the shop, I sit in my brother and sister-in-law’s kitchen surrounded by holiday treats, sweets, and temptation. I don’t plan on eating two helpings of homemade mac-n-cheese. I don’t plan on eating half a barrel of caramel popcorn. I don’t plan on eating another baked ham sandwich. But in the spirit of my holiday season, I throw my plans out the window and enjoy the present. Friday will come soon enough and with it new wheels and old plans to catch up on. Pass the eggnog.

What Kind of Blogger Am I?

According to a study of blogging styles and attitudes conducted by Zemanta, a content suggestion engine (according to Wikipedia), I’m a Life Stager/Hedonist/Life Improver. Translation: I write about How to Enjoy and Survive Midlife With A Smile on Your Face, or My Face, as the case may be.

If that sounds like a mish mash of styles and attitudes, it is. According to the study, I’m not alone in exhibiting more than one blogging persona. And that, my blogging friends, is comforting to know for a couple reasons.

I’m forever being asked what my blog is about. I’m forever finding myself searching for a one-word answer because people like one-word answers that quickly categorize who you are, and because I teach marketing. I tell my students that an effective brand positioning statement is consumer-centric and singular in its promise. It is the rare branding success that offers two benefits in one drink. (Miller Lite’s Great Taste…Less Filling!) So if my blog is a brand or a product, it should offer something singular. Something it can own.

Here are some of the words I’ve tried on their own: Transition, Humor, and Midlife. But they don’t work on their own. Transition from what? What’s funny? And midlife, what does that mean? Midlife is about as broad in definition as Middle Class. Far as I can tell, Midlife means you’re not wearing diapers.

However, I also teach my students that a target audience or consumer can’t be defined narrowly by demographics. A brand’s consumer is more nuanced than a woman between the ages of 45-55. My students learn how to develop consumer personas, which include a demographic description along with information on attitudes, goals, lifestyle, and behaviors related to the product.

The Zemanta study highlights, for me, that while a blog has a brand identity, it also has a persona attached to it. Maybe I have difficulty describing my blog in one word because I can’t define myself with one word. Maybe I’ve just rationalized why I shouldn’t even worry about coming up with the one word. Maybe I should just focus on the one thing that differentiates me from the rest of the midlife bloggers talking about the midlife journey with a touch of humor. Right now the only answer – and it is one word or two, depending upon how I express it, is: Me. or Julie Danis. Only I can own that.

Too Much Branding Makes My Week Weary

Just as I was recounting all the reasons I have to be thankful post-Thanksgiving, including the fact that my iPhone survived two dips in the loo after two 24-hour stints in a bag of rice, a Facebook post from a friend and fellow marketer, Pamela Narins, grabbed my attention:

“NPR reports on the fact that Black Friday was followed by Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and NOW, Giving Tuesday. It is my fervent hope that we will be met with Shut the Heck Up Wednesday, Give Me a Break Thursday, and Oh Please Friday.” I would like to suggest adding No-Name Sunday.

What’s with the need to cleverly name everything today? Have we become such a consumer society that we feel we must brand any and all products and services? And does excess branding increase or decrease the power of a brand to convey meaning to and build a relationship with a consumer? Or to put it another way: Do Personalized Julie M&M’s® muddle my M&M® experience?

Don’t get me wrong. I like brands. My business career focuses on branding, brand personalities, brand audits, brand management, brand archetypes, brand positioning, brand-person relationships and brand planning. Brands belong to companies, products, services and maybe even experiences — go ahead, brand your wedding a palooza — but can you make a normal day a brand?

The short answer is yes. The branded days around Thanksgiving do convey meaning, help consumers complete life tasks and even create community or affiliation opportunities. In that respect Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday are creating relationships with and providing benefits to people. All part of what brands can and should do. The Black Friday shopping experience is different than shopping on any other Friday in the year. The Cyber of Cyber Monday does differentiate it from other Mondays, which is what a good brand does.

However, Monday is Monday. Calling it Cyber Monday doesn’t make it anymore enjoyable. In fact, it adds to the burden of an already burdensome day. First, I have to re-enter the workweek from a four-day weekend of family, food and football and then the branding elves pressure me to spend hours surfing online for deals, plus free shipping.

Along comes Tuesday, which should be called Cut-The-Credit-Card Tuesday if it’s called anything at all, but no, now it’s Giving Tuesday. The idea behind Giving Tuesday started at the 92nd Street Y in New York City as a way to encourage supporting nonprofit organizations during the holiday season. Love the idea and plan to give, just wish my debit card had a chance to cool down from Monday’s activities.

I don’t shop on Black Friday and didn’t have a chance to boost the sales at any boutiques on Small Business Saturday this year. Most Cyber Monday deals passed me by because it was a just a regular (overbooked) Monday in life. My gifts have been made so Giving Tuesday is a Free-From-Spending-Money Day for me. Whew.

Maybe I want to call a Time-Out Wednesday because I’m steeped in consumer marketing and branding and enjoy a non-branded, non-manufactured experience every so often. Much like I enjoyed the time away from my Apple driven life when my iPhone sat in its rice cocoon. Some things should just be what they are. Other things need the brand to be what they are. An M&M® without the M&M® (or a personalized message provided by the M&M®) is just not an M&M®.

Originally published in Huffington Post

Boomer Women: Listen to Your Elders

I always enjoyed sitting like a mouse in the corner of the room when my great aunt, aunt, or grandma came to visit. My little ears learned big lessons about just about any topic from those who had come way before me. A recent article in The Atlantic reminded me to listen to my elders for advice on how to navigate the mid-life transition I’m facing today. Bottom line: Accept the age you are, rethink retirement, and immerse yourself in community. I’m all ears for this advice. (Photo courtesy of The Atlantic and the AP)

A Short Note On Lists

I hate lists
They bring me bliss(ters)
From writing and reading
And seeing my pleading
Of what to do and say
Throughout the day

On my lists there resides
Many plans and other asides
That missed being done
Or were never begun
Oh I hate lists
They make me pissed

1. Do not have that first cigarette. Not even that first puff. You have an addictive personality and it will take years and I mean years for you to quit. Smoking does not make you look sophisticated, attract the opposite sex (quite the contrary), make you skinny (although it does speed up your metabolism), or help you study. Smoking does age your skin, stain your teeth, char your lungs, and foul your breath, hair, and clothes.  Don’t start now. Please.

2. Too much self-deprecation is self-defeating. The right amount of taking yourself lightly is a form of taking care of yourself. That’s okay.

3 . Don’t do gaucho or capri pants. You’re too short. Don’t do big belts. You’re too short-waisted. Don’t get a layered haircut. You’re not meant to wear a shag. Painter’s paints are for painters, not coeds. Bandanas are not a good look, especially the one with three gold coins in the front. Really.

4. Don’t want everyone to like you. That’s exhausting. As exhausting as it would be to be friends with everyone. Be yourself and be friends with those who like that self.

5. Stop assuming people don’t want you to join their group. In fact, assume the opposite and you’ll find more open doors than you think.

6. Offer an opinion. Take a stand. Sitting on the fence may give you a good view but knowing what you believe puts you into the action. And you love action. Remember what your professors write on your papers: “The conclusion could use a little more of you in it. What do you recommend?”

7. Ask questions. In class. During office hours. While studying. While playing. If you don’t understand something you can be sure someone else is clueless too. Ask questions. You will be thanked.

8. Take an art history class. An economics course. Maybe even debate. Learn to play tennis and bridge. Develop an exercise habit.

9. Learn how to be friends with boys. They are more than just potential dates. They may seem like foreign beings, and maybe they are, but they feel the same way about you. It’s good to have friends of both sexes. So offer your friendship

10. You’re too young for could of, would of, should of. Stick with can, will, did. They move you forward which is the only place you have to go.

11. Don’t always look for permission first. Life isn’t a Catholic grade school.

12. Don’t forget the ones you left behind. Let Mom and Dad in on your new life. Remember your little brother. Reach out to your older sister and brothers too.

13. Watch the alcohol habit. Beer is fattening. Jim Beam and 7-Up is sweet and stiff, and champagne has always been a problem. CRM, champagne related incidents, may make good stories, but they don’t reflect well on your reputation.

14. Seek guidance and career counseling. Figure out how your interest in drama translates to another field. Be willing to consider doing something no one else you know is doing, like joining the Peace Corps

15. Learn to develop your own inner cheerleader. Getting support is like love. Before you can give it to someone else, you need to give it to yourself.

16. Don’t skip class, don’t oversleep and miss class, don’t fall asleep in class. Class is good. That’s why you are on campus. Attend class.

17. Smile more. People think you’re standoffish or mean.

18. Beware of M&Ms. Once you quit smoking they will become your next best worst friend.

19. Be more mindful of your finances. Now’s the time to learn to budget

20. Enjoy. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, stop doing it and take a minute (or more) to reflect on why you’re not enjoying it. There may be very good reasons for tears and fears. So cry and worry, and then call up your inner cheerleader and go on. Because that’s the only thing you can do. You have always wanted to go on to the next thing. It’s waiting for you. Go.


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