Having spent the majority of my career serving as a senior executive; I embrace the importance of decorum. Whether it is a department or an entire corporation reporting to you; there is an expectation that you will carry out your duties solemnly and with complete dignity. If you have ever spent even five minutes with me; you know that this is completely contrary to my character!
I live for the journey and truly spend little time thinking about the destination. The beauty of this philosophy is that if I ever get off track or take the wrong fork in the road; I am completely oblivious to the fact. More simply put, those who wander are not necessarily lost. In the simplest of terms; ignorance truly is bliss!
If you are not having fun doing it, then stop doing it. My father was a bit of a hillbilly philosopher and he imparted to those words to me while I was still quite young. I took them to heart and have always gone out of my way to enjoy my life. I revel in laughter and thrive in positive and upbeat environments. The only dilemma has been curbing my prankster tendencies. Somehow the phrase “pull my finger” does not resonate very well in the old board room!
Do not think for a moment that I have spent my entire professional life wearing a jester’s hat. I have negotiated multimillion dollar deals that took over a year to close. I have conducted business in multiple languages across some six dozen countries. On top of it all, I have made a great number of shareholders quite rich. Can I play the stoic professional C-level executive role well? Absolutely! Does it all leave a bad taste in my mouth? Positively!
It was in my third decade of senior management that I came to a sad conclusion; I was not being true to myself! Like any epiphany, I spent my fair share of time in denial. Then I went through the classic stages of anger, regret, and finally acceptance. Staring bleary-eyed into the bathroom mirror one morning, I gazed at a stranger in the reflection. It was time to reclaim my birthright personality. I could no longer fool the world by playing a stereotypical character who did not even resemble me!
At that stage of my career, I was serving as Vice President of Marketing and Sales for an integrated healthcare organization. One morning found me at headquarters, summoned to explain quarterly results and deliver future quarter forecasts. The night before had been spent in a Hilton suite, busily hunched over my laptop computer. The Power Point presentation that had taken me three days to research and compose had just been surgically altered in the span of an hour. I had infused a number of my slides with humorous asides and anecdotes. I took a deep breath as I entered the Board Room and wondered if I was playing career roulette!
The end result of my gamble was a reward beyond my wildest dreams. The presentation was enthusiastically received. I was actually treated to a round of applause at the conclusion! The Chairman of the Board informed me that he had never enjoyed reviewing sales numbers and projections as much as he had that day. Over time I began to inject even more fun into my presentations, sales calls, and staff meetings. The response was always the same. In the process I was able to connect more deeply with people, even those who were previously strangers to me.
It was late in the evening and I had just completed a day-long round of strategic planning with my executive staff. Heading down a long corridor leading to the parking lot door, I saw several members of the cleaning crew trudging towards me. Suddenly I was overcome by an undeniable urge. The next thing I knew, I was skipping down the hallway like a grade school student. The two custodians dropped their jaws momentarily and then began laughing. We chatted for a few moments and I then continued towards my car. Odd, I thought to myself. I had passed the two janitors countless times in the past; yet this was the first time we had ever spoken!
In the past ten years or so, I have skipped in public countless times. Customers, direct reports, superiors, family, friends, and strangers have all chuckled as I publicly broke into my trademark skip. My unexpected and uninhibited display of joy has made others feel good. I know it has made me feel great; and if I inspired others to skip as well, then I am the better for it.
Does life have you down? Do you feel overwhelmed by events and situations you cannot seem to control? Are you stuck in the shadows of self-pity and inner loathing? My only advice to you is “skip it!” By the way, when we finally do get a chance to meet in person; I will be sure to invite you to play hopscotch with me as well!