So much for a long quiet morning to write. We have a dusting of snow here in Seattle so that means a two hour late start so that means my morning meditation this morning was alongside two wiggly middle-schoolers
and as I type they’re tucked under blankets play-fighting for turf on the sofa and giggling so I’ll make what I didn’t get written yesterday a part two to this next time to share some of what I’m learning about an unexpected topic: the importance of play in the workplace.
And for new subscribers who are waiting for the OKR worksheet I promised, it’s included at the very bottom of this post. Welcome, and thanks for subscribing!
Getting direction and applying the throttle
I’ve mentioned that I’m in a place of transition right now: from the security of a full time job into the abundant unknown. I set up an LLC for our consulting projects:
- Me: strategy, communications, advisory. I’m basically a really killer chief of staff for hire, for leaders working with purpose on work that matters.
- Mr. Sara: business, operations and logistics consulting, with a focus on motorsports projects (and selectively, restaurant / dining / F&B projects).
Together we’re a bit of a force, and we are taking on clients.
And in addition to client work, I’m still very selectively looking at day jobs. At the beginning of my search I was sending out 30+ applications a week to manage my anxiety; after the first of the year that’s slowed down to one or two (or less) a week, only for roles that really speak to my strengths and places where the work will be more “flow” and less “force” for me.
There are a million things I could do for a living, and usually my search is a process of finding a spot in the puzzle where a couple of my tabs line up with the blanks but I typically wind up lopping off one or two of my tabs to squeeze and squish myself into place.
My former colleague Julie listened patiently while I described that phenomenon a few weeks ago over a serendipitous coffee date and she reframed:
What if you imagine yourself just as you are, attracting exactly the adjoining puzzle pieces that are a perfect fit?
And I haven’t stopped thinking about that since she said it. It’s completely rewritten how I think about what comes next, and how I’ve approached the search. Putting these words together feel like a paradox, but I’ve moved from anxiety and scarcity to serendipitous abundance. And I like it.
Last week I did something I’ve never done before: I was flown in (!) for a panel interview with a start-up in San Francisco with one of those “perfect fit” roles and organizations I’ve been speaking with. The meeting involved giving a presentation that had to have certain criteria and I had several days to prepare (but a 90 minute max on preparation time per the assignment).
These are conditions that might ordinarily have resulted in a familiar pattern of anxiety, overthinking, overworking the work, and exhausting myself. Instead, this all fell during what was supposed to be a “rest week,” so I prepared accordingly. I decided to:
- pick something new to me that would be fun to present on: I was originally thinking about motorcycle-related topics but then saw an article in the Washington Post about toy companies creating toys for work-related “play” and decided that would be interesting and personally enriching to explore;
- manage my prep time to avoid overworking the work, and manage my nerves so that I was prepared but not overprepared.
So me, a hypervigilant oldest child who was most likely to play “adult” as a child — one of my favorite childhood photos is of me, around two years old, baby blonde hair hanging down around my shoulders, in a green puffy coat, playing with a rake in my parents’ backyard — decided to research and develop an in-room exercise around the reasons for and importance of “play” for adults.
Basically: I decided to practice “play” in my prep of a presentation about “play” at work.
And it went great.
I’ll share more of the substance of what I learned in the next issue, since I’m especially excited about one tidbit I didn’t expect: the role of play at work as a potential tool to reduce feelings of imposter syndrome. Cool, huh? More on that in two weeks. In the meantime, here’s a reading reco for you.
What I’m reading
In this in-between time I’m devouring books. Here’s a highlight from the stack I’m working my way through right now:
I heard Minda speak on a podcast awhile back and finally started her book (via Kindle and audiobook - I admit, Whispersync is one of my guilty pleasures so I can switch between listening and reading) yesterday and am already halfway through it.
The Memo is “a no-BS look at the odds stacked against women of color in professional settings, from the wage gap to biases and micro-aggressions, with actionable takeaways” to help women of color get their seat at the professional table.
It’s also essential reading for professional white women (and men).
Well-intentioned white ladies: we have work to do.
I’ve been actively increasing my inclusion toolkit after a formative experience a few years back working in a diverse environment where I had a front row seat, for the first time, to the experience young Black professionals can have in a corporate setting.
My ignorance made me a shitty ally, an ineffective leader, and I let that team down in multiple ways that I wish I could go back and undo and redo. Those incredibly talented and potential-filled young professionals suffered because of the leadership environment and culture that I was a part of. I knew at the time that what we were all experiencing (and especially what they were experiencing) Was Not Right. But I didn’t know what to do about it, and was focused more on navigating my own challenges in that environment (and benefiting from my own privilege in doing so). The whole experience started me down a years-long learning path that I’ll be on for the rest of my life.
It occurs to me — I’ve got both books in audiobook format, and I recommend that pairing. There’s something about the audiobook format that helps me just listen, with a different ability to notice when I get defensive or have a reaction / response to what I’m hearing. I notice, instead of reacting — which is, I think, a huge part of the change that needs to happen. More noticing, less reaction, more listening, more empathy, and more courage to spend some of my own privilege on ensuring seats at the table for Black women and other underrepresented people.
So I share these recommendations with you to enable the same learning: please read with the appreciation for the labor these women are investing that helps us be better allies / coworkers / leaders / neighbors / seat-makers. Please listen and consider, and do not read to react and respond. It’s a huge gift to be invited into Black spaces. Treat the opportunity with the respect it deserves.
And finally, as promised: here’s the worksheet I built for my opus on OKRs a few weeks back and promised to share again with new subscribers (welcome!):
With that, I’ve got snow to gaze out the window at. See you in two weeks!
Amelia, age 8, stayed up late last night to create this masterpiece by night-light:
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