A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action

 

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It’s 6:00am (on a Saturday, I might add) and I just finished working out. It’s this new thing I’m trying this year. Doing the thing that I committed to doing and then talking about it, instead of the other way around. I’m finding that there is power in doing, rather than discussing. It’s going to take some getting used to. You see, I’m an external processor and like to talk about all of my plans and intentions. My husband thinks that I’m constantly changing my mind, when really I’m just discussing all available options and running through each scenario before making a decision (I swear he loves me). I also like to externally process because it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. You planners and thinkers out there know what I’m talking about.

We all have goals, dreams, Pinterest boards, wishlists, intentions, and buckets lists. Sure, they can be helpful to set the tone for the day or year, but creating the lists and creating the goals doesn’t actually get the job done. Believe me, I’m just as guilty as the next person to slap up an inspirational quote on Instagram and feel like I’ve done something, well, inspiring. But have I really? Often the quest for the perfect quote or time spent thinking or planning on how to accomplish a particular goal are really just procrastination and distraction from doing the work.

Earlier this week everyone was posting their word of the year and I thought I should probably jump on that bandwagon. But why? Just because everyone else was doing it? Jordan Peterson in his book, 12 Rules for Life, talks about Rule #4, “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.” It’s that whole run your own race, stay in your own lane stuff. Was I choosing a word just because other people were doing it or because it was something that was meaningful to me? Jordan’s rule isn’t only about not comparing yourself to others. He explains that comparison is natural, we just need to be focusing that comparison on ourselves. Are we fractionally better than we were yesterday? If we can make those incremental changes each day, using our self from yesterday as the baseline, then we will make some serious gains in life. I think it comes down to being true to who you are and want you want, ignoring the cool kids and the haters, and following what interests you, what challenges you, and what will make you grow.

Now, back to my word of the year. Yes, I do think there is a place for them, for some people. They can offer clarity and guidance for the year ahead, just like thinking and planning. But how much thinking, planning, and self-reflection does a girl really need? I toyed with the word relentless because I really like that word. Why? Because I’m already relentless! That word isn’t going to challenge or change me. So, I scrapped that word and spent an hour or two googling synonyms for follow-through, because, you know, it’s the ONE word of the year, not two. I didn’t find any words that spoke to me. Finish kept flashing in my mind. I need to finish what I start, what I commit to, I need to follow-through.

No word is going to help me do that. I don’t even need a reminder. I know it. When I’m being honest with myself and not making excuses, that is. I am amazing at starting things – it’s in my fiery Aries blood. But finishing? Finishing is boring. I lose interest and want to start something new. The beginning is always the most fun and interesting part. Which is why after almost nine years I still haven’t “finished” my weight loss because I simply “start” it each week and allow the excuses train (unlimited pizza included) to come rolling on by. Finishing what I start comes down to one little concept, discipline, or as my Exec, Adam likes to say, “Mastering the boredom of success.” Truly successful people take action on the boring things. That is what I am committed to doing. But I don’t want to talk about it. I want to show you.

Are you being honest with yourself? Do you know what you need to do in order to achieve everything you want and live the life you desire? I bet if you stopped and thought about it (but not for too long), you would know what needed to be done.

I’m at a place in my life and career where I don’t need to find another word or do any deep soul searching, I just need to take action. That might change a few years from now when I’m in a different season of my life. But right now? This season? It’s all about the hard work. I know what I want. It’s time to get after it.

What season of life are you in? Do you need time and space to find clarity? Do you need to figure out who you are or what you want? Or is it time to get to work?

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Reading is Sexy. Do It More. Do It Often.

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My favorite thing to do for as long as I can remember is read. I have always enjoyed getting lost in other worlds with interesting characters, learning from the stories of incredible real-life heroes, or diving into a more prescriptive book to increase my business acumen. I enjoy reading so much that I majored in English in college just so I could spend four years with books!

Now, I’m a bit old school and prefer to read a physical book, rather than use an electronic reader (I need a break from screens!). Though, I will admit, I have finally adopted, and adapted to, audio books. It took me several years to get over my self-righteous approach to reading and finally get an Audible membership. Listening to books just didn’t feel “right.” But I’ve found a happy medium. Ninety percent of the books I listen to are for business or personal development. It’s the fastest way to absorb the most amount of information that I can then translate quickly into action (pro tip: set your Audible to at least 1.5X to go even faster). Reading for pleasure, though? I will always pick up a “real” book for that.

Since my 2019 growth plan includes a focus on finance and leadership, many of my books this year will trend towards those topics. But I still have a lot of great fiction to read too! In no particular order, here’s what’s on my 2019 reading list:

  1. Leaders: Myth and Reality by Stanley McChrystal and Jeff Eggers
  2. Winston Churchill by his Personal Secretary: Recollections of the Great Man by a Woman Who Worked for Him by Elizabeth Nel
  3. Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean by Karen Berman and Joe Knight
  4. Working on Yourself Doesn’t Work: 3 Simple Ideas That Will Instantaneously Transform Your Life by Ariel & Shya Kane
  5. Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten T. Hansen
  6. The Millionaire Messenger: Make a Difference and a Fortune Sharing Your Advice by Brendon Burchard
  7. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
  8. Good Leaders Ask Great Questions by John C. Maxwell
  9. The Women by T.C. Boyle
  10. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
  11. Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters
  12. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  13. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
  14. The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency by Chris Whipple
  15. Harvard Business Review’s Guide to Finance Basics for Managers
  16. The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course: Finance for Non-Financial Managers
  17. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
  18. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  19. The Road Less Stupid: Advice from the Chairman of the Board by Keith J. Cunningham
  20. The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
  21. The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith by Gabrielle Bernstein
  22. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
  23. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle
  24. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  25. It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario

Now, my goal is to read at least 52 books this year, just as I did last year. This list comes up a bit short. However, I know there are going to be several bestselling, must-reads that are released throughout the year. Case in point, my favorite book of 2018 was only published in the 30 days. In addition, my fiction choices are usually more spontaneous, so I have to leave some room for picking up a few light beach reads while I’m on vacation. Hell, three new books (not on my list) arrived on my doorstep from Amazon just since starting this post!

Whether reading on the beach, listening on the drive to work, hosting a book club, or adding another book (that I may or may not ever read) to my collection, books are my passion. Whatever the reasons you have for picking up a book, do it more and do it often.

You can follow what I read throughout the year on Goodreads and start your own 2019 Reading Challenge. Please share your reading list in the comments. I am always looking for my next favorite book.

Confessions of a Recovering Workaholic

 

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I’ve thought about how to write this post for far too long. At this time last year, I had just given my notice to Adam and told him that I would be leaving Adam Hergenrother Companies as of December 31, 2017. It was a decision that was not made lightly. It also didn’t last very long. By February 2018, I was back. In October of this year, I celebrated my eight year anniversary working with Adam. So much can happen in just one year.

Earlier this week, I posted briefly about that experience, which inevitably sparked a lot of messages and questions. hallie_2018

It was exactly the push I needed to write about it. I hesitated in the past, not because I didn’t want to share my story, but rather because I didn’t have any great answers. It’s taken quite a bit of reflection to be able to really articulate my thought process during that time. Here’s the long and short of it. I love my career. I love being a Chief of Staff. I love the company I work for. I love our team. I love our culture. I love the opportunities that are available to me. And I love being able to work alongside Adam every day. I was also burned out and had been operating like that for so long, I didn’t know any other way to “escape” from it other than to cut ties completely.

This is no one’s fault but my own. I am a work horse (perhaps more aptly, a stubborn mule). Head down. Blinders on. I was going to get done whatever needed to get done, no matter what. I did not ask for help. I did not wave a white flag. I just kept pushing forward.

I am a recovering workaholic. We actually talk about that concept at the office quite a bit. I would generally prefer to work with “workaholics” rather than those who are on the quest for work-life balance. Personally, I think work-life balance is bullshit. I don’t play in the middle well. So, at the other extreme is workaholism, right?

Well, let’s look at the actual definition of workaholic. A workaholic is defined as someone who compulsively works hard and long hours. I’m all for working hard. And as an Executive Assistant, and then Chief of Staff, long hours are a given. No problem. It’s the compulsively part that became an issue for me. I was living in fear that if I slowed down or took my eye off of work for just a minute, I would lose what I had worked so hard to attain. Success. Sigh. I was holding on for dear life to something that wasn’t sustainable and my relationships, health, and happiness began to suffer.

At the end of 2017, we hired an amazing Executive Assistant to help both me and Adam with the work load and we quickly got to work redistributing responsibilities. I was drowning. Amy was my lifeboat. I finally felt like I could breathe. I am fiercely loyal and would never have left Adam, the company, or his family without the support they needed. Within a month or so of Amy joining our team, I think I felt comfortable leaving because I knew Adam and the company would be taken care of.

Hindsight is 20/20. I didn’t actually need to leave the company. What I really needed was a sabbatical or extended vacation. Within about three weeks of leaving Adam Hergenrother Companies, I was questioning my decision and ready to be back in on the action. I missed the growth. I missed being pushed. I missed solving problems every day. I missed working alongside Adam to build a business. Could I have pushed through and continued to pursue my coaching and consulting opportunities? Absolutely. Would I have been successful? I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Would I have been as fulfilled as I am working as Chief of Staff? Nope. When I created this role for myself five years ago, I knew then, and I know now, that it is the position that I am meant to be in. My greatest fulfillment comes from aligning myself with a dynamic and driven leader and helping him or her succeed.

I’m am grateful that Adam answered my text that fateful January day and scheduled a meeting with me two days later. The reality is, I never really stopped working with Adam. Sure, I was no longer next to the corner office as Chief of Staff, but I was working on several writing projects with Adam and was still coaching though Adam Hergenrother Training. That wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted back in the inner circle. After several hours of discussion about rejoining the team (and in what capacity), Adam and I decided that I would resume my position as Chief of Staff. It’s exactly where I wanted to be. Same position. Same company. Totally different me.

I had a complete mindset shift and it truly changed my life.

The biggest shift was my conscious decision to put myself (which included my personal relationships) before work and let go of the outcome or consequences of doing so. I had to break a seven year long habit of saying yes to work fist. But I was determined. As I mentioned before, I was holding on so tightly to my career and identity as Adam’s Chief of Staff, it left little, to no, room for anything else. I had become one-dimensional, uninspired (and uninspiring), and ultimately, unfulfilled. I had to let go and allow other aspects of me to shine through. In doing so, I had the best year of my life. How’s that for an endorsement for self-care and work-life integration? Not only was I holding myself back from living a full life and realizing my potential, I was holding the company back (which was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do)! By not taking care of myself, by not having a clear mind, by operating at maximum [self-imposed] stress, and by not leveraging, I was not being the best leader I could be.

So, what activities or behaviors changed? Well, it’s sounds so simple, that I can’t help but laugh. When you’re in it, you’re in it, and can’t see the forest for the trees, am I right? Essentially, I said “yes” to life again. I said yes to date nights and let a project at work wait until the next day. I said yes to visiting our in-laws instead of working on a Saturday. I said yes to wine on the back deck and left my phone in the house. I said yes to long weekends and more travel instead of sitting at home reading yet another business book. I said yes to morning workouts instead of trying to get to the office first. Those were all things that got me to a certain point in my career, and I will never regret them. And it was time for a new chapter for my life and career.

As force multipliers (Executive Assistants and Chiefs of Staff), our work is so closely aligned with our leader’s role and responsibilities, it can be easy to forget who you are without them. While coaching and training force multipliers now, I hope to help them learn from my mistakes and put systems and strategies in place to both build a thriving career and not lose themselves along the way. I wholeheartedly believe in the grind, but there have to be rest and recovery periods. I forgot that very crucial step until year seven. Lesson learned.

My chapter as Adam’s Chief of Staff is not over. We have so much more to accomplish together. As “just Hallie” I have a lot more to do too.