“Justice requires an accomplice.” -Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler

This week in a team meeting, we watched a TEDTalk about unlikely allies by Dr. Nita Mosby Tyler. “Justice requires an accomplice.” Those words hit me because they made me finally understand that I am required to make change.⁠

I think there are times in life when you realize that you need to be quiet and just listen. That’s where my head has been since I saw the murder of George Floyd. I’m seeking understanding and (re)educating myself on topics I thought I already understood. Ally-ship requires responsibility and I’m working on my qualifications to earn the title, Ally. ⁠

Women I Work With is a personal project and I don’t think people are looking for my press releases on current events. But I do feel a responsibility to the women who have committed their time and told me their stories to assure them that I am engaging in anti-racist work and believe Black lives matter.⁠

My commitment to becoming qualified as an ally will be reflected in my actions and participation in my community more than explicit social media posts. While social content is useful, I am a woman of action and it’s where I believe I will have the most impact. ⁠

I’m sorry it took me so long.

Do good deeds. Don’t get caught!

I remember when Prince died, people called into a radio station telling stories about his generosity and how it was contingent upon keeping it a secret. He probably made them sign contracts, he was so stubborn. I believe those stories. As a Prince fan, I’m well aware of his enforcement of secrecy at shows and parties. NO CAMERAS ALLOWED, EVER! If you got caught with a camera (or phone), you got thrown out and he kept your camera (or phone).

The marketer in me thinks this is a missed opportunity. These are the stories that build loyalty because they are authentic to the brand. It makes me wonder how different the public perception of him would’ve been if we knew more about his good deeds. Would more people have cared enough about him to ensure he was in good health?

The contrarian in me admired his commitment to secrecy. Remaining anonymous keeps the giver focused on the deed and eliminates a temptation to become the story. There is something powerful in that.

Do good deeds. Don’t get caught. I like this phrase. It’s simple and reminds me of my intentions. It also feels cool to make moves in secret, but the events of the last month have me rethinking that. 

As the shutdown of the economy was beginning, I saw a surge in posts about how people were donating and spending in their communities. I had my own “a-ha” moment about shopping at a local bookstore, instead of the chain store that I was used to. I felt like a dummy because I already prioritize my spending with small businesses, how did I miss the bookstore? l was influenced, and diverted my book purchases to the local store. Since I was influenced, I thought I would try influencing.

So, I posted about where I donated and how I spent with small businesses during that first week of the shutdown. Sharing my spending amplified a feeling of relief. A quick fix to the anxiety I had thinking about the unknown impact to my lovely city and her unique offerings. If I’m being honest, simply donating and spending made me feel just fine too. I’m unsure which had the biggest impact.

Do good deeds. Don’t get caught. It’s a good mantra, something I aspire to. As I reflect on it, I think it’s about finding a balance between sharing and not sharing and being clear about my intentions around the share. The true value of giving is in the act itself. Telling people about it, hopefully inspires them to lend a hand, but more importantly…it inspires them to act so they can experience how great it feels to help other people.

I’m curious, are you public about your kindness, or do you keep it to yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments.

How can I be of service?

Have you ever found yourself in a state of perpetual hunger for the next thing? For me, it always centers on “achieving.” It’s the next promotion, next big-name client, next design award, next, next, next. Focusing on next, fools me into believing that I’m moving forward, improving, winning, achieving. The problem is, I keep moving the goal line, so I’m always on to the next. What I’ve noticed is that I’m never really present and few things ever live up to my expectations once I get there. Get “where” exactly?

This insatiable need for the next thing has served me well in my career because that is what people hire me to do. I think of the possibilities and then bring them to life. I get paid well, I work with impressive people on impressive projects. Check, check. However, this mindset, unmanaged, has not served me well in my personal life. 

I recently found myself unable to see past “next.” All the “next’s” didn’t seem interesting, fun or worth it. It shut down my ability to be creative, which is debilitating and leads to all sorts of other problems. This wasn’t the first time I experienced this, it was just the most eye-opening. It forced me to ask different questions and find new methods for how I set my goals so I could enjoy the journey, rather than feel exhausted in a never-ending marathon. Instead of focusing so much on myself, I switched the questions I was asking. “How can I be of service?” instead of “How does this fulfill what I think is expected of me?”

That simple shift from self to service eliminated the creative block. Ideas started flowing again and I could see possibilities. Life didn’t seem hard, it felt easy. Opportunities presented themselves, I didn’t chase them. 

One of those opportunities was a position on the board of directors with an organization serving women entrepreneurs in Minnesota, WeMN.org. It was serendipitous how it all fell into place so I wanted to record this moment because I know I’ll need a reminder, now and again, that my mindset and what I truly value is the key to finding my joy and discovering all the possibilities.

Empathy trek

I was sitting on the idea for this blog for quite a few months. It just kept popping up in my mind as something that I needed to do. It was persistent and finally I was like “Fine…I’ll do it…Gaaaawwwwwdd.”

I was sitting on the idea for this blog for quite a few months. It just kept popping up in my mind as something that I needed to do. It was persistent and finally I was like “Fine…I’ll do it…Gaaaawwwwwdd.” Usually, when I do something, there’s a whole plan around it. What’s the strategy? What’s the intent? What will it look like? How will I execute? How will I sustain this? Is it scalable? Oh god, “Is it scalable?” is the biggest idea killer. The “planning” is exhausting and paralyzing and it’s really just an excuse to not start. In fact, when I published the first few articles, people I’d run into would ask those same questions. My honest reply: “I don’t know, I just want to do it.”

I started by sending an email to 12 women that I thought were cool. I estimated that I’d get half to participate. To my surprise, all 12 not only said “yes,” they were excited, supportive and generous. “Wow, that’s cool,” I thought. I was surprised, but totally pumped that all 12 wanted to play.

I started planning the photoshoots, scheduling interviews, developing the editorial calendar, designing the website and I was in full project management mode. Which really means that I was checking boxes and getting shit done, MY FAVORITE!!! It’s also a very disconnected mode. It’s all about moving the needle toward the deadline and not stopping to consider people. When I started having the interviews with the women I work with, I realized more was happening than just a blog about style and that I needed to take a pause and pay closer attention to the stories.

Originally, I thought style meant fashion. Let’s talk about where you shop and how you put your look together. SQUEEEEEEEAAAAAAL!!! But what was happening was an expression of true style, which as defined by Webster is: A particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character.

The weight of what was really happening hit me. Women were confiding in me. They were telling me their stories about how they grew up, failures in their careers, nerves about motherhood, insecurities about how they looked. The list goes on and on. “Oh, maybe don’t include THAT in the article.” Holy shit, they have a lot of courage and I have a bigger responsibility than I had anticipated.

And then they turned the tables on me. It started with Hannah. She was one of the first women featured. “When are you going to do it? I’ll write your article.” My knee-jerk reaction, in my head, was: “Never.” My outward reaction was probably an eyeroll, a face and some excuse why not. But it kept coming up. “When is it your turn?” “When are we going to see the face behind the blog?” “I want to read your profile.”

When I started this process, I didn’t really think through what I was asking of my friends. I see them through my lens and what I see is beauty, creativity, strength and tons of style. It NEVER dawned on me that what I was asking put the women I work with in a very vulnerable position. I had zero empathy and made a lot of assumptions about how easy this would be for them. Look at them, they are so cool, of course they want their photo taken!

As long as I was writing about and photographing other women, nobody was looking at me. I don’t want anyone looking at me or reading about my personal life and how I feel about my appearance. I’m boring, ugly and have no style. If I go in front of the camera and get interviewed, this will all be revealed. Everyone will see that I’m boring, ugly and have no style. And then what?

That’s the truth. As I write it, it makes me sad that I had those thoughts. I suspect a lot of women had similar thoughts and I suspect that when I ask them to participate in this project, they first go to that dark place and talk themselves out of it, take a deep breath, see the big picture and then send the email that says: “Yes Mary, I’ll participate.”

It takes a lot of guts to send that email and I didn’t realize that before. I’m grateful to the first 12 women. They exhibited a lot of courage and put themselves out there for a project that had no definition or clarity. I’m also thankful that they encouraged me to walk in their shoes through this experience because I’ve learned so much.

There’s still no plan or strategy, just a desire to tell more stories and a commitment to make things with the women I work with.

Is this thing on?

Excited to start writing again!

Excited to start writing again! This will be a space to tell the stories about the women I work with. They’re creative, stylish & smart. Stay tuned, the first feature will publish in about a month. Meanwhile, follow us on Instagram @womeniworkwith.