As I left Boston, I debated one question in my head: what will you do differently after this weekend. It is great to think about all the great lectures on authenticity and happiness, but really, does it matter? Will anything change? Will you be any different?
The big take-aways
Beyond the pure content I have tried to watch reunion weekend outside in to have a view on what I truly took away from it.
- Authenticity is a leadership trait that I truly believe in. The best leaders have this amazing ability to be true to self without compromise. Are they the most successful? Unclear. What I know now is how much it matters to me. It made me understand better the leaders I admire (and those I don’t) and also how I myself act with my team;
- Happiness is a thing everyone seems to be comfortable talking about these days and there is ever more research on it. The level of interest across HBS alums is likely at a peak and I feel more comfortable to have chosen these sessions over the strategy or climate change ones. I was also pleased not to have found a lot of new stuff and felt almost higher than average with my practices of stress management, gratitude and giving;
- Struggle is real – everyone I had a proper conversation with had their struggles along the way. Big or bigger, it does not matter, as all of our struggles are right sized to our own dimensions and not comparable. I found myself attracted to longer and deeper conversations with those willing to share their path and less prone to engage in random superficial talks in a vain effort to say hello to everyone.
My struggle with authenticity
I did not have to go far to struggle with my own conclusions. Even before reunion ended I was faced with a feeling of misalignment with those around me. After people shared their short 5 year updates in our section I ended up distraught at my choice to be an outcast. Why did I have to be authentic? Why could I not have stuck to the update that read ‘happily married, power job, 2 healthy children’ which was all in all true?
For my section update I chose to be authentic. Inspired by 2 days of good sharing and learning I chose to maintain the gist I adopted for my reunion book and talk to people about what I learned about the struggles of raising little people and living a fulfilled life. Not having prepared myself and as an average public speaker, I have a vague recollection of a tone that did not fit the room.
It took me a few hours to recover from it, until Hubby B really shook me and told me in plain English (yes, we have difficult conversations more often than not in English) this is my own choice, it is what I chose to stand for, what I want to represent – real high achieving people, not just high achieving all is good people. Authenticity.
What will I change?
I have tried to think of what I wanted to do differently after this reunion. As I get to the second week post mortem I could easily deviate and pretend I had no time. Change is hard. It takes real commitment, it takes consistency, it takes a lot of confidence, confidence that I do not always have. So I use my writing once again as therapy but also as a commitment:
Being in Touch
I will spend more time keeping in touch with more people from HBS than I have done in the past. I have not done this commitment before, so I am not just saying it because it was so cool to be there. In fact, I recognise that there are a lot of similarities between us and we don’t always support each other as often as we could (I still refuse the word should). In fact I have committed (in my head) to organize a few meaningful meet-ups every quarter and to reach out at least to 1 person per month. Not ambitious (but SMART) goals but I can already feel the pressure;
I will spend more time finding out about people and how they really are. In the conversations where I asked people about their true self, their struggles, more often than not I came out relieved that I was not alone in this thing called life. Moreover, it was great in understanding how people think through problems, react to different situations, prioritize at different times, or all of the above. It was a great personal learning experience and one that made my time in HBS more meaningful than ever;
Writing … ever more
I will write with ever greater confidence in this space that I am creating dedicated to growth. I lost count of the amount of people that came to me to tell me how they enjoyed reading my articles, how it may have helped them at different times, how they appreciated me being so honest. That is the goal in the end, to spread the message that growth is good and we all really need a bit of it (or a lot) in our lives. I was also a little bit proud (I am human after all) that there were so many savvy HBS people that were interested to read what I had to say.
Will I be different?
In an interesting manner, reunion weekend threw me a bit off track, just to show me what track I was in. The moment my braveness faltered and I went through a package of crisps thinking I just wanted to be like everybody else, I knew I did not really. In fact, I am like everybody else. I am just more open about it. With its good and bad. Because I have not tried this before, today I will try something different. Let’s go with affirmations on what I believe I could be different going forward:
I am ever learning
I welcome knowledge with open arms and I am willing to try new practices in my life. In all areas of my life, I seek improvement. I am not ashamed of my mistakes, rather I accept them and analyse them so I can avoid future mistakes. Also, I am not ashamed of what I don’t know, rather I can only be ashamed of what I do not ask. I dedicate my time to my own development as a key area of my life as I now know how that makes me more content;
It is ok to struggle
I embrace that life has ups and downs, no matter who you are and where you come from. The most privileged often count themselves out of entitlement to complain or suffer as the struggles we face are not comparable to so many worse worlds out there. However I accept that struggle can take many shapes or forms, and I have no guilt in my first world problems. I do however have perspective and that is key to help me get unstuck and move out of the struggle zone. I aim to keep that perspective no matter what. Mental health (or lack thereof) is real;
I am enough
This school always reminds me I am not an admissions mistake. I did not get in only because I am a minority with a charity story to tell. In reality, I got in on my own merits and excelled at what I did. I often forget that, and it is even easier to forget amidst a weekend like this. Amazingly enough, HBS made me remember this.
In fact, this was the big turnaround HBS did for me 10 years ago. For the first time ever, I believed my true self was enough.
Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash