Earlier in my career I was really aware of not wanting to look foolish. Even if I had no idea what was going on (which was frequent) I tried to seem as competent as possible. Fake it ’till you make it was one of my most cited personal mantras! As a young, youthful-looking woman in board rooms, I felt the need to over-prepare, over-communicate, and dress older than my age to be taken seriously. And that’s what I was aiming for- to be taken as a serious professional. I was young and green and the focus was on me: How I was going to be received, how the presentation would go over, whether my idea would be adopted, etc. At that time my worst nightmare would have been looking foolish.
But by the grace of God my life and career journey has progressed, and I don’t worry so much about looking foolish anymore.
Not much has changed externally… I still look young and I still feel like my job challenges me daily… but when I’m in the board room that’s not the main thing on my mind. These days I’m thinking about our patients.
This past week we held an important board meeting to discuss the future growth of our organization. Because of some pressing external factors, we were trying to envision possibilities without the time to follow all the normal processes of drafting a plan. My co-leader and I had done our best to prepare, research, meet with experts, etc. but nonetheless there came a point in the board meeting when, in front of a room filled with brilliant executives, I stood up with a single piece of white legal paper and described in earnest a sketch I had done depicting a potential building project complete with a childlike depiction of Good Sam’s logo.
“We should probably hire an architect.” said one board member (ha! agreed!)
“We may be putting the cart before the horse here… we need a plan.” said another (yes, amen!)
Another board member’s face said it all… a sort of, are you serious? expression. I would have looked the same way if the situation were reversed.
I know how it came across- green, immature, unsophisticated… but it started a discussion that could lead to big things. Specifically, bigger and better resources to address social determinants of health for our patients- increasing their quality of life and longevity. And it started the conversation at just the moment it needed to happen.
Later as I replayed the entire day in my head I thought about those moments and laughed. Sure it wasn’t my most competent looking moment (even my business dress and blazer couldn’t compensate for stick figure sketching!) but I didn’t mind.
I realized an important truth about myself that day: I’m willing to look foolish for a good cause.
I see more of this happening in the world today- women leading out front in big roles and taking risks, charting new territory, and creating new normals. I am encouraged by them and it empowers me to do the same – homemade sketches and all.