Report card day. Remember? Handwritten teacher notes, academic grades, effort grades, and even “deportment” grades.
Sitting at the kitchen table, our nightly tradition, Mom made one of our favorite casseroles. After our usual lively conversation about the day, we would get the “dreaded” invitation from our Dad, “Let’s have a look at your report cards.”
I say “dreaded” because that was my feeling about report card night. Not because I was ashamed of my B’s, C’s, and occasional A’s, but because my sisters always excelled.
One by one, we each produced our report cards. Dad looked at each of them with genuine interest and sincerely acknowledged each of us for subjects we did well in, while asking us how we could improve where knowledge was lacking.
Conversations That Change Lives
Never once did he compare us, but it was in those moments I told myself I wasn’t as smart as my sisters. But it was a different situation that changed my life forever.
As a high school freshman, after reviewing my PSAT results, my guidance counselor said, “You are probably not college material and should pursue another path.” That one comment fired me up and motivated me to thrive not only in college, but also in life!
From the moment we were born, our middle-class parents worked hard to save for college so our lives would be better than theirs. Mom’s “cash envelope budget system” for food, mortgage, and education visually messaged their dreams for their five children. How dare my guidance counselor tell me I wasn’t college material!
That afternoon, when I told Mom that story, she grabbed my arm, drove me back to school, burst into the guidance counselor’s office, unannounced, and said:
“How dare you tell my daughter she is not college material?! We’ve saved for all of our five children to go to college. She is going to college and she will excel!”
Ongoing Challenge and Inspiration
Having mom stand up for me in that way inspired me more than she probably ever realized. In life, whenever confronted with thoughts like “I’m not smart enough,” I would be reminded of Mom’s loving words of ire!
When one part of my brain is telling me “Impossible!” the other part of my brain says anything is possible if I want it badly enough.
I’m grateful for my sisters getting their straight A’s. They not only went on to become very successful but also inspired me to always do my best.
For the past 35 years, I’ve owned and operated a very successful interior design firm, designing projects all over the country, from Supreme Court Justice Chambers, to corporate penthouses, to elegant kitchens and tiny houses.
I’ve had the opportunity to make a difference in peoples’ lives through design and innovation. I found my passion, my niche, and have thrived in the areas I was naturally good at and felt most comfortable in.
A New Challenge: Getting Out of My Own Way
But I avoided areas that I was not good at and became reliant on others for those tasks, primarily when it came to technology. This freed me up to excel at what I did best and to move quickly and successfully through project after project.
Thus, my team operated like a well-oiled machine for many years… until Covid-19.Suddenly, we were asked to shutter our businesses, work from home, keep on doing what we had been doing for all of those years – and we had to adjust overnight!
I was challenged, confronted, and afraid. How could I possibly run my business this way when I’d depended on my employees to handle “all things tech”? I realized I would now have to do most of what I hadn’t felt capable of doing.
Here’s what Covid-19 did to me:
- It challenged me to WANT to learn something I never wanted to learn before.
- It made me retrain my brain to say, “I CAN do that thing I had been telling myself I couldn’t do.”
- It made me believe in myself.
Reframing the Story We Tell Ourselves
Why do I tell you this deeply personal story? Because, like me, many baby boomers have been telling themselves this exact same story for years:
- “I am not good at technology.”
- “I don’t know how.”
- “I’ll have someone else do it for me.”
In our defense, you may recall it was not normal for us to:
- Use a keyboard to write a letter or document. We handwrote them on letterhead or on a notepad.
- Use a phone to text message our clients or loved ones. We picked up the phone and called them instead.
- File our work or save documents in the cloud. We filed our important papers and documents in a file cabinet.
Many of these “die-hard habits” are still part of our DNA because that’s what we’re used to and what we are comfortable with.
But things have changed and will continue to change.
We no longer have a choice. It’s time for us to wake it up and shake it up. Covid-19 has forced us to get real about the digital age and our need to embrace technology – if we are to continue to grow and thrive.
A Brave New World (and Brave New You)
I hope my story will inspire other baby boomers who have been unwilling to confront their fear of technology and who are still saying, “I don’t know how.” Instead, add these simple words to that statement: “But I’m willing to learn.”
I’ve recently been asked to deliver a keynote address via Zoom to over 1,000 people… a speech I would have previously given in person, on stage, to a live audience. But, because of restrictions due to the pandemic, this keynote must be a pre-recorded video, edited and uploaded by me!
Am I confronted? Yes.
But I am also determined to figure it out – and nail it!
It took a pandemic to help me say yes to an opportunity that was right in front of me the whole time. It took a pandemic to help me see through my own barriers that prevented me from seeing what was possible. Nothing can stop me now!
How often do you catch yourself thinking “I can’t do this”? Do you really believe this to be true, or is it more of a self-fulfilling prophecy? What new and challenging thing have you accomplished because you crashed through your self-limiting beliefs and decided to learn? Please share your experiences with our community and let’s grow together.