People seem to come into your life at just the right moment. Exactly when you need them. Or their message. Such is the case with Wendy Clark. I had the pleasure of meeting Wendy last week, while at the Conversations with Coca-Cola conference. One of the segments of the conference featured a panel of women leaders at Coca-Cola. The company has a women’s leadership group of sixteen, and we were lucky enough to hear from four of them. The leadership program was born from a need to have women represented in key leadership positions at Coca-Cola, and each of the women we met were down-to-earth, congenial, crazy smart, empowering and inspiring. Wendy was one of them.
One of the things I struggle with most is balance. To have enough of ME to give to my work, my kids, my home, and still manage to have a little bit left over to give back to myself. I feel like I am constantly juggling balls and not giving myself completely, enough, to anything. It’s a matter of keeping the balls all up in the air, letting nothing crash to the ground. It’s an impossible feat. And the process can make you crazy. As part of our morning program at the conference, we had to create a vision board that briefly highlighted where we were in our lives, what we were trying to achieve and how we were going to get there. Our morning quickly turned into something that resembled a Kindergarten craft time session, as the invited bloggers clipped photos from magazines, and taped and colored our way to our own personal masterpieces. The left part of my board depicted a frazzled mom and the words “fed up.” The right side of the board featured pictures of a serene, simple and content life. As I got up to speak in front of everyone, I talked about how I felt like I was always juggling and that I felt like I wasn’t devoting enough attention to any one thing at the right time. You know, the classic being pulled in all directions scenario that most women struggle with. After all the bloggers presented their boards and accompanying thoughts,we heard from the women’s leadership panel. And Wendy’s words were the most important that I would hear during that conference.
Wendy Clark, Senior VP, Integrated Marketing and Communications at Coca-Cola, might have possibly changed my life on Monday. At the very least, how I operate within it. She said “Balance is a false goal. I will not let the family I love be in a tug of war with the job I love. I won’t pit them against each other. You need to divide your life into little slices … work, family, home, spouse … and give yourself completely to that slice at that moment. If you’re at work, you give it 100% when you’re there. When you’re with your family, they get 100% of you.” Of course, she went on to say that there will be the occasional interruption or fire that needs to be taken care of. That’s life. But the idea of giving up on trying to balance everything, trying to juggle everything at the same time … that was exactly what I needed to hear. Right then.
The Coca-Cola conference was designed to talk to us about what they’re doing as a company (did you know they voluntarily pulled all their vending machines out of elementary and middle schools?), how they’re giving back (like their Sprite Sparks Parks initiative), and some of their partnerships (McDonald’s anyone?), but they gave me, and the rest of the bloggers, so much more. Everything is suddenly much more clear. Of course, life is still not without its challenges. What life would it be otherwise? But I learned that the biggest and best way for me to be committed to anyone, to anything, is to give of them fully and completely in that moment. If I’m with my kids, I’m with my kids. If I’m working, I’m working. There will surely be overlap here and there; it’s unavoidable sometimes. I will continue to go in ten different directions. That’s my life. But I will focus on one direction at a time.
Inspiration is funny. You never know when or where it will strike. It can come from something as mundane as a television commercial or out of the mouth of your eight-year-old. From a book on your nightstand or when I flew south to the Mothership that is Diet Coke. Wendy Clark, I owe you many of my upcoming sane moments. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
PS – That first picture of me in front of the vending machine? Those vending machines are throughout the corporate Coca-Cola office, with the word “free” splashed across the area where you deposit your coins into. Free Diet Coke. Love that! One of the women at the conference told me that every floor has a slightly different vending selection.
The deal was that if she got her nails done, she got to choose the color for both of us. Sparkle glitter polish is what happens when you leave the decision up to a three-year-old. She would only get a pedicure. She was afraid if she got her fingers done that she wouldn’t be able to suck them anymore.