Why did I order salad that day when I really needed a sandwich?
Salad is the healthy choice, yes - but chicken on a bun would have been wiser.
I was hungry, surprisingly not tired, thinking about my To-Do’s and excited about meeting up with one of my long-standing mentors for lunch.
We started off with our usual topics - exciting life updates, successes and funny kids stories. It brought joy for me to tell her that our oldest daughter is convinced that the new baby we’re expecting is a brother and she wants to name him ‘Pedialyte.’
I was halfway through my salad and we dove into the necessary topics - life, career, meaningful failures, impactful projects and long-term goals. Nerves and excitement hit me when I shared the recent discussion with my Leader about possibly pursuing a larger leadership role. This topic was as fresh as my salad because it came into play not more than 24 hours ago.
As my trusted mentor, she asked me a lot of questions. Some were easy breezy and others were tough to answer. This came as a surprise to me.
Why are you excited about this opportunity? Easy.
How does this align with your long-term goals? Easy.
What is the current state of the role, what are the desired outcomes? Easy.
What do you need to be successful in the new role? Semi-hard.
How’s the balance at home? Is your spouse still traveling? Semi hard.
Where do you see yourself with the organization in two to five years? Hard.
How much time, energy and brain space would it require? Hard.
What would be the impact on your new family member? Hard.
What do you want to do? Oh boy.
Then...I cried. No joke, I burst into tears at lunch. Perhaps others around me thought it was normal to see a pregnant woman crying in the middle of a restaurant. Looking down at my salad didn’t help. I kept thinking, ‘Why did I order this salad? I could really use those carbs right now!’
The thought of taking on a new challenge always entices me. It pulls at my internal hardwiring with full force. It captivates my attention and deep desires to achieve. Frankly, it pushes my ego into dangerous territory. I thrive on a challenge - the prospect of what’s next is enticing and draws greater excitement than what has already been accomplished. I’ve learned that this is my 23 year old voice on my right shoulder chirping in my ear.
I am no longer my 23 year old self.
My 33 year old self is in on a different stage, with a different audience. This voice sits on my left shoulder and values brain space over monstorours to-do lists, peace over chaos, faith over fancy titles and most importantly...time. Life is unfolding beautifully and my 33 year old self is more accepting of ‘You can have it all. Just not all at once.’ This is still a work in progress for me. It used to be my natural instinct to tackle everything at the same time, but I burnt out and learned it wasn’t sustainable for me or my current stage of life. Each day the voice on my left shoulder gets louder, stronger and I know it is speaking to my best future self.
After 20 solid minutes of crying with my Mentor, my salad became mushy and I understood what I truly wanted. Ice cream (of course) and a weekend to circle reflect. This is when I challenge myself to internally reflect deeper on something I’ve already explored.
A few days later I happened to be listening to a podcast featuring Deepak Chopra, a spiritual thought leader, and he described his experience as a Buddhist monk in Thailand. On the last day, one of the Monk’s said to him, “The most important time in your life is now. The most important person in your life is the one you’re looking at right now. The most important thing you can do in your life is what you’re doing now. The best way to prepare for the future is to be totally present now. Forget all your learnings, just remember, now is the moment that never ends.”
I sat with this for a long time because my mind’s natural state is to immediately race to the next thing - the next opportunity, the next conversation, the next project...you get the idea. Then my Mentor’s voice sprang back into my head, “Do not forget for one minute how wonderful and special you are. Pay attention and steer toward what is best for you and your family.”
Focusing on now is what is best. Not only for me, but for those around me. The present moment is the simplest and most difficult space to absorb. I encourage all the Kick Ass Ladies to center on your now.
You can learn more about Sarah on LinkedIn.
When it comes to supporting women as leaders, there is not a whole lot I find more important than the topic of parental leave. After hearing a great conversation about the topic on the Harvard Business Review's podcast Women at Work, I reached out to share more personal story and thoughts. Please find that original story below and a link to the follow-up podcast which features my story.
My personal story:
I had a pretty easy time returning from my first maternity leave (12-weeks) with my daughter. Upon returning, my daughter slept well and while I felt the guilt discussed in the podcast, I feel I managed the return well. Fast forward 17 months to the birth of my son and the return could not have been more different.
I took 13 weeks off with my son. While I had no paid maternity leave from my company, I did have short-term disability and was able to cash in some saved-up paid time off. Within 3 weeks of returning to work, my son got RSV. I ultimately made the difficult decision to go back on FMLA so I could get my son healthy enough to return to daycare. During this process, my son had severe respiratory issues and it’s safe to say none of our family was sleeping adequately.
Upon returning from FMLA, my son regained his health but our sleep did not return. In addition, I made a decision to introduce formula to supplement my breastfeeding so my husband could better assist with nighttime feedings. My son fully rejected the idea of formula by projectile vomiting it up.
In the 18 months that followed, I lost count of my sick days. I eventually took my FitBit off because when I saw an average sleep duration of two hours and 45 minutes felt it was mocking me. My son continued to suffer from respiratory issues at the slightest sign of illness in part due to the lasting effects of RSV. He was diagnosed with asthma, had surgery to get tubes in his ears, regularly broke out in hives and NEVER slept through the night. We removed him from his daycare center environment for three months in an attempt to regain his immunity, put him on a daily steroid medication to proactively ward off respiratory issues and cleaned up more throw-up at 2 am than I care to admit.
Almost two years after my son was born, I left my job in part due to exhaustion. I had no immediate new job lined up. I was burnt out and walked away from a good job. At the time of my departure, I was the only female on the executive leadership team. A note I feel is important.
Ultimately, we learned that my son has food allergies. He is anaphylactic from coconut (all infant formulas that I have checked include coconut oil as a key ingredient). Many of his respiratory issues can be connected to this fact and the contraction of RSV at such a young age.
I know this is not the average example, but I do think it’s an important one. I was fortunate. I could afford to spend 13 weeks with my son despite no paid maternity leave policy at my employer. I also benefited from a flexible work environment that allowed me to work remotely while my son was sick quite often. And, ultimately I was lucky to be able to walk away when I did.
What I’m left to wonder, however, is whether a better parental leave policy could have helped me, my family and my employer. While it’s certainly hard to prove anything in retrospect, I can’t help but wonder if I could have taken more time off with my son if he would have gotten RSV (he contracted this at daycare). Without the RSV and with more time at home, I don’t believe we would have made the decision to supplement with formula and therefore would not have exposed him to coconut so early. While there were many hard costs associated with a child who was chronically sick for the first two years of his life, there are also countless soft costs – damage to relationships, self-esteem and confidence.
For my company, they had a leader who was exhausted, stressed and regularly suffering from both absenteeism and presenteeism. Ultimately, I can’t help but wonder what opportunity cost existed upon my departure in regard to collective IQ at the executive leadership team level.
What has occurred to me since this situation is that we can do better. If not with more paid parental leave programs than with better processes to help women return to work. I wish there would have been an outlet for me to utilize to discuss the fact that I did not feel I was ready to return after 13 weeks. In addition, I wish someone would have asked me how it would have been best for me to return. Did I want to work a big project or would I rather ease back in? I tend to always want the former despite most assuming the latter.
Finally, I did raise the white flag to my employer. I voiced the fact that my return wasn’t going well on numerous occasions, and, honestly, they were very supportive. Another very important note. I just truly don’t think anyone knew how to help.
I believe this conversation is at the center of helping push women forward. I believe the cost is too great to families, females and employers. And, I am interested in hearing your story over a cup of coffee. Please reach out!
You can find Amanda on LinkedIn.
I recently had a fellow Kick Ass Lady share a familiar story with me. It was familiar because it sounded an awful lot like my own. Unfortunately, too many ladies have experienced it.
And there’s no reason.
It’s called the ‘Pass and Go.’
One woman sees an opportunity to pass the other and go. She chooses to accelerate herself to the next level of leadership and speed up her career. Alone. She passes in the left lane without signal, no courtesy wave, not even a mini warning sign is present.
‘Pass and Go’ takes place at full speed. You barely see it. But it happens. The lanes merge and one of you must move. The road narrows quickly and instead of offering to inch forward so one can follow the other’s leadership path, or stopping to construct a better road wide enough for both leaders, someone must exit. It’s a hard exit. It’s unanticipated and you’re not familiar with the landscape. Your only choice is to look in the rear view mirror and reflect.
In my personal experience with the ‘Pass and Go’ my fellow female leader knew what was happening. I knew it too. Exposure existed, and growth could have been gained.We could have made steps toward better communication, a more productive and positive relationship, a new appreciation for different working styles and diverse thoughts - it was all there...out in the open, on the table, ready to be solved.
Why are women not bringing other women along on the leadership path? Why are women not offering mentorship, support and wisdom to other aspiring female leaders instead of executing the ‘Pass and Go?’ This selfish act delays women’s growth, their potential and future success. It only benefits one woman and is executed in a scarcity mindset.
As women, why do we do this to one another?
Especially when we have access to research the proves female leadership benefits the workplace.
Why aren’t more women helping each other to the top? Frankly, I’m not interested in find the answer. I don’t believe in the scarcity mindset or the ‘Pass and Go.’ I simply must ask the question because it carries no logic. It holds no truth. It forges zero path for growth and creativity. It does not support the greater good for women and it is the polar opposite of a positive approach to leadership.
When the moment is available (and to be clear, it is almost always available), bring a future female leader in your space, share your knowledge and invite her into your network.
I will never forget when I moved to the exit lane. I’m guessing my fellow Kick Ass Lady will never forget it either.
I smiled, turned and walked gracefully to a new road.
Today I’m happy to be traveling to meet another Kick Ass Lady. I have deep respect for her as one of my former leaders. Without hesitation, she always made room for me in the lane next to her and took me on the leadership road. I will be forever grateful for her.
There’s no reason not to.
Smiles from my flight: Row 15-Seat B,
You can learn more about Sarah on LinkedIn.
It’s 5:43am on a beautiful Saturday in September and I cannot sleep. I recently had coffee with my Kick Ass Lady Club co-founder, Amanda, and my mind is racing.
Don’t give up.
You got this.
Suck it up.
We’ve all heard these phrases from our closest family, friends, mentors and supporters. We may even use these phrases in our self-talk and repeat them throughout the day. However, what happens when we don’t listen to our deepest voice? When our soul is sounding the alarm and we block out the noise because we don’t want to quit or don’t believe we can call it quits because we’ll be ashamed, scared, disappointed, defeated, upset.
To this I reply – absolutely. We might experience these things and more…joy, relief, exhaustion, focus, rejuvenation, calm, inspiration.
Last summer, I was fortunate to reconnect with a former classmate, Toni Bubb. She said something to me that I will never forget, “I was burnt out and fortunate enough to recognize it. I quit and took back my life.” Toni’s story is phenomenal. She is now inspiring women, business owners and driven individuals in a variety of industries in her business and through her presence as a Professional Lover of Life!
In the winter, I was introduced to Annie VanderWerff – the Executive Director of Community Health Initiative, Haiti. She made a big professional leap in 2015 and we had a very open, honest conversation on the phone. She inspired me through her goal of authorship, intentional approach to life, and message, “I only have so much time on this earth, and I’m here for a reason.”
During January, a friend introduced me to Holly Adams. She stepped away from her career in corporate this April to launch her own business – Holly Adams Consulting. She walked me through a values exercise and rejuvenated my spirit. I eagerly await her Wednesday Wisdom each week and I’m a fan of her “Why not?” approach.
In the spring, I had a wonderful day with my dear friend, Shelly Berkoski. She reaffirmed my move and shared her exciting endeavor of entrepreneurship in her business Shell Yeah! Shelly is in the constant state of ‘telling it like it is’ and I love her for each of the truth bombs she tosses my way. Her story relates to many women and I’m grateful for her friendship. Through her work, she spreads the message of let your awesomeness shine, “People might describe me as too tall, too loud, too cheesy, too weird and too awkward. But after years of doubting myself, I have finally figured out that I’m not “too” anything. I’m just me—and that’s awesome.”
In April one of our very own Kick Ass ladies, Lindsay Leahy, made an exciting move and left her existing gig to take on independent contract work. I had no doubt she would succeed! She has since teamed up with a local company and is inspiring me through her must-read Blog: Grit, Gratitude and Grace.
My mentor, Molly Altorfer, was a much-needed reality check on setting up my own personal branding business, Signature Z. I admire her self-paved career path at The Common Sense Collective. Molly also challenged me to, “Develop a new way of measuring success and make a conscious choice to not do it all.”
My most recent example, a colleague and friend Stacie Osako encouraged me, “It’s OK to be brave and vulnerable. Find a path that is purpose-driven.” I’m extremely proud of her for putting her health and happiness as top priorities and starting a new chapter this summer.
All these women chose some form of ‘quit’ in their lives, careers, personal well-beings. Big, bold moves that have propelled them to new places. My version of ‘quit’ took months for me to fully embrace, understand and appreciate. The experience was challenging, frustrating, uplifting, maddening, gripping, surreal and happy all at the same time.
Hail to the quitters. You turned a four-letter word into a pivotal moment that taught me to fail (and keep failing), listen to myself, construct new paths, offer grace and stretch the mind.
Keep it up quitters.
Smiles from my living room,
You can learn more about Sarah on LinkedIn.
I’m striving for straight F’s – no A’s in my game.
You can’t be serious.
Oh, but I am.
This is a major shift for me. I used to be focused on all the short-term wins and I was “great” at it:
This new space…is much different. From my Coach, Sarah Young, it is shift from the Kitchen to the Playroom – it is a movement to focus inward, listen deeply and remove my false-self. This is very challenging for me. Similar to the company I keep, it is not easy to slow down, keep things simple and travel on the unknown journey. However, in times of change, suffering, or new beginnings – this is exactly what I need. All F’s on my Rethink Report Card.
A continuous journey for me. I’ve always considered myself a spiritual person, but I’ve taken big steps this year to be diligent in this area. I read daily, speak with others, practice silence, listen to podcasts, spend time in nature and journal more than I have in a decade.
My Dad always says, ‘Your Health is your Wealth.’ I know this to be true, but taking care of my physical self…Ooo whee, this is a tough one for me. I’m a sugar addict and taking steps to recover. This year I visited a Dietician. Plus, my husband and I are working through a great debate…will I really be able to do a pull-up if I work at it for one full year?
Family and Friends
This group of people (you know who you are) are treasures. I’m working every day to Lead from the Heart and give them my best all day, rather than what’s left at the end of each day.
Strange, I know. Why is this on my Card? Over time, I’ve learned I have a vast amount of energy and focus. At times, I forget to take breaks. Short stops have become my friend and I’ve incorporated fun in mundane, everyday moments. Example: my daughter and I have ‘Curious Question Time’ while we drive home and lately I’ve been ramping up the number of cartwheels I can do in a row. Oohhh yea!
For the Cause
This year I’m forming a new road in my career path by stepping into the non-profit world. I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity with Kids on Course and excited to learn from the talented Team. In this role I’ll be dedicated to one of my greatest passions – education. I can’t wait to get started!
Financial and Founder
As a woman in the United States, I believe I have a great responsibility in the financial arena. Money is a tool and I intend to better my community with it. Amanda and I co-founded the Kick Ass Lady Club and it has ignited REAL conversations among women. I saw our ladies reach out to one another, make new connections and laugh about random subjects. An immense joy.
To all the Kick Ass Ladies, what’s on your mind?
Smiles from my outdoor deck, squinting and sweating.
You can find Sarah on LinkedIn.
As you all know, I decided to walk away from a job that had burnt me out about a year ago. Personally, this was one of the best decisions I have made for myself. I am a stronger person today. Happier. More organized. And, I have a bit of swagger back that had been missing for too long.
But, something about the decision haunts me to this day.
There was a male coworker with whom I did not completely jive. He was a key executive at the company and made me very uncomfortable. When he spoke to me, even in group settings, his entire demeanor changed. He was defensive, combative and abrasive. And, I’m sure I was many of those things too. Ultimately, we were offered the opportunity to seek professional coaching on how better to work with one another, or one of us would need to exit the leadership team.
He was a partner. He sat on the board. I was the marketing director. It felt a little reminiscent of David and Goliath.
I exited the company.
I feel a strong commitment toward helping other professional women. I feel we can only get to the top if we bring other women along with us. And, unfortunately, I think I failed in this situation. I worry I did not do enough to correct his behavior. I fear I let the power dynamics help dictate my decision. I worry the next woman who sits in that leadership room with him will be treated the same way. And, maybe unfairly, I feel responsible.
Ultimately, I don’t think I had the personal strength to engage. It had been a tough few years for me, and I don’t think it was a battle I could win given my state. Still, I can’t help but wonder, when do we engage in the fight to make the workplace a little better for the women who are yet to come?
And, when is it OK to exit?
You can find Amanda on LinkedIn.
I knew I needed a change. On my first day back from maternity leave round II, returning to a job and company I loved – I got the call. My husband called informing me our oldest daughter had to go to the Emergency Room. Whoa, that’s crazy. Yes, it is – but what’s even crazier is… I chose to stay at work that day.
One hour after that call, I stepped into the Lactation Room and my mind racing,
What was happening?
Where was my mind?
Where was my heart?
Fast forward a few months and I’m sitting across from a phenomenal woman that ironically, I met on a phone interview. She had recently made a career change and I reached out to pick her brain. She had a magnet personality, big dreams and encouraged me to take time, and create space in my head and heart for this new journey. The best part, she offered her energy and several times asked me, “What can I do to support you?”
I’ve always kept this quote of Maya Angelou close, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Amanda helped me feel whole again.
When she shared her big dream with me, creating a crew of kick ass women – I instantly knew this would be special. There is a reason our paths crossed, our connection is strong and our desire to build this group and fuel other women is relentless.
Since my career change took place, I’ve met some amazing women that have lifted my awareness, sparked additional inspiration and swooped in as my backup singers for when my voice cracks on ‘The Stage of Life.’ To all of you - a deep Thank You. Through the Kick Ass Lady Club, we’ve found an avenue to help others connect in the same way, grow those connections and help us build a community that will spark, ignite and fuel a fellow lady’s dream. Maybe she desires a career change, a new role, different industry, or perhaps she is starting her own business or growing her side hustle, whatever it is...there is nothing like having a core group around to energize your spirit, build your confidence and laugh with you in all the new moments.
I’m smiling with tremendous joy because I saw the unique spark that took place at the first Kick Ass Lady Club, I felt a jolt of energy and I know these ladies are willing to help one another, add a punch of raw truth and form a group so strong that everyone will wonder what protein bites we’ve been baking in our spare time 😉.
You know who you are, we welcome your energy. Here’s to a new way of connecting - it’s genuine, it will stretch your potential and we couldn’t be more ready for the laughs, grind and relationships to come.
Our energy is only the beginning.
You can find Sarah on LinkedIn.
It all started about nine months ago. I made the decision to leave a job without knowing exactly what I’d do next. I had two kids in two years and worked tirelessly for a company that was experiencing a lot of change. I was exhausted. And burnt out.
I took some time off, and in doing so, opened myself up to meeting new people and learning about new opportunities.
This started my noticing of two things.
First, everywhere where I went – coffee shops, job interviews, and various events – I was meeting a whole bunch of kick-ass ladies. I recognized that many of us were of similar ages experiencing similar challenges – both at home and in the workplace.
Second, I noticed these same kick-ass, driven women doing what I had done. In no simple terms, they were saying in their own unique ways; “I’m done with your rules, I’m making my own!”
They were starting their own businesses, choosing self-employment and charting their own way in established companies.
I recently read the transcripts of Abby Wambach’s commencement address at Barnard College. She spoke of the wolves in Yellow Stone National Park. She explained that in 1995 wolves were re-introduced to the park after being absent for seventy years.
In the wolves’ absence, the deer’s presence grew, and while the deer grazed endlessly on the vegetation, the river banks began to erode.
And, she explained, upon the reintroduction of the wolves to the habitat, the deer thinned out. But, more surprisingly, the rest of the environment changed as well. The deer avoided the valleys and the vegetation in those areas grew. Birds and beavers move backed in, trees sprouted, and the rivers reformed. The plant regeneration stabilized the river banks. The rivers steadied.
What do wolves have to do with kick-ass ladies?
The ladies, like the wolves, have the power to balance our local ecosystem.
The rules they are creating are the rules that will stabilize our environment and allow the living things all around us to grow – both at home and in the workplace.
These kick ass ladies. This space. This club will be our wolf pack. We will laugh our way to stabilization and grow our way to steadiness.
Please join us.
You can find Amanda on LinkedIn.