Freudenfreude

It’s been a hot minute. Not that I haven’t been working on things, but other things have just taken precedence. But they are just things, not important things.

On Friday, I will be participating on The Blueprint Power Panel for Conant Leadership’s The Blueprint Leadership Summit, hosted by Doug Conant. It is, in and of itself, a privilege to have been asked to share my personal leadership model and several leadership practices I use to bring it to life. However, I said yes before I saw the lineup. Upon seeing the lineup, my fan-girling heart did a somersault and lept for joy.

Somehow, I ended up in the same speaking lineup as Brené Brown, Susan Cain and Liz Wiseman. I don’t have enough brain cells to wrap around how or why it happened, but I can tell you it is (most likely) once in a lifetime and I am incredibly grateful. And nervous. And excited. And all the feels, all at once.

In preparation for Friday (and with a bit of indulgence), I binge-watched Brené’s new series on HBO Max Altas of the Heart. I’m reading through the book with my Dare to Lead colleagues when I get a chance to connect with them, but allow me to tell you it was another brilliant offering to help us better understand how to be human. It should be mandatory viewing for anyone with a pulse. Especially leaders. Several questions caught my attention:

1. When we invest heavily in avoidance, is it helping? What does it end up feeling like?

2. How is your language becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy?

Whew. I mean, that’s a whole breakfast, lunch and dinner of deep-dive. Truth? I am not sure I am ready to pull back the veil on those questions yet. As she says in the series, it is not something we can come back from; We can’t unsee once we see. Oof.

The other thing that caught my attention was Freudenfreude. Opposite of Schaudenfreude, which means “to take pleasure or joy derived from someone else’s suffering or misfortune”, freudenfreude is a subset of empathy and is “the enjoyment of another’s success.” This is where it got real for me.

The last couple of months have been incredibly challenging. My family has experienced multiple personal losses and things have gone sideways in other areas of my life. Where I was previously thriving, I have been struggling – hard – for months on end. It’s been a period where I’ve been questioning everything, because nothing is as it was before.

When I got asked to be on this event panel, the very first person I told – one of the people I expected to be most happy for me and most proud of me – said nothing. NOTHING. No acknowledgment, no congratulations. Just emptiness. And it hurt. A lot.

About a week later, I had this same person tell me that they believe I did a disservice to my career staying with my previous organization as long as I had (12 years). Irony. This comment knocked the wind out of my sails. In an instant, not only did the connection feel empty but I felt empty too.

Things spiraled over the next couple months, and I lost my way. I had cared so much about what this person thought about me that I let it override my own self-perception. I tried every which way to reconcile and justify their words, and I cried more tears (and more times) than I care to admit, but what I didn’t do was stop and question what they had said. I just took it as truth. It wasn’t.

It was only recently that I got some clarity. It started with anger which melted into sadness which eventually gave way to some self-compassion and curiosity. I’ll save you the details, but it boils down to this: Why did I let someone else tell me what to think of the way I have been stewarding my life and my decisions? That was the real moment of reconciliation: I am exactly where I need to be.

Here is the truth: I’ve chased my dreams and had them come true – twice. Lately I have been busy dreaming up new roads for next steps and for the next set of my dreams to come true. This event on Friday is like a doorway: the only way to find out what is on the other side is to open the door and walk through. Proudly, bravely, humbly and with an open heart and immense amounts of gratitude.

To the people who have boldly and steadfastly supported me through these past couple months, I am in your debt. If you chose to engage in freudenfreude with me as I celebrated this invitation to participate at what is the biggest event I have been asked to be a part of (so far), please know I saw your joy and will always treasure it. And if you didn’t, no hard feelings. We are all at different points in our journey. We are all exactly where we need to be.

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