Five years ago, I could not have spoken to this as well as I can now. But quite a few life lessons, observations and experiences have given me perspective I believe will be beneficial to others.
Being all in means bringing your whole self to it. It means being clear about who you are and what you stand for. It requires tapping into the core of your soul and making a pact to stay aligned with the direction that naturally comes to you – regardless of external circumstances. It sounds bigger than it is, but when you embrace it, things fall into place.
I’ve talked many times about an experience I had when I was a high school freshman taking a choir class that I interpreted to mean we wouldn’t have to sing solo. Despite my obsession with being musically inclined, I can’t sing a lick. Yet, I pressed on. And on a faithful day in September (the first day of class), when Ms. Wiggins told me it was my turn to sing the Star Spangled Banner solo, I experienced one of my most memorable moments of being all in. I closed my eyes – and I went for it.
The reason I love telling that story is because it represents the core of who I am. And the times I’ve stepped away from my confident, curious and calm self, things didn’t work out in my favor.
Early in my career I was so serious. Now don’t get me wrong, I can be serious. But I was ser-i-ous. Work was about work. Life was about life. I hadn’t yet bridged the two and recognized that my one self was the same self no matter where I was going or what I was doing. As a result, I was always in planning or execution mode. I had more saved up for a rainy day than you could shake a stick at. I was prepared for the best and the worse. But what I learned is that there is power in the ability to live in the moment and take it all in. There is no time like the present. It brings perspective, opportunity and most importantly, gratitude.
I’ve got a lot going on these days but I’ve also learned what’s mine to do and what’s mine to let go. I don’t feel the need to wear an S on my chest because thankfully I realize that who I am is more than enough. Being serious is a part of who I am. But I’m also energetic, animated, I talk with my hands, I like to laugh, I’m a person who believes in family, community and balance. By brining your whole self to it, I’m not suggesting you wear your club clothes to work. What I’m saying is the minute I was able to express all the things that I am, I became empowered and there was no pressure to be anything I wasn’t or perform to the standards of others.
When you’re all in, you do what you say you’re going to do. When you’re all in, you don’t second-guess whether or not you have something to offer because you recognize you are unique and nobody can offer exactly what you have to offer. When you’re all in, you don’t feel threatened by the success of others or adopt the fear that for them to win, you have to lose. When you’re all in, you don’t get tripped up by invisible barriers like being smart enough, pretty enough, tough enough. It doesn’t exist unless you choose to own it. When you’re all in, you are intentional about your actions and expectations.
Everyone wants to be recognized for having a voice and bringing value. The best way to go about it is to be authentic and be all of who you are. As we start a new year, this is the mantra I’m pledging to live by. Whatever I do, I’m all in. I’m bringing my whole self to it.