Here I Go, Oversharing Again: Emily Bennington on Mindfulness

Emily-BenningtonsmThanks to a Texas Conference for Women telecall in May on Mindfulness as a Career Strategy, my list has a lot of new subscribers.

A lot.

So I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you and welcome. Thank you to those who have been here since I started this blog…stopped this blog… and started again. And welcome to those of you who are getting an email from me for the first time.

Since so many of you are new, I thought this would be a good opportunity to share something with you.

While I’m known for being extremely honest and raw here – like when I write about my failures and my addictions – there’s something I haven’t really shared yet…and that’s my story.

Particularly as it relates to how mindfulness basically turned it upside down.

I was reminded of this recently while chatting with a good friend who also happens to be a web consultant. He heard about the Who Says It’s a Man’s World book launch where I basically spilled all of my family secrets (here’s the video) and he said, “With that background, I can’t believe your About page is so…. boring.”

Suddenly I felt like Jeannette Walls brooding over whether to write The Glass Castle.

I mean, it’s one thing to talk about this stuff on a video that hasn’t even been seen by 200 people. It’s another thing entirely to lay bare on my website in static perpetuity.

If it is, so be it.

What follows is the new About page I’m adding to the website in a few weeks.

At times this was hard to write – I’m sure for my folks it will be hard to read – but, as always, it’s 100% real.

My hope is that in reading this you’ll be less tempted to “armor up” each day for work.

Less tempted to pretend you have the answers.

And more motivated to be real.

To be vulnerable.

And to just show up each moment as the best of who you are right now.

I’ll see you on the other side.

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ABOUT PAGE – NEW

Raised by a single dad, I am the definition of a latch-key kid.

In fact, my earliest memory is sitting on my living room floor, totally engrossed in the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. I remember being in the house alone, which wasn’t unusual, but – in hindsight – the circumstances definitely were.

The year was 1981 and I was four years old.

Don’t worry. No tissues needed.

I grew up in a loving environment, but I certainly learned the ripple effect that careers can have on a family very young.

With my dad, I was aware that he wanted to give me more than he could. I watched him stress over money and then – when I was eight years old – I remember when he lost his job. Thankfully, he landed in a new position pretty quick, but I’d be lying if I said we weren’t scared.

Annnnd then there’s my mom.

My mother never really had a career and, as a result, she hasn’t always had options. When she was younger, being financially dependent led her to stay with abusive men – one of whom vanished with her eldest daughters for ten years.

No, I’m not kidding.

And while she did find love and happiness for almost two decades with my stepdad, tragedy struck again when he died suddenly of a heart attack. He simply got in his car one morning, drove to his job as a bridge painter, and – in an instant – he was gone.

With no job, no resume, and no real savings to fall back on, I’ve watched my mother struggle too. I’ve watched as she moved out of her home. I’ve watched as she took $8/hour positions she hated. And recently, I’ve watched as she waits…..and waits…..and waits…..for medical tests she needs but, with no insurance, she doesn’t always get.

This is not a sob story.

Believe me, I know how blessed I am – but it doesn’t change the fact that the first ten years of my career were a hot mess of drive and anxiety, and so I want you to know where it came from. Because when I tell people that I tripled my starting salary during that time, most assume my motivation was greed.

Not at all. It was fear.

On one hand, my embedded need for security and independence had me constantly grasping for that elusive next level and always reaching for more, e.g. more success, more money and, of course, I wanted it all immediately. But on the other, the further I got into my career, the more I became grossly unimpressed with the sacrifices required to achieve those things. I couldn’t fathom extended absences from my family – at a business dinner once I was horrified to learn it was my boss’ 16th consecutive night away from home – and I hated the subtle, yet omnipresent competition among my colleagues for sales and plum assignments. I certainly wasn’t looking to lean out of my career, but the view from the corner office wasn’t so hot either – at least not at the price my colleagues were paying for it.

Hello, Mindfulness.

So, feeling slightly defeated, I quit my corporate job and went on a massive ambition detox. I ditched my business books for self-help guides and my pencil skirts for yoga pants.

My stiff-suited, hyper-caffinated friends rebelled.

Good grief Emily, when did you become a hippie?”

And while that wasn’t the description I would have used, I knew something wonderful was happening.

Suddenly, “life” wasn’t about everything I’d been killing myself to achieve someday… it was the moments right in front of me I had been too busy to notice. By giving up my constant brooding about how to manipulate the future, I opened up a ton of mental bandwidth to fully live in the present.

Still…even though I was totally diggin’ my new outlook in a head-smacking why-didn’t-anyone-tell-me-this-before kind of way, I knew it wouldn’t be easy to translate mindfulness to my career. For starters, how was I supposed to “let go” of the future and stay driven at the same time? How could I “show love” at work without being a total doormat and how was I possibly supposed to keep my “high-level energy flowing” when surrounded by low-energy people? I mean, of course it’s easy to feel calm rockin’ some vinyasa – but I was used to spending 9-hours a day in a building where the usual elevator chat was what floor is serving donuts and how close it is to Friday.

And THAT’S the moment I knew.

It was the moment I knew my life’s work was to carry what I was learning about mindfulness to professional women who, like me, were rushing through each day, dreaming about tomorrow, and ultimately unsatisfied with both. So I committed myself to help others achieve a new level of career success – one that’s not only based on how high you go, but how well you live and the lives you touch along the way.

Less motion.

More meaning.

No waiting until “tomorrow” to release your inner superstar and no more feeling like you have to choose between a great career and a great life.

If you’re ready, jump in.

I promise, the water is fine.

Past Texas Conference speaker Emily Bennington is author of Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination and the founder of AWAKE EXEC mindful leadership coaching for women.