“Life’s short, learn fast.” I was wearing those words of wisdom on my T-shirt the day I went to work without my pants. You read that right. I showed up that day prepared to work out in America Online’s fitness center before the work day began, wearing my workout clothes and carrying my office clothes in my gym bag to change into after my shower.
After my shower. That was when I made the discovery: No pants!
Oh, those pants were there when I mentally reviewed the checklist on my drive to work. But, somehow those pants never made it from lying on my bed into my gym bag. And, here I was, with only 45 minutes before my first meeting of the day! I had no time to go home and change, especially given Washington, DC traffic. Canceling my meetings didn’t seem to be an option either as it took nearly an act of God to get people together due to their schedules. Rescheduling would severely risk making my training development deadline for the biggest management training initiative to date for the company.
What was I going to do? Whatever it was, I had to make a decision quick! I took a deep breath and decided, “Okay, that’s it! I’m going to these meetings in the only clothes I’ve got – my skin-hugging Lycra shorts and T-shirt!” Then I suddenly realized something that just might make my clothing choice less noticeable - AOL’s casual dress code. I then noticed that my t-shirt looked like a team jersey with a big XXL across the front. And that the ID badge around my neck looked like I was wearing a whistle. As head of corporate training I could act like a team coach, right? Right!
With only 30 minutes left, I finishing getting ready and headed to my meeting. As I walked through the door, I proudly announced, “Your head trainer and coach is here, so let’s get started!” They laughed, I laughed, and, most importantly, I left with the decisions I needed to meet my deadline.
Crisis averted, the words on my t-shirt followed me around all morning: Life's short, learn fast. You don’t normally expect to get revolutionary messages from any old T-shirt you grab from a drawer in a morning so busy you forget the rest of your clothes. But this one struck me right between the eyes.
It was like the news headlines that crawl around buildings in Times Square, only this one was going on in my head:
Life’s short, learn fast...You’re losing concentration...You’re burning out...You’re forgetting your pants...Something has to change...Something has to give...Life’s short, learn fast.
I had been with America Online for 10 years, helping it drive one of the most historic, explosive business, and economic growth periods in history. But I had recently hit the proverbial glass ceiling and now it was time for me to go.
The company was my home and its employees were like family. AOL was where I discovered what it means to be a key player in a project that would truly change the world, a project that had meaning. AOL was my professional family of origin.
As with any family of origin, to grow you have to go. And so I resigned. Resigning wasn’t the first bodacious thing I did in my life, and it wouldn’t be the last. But it was the moment that I saw bodaciousness for what it is: The key to thriving in an ever-changing economy that challenges us all to be bigger, bolder, and better and to have the courage and inner strength to be our most authentic selves.
Over a decade later, change is happening faster than ever in our careers and lives. The good news is that you don’t have to go to work without your pants to understand how important it is to thrive on change and create your bodacious career. But you do have to have the courage to see your career for what it is, be open to a totally unexpected response, and let it shape you into the bigger, bolder, better, more authentic you.
About Mary Foley
Get more free resources to increase your career confidence at MaryFoley.com, including your Free Sanity, Confidence & Fun Action Pack with eBooks How to Thrive on Shift & Change for Your Career and What Every Woman Must Know About Office Politics eBooks. Mary inspires women with practical advice to create sanity in your life and confidence in your career – all while having a bit of fun! She is the author of three books, a popular national speaker, and former co-host of the Girlfriend We Gotta Talk! radio show. Find out more at http://www.maryfoley.com.