I used to be the girl who got anxious in meetings when my peers were all furiously taking notes. I would sit there silently wondering what they could possibly be writing down, and what was I missing?? But, since I was in the thick of my must-rapidly-ascend-corporate-ladder days, I caved to what I thought the right thing was, and began the habit of taking mindless notes in meetings. You know, to appear more engaged while being less engaged. This then became a platform for advanced doodling. And I wasted a lot of paper.
But then a few years ago, I listened to an executive coach whose guidance was less traditional. She kind of rocked my world when she suggested bringing a notebook and a pen to all meetings, and keeping the notebook open to a blank page, but to never actually take notes.
This woman, who is wildly successful (and has coached many, many successful leaders), argued that taking notes while someone else is speaking can actually make you look insecure or disengaged.
Find the happy medium in all of this and send me a postcard, k?
My point is, you’ve gotta do what works for you, but after filtering what works for me through the advice of others, I lean toward having meaningful direct interactions with minimal note taking.
I do ALWAYS have a notebook with me though. Shoot – I probably have 10 or 12 half-filled ones right now, between my house, car and office. I’m constantly writing things down that I want to remember: quotes, book recommendations, cards to mail, things to do.
When I do on rare occasion take formal(ish) notes, it’s because something really resonates with me.
This happened a few weeks ago at a regional event for Beachbody, the company my health and fitness coaching is affiliated with. I not only took notes, I then TOOK A PHOTO of my handwritten notes so I’d have constant access to them on my phone.
In typical motivational event fashion, speaker after speaker got up that morning to share a personal story, describe her path to success and how she overcome various obstacles. It wasn’t a new format, but something about this particular event was unique.
Because…None of the presenters gave out magic advice. There was no secret sauce, rules to live by, or list of “three simple habits” to find success. No one told me to lean in.
It was quite the opposite, actually. The presenters were forthright about NOT having any answers for us. They candidly shared that there wasn’t one thing different about any of them that allowed them to be successful. That looking back, none of them was cut out for this business if you looked at experience and skills.
Each presenter stated in her own way that the only differentiator contributing to her success was that she kept going. That was it.
She kept going.
When people told her no, scoffed at her ideas or closed doors on opportunities.
When there were really bad, discouraging days, and huge setbacks.
When it would’ve been way easier to quit and walk away.
She just kept going. And sharing her story.
This simple piece of advice was mind-blowing. I guess because I’ve never really considered success to be an equal playing field. There’s always someone who knows someone, or went to a better college, or was so-and-so’s sorority sister. Someone who was willing to sacrifice more or play unfairly. And to a certain degree, success is never a truly even game. But to consider that maybe all you need to do to succeed is just keep going – to throw away ALL your doubts and just do the next right thing at any given moment – is so freeing.
I am someone who always plays it safe. I take the expected path and make the “right” choices. My venture into coaching is the only area where I’ve ever been independently accountable for my own success without a smidge of a guarantee. It’s scary and humbling every single day, and a lot of hard work, but it’s the most rewarding thing to be a part of. My work matters for the first time. And right now, I’m starting to see that the struggle is part of the story, and I’m thankful that this is part of mine.