The concept of “lean” applies to more than operations. It only took two full quarters, but I feel I finally made a breakthrough today. I’ve lived the majority of my life afraid to depend on anyone but myself when it comes to my personal life. Professionally, I trust people to do what they do, but I don’t let that carry over in other areas. In developing the leader in me, I wanted to first focus on myself as a person. I learned that by not allowing myself to lean on others, I not only do myself a disservice, but I perform an injustice unto others as well.

Although I’m not ready to jump head first into the water (I’m not sure I’ll ever be ready for that, or that that would be safe), but I have taken steps to dip my toe in the water. Not the big toe, but a toe nonetheless. Today, after weeks of living in distress, losing sleep, and feeling uncertain, I called upon a trusted colleague, professor, and mentor Mary Kay Chess. While explaining some of the things I was going through, I realized a few things. First, I was using the language of feelings. I said things like “I feel unvalued.” Secondly, I saw that others see more than you I knew. Granted, Mary Kay is extremely intuitive and experienced in personal development, she still nailed exactly what I was thinking and going though based on her observations.

So yeah, I’m learning to lean. Understanding that there is a support structure is important to allow myself to be vulnerable. It’s important for me to be able to tune in to my needs. What does it really mean to take care of myself? Is basketball enough? No, it’s probably not. Taking care of myself also means being reflective, lessening the distractions, and learning when it’s time to let go.

Life has its ups and downs. From both there are important lessons to learn. Most of the time this quarter has been good. The last few have been down. What I appreciate most about the down times is that, at least for me, it reconnects me with things about which I’m passionate. When things are going well, it’s easy for me to get caught in the flow. When things are down, I think about more about how I miss writing, traveling, volunteering, running, interviewing interesting people, hanging out with friends, and other thins that bring me joy.

I recently committed to writing a book on personal branding. While many people see personal branding as a way to self promote. I see it as a way to build a reputation based on integrity and an understanding your authentic self. In beginning to write the book, I didn’t start by focusing on social media or networking, but rather ways to learn about one’s self. This requires a person to understand their strengths and their weaknesses. Normally, I say that a person should focus on their strengths and rely on others where they fall short. I still agree this is the best way to share duties in an organization. But when the weakness is inhibiting you from allowing you happiness, it’s something you need to work on.

Learning to lean is a big step for me. Actually practicing will be step two.