Are we in the middle of a mental health crisis or have we put health and behavioral skills secondary to long term career goals for too long?
When I was growing up, we had a life path planned for us: go to school, got to college, get a job, find a spouse, buy a house, have kids, work, retire and live. Times are changing!
Today, it is essential that parents, teachers, and leaders know more, get closer, and emotionally connect to their kids, students, and employees. For example, I have dyslexia, what was once thought as a learning disorder or inability to read efficiently. I worked hard to cover it up and not tell anyone, because it was a “disorder,” and I felt inadequate and different. However, in doing my own research, forty years lates, I now understand it is so much more. Let me ask you, have you ever provided feedback, coached a student, or onboarded a new employee that you just don’t, can’t or won’t understand the way they think? Do you know someone that it is difficult to bridge the gap of your understanding and theirs?
That is me, I was the student and the employee that people just never understood. I spent 30+ years in sales and sales management, responsible for multi-million regions and climbing the corporate ladder. Yet, with each promotion, the expectation was to get on board with a “group think” mentality. There was no time for diversity of thought for discussion, let alone time for me to process ideas that could be innovative. So, I remained silent in team meetings, my mind racing with a multitude of thoughts that were not clear, at the moment, but eventually would become very clear and too late to share. While my words were delayed, my thoughts were not, and I was able to take my thoughts, apply them for my team and achieve results. I was often asked, “what is your secret sauce?” and I would ramble off a bunch of words, I thought people would want to hear. But the truth was, I simply couldn’t truly explain it in terms any would understand. I am a leader, who has dyslexia, and a lot of people had trouble grasping my thought process, including myself.
One day, I decided to go on a self-awareness journey. Asking myself, why am I different and why do I hold back? I never truly realized the reason my brain processing things differently. Until I remember as a young child: I used music as a competitive swimmer, to get through my tests at school, write a whole screenplay from Billy Joel’s album “The Stranger.” Even today, when I hear lyrics, they lead me to my best ideas. Fast forward, in my career, I shoved music and dyslexia in the background; because it was explained to me that “I have a reading disorder.” A disorder or abnormality that made me feel inferior, feel incompetent that I often felt I must prove to others that I could do things no matter what and became a work-a-holic. This came at a cost to my health, all the mind chatter, anxiety, self-loathing, and obsession that someone would find out. I would overcompensate to speak about the positive and good things happening, until I met an Executive Coach, who understood the patience I needed. We began to explore and talk about days of success and failure, times when I emotional connected and when I didn’t in school and business. Then I remembered, my dyslexia diagnosis, there must be more research than there was 40 years ago, and I started my research to learn about dyslexia. I am so glad I did, I can now see its effect on other things like, social situations make me anxious, thinking with images and feelings, speaking in metaphors, and loud noises strike my core at times of high stress. My mind races with thoughts, ideas and dreams that will become reality, because I don’t say no, I build things from the ground up and I take a “both/and” approach to life and experiences. I can be both accountable and kind, I can have both fear and excitement for a journey, and I can be successful with both dyslexia and a thriving career.
For a lengthy period in my career, I had trouble expressing ideas without confusing those around me, especially if I were under pressure Today, when people ask, “what is your secret sauce?” I can truly answer concisely. My brain processes ideas, plans and goals differently that has made me a strong leader and a strong woman. I think differently than others, look at business from a new perspective and see patterns that others cannot and use music to help me define and shape my thoughts.
I finally understand it was not me, personally, it was simply they way my brain functions and my tool to hear and see possibilities in a unique manner. I decided to call it my musical mindset. It is this musical mindset that helps me to live my best life! Yes, it was challenging at first, it was hard to read, I could not concentrate, and not able to keep up with others; but I knew what I had to do to succeed. I found that when listening to music, I was better at memorizing words, ideas, and thoughts. Therefore, I began to use this rhythmic beat to help me do better on tests, in athletics and now in my career. Music improves my clarity and knock down any obstacles that are in front of me. For example, I find my brain thinking twice as fast as the words coming from my mouth, I take a breath and start to think of them like a song.
Thinking with a Musical Mindset, allowed me to finally put into words, that school, work, life doesn’t have to be an “either/or” approach. Rather, having a “both/and” approach helps me shape thoughts and became fully aware of how both dyslexia and music changed my life and brought clarity to my career and life. Yes, I can be both analytical and emotional to achieve remarkable results.
Today, I am on a mission to support those leaders, who think differently, and help them recognize their value and what makes them unique. Again, back in my day, the term dyslexia was often thought of as only a mixing of words and numbers. However, from my research, I understand it to be so much more, it has an audible, sensory and anxiety component that is complex. That is why music is a fascinating tool for memory; when the music is playing in my mind, I am much more focused, clear, and creative. I became both driven to execute and enthusiastic to help others. Therefore, as an extraordinary leader, I remind you, that up to 15% of the population has dyslexia and having one of them on your team is a gift. Give them the opportunity to be a part of your organization, be available to slow down and listen. It may be within the music that you find you can be the parent, teacher, or leader you want to be!
CEO Side B Consulting
This article is a personal journey and not meant to be seen as a diagnosis, if you are experiencing questions about your own mental health journey, please seek professional help. I did!