Published in Womeninc, August 2008
by Diana Gabriel
In has been interesting for me following Oprah’s conversations with Eckart Tolle around his book The New Earth. I did not start this journey with a beginner’s mind as I felt as if I had taken it many times. As I read the book and listened to the conversations I realized that I had intellectually gone down this path before, but never really slowed down enough to listen deeply to my intuition and “the voices in my head.” It has been an eye-opening experience for me.
I have long considered myself a risk-taker. I ventured into the world of self employment 9 years ago in a relatively new professional field. Yet, over this past year, I have been challenged by people who know me well – and people who hardly know me at all – for “playing small.” This has left me feeling restless and doing a lot of soul searching and was heightened by the experience with Oprah and Tolle. I have wrestled with gremlins – negative self talk and beliefs. In taking the time to go deeper and just listen, I felt called to work with a coach, who will support me in my goals around marketing and expanding professionally, while holding me accountable to the goals I set. It is both scary and exciting to begin playing my bigger game.
As synchronicity happens, I attended my son’s graduation at Vanderbilt University a few days after I made the decision to move forward in this new way. I felt that my choices and current path were affirmed by the commencement address given by Howard Lutnick, CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald. Cantor Fitzgerald once occupied the top floors of the World Trade Center. All of the employees at work on September 11, 2001, perished there. Lutnick was also the CEO at the time of the 1993 bombing of the towers. He shared what he learned from that experience: the importance of being in relationship with the people he worked with and the importance of liking the people he worked with. Between the bombing of 1993 and September 11, Lutnick hired only people he and others liked. As a result, many of the people hired turned out to be friends and relatives of people who chose to stay with Cantor Fitzgerald. The work environment became one where people enjoyed working together, respected each other and got along.
On September 11, 2001 Howard Lutnick chose to accompany his son to his first day of kindergarten. He lost the majority of his employees who worked in the Trade Center, including his brother and his best friend. He knew that he had to keep a cool head and play bigger than ever, after the attack. He was committed to doing the right things for the right reasons, and he was called to be a courageous leader. He chose to keep Cantor Fitzgerald alive and going in the days after the disaster so he could support the families who lost loved ones. They found new work space and brought in cots, staying there for 6 weeks until the business was stable. Cantor Fitzgerald provided a most generous package to victims’ families, averaging $100,000 per family and health care benefits for 5 years, which is the most generous package from any company to the surviving families. The company has emerged stronger than ever.
What has stuck with me about this story is that Howard Lutnick showed that it is imperative that we show up “big” – offering our gifts and talents. The timing of his speech was powerful for me. I do not have a company to save and hundreds of families depending on me, but I do have a responsibility to play big, show up in a big way sharing my gifts, talents, strengths and brilliance in the world. I feel compelled and called to do so.
How are you showing up on the playing field? When you take the time to pause and reflect, what do you become aware of? Are there places that you are playing small, and where you need to step up with your unique gifts, talents, strengths and brilliance in the world? Really take some time to listen deeply, and see if what you are actually doing, today, is what you are being called to do. We can all play bigger in some areas of our lives, and it is imperative that we do so. Next column, we’ll talk about some strategies for making that shift from playing small to playing big.