Planning for my next 10 years
From surviving to thriving, how I'm thinking about marriage, kids, career, family and friendships
👋🏻 Helen here with our weekly installment. I have been heads down in a Co-active coach training this weekend developing leadership skills to further support my team and my personal growth. So no new post this week, but reposting this one from a year ago as it is relevant to what I’m thinking about this week.
In class, there was an exercise where I had to reflect on a peek experience in my life - a moment when I felt fulfilled. I gravitated toward a time on a tropical vacation a couple of years ago when Adam and I were quietly chatting, kids were playing nearby, and I had nowhere to be and nothing to rush to. As I was reflecting, I could smell the ocean breeze, hear my kids’ laughter, and feel my husband’s hand in mine.
I juxtapose that with the absolute craziness that I am feeling in my life right now - it’s like I’m on a New York City subway in rush hour. Busy, hectic, constantly in fear of missing a train and knowing that the next one will make me late.
So the question I asked myself this weekend is what would it take to create some additional space to be present. How do I add “space between stimulus and response.”1 While it’s not realistic for every day to feel like I’m in Hawaii, I do want to have more time to breathe and focus on what is important and meaningful, as opposed to keep running from one thing in front of me to another. How can I be more present, more joyful, and more intentional with my actions today and set myself up for to keep that up as I look ahead.
Below is a post I wrote over a year ago where I set this intention for the 4 big parts of my life: marriage, kids, career, and friends/family.
💍 Marriage - Keep joint hobbies, monthly date nights and a house management plan
Adam and I touched on this topic in our reflection on 10 years of marriage that you can read here where we mused on the shortage of novels and examples that talk about what life looks like when you are in your 40s. Here are the things I aspire to ensure we do to stay healthy and connected:
Joint hobby - Mind The Beet has definitely been a great way to work together on writing, creative process, and social media. Over time, I hope we will continue to have a joint project together other than the day-to-day of running a household, raising a family, and supporting each other’s professional careers.
Monthly date nights - we’ve been pretty good at getting away for a few days with family support, but as the pandemic recedes, I’d like to get back to having a monthly date night which requires both planning and a roster of babysitters who are able to support.
Put a house management plan in place - both of our kids are now in grade school so we now have a wonderful nanny/household manager who supports us for critical hours during the week. She has been an invaluable part of our team - keeping our house running, kids getting from points A to B, and being my partner in the day-to-day logistics especially as our work travel has intensified. I am grateful that we have been able to make a new plan that works for our family and helps us all stay sane.
We are so fortunate to have been able to build a strong foundation together, but I don’t want to spend a minute of my time taking the health of our marriage for granted. Working on sustaining and energizing our marriage together is definitely top of mind for me.
👧 👧 Kids - Evolve to be a supportive coach
The next 10 years of our kids’ lives will be full of new milestones, adventures, lessons, and growth. Our role in that needs to evolve as their needs and life stages are changing. I am already sad about the fact that kissing a finger with a paper cut and putting a unicorn bandaid on it is not solving as many problems as it used to.
Evolving from basic needs to emotional support - My mom used to tell me that “little kids = little problems, big kids = big problems.” We have been so lucky to have healthy kids, and the biggest problems we needed to work through involved potty training and picky eating. While those seemed at times insurmountable and difficult, as our oldest traverses elementary school, I am getting a glimpse of the bigger challenges to come.
A few days ago our 8 year old came home from school heartbroken because her two best friends were not sharing secrets with her which means that they probably don’t consider her to be their best friend. I asked if she has other friends who make her feel good, and she noted that she does, but they all already have their own “best friends”. As I started to worry about how to help her, Adam, calmly reminded me that this is her issue to figure out on her own and our job is to support her. I took a deep breath and gave my kid a hug.
Provide opportunities - As kids are growing, we now get to work together with them to identify things that they might want to try (piano, swimming, gymnastics, rock climbing, etc.) as well as expose them to new books, arts, and travel. It is a privilege to be able to support these things to our kids - not just finding the classes, but also figuring out logistics as well as making the time to take trips as a family, and engaging in dinnertime conversations.
Support their interests - The second part of providing opportunities is to then support what our girls are actually getting into. Some of this is easier said than done - from helping them pick their own clothes to express their fashion to offering up a variety of reading options to support love of reading (Fablehaven -yes, School of Good and Evil - only so so), to supporting their extracurricular activities - there are more and more opinions to grapple with and support.
So as I think about the next 10 precious years with our kids, I acknowledge that the days of me deciding what they wear, who they play with, and what activities they do are basically over and it’s a new world where we play a supporting and coaching role. I am preparing myself for it by reading books such as How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk and talking to friends with older kids.
💪🏻 My professional life - practice mastery, invest in my network and work smarter
For the last 10 -15 years, I feel like I have been looking for my place in the professional world by mainly experimenting with different job functions (Three Careers by Mid-30s) and now I feel settled into the notion that I am a product person and a people leader, which is liberating. But the question is, what’s next.
Master my craft - as I reflect on my career journey to date, I’ve gotten bored in my role every two(ish) years at which point, I’ve either taken a new role or made some other major changes (like taking a step back for 5 months for maternity leave).
This quote really resonated with me recently:
“The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom.” James Clear, Atomic Habits
So as I get more senior, I want to mindfully go deeper in growing my expertise around both leading effective teams and building good products. This means that I need to overcome the itch that I get every few years because I get restless and bored.
Specifically, this year, I am double downing on leading and coaching teams and working through frameworks and skills to help me improve myself and be of greater service to my team.
Rekindle and keep building my network - as I look to make space for myself, I am looking forward to re-engaging with my professional/MBA/tech network. Additionally, I am now building a whole new set of colleagues and friends in Colorado and in the start-up world, so I don’t want to take that for granted and make time and space to get to know new people entering my life.
I’ve recently joined Lenny’s Product Community in Slack and this has been a highlight in terms of exchange of ideas, resources and conversations.
Work smarter, not harder - I am committed to not burning out in the next 10 years. So I am going to continue to invest in myself - work out, eat well, and maintain reasonable work boundaries. When we are younger in career, before kids, family, pets, and other obligations, it seemed perfectly reasonable to work 12-hour days, or shift your start to 11am and go until late at night. This is untenable for my life now nor do I expect to ever shift back into that mindset in the next 10 years.
In 10 years, I hope to be able to say that I am a leader that others would follow because I enable the creation of great products and healthy, vibrant team culture where people feel and perform at their best. It’s a tall order and not something that I can build and develop overnight, so I want to be mindful in practicing the right habits on my journey.
🏠 Friends and family - be present, make time and travel more
Be present - As I come out of the firehose of raising small children while trying to balance work and house, I really hope to be able to be more present with my kids, Adam, and friends.
One of the things I am exploring is how to change/minimize social media in my life - when we went on vacation last month, I deleted all social media apps from my phone and I felt healthier and happier.
Studies show that ditching social media directly correlates to increased happiness and being more present, so I am working on how to incorporate this into my life and stick to it.
Make time - I feel the speed of time passing by. Kids are getting older and needing us less. And on the other side of the spectrum, parents and grandparents are getting older and needing us more. So balancing these moments - making time to make and take the calls, play games, be together, love and laugh - feel more important than ever in the next 10 years.
I’m so grateful for my 40th birthday party that Adam and my sister threw for me earlier this year. Most of my family and a set of close friends came together to celebrate with food, music and dancing. My sister and mom then made me a beautiful album of photos from the event.
Travel more - With the pandemic passing, I am excited to see the world with our children and to visit our friends who are now distributed across the world. In the past, we have toyed with the idea of living abroad - and while we haven’t moved on that plan, I wonder if there is a way to immerse ourselves into a different culture for an extended period of time.
In 10 years, I want to be able to look back and say that we have traveled the world and deepened our connection as well as spent time with family and friends near and far.
Summing it up
12 years ago today, I was just starting my career at Microsoft as an operational marketing manager, was living in a condo in the heart of Seattle, and Adam and I were in escrow buying our first home. Today, I am a wife, a mother, and a product leader working in a high-growth start-up, living in a much quieter part of town. Life looks very different today and I don’t want to miss any of it. To do that, I am doing my best to live with intentionality and focus - saying yes to things that matter most while delegating and declining the rest.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” —Viktor Frankl