Authentic Fashion

To view a summary video of our 2016 Fashion Intelligence Symposium, click here.

“Be true to yourself” was the overarching message of Murray Hill Institute’s second Fashion Intelligence Symposium. With “Authentic Fashion” as it theme, the symposium brought together designers, fashion journalists, bloggers, and consumers to explore the many facets of the world of fashion. We were pleased to partner once again with the Fashion Institute of Technology and Villanueva Centro Universitario in Madrid in bringing this project to realization. The symposium was held on April 9, 2016, in the Katie Murphy Amphitheater at FIT in New York City.  

Joan Volpe,  Managing Coordinator of The Center for Professional Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology, welcomed everyone to the symposium. She invited everyone to view the exhibits at the Museum at FIT, Denim: Fashion’s Frontier and Fairy Tale Fashion.

Four speakers shared their unique perspectives gleaned from their lives and careers in the fashion industry. Patricia Herrera Lansing, special projects director of Carolina Herrera New York and CH Carolina Herrera, shared her career path from fashion editor at Vanity Fair to her current position.Asked about what it was like to work for her own mother, she assured us that it was great fun and that they shared a lot of laughs together.   

Victoria Sanchez-Lincoln, the Fashion Director of the magazine Real Simple, spoke about “Communicating Authentic Fashion: How media provides strategies that enable consumers to remain stylish, modern and unique.”  She described the decision-making processes that go into creating the fashion spreads for the magazine each month, and how theme, season, and current trends interact to keep readers engaged.

A networking reception between the second and third talks gave the attendees an opportunity to meet the speakers and to share ideas and experiences with each other. 

“Authentic Fashion: creative, forward-thinking and designed with a woman’s desire for self-expression in mind” was the focus of Leonor Silva’s presentation. Leonor took us behind the scenes at her Brooklyn-based company Leonor Silva and gave us a step-by-step tour of the work that goes into designing, marketing, and manufacturing clothes. Her slides from her current collection had us all ooh-ing and aah-ing.

Denyse del Carmen Floreano closed the afternoon by speaking about “Being Authentic in a Virtual World: How to find your styles and dress with authenticity in a world burgeoning with images and expectations.” As a former Miss Venezuela and a career model, Denyse experienced first-hand the expectations of body image that go with being front-and-center in the beauty industries.

Teresa Carale, President of Murray Hill Institute, thanked the speakers and invited everyone to next year’s Fashion Intelligence Symposium, to be held on Saturday, April 29,2017.  We will be posting more information on our website as plans progress.    

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Communicate with Impact

Communicate with Impact

By Terri Carron

Communication means to succeed in conveying one’s idea or to evoke understanding in others. It seems so simple and yet the bulk of our communication problems in both personal and professional life seem to be our inability to do just that.     

BE AUTHENTIC. What is the number one problem in communicating? Many people assume it’s about style; having a good voice, look, and being at ease in front of people. Would it surprise you to know that it is lack of sincerity? Or a problem with authenticity? Being authentic can overcome even a lack of a speaking style or “rules.” Accent, voice, or a vocal tic doesn’t have to be an obstacle to meaningful communication. Sincerity is, in my opinion, the essential key to communicating your ideas well to others. Actors and salespeople will all tell you that they have to know and believe what they are saying in order to be convincing enough to move you to believe as well.

RESPECT YOUR AUDIENCE. This does not mean that you do not need to pay attention to what you are saying, in other words, to the content—whether you are speaking one on one to a family member, friend, or colleague, or to an entire roomful of people. The first rule is to respect your audience. Respect that you HAVE an audience. They came to hear you because they need information, or need to be motivated to act, or need to be entertained. Identify the need and determine your content based on that. Focus less on what you want to say and more on what they want to know and feel.  

BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR MESSAGE. Have the courage to say what you think. Be confident that you can make worthwhile contributions to conversations. Take time each day to be aware of your opinions and feelings so you can adequately convey them to others. Individuals who are hesitant to speak because they do not feel their input would be worthwhile need not fear. What is important or worthwhile to one person may not be to another and may be more so to someone else.

BE ATTENTIVE TO CUES FROM YOUR AUDIENCE. Make certain to include enough information to not leave your audience confused about the next step. When speaking to someone one-on-one you might get affirmation like a head bob. This shows you that someone is actively listening to you. If the person stops nodding, it could indicate that they need more information or they are in disagreement. 

Men are less committal in their body language and are not as likely as women to react to what you are saying by nodding their heads. They will usually wait till you’re finished to make a comment, so that you don’t know where you stand until afterward. Be aware of “tells.”  When a man begins to check his phone or watch, or begins to button his jacket, or dart his eyes from side to side, you know you are losing him. 

Typically, the way you can break off conversation is to lose eye contact. For example, if you are interviewing someone and you would like to close or move on to another topic, you can lower your eyes to your paper. That is a signal that you are finished talking. 

Make a practice of asking people if they understand your meaning. A common situation is that someone thinks they give clear direction or information but their employees or colleagues did not act on it. It is likely they did not hear what was intended. If you stop periodically to make sure you are being understood, you can avoid wasting time and also help improve your communication. If you frequently find people misunderstand you, you may want to write down points you want to make before you speak. 

When speaking one on one, don’t feel you have to fill the quiet space. If you have said what you want to say, stop talking. Often in an interview, the interviewer will let you ramble on, sometimes to your disadvantage. 

BE AWARE OF HOW YOU SOUND. The quickest way to improve your communication is to listen to yourself on tape. Turn the phone on and place it around the house to hear your conversations. How does your voice sound? Do you interrupt others a lot? How is your pitch? Do you pronounce words clearly?  

There is no “right” type of voice. Having an accent or a vocal tic doesn’t mean you can’t be an effective speaker; on the contrary, some of these so-called defects can even make you a unique and engaging speaker. If you watch movies, you know there are great actors with less than ideal voices. Most of time, it’s their unique voice that makes them so memorable.  

Here are some guidelines: 

Enunciate your words. Speak clearly and don’t mumble. If people frequently ask you to repeat yourself, work on articulating words in a better manner.

Pronounce your words correctly. People judge your competency through your vocabulary. If you aren’t sure of how to say a word, don’t use it. Make it a habit to look up words if you are not sure of either their meaning or their pronunciation. 

Slow your speech down. People will perceive you as nervous and unsure of yourself if you talk too fast. However, be careful not to slow down to the point where people begin to finish your sentences for you. 

Develop your voice. A high or whiny voice does not come across as authoritative, nor does a soft, breathy voice. Begin doing exercises to lower the pitch of your voice. Try singing exercises, or simply sing songs, but do them an octave lower than usual. Practice this and after a period of time, your voice will begin to lower naturally.

Avoid the habit of ending each sentence in a question. Use declarative voice or you risk undermining your credibility.  

 Animate your voice. Avoid a monotone and practice varying your cadence. Your pitch should rise and fall periodically.

Adjust your volume to the situation, speaking more softly when talking one-on-one or to a small and close-knit group and louder when you are speaking to larger groups or across larger spaces. Although this sounds self-evident, people sometimes feel that loud talk is artificial and they avoid it.  But it is necessary when addressing a big crowd, even with a microphone.

Avoid “fillers.” Clear up all the “ums,” “likes,” and other fillers. Do not be afraid to pause between thoughts. This can be an effective way of helping people absorb what you are saying before you launch into your next point. And they pay attention more when they have to anticipate your next thought. 

The best reason for practicing these suggestions is to eliminate what is distracting in your voice so that people will focus on you and your message.   

PAY ATTENTION TO BODY LANGUAGE. Don’t send mixed messages with your body. Your words, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice should all work together to communicate what you want to convey. For example, reprimanding someone while smiling sends a mixed message. If you have to deliver a negative message, make your words, facial expressions, and tone match the message.  

Keep your hands from your face. Covering the mouth or playing with hair is a “tell,” signaling that you are nervous or bored. (If you feel too nervous to let your arms hang by your side, then carry some papers, but be careful of fiddling with them.) Crossing your arms may make you feel safer but it can send a signal that you are unapproachable; having your hands on your hips can make you appear defiant.  

Be aware of your positions at a table. If you are sitting with someone across the table, don’t be afraid to lean in to make a point. It shows engagement. On the other hand, when you sit leaning way back, you are signaling that you are in charge. This can also signal disengagement. A happy medium is to sit with your back against the back of the seat in a relaxed, open position. 

LISTEN. Finally, remember that a really good speaker is also a talented listener. Don’t talk over the other person. A good conversation has the element of good timing. It’s important to make people feel they are being heard, not merely tolerated until you get to talk again. It’s hard for all of us to wait, especially with our families and friends. Use time with others to practice letting a second or two go by before you respond. You might end up learning more than you think.

Why Study History

Why Study History

by Claire Cullen

Does the study of the recorded past serve any vital purpose? In light of present day circumstances, that is a compelling question. Perhaps a brief examination of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine will shed light on the topic.

When Vladimir Putin sent troops into the region in 2014, many questioned his audacity. Yet seen through the prism of history, the decision should not have been surprising. Ukraine had made overtures to NATO. Such an alliance would threaten Russia’s control over the naval base at Sevastopol on the Black Sea. At this juncture, Putin looked to the past.

In 1725, Peter the Great wrote, “(Russia should) approach as near as possible to Constantinople and India. Whoever governs there will be the true sovereign of the world. Consequently, excite continual wars, not only in Turkey, but in Persia … penetrate as far as the Persian Gulf, advance as far as India.” Thus began a continuum: Catherine the Great, Tsar Alexander, Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev, …Vladimir Putin. All looked to the south. Access to a warm water port is as much a part of Russian history as the Bolshoi and Pushkin.

The geographic realities are self-evident. Russia’s northern ports are frozen for months at a time.  Ships plying the Baltic route to the North Sea must navigate the NATO controlled waters of the Skagerrak Strait. Those docked in the Black Sea face the narrows of the Bosporus. Clearly their blue water navy faces tremendous obstacles. And the ultimate goal, the Indian Ocean, remains at bay. Putin’s objective isn’t simply Sevastopol. This is but a transitional step to his ultimate goal.

Ukraine was first incorporated into Russia in the ninth century. A significant Russian-speaking population has lived in the region for two centuries. A careful study of each nation shows that their histories are intertwined. Thus from Putin’s perspective, annexation was both logical and inevitable. He could no more abdicate control of the region than the United States could cede the Gulf of Mexico, or access to the Panama Canal, to a hostile alliance.

This does not mean that we have to accept Russia’s actions. What it does mean is that we must understand their motivation. And that brings us back to the fundamental question posed above.

Does the study of the recorded past serve any vital purpose? Absolutely. For without a firm understanding of history, it will be impossible to develop any effective strategy for the present and the future. “The bear in the woods” is now a presence in Syria and a supporter of Iran on the Persian Gulf. Sound familiar? It should. Peter the Great pointed Russia in this precise direction nearly three hundred years ago.

For Further Reading:

Imperial Gamble; Putin, Ukraine, and the New Cold War    — Marvin Kalb
Prisoners of Geography; Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World    — Tim Marshall
The Revenge of Geography; What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate      — Robert Kaplan
Pacific; Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires, and the Coming Collision of the World's Superpowers    — Simon Winchester

Celebrating 15 Years of Murray Hill Institute

A Message from Teresa Carale, MHI President

Fifteen years ago, a group of professional women who were committed to helping women integrate ethical standards into their personal and professional lives founded Murray Hill Institute. That year, the Institute organized its inaugural conference, Women Transforming Culture. Over 200 women, representing 25 different professions, attended, from the United States, Europe, South America and Asia. Since then, Murray Hill Institute continues to foster effective and ethical leadership among women, primarily through its hallmark one-on-one mentoring program, as well as through conferences, seminars, cultural events, and discussion forums focusing on a wide range of topics that relate to women and the world of work. Through our programs and events, we promote an optimistic, transformational leadership that leads to decisions and actions that have positive socio-cultural impact, helping transform a culture of greed and selfishness into a culture of giving and reaching out to others.

We are pleased to note the success of our mentoring program. A select group of young women, who believe in our concept of leadership and impact, join the program each year. Their mentors, experienced professional women, assist them in acquiring the non-technical skills that will help them overcome the many hurdles they are or will be facing in their careers. They also give valuable advice to help the mentees navigate career choices. Because the young women involved in the program are interested in having a positive impact on society, we consider the mentoring program a worthwhile investment towards a future founded on respect for persons and the common good.

We are also entering into collaborative projects with educational institutions, consistent with our vision and goals of achieving greater impact with our limited resources. We invite you to join our annual Fashion Intelligence Symposium, a collaboration with the Fashion Institute of Technology. The theme of the 2016 spring conference is Authentic Fashion. In the fall of 2016, we are organizing a one-day Women in Leadership symposium, which will develop the theme Purpose and Impact. And each month, we organize events that develop leadership competencies, build cultural awareness and appreciation, foster networking and peer mentoring, and explore profound and complex topics that affect our world today.

As we embark on the next 15 years of our existence as a leadership institute, we count on your interest, participation in our programs and continued support. 

Five Qualities of Great Leaders

by Claire Huang

Claire Huang shared what she has learned through her wide range of leadership experiences in marketing, communications, and brand management at the opening seminar for MHI’s mentoring 2015-16 year. Many of the attendees have asked for a copy of the talk. Working with Claire, we have adapted her lecture notes into narrative form and are happy to offer them to you below.

So much great work has been produced and written on leadership. Drawing on this prior work, I have selected five areas of leadership that I believe have the most impact. The way I remember them is by thinking about the qualities of a simple lead pencil.  

The most important quality of a great leader and a pencil is what is inside.

Great leaders are persons of integrity, with high standards. Their actions are based on a sound moral groundwork.  People can see when you do the right thing, whether it is something very small or something larger.  A good way to develop your vision of what leadership with integrity means is to read books about great men and women. 

Great leaders are disciplined. They exercise self-discipline but also require discipline of their teams. They have standards for behavior, communicate these, and give those working with them honest feedback.  

Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India's movement for independence from Britain, is a great example of a true leader with both discipline and high standards. Gandhi exercised non-violent civil disobedience and has served as an inspiration for freedom causes all over the world. He was imprisoned repeatedly for his teachings. He undertook lengthy fasts as protest and also as a means of self-purification. Gandhi focused on self-awareness as well as discipline. As you grow in self-awareness you will begin to understand why you feel what you feel and why you behave as you behave. This enables you to have better control over your thoughts, words, and actions.

Great leaders focus on supporting others. Leaders who are supportive sense and understand how other people feel and show a sincere interest in those around them. They build trust and inspire their colleagues to overcome challenges. They foster efficiency and focus on eliminating fears. This helps to prevent colleagues from engaging in internal rivalry and conflict. Jack Welch, the celebrated former CEO of General Electric, said, "Before you are leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about growing others." 

The second thing that a leader and a pencil have in common is that they sometimes make mistakes. But sometimes we can erase them. Making mistakes is part of life. The best leaders face up to the facts, engage others in the issue, and move ahead to correct their mistakes. Problems do not age well. Great leaders have the fortitude to confront problematic issues promptly and move forward in spite of them. 

Great leaders, like pencils, experience sharpening. In other words, they are honed and made more effective by adversity and change. If you are a great leader, you will use that sharpening to make you better. Great leaders understand that problems will arise, but they are expert at solving problems effectively and then using what they have learned to make their teams and themselves better. Before making decisions, make sure you gather relevant information, get input from all concerned parties, and analyze the information. This is important for everyday issues as well as larger ones. 

Pope Francis is known for his warmth, his humility, and his desire to avoid fanfare. He moved out of the traditional suite in the Apostolic Palace into a small apartment in the Vatican guesthouse. Here he lives simply, avoiding special privileges and attention. What he is less known for is his ability to solve problems quickly and decisively. He made major changes in the Vatican bank, replacing the boards of the bank and its main regulatory body with respected business people from around the globe. Although there has been pushback from entrenched interests at the Vatican, Francis has not been easily influenced. He gets information on important church personnel and organizations from a variety of sources instead of relying on a few insiders. Operating budgets are carefully managed to ensure that as much money as possible can go to charity. 

For both a pencil and a leader to function effectively, it is important to be held in someone else’s hand. For people of faith, it is about being alert to the presence of God and trying to align one’s actions and decisions with His will. It is also about choosing trusted mentors, developing productive connections, and seeking different perspectives. Great leaders actively seek input from others on how to improve performance. They use this input, together with their own insights, to differentiate and calibrate issues, sifting out the less important from the more important. Leaders who do well in this dimension typically base their decisions on sound analysis and avoid the many biases to which decisions are prone. 

Abraham Lincoln, without question one of the great leaders in history, surrounded himself with people, including his rivals, who had strong ambitions and who felt free to question his authority. For example, Lincoln brought Salmon Chase into his cabinet as treasury secretary, knowing that Chase craved the presidency for himself and was repeatedly undermining him with other cabinet members and Congress. So long as he was doing a good job at his post, that was more important than personal feelings. But Lincoln’s motive was not just to put rivals in positions of power, his intention was to choose the ablest people for the good of the country. Lincoln came to power when the nation was in peril, and he had the intelligence and self-confidence to know that he needed the best people by his side, people who were leaders in their own right and who were very aware of their own strengths. That’s an important insight whether you’re the leader of a country or the CEO of a company. 

Finally, great leaders want to make a mark. Great leaders have a vision, a purpose. They have meaning in their lives. Daniel Pink, a noted author on motivation, talks about three areas that motivate people. The first is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, or autonomy.  The second is the desire or impulse to learn and create new things, or mastery. The third is the wish to do better by ourselves and our world which he calls purpose or meaning. Find a purpose that is outside of yourself, one that is bigger that what you can achieve for yourself and speaks to what can you achieve for the greater good.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta was focused on helping the poor. In addition to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, the nuns in her order take a fourth vow to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor." She expanded the idea of poverty, saying, "We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty." She helped us realize that loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.

Successful businesses, too, have a strong sense of purpose. Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Apple is about challenging the status quo. Purpose- driven companies outperformed the Standard & Poor 500 by 10 times from 1996 to 2011. If you find a larger purpose in your life and your work, one that benefits not only you, but also society, others will join you in your quest.

Having a vision is one thing, but the next thing is to operate with a focus on results. Leadership is not only about developing and communicating a vision and setting objectives, but also following through to achieve results. Leaders with a strong results orientation tend to emphasize the importance of efficiency and productivity and to prioritize the work that has the highest value.

To summarize the areas that make great leaders:

Great leaders focus on what is inside: strong integrity, discipline, supporting others.

Great leaders make mistakes, admit them, and have the fortitude to continue and learn.

Great leaders understand that they will experience sharpening through adversity, but they don't just endure, they use what they've learned to do better 

Great leaders understand that they also need to be held in someone's hand; they collaborate to understand different perspectives. 

Great leaders have a bigger purpose in their lives. And this purpose drives them to do good not just for themselves and their families for but society. A bigger purpose. What is yours?

Keep Calm and Carry On

 Image credit: "Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan" by UK Government - Digital scan of original KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON poster owned by wartimeposters.co.uk. Steved1973 (talk) 10:40, 22 October 2011 (UTC). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan.jpg#/media/File:Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan.jpg

Image credit: "Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan" by UK Government - Digital scan of original KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON poster owned by wartimeposters.co.uk. Steved1973 (talk) 10:40, 22 October 2011 (UTC). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan.jpg#/media/File:Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan.jpg

By Alice Trimmer

This expression is usually interpreted as an example of the British “stiff upper lip” that characterizes stoicism in the face of adversity. However, the expression “carry on” has another, perhaps now outdated, meaning. It used to mean complaining, for example, a mother would say to her whining child “What are you carrying on about?” I like to interpret this concept as follows: keep an outward calm even though you are carrying on inside. This has proven to be the single most effective coping tool I developed in over 30 years of managing publishing projects. It was even more valuable during my second career, which spanned nearly a decade, working in, and directing, a non-profit center for youth in the South Bronx. I found that if I could manage to keep calm while everything seems to be falling apart around me (and inside of me as well), this was the single most important thing I could do. As a manager, it is especially critical. When things go wrong—an important piece of work is not delivered on time, an assumption that was not checked has proven false, a critical message was not transmitted—one’s initial reaction is likely to be emotional and somewhat defensive. We may first think “What did I do wrong?” which can quickly modulate into “What did [Sarasponda, Eric, Sebastian, Ellie] do wrong?” Or “Why on earth did [Sarasponda, Eric, Sebastian, Ellie] not let me know about this earlier?” This is the time to take a deep breath and smile. There will be time for debriefing later, but if you get everyone in a whirl because you, the manager, are upset, it only saps energy and distracts the team from getting on with solving whatever problem or situation has arisen. This is easier said than done, but it is helpful to realize that often the consequences of such mishaps are not as severe as they are initially imagined, and furthermore, they are almost inevitable when an enterprise involving many moving parts is underway.  

A Good Leader Is Also a Good Friend

By Mireia Las Heras and Esther Jiménez

We live in a fast-moving and ephemeral culture. It’s fashionable to invent new terms without thinking too deeply about their meaning. In this respect, leadership is described variously as visionary, transactional, lateral, situational, autocratic, emotional, resonant and charismatic─with more to come when these don’t deliver. In popular and academic literature, a leader is a winner and someone who enjoys power. 

Friendship is relegated to the world beyond work. In the workplace, it is a word with negative connotations, associated with influence peddling, string pulling, and, of course, nepotism. Sometimes this is based in reality. One only need look at the so-called “positions of trust” in the social and political life of many countries.

Let us look at the essence of leadership and friendship. Leading means, to paraphrase Salinas, bringing out the best in others. And friendship is, in essence, a disinterested relationship based on trust and affection between people, which is borne out of and strengthened by sharing common goals. As it was put in the title of a book written by one of our professors: to lead is to educate.

In every human enterprise, even one as important as a football team, it is essential that there are friendly relations between the various components in order to increase the chance of achieving one’s goal. It’s vital that everyone participates and contributes to achieve the mission. It’s not enough for everyone to score a goal, however useful that might be. What’s needed is for everyone to want to win the game even if that means not being the one who scores the goal. 

To be a leader who gives orders also means being a collaborator who obeys. And this mandate, if it’s going to be developed and perfected and bring out the best, is at the same time a service. And it only functions when someone is considered a friend, someone who shares a common interest. It’s a long way from the leadership of the list of the 500 most powerful men─or women, if only it was the same thing!─in the world. Leadership and power are not synonymous and, although they aren’t mutually exclusive, neither do they go hand in hand. Magnates and dictators have power without being leaders, while a mother or a teacher may be a stupendous leader without wielding power. 

Leadership and service require each other; they are manifestations of the same thing and are sustained by friendship. “When he pours, he reigns,” ran the slogan in the Tom Cruise film Cocktail. It’s a good phrase: a person is at the same time someone who serves and someone who governs, without seeking their own self-interest. 

A leader has to know how to see and evaluate. And this doesn’t just mean assessing qualities and defects, but developing and bringing out people’s full potential. In the current climate, where products have a short life cycle and where change is the norm rather than the exception, and knowledge rather than experience is what is valued, leaders need to promote friendship to foster the development of their fellow workers. That way, leaders and their colleagues will be able to make clear decisions and face challenges through constant evolution.

Mireia Las Heras is Assistant Professor of Managing People in Organizations, IESE Business School.
Esther Jiménez is Manager of the International Center for Work and Family, IESE Business School.
This essay was first published in the Alumni Magazine IESE, July-September 2011.

 

Is My Identity My Job Title?

By Erin Aldrich

We live in a society where people are often more concerned about what we do than who we are. If you don’t believe me, just think about how often you say something like, “Hi I am Erin Aldrich, Director of Metro Achievement Center” and then smile and pause expecting a similar sentence from the person standing across from you.

To constantly be identifying one’s self with a job title and place of work can take its toll. What if I don’t have a job or don’t have the position I want or am ashamed of where I work or work in what some people consider a lesser job? Since we often identify ourselves with our job, we can start to think our upward movement in a company is the same thing as an increase in our self-worth. Our value starts to become dependent on our position, making it easier to act in ways that might even go against our value systems.

For the past five years I have had the great privilege of getting to know hundreds of young professional women who volunteer weekly at Metro Achievement Center, each searching for happiness and fulfillment. Since these women are also constantly repeating their job title as what identifies them, they might easily begin to think that this is where happiness and fulfillment are to be found. But does this even make sense? Absolutely not!

Not many people stop to think about where happiness and fulfillment come from in the fast-paced world that we live in. Who has time after juggling work, friends, groceries, laundry, drinks with friends, and every once in a while cooking a meal? If we don’t take the time daily to reflect on what we want in life, why we want it, and how we strive to obtain it, it’s easy to fall into the habit of seeing the next promotion or the next pay raise as the key to happiness. If we keep identifying ourselves by our job titles, we limit our self-worth and potential for happiness. It would be very sad to allow our employers to dictate our worth and sense of fulfillment.

How serious are you about finding happiness and fulfillment? If you are serious about it, then I suggest you make time to reflect each day. People who reflect daily on their purpose and identity tend to be much happier. I don’t have any research to back this up, just years of observation. I encourage everyone to take time daily to think about the following questions:

What is the purpose of my life?

Am I trying to fulfill my purpose?

What is at the core of my identity?

Do I often remember this or do I define my worth based on other things?

What is most important to me?

Does the way I set my daily priorities allow me to make time for what is most important?

What are my values and beliefs?

Am I staying true to my values and beliefs?

As we reflect daily on these types of questions, it sets us on a path for success, happiness and fulfillment. 

And in a world where we hear and say many times a day, “Hi I am Erin Aldrich, Director of Metro Achievement Center” smile and pause, it is good to be able to remember while that is what I do, that is not who I am.

 

A Musical Life

By Janice Chik Breidenbach

Those of us who have a variety of strong interests often struggle with how to synthesize these into a coherent whole as we juggle schedules, psychological energy, and priorities. Janice Chik Breidenbach, who spoke on “Beauty Inside Out” at our recent Fashion Intelligence symposium, shares her journey along this path in the interview below.  Janice is currently Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Ave Maria University in Florida. The interview was conducted by Alice Trimmer, of the MHI Board.

You received an AB from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs while simultaneously majoring in Musical Performance.  What led you to pursue such a demanding double major? Did you have a clear idea of which avenue you would pursue once you graduated?

Music was my ‘first love.’ My mother is a professional classical Chinese opera singer and dancer, and my father, who was a computer engineer, also sang classical opera as a gifted amateur: so there was always music in the home. My earliest memories of it, however, are of Mozart records being played in the kitchen as my mother prepared dinner and did housework. My siblings and I owe our musical studies to her fondness for the violin, and her willingness to sacrifice much time and money so that we could have lessons. I began studying the violin at the age of five, at the MacPhail School of Music in Minneapolis. I later took up the piano at age eight. In high school, I seriously considered musical performance as a full-time profession, but was held back by the reasonable consideration that I had much to gain from a liberal arts education. At the same time, my older sister was taking philosophy courses at Duke University with Alasdair MacIntyre, and she introduced me to philosophy for the first time. So I went to Princeton, joined the university orchestra, and promptly ‘fell in love’ a second time, with philosophy.

Music, then philosophy. Was that going from the frying pan into the fire in terms of career outlook?

At Princeton, I was immediately caught up in the general student consensus that a university education was a financial investment, a means to an end: that of maximizing one’s starting salary upon graduation. I started out intending to concentrate in economics and finance, but could not quell an uneasy question: ‘What is this for?—Is there a higher meaning than merely economic or material well-being?’ My uneasiness over this latter question led me to then pursue pre-medicine, then pre-law, eventually applying for and concentrating in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs. I was received into the Catholic Church my senior year, and almost simultaneously sensed a strong calling to pursue graduate studies in philosophy. Only philosophy, in tandem with my newfound faith, appeared able to answer the question of meaning with which I had struggled throughout my time at Princeton.

In what way, if any, has your prior music study benefited your current professional life?

In an important way, my appreciation for music always kept alive my sense in the absence of any substantive faith that there must be more to human existence than merely material life, material happiness, and material death. Before I believed in God, I believed in music: in its power to convey truths about goodness and beauty, to move the soul in sublime and mysterious ways, and as a sign of some other-worldly reality. My experiences in musical performance have also informed my recent PhD research, which defends an Aristotelian view of human action as integrating body and mind (‘soul’) against post-Cartesian materialist theories of action and behavior. Musical performance is, I think, a strong example of such unity between body and soul. What we have in video footage of Heifetz, for instance, playing some of the most technically difficult violin repertoire so coolly and apparently effortlessly offers a perfect demonstration of the body’s potential to absorb the complex commands of our minds, to the extent that the activity of the mind is no longer really needed (musicians call this ‘muscle memory’), and yet the mind is present throughout all of one’s complex movements. 

Do you play now? Do you find it challenging to keep up your musical skills in the midst of a busy career? What advice do you have for people who have abandoned their music studies after high school and would like to come back?  What is the best way to proceed? In such a case does one have to start all over?

These days, as a first-year university professor, I find it nearly impossible to keep up a regular practice schedule for the violin and piano. It is natural to feel frustration when one has certain skills and is unable to fully actualize themand I have struggled with thisbut I have also come to a peaceful resolution of the situation. I’ve had to accept that my main priority at the moment is teaching, scholarship, and service within philosophy: to fulfill my duties well and on time, while also cultivating friendships in my work and outside of it. These new responsibilities exclude the fulfillment of many musical desires, while of course satisfying other enriching pursuits. However, I have found that chamber music is an excellent way to build friendships and forge relationships that would otherwise have never existed. Meeting with friends to play music together on a casual basis, in a relaxed setting, is a wonderful way to refresh one’s musicianship without becoming overly stressed about perfecting technique. Technique will improve with time, often outside of our awareness or effort, when our main focus is the enjoyment of the music itself, as well as our friends.

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The Power of Authenticity

By Teresa Carale, MHI President

The cover of the January–February 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review magazine featured: “The Problem with Authenticity: When It’s OK to Fake It Till You Make It.” Is there truly a problem with authenticity?

It would be difficult to find anyone who disagrees with the power of image. As a picture is worth a thousand words, one’s image produces impressions on others that can be deep and lasting. For some, however, there appears to be a conflict between the two concepts: image and authenticity. Some argue that there is no need to worry about image if one is authentic. Certainly, authenticity bridges the gap between reality and image.

A strong, positive image can go a long way in enhancing the influence of a leader. If there is incongruity between the image and reality, the image generated will eventually fracture, and any influence a leader initially had will be lost. On the other hand, if one’s purpose is to enhance one’s image so that one’s best qualities are emphasized, or one puts forward qualities that are most important for the job or responsibility one has, then there is no conflict with reality, and no problem with a lack of authenticity.

There are various ways to enhance one’s image. Consultants work with leaders to enhance their executive presence, as Ginny Baldridge explained in one of the break-out sessions during MHI’s recent Fashion Intelligence Symposium. The best starting point, however, is self-knowledge, which consists not only in being aware of one’s strengths and limitations, but also in being aware of how one is perceived by others and how one relates to others. This goes well beyond “This is who I am—take it or leave it.” A leader is open to changing and improving not only one’s image, but also one’s character and values. A leader is open to striving to be a better person and thereby a better leader.

Authenticity is so important that we at Murray Hill Institute have chosen it as the theme for next year’s Fashion Intelligence Symposium: “Authenticity in Fashion.” We also support the concept of authenticity through our mentoring program, leadership seminars, and conferences.

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