Lean In? I’d Rather Lean Back

Lie BackLet’s face facts: I’m less the “Lean In” and more the “Lie Back” type. Don’t get me wrong -- I’m aware and an advocate of the fact that hard work, diligence and effort are what make success. In life, if you want to get ahead, or get somewhere, anywhere, you have to get up. As in, out of bed. Of course. Being a working woman in New York City, columnist for the LikeaBossGirls website, a mentor to young women, an example of fierce and fearless feminism, and a shining beacon of all that’s good and true, I’m often asked about how important it is to “Lean In”. Of course, I say, girls must let nothing stop them in pursuing their dreams. One must be proactive and persistent in achieving one’s goals. One must have goals. But what if your goal looks a lot like relaxing on the couch, online shopping with a big bag of chips and a six-hour Law & Order marathon? It’s not that I don’t have goals; it’s just that they never seem as appealing as, well, sitting around. It’s like I’m two people. One reads all kinds of books on fulfilling your potential, time management, focusing on your priorities, using Native Advertising and Google Analytics to get the word out. But the other never gets the lead out. That person likes salty snacks, petting her dog and routing for Jack McCoy. The only position to which she aspires is reclining. I used to think this lounging, loafing side of me was the ruin of me. But now I’m not so sure. It’s not like I’m incapable of action, and working hard. At various times in my life I’ve had 3 or more jobs all at once. I used to be someone who famously could not pass a “Help Wanted” sign without thinking I should go in and apply for the job. “I could work a cash register” and “I could sell beds, baths and things” or “I could dance topless.” Before my knees betrayed me, for decades I ran between 15 and 36 miles a week. I’d get up at 5am to run 12 miles before work. Back when I was a bodybuilder, I’d spend all day teaching second grade, then take an hour-long subway ride downtown to my gym where I’d do heavy lifting 6 days a week. But I’ve never been what you might call ‘super ambitious’. For example, ambitious people usually don’t major in Philosophy in college, and then hightail it to the Bronx to become elementary school teachers. But it wasn’t because I was lazy. (This is when I’d get up early to spend my day teaching, then take the long subway ride to Greenwich Village to lift weights for an hour or more, and then ride back up home to the Bronx.) I’m not so much lazy as unmotivated. I’m only indolent when I’m not into it. I can work and work up a sweat, but I seem to have a hard time working up enthusiasm for traditional concepts of success. I want to be useful, to be kind and helpful. I want to use my brain, and I want to be around people who are smart and funny. Mostly, I want engage and be engaged. Then there’s the whole me really-not-liking-stress thing. Stress, don’t like it. Office politics, don’t care for ‘em. Craziness, no thanks. Of course, there’s always going to be a certain amount of insanity, stress and mishigas in any occupation, and that’s fine. I want to be challenged, I like rising to a crisis, and getting shit done in the occasional frenzy can be rewarding. But as I mosey through life I generally like to be happy, peaceful, and relaxed. (The word ‘mosey’ is a clue right there.) I believe the trick is to be excited without being nuts, to be hard-working without being hard. Besides, there can only be a ‘turned on’ if there’s a turned off. This coming year, I’m going to stop beating myself up for being unambitious. I’m going to embrace what I really want and who I really am. But where I do need not to be laid-back, where I do need to lean forward, is in pursuing things that motivate me. I need to ignite the power of prioritizing, to find and focus on things where I can engage and be engaged. And OK, maybe stop after just one Law & Order.            

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2 Responses

  1. Holly says:

    I applaud this–and feel the same way. I will lead when forced to by my job, or things I care about. But if there is an avenue that directs me away from office politics, stress, rejection, and overall strenuousness, THAT’s the road I am taking. And one L&O is never enough.

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