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Corporate Leaders are Fun Too

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Article 3, Confessions of a creative-corporate zombie

I have a confession to make: I am secretly a fun person. Hard to swallow, I know. As a corporate consultant working with executives in Fortune 500 companies, I’m not meant to be fun. Upper-level management is allowed to politely enjoy themselves on a golf outing or engage in witty conversation at an industry happy hour. But fun beyond that? Best keep that to yourself, lest it contaminate your carefully curated LinkedIn page.

Honestly, I don’t mind golf, and I definitely like happy hour. There’s nothing wrong with using your free time to engage in hobbies and activities that will advance your career. I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve learned much and made many friends in the process. The trouble comes when you force it. You go to the Chamber of Commerce event, though you’d much rather be at a dive karaoke bar, singing ABBA at the top of your lungs. You volunteer to do the bookkeeping for a networking group, thereby ignoring the unfinished cross stitch that’s been sitting on your coffee table for months.

I’ve been there many times. Driving to a business-centric extracurricular when I’d much rather be doing things that make my heart sing. I don’t regret it. I’m extremely grateful for the professional opportunities presented and friends made over the years. At the same time, I’ve been missing out on so many recreational and nourishing pastimes. Nature. Art. Culture. Pop culture.

As a result, it took me years to find my one true love: writing fiction. It wasn’t until I jumped off the resume-building hamster wheel in favor of true enjoyment that I even knew I liked to write. You see, I’ve been trying to write a novel for over a decade, but something more important always came up. Bachelor’s degree. Master’s degree. Certifications. Volunteering. Promotion at work that requires extra attention. Another promotion. Oh right, and I need to pay attention to my family and eat once in a while.

Now that I’m obsessed with writing – seriously, I get sucked into a creative time warp during my free time – I can’t imagine a week going by without indulging in the blank page. So why on earth have I been avoiding fun things for so long?

Warped perception. I grasped onto a stigma that told me serious leaders are stoic, focused, and yes…kind of predictable and boring. I bought into a delusional idea that I couldn’t excel in corporate leadership and have other seemingly, nonsensical interests.

My book took so long to complete because I’d sit down to write a chapter of the fantasy novel brewing in mind and my ego would chatter at me. This is a waste of time. You should be reading about Six Sigma, not researching mermaid mythology. And I’d clam up, convinced that my colleagues would laugh and throw rotten tomatoes at me if they found out about my misguided passion. Then I’d seal off my imagination in favor of something else “productive.”

The truth is, you can live in a world of “both and” rather than “either or.” You can be a successful executive and excel in a seemingly disparate hobby. I would even venture as far as to say that you can have two vocations. You can be a marketing guru and an accomplished sculptor. Own a tech development firm and play drums in an eighties cover band.

I am one example of this multifaceted existence. This upcoming spring, I will publish the first book in a young adult fantasy series. A culmination of a decade’s worth of starts and stops, but I finally got there and couldn’t be happier. This spring I am also planning to kill it in my role as a corporate consultant. I’m leading several high priority, enterprise initiatives with colleagues from all over the world, and I look forward to our team knocking it out of the park.

Henceforth, I am publicly blending my corporate and creative worlds. Axing my standard personal brand and taking the filters off my free time. I can’t publish a fantasy series about mermaids without revealing my zany side. And I can’t deliver in my career without being a leader. So here we go, world. Bullhorns out – I am a leader and a fun person.

As a final note, I’ll let you in on another secret. Other corporate zombies are fun, too. We’re everywhere when you look under the hood. I want to hear from you sparkling, full-of-life professionals. Those of you who rock your “day-job” while doubling as skydive instructors, roller derby enthusiasts, and aerial performers. Reach out to tell me how you navigate time and space. Or simply drop me a line to say hi, so we can encourage each other to keep the fun-lovin’ faith.

Until next time. You flipping rock.
~Melissa