How I’m Celebrating My Birthday (stepping into Melinda Gates’ shoes and channeling Brené Brown)

AlexiaCoaching, Communication, Public Speaking, Women's Issues

Half my lifetime ago, almost to the day, I sat in the pews at the St. Madeleine Sophie Catholic Church listening to Melinda Gates address my senior class during our graduation.

Now, on what will definitely be my most exciting birthday, I’m traveling back to my alma mater to deliver the high school commencement address.

I was brought to deep, ugly tears when I l first learned that I was chosen by some of the senior girls who saw me speak at a parent event earlier this year. And the opportunity feels even more humbling, exciting, juicy and perfectly timed today, given that I saw my hands-down favorite speaker and thought leader, Brené Brown, keynote a conference I also spoke at last week.

For me, seeing Brené live is how I imagine it would have felt in the 60s to see The Beatles.  I was giddy, a little shaky and my hands actually throbbed I clapped so hard. While Brené shared stories that even a junkie like me hasn’t read in her books or heard her tell on interviews, what impressed me most was that her truthbombs dropped every few seconds over the course of almost an hour.

When we are experiencing joy, we must stop dress rehearsing tragedy in order to protect ourselves.

When you are struggling, finish the sentence: “The story I am telling myself right now is… “

Vulnerability is NOT live tweeting your bikini wax.

Whether being provocative or playful, and in many moments a little bit of both, Brené opened my heart and increased my consciousness. And with one simple statement, she illuminated a truth I had never articulated out loud for myself.

If comfort is important to you, you should not lead. You can have courage. Or you can have comfort. But you can’t have both.

Prior to the birth of my daughter, I had gotten very comfortable. I had a six-figure training business. I typically worked three or four days per week. Juiced daily. Did yoga three to four times per week. And while many closest to me were mystified why I would want to scale my business and reach more people at the very same moment I became a mom, something erupted in me through childbirth (and postpartum depression) – a desire to step up and lead more prominently.

Over the last couple of years there have been dozens of moments that have not been comfortable. But, I’ve strived to choose courage over complacency. I’ve rigorously worked on my ability to play nicely with these feelings of discomfort (the very feelings I work with so many speakers on). And this idea, validated by what I experienced with Brené, will be the foundation of what I share in my graduation speech tonight.

My clients come to me for many different reasons. Often it’s first to co-create a big speech. In other cases it’s to prepare for a funding pitch. As time goes on it’s often to create a profitable speaking plan and create content for workshops, trainings, webinars or retreats.

And for almost everybody, it’s to find their way to take the ideas Brené Brown discusses, coupled with her unparalleled storytelling, and integrate it with their speaking and thought leadership.

When I opened applications for the Spotlight Speakers Collective I NEVER imagined the dozens of women in this community who would step up and say, “Lex, I want you as my mentor for the next 10 months!

This Saturday is the last day to submit an application for the Spotlight Speakers Collective, and 3 spots of the 10 available have already been claimed.

If you have been visiting the program page and musing on whether to apply, be sure to submit your application by week’s end. If I’ve got a hunch this experience is an appropriate next step for you, we will hop on the phone together next week or the week after to discuss all of the experience details.

As I will share in tonight’s commencement speech, my senior year I had the opportunity to do a monologue project. Each of the girls in my class drew the name of a noteworthy woman from American history, and we were tasked with creating and performing a first person monologue about her life. Options included Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Rosa Parks and I… drew Tracy Chapman.

I was crushed, truthfully, because I had no idea who she was. And when I did find out that she was a folk singer-songwriter I wasn’t anymore excited. But I did the work. I listened over and over again to her lyrics, crafting a monologue that ultimately became my favorite creative project of high school. I couldn’t get the signature line of her classic song, Fast Car, out of my head through most of college.

“I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone.”

You were put here to be a someone. Please don’t ever forget it. And please go out there and crush it – choosing courage over comfort every step of the way!