In my professional life, I seek organizations that align with my ethics and values. It’s more important to me to have a good workplace fit than to have a fancy title. Especially since one of my most prized core values is curiosity, I’d rather be in a professional role that is slightly out of my area of expertise or comfort zone – one that allows me to learn new things – if it means working for an organization and alongside people who share my basic beliefs about human nature and what makes us whole.
Allow me one important distinction! That’s not to say I look to surround myself with “like-minded people.” Since one of my core values is open-mindedness, I enjoy being with people who will expose me to new ideas and perspectives, even ones with which I may disagree. However, at work and in most of my social circles, it’s important to me that I’m primarily spending my time with people who have a basic agreement about how we treat and see each other.
With that in mind, I thought it might be beneficial to lay out my top 5 personal and professional core values (in no particular order, since they are all somewhat interdependent):
This is also an inherent character trait of mine. “Curious” is something I am just as much as “curiosity” is something I value. My curious nature is why I went to business school. Yes, it’s great to have an MBA on my resume, but I was a marketing director when I applied to Temple University, and I didn’t “need” an MBA as much as I simply wanted to know more. I wanted to learn about how organizations function beyond the scope of marketing, especially since I knew that marketing played a role in so many other aspects of business operations. I’ve always been hungry to understand how things work and I tend to dive deeper and deeper into topics that strike me as interesting. I have the growing sense that law school will be next.
Curiosity is also something that I value in others. I love to have deep (or even shallow!) discussions with people about things neither of us really know much about so we can try to figure them out together. My mom and I do this all the time when we’re chatting. Most of our sentences begin with, “I wonder why…” or “Do you know how…” We often end up Googling things and then sharing with one another what we’ve learned. It’s such a rewarding way to connect with someone. I so prefer to have dialogues with people in this manner rather than the, “Here’s what I think and here’s why I’m right” style of discourse. How boring.
I was tempted to say “empathy” here, but I decided that empathy should be a given. While I do acknowledge that there are some psychological disorders that can cause a lack of empathy, in general, people who do not actively work to develop their empathy are incredibly difficult to form relationships with. And that’s why I decided “thoughtfulness” was closer to what I mean. “Thoughtfulness” implies a degree of intentionality that I value more than an inherently “empathetic” quality. Some people are naturally more empathetic than others. However, some have to really work at it, and in a way, I think admire that even more. Perhaps what I’m really talking about is a level of self-awareness that I value, but that seemed more passive than what it is I’m referring to. Thoughtfulness is more proactive.
The way I demonstrate thoughtfulness is that I’m big on handwritten thank you notes and sympathy cards. I have blank cards in every space I occupy (my home, my car, my office) – just in case I need one at a moment’s notice. When I write a sympathy card, I intentionally wait two weeks to send it. When my dad passed away, I remember how after the funeral, the cards stopped coming and it felt like everyone had forgotten the grief I was feeling (even though they certainly did not). So I think one of the more thoughtful things to do is to send the card when no one else is sending them anymore.
It’s so close to curiosity that I almost thought I shouldn’t include it. However, having an open mind is slightly different than curiosity in my view. For me, open-mindedness is about resisting my first impulse to argue with an idea I disagree with. I try (and sometimes fail) to wait before I respond to something that triggers my argumentative impulse. We as a society need dissenting perspectives and alternative opinions. If people aren’t allowed to speak their mind, or don’t feel safe to do so, how do we strengthen our own opinions and beliefs? I suppose, then, it goes without saying that I’m rather opposed to “cancel culture.” However, I do feel that there is a time and place for everything, and some topics or views should be reserved for very specific settings.
This is also not to say that I don’t value criticism and feedback. I wrote an entire article for forbes.com about the importance of feedback; however, being open-minded means hearing people out first, which requires a level of curiosity, too. In order to be genuinely open-minded, I have to be able to ask questions, and not in a socratic, argumentative, or rhetorical way, but in a genuinely inquisitive way. If I don’t have an open mind, I can’t be curious, and vice versa, so I had to include both.
To a degree, this one is fairly simple. I just like to look at pleasing things, listen to emotionally cathartic music, and read written work that inspires me. So much so that the arts are a driving force in my life. I’m kind of obsessed with color palettes. At the end of each year, I’m dying to know what the new Pantone Color of the Year will be, and then I spend a good deal of time drooling over all the different palettes that can be derived from that one color. I also adore beautiful lines. I can thank my background as a classically trained ballet dancer for that. There’s nothing like the 90 degree angle of a beautiful arabesque. I’m also drawn to intentionally asymmetrical shapes and music that lights up my mesolimbic pathways in surprising ways. I’ll take a museum over a bar scene any day (although if the museum is serving cocktails, that’s a win-win).
The arts are just in my blood. My mother is the craftsperson I admire most. In high school and college, she sewed her entire wardrobe, and I’m still trying to emulate her sewing skills. Now she has completely given herself over to pottery, and I’m in constant awe of the pieces she creates. She’s my knitting retreat sidekick, even though I tend to outpace here there. My life partner is a fantasy fiction writer, and having read some of his work, I feel blessed to live with someone who is a such wizard with the written word (he would tell me that last alliterative pun is too on the nose). One of my closest friends is an incredible choreographer for the dance studio at which she teaches, and another close friend is a full-time knitwear designer and yarn dyer. I live blocks away from three art galleries in a town where murals and live music abound. I don’t seek out the artsy types on purpose, but I obviously tend to gravitate toward them.
Some will see “logic” as oppositional to “artistry,” but I’d argue that the two compliment each other nicely. There is a certain logic to good art even if it looks like chaos on the outside.
Not to be confused with formulaic or derivative predictability, logic implies a certain degree of rationality or coherence. Again, I don’t have to agree with someone’s conclusions but I tend to need to know the rationale that may have gotten them there. I have a hard time with arguments that have no logic or, worse, have critically flawed logic. For a while, I have wanted to write a whole series on logical fallacies (cognitive biases) because I find them simultaneously fascinating and maddening.
Here’s a silly example of logic that I love. My life partner, Pete, has a method of organization that is so simple it’s brilliant. We have a chest of drawers in our entry way that contains various things, stuff, and junk. There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to the items that go into this chest. It includes scissors, tape, electronic chargers, batteries, white-out, ear buds, pens, etc. So where is the logic? It’s in how we decide which drawer each item goes into because … (this is genius, I tell you) … each drawer is alphabetized! I think there are about 5 drawers, so we have drawers that are discretely labeled A-E, F-I, and so on. Until I lived with him, I was like most people – I had a drawer for scissors and tape, a bin for electronic accessories, a container for iKea furniture parts, and about a hundred other boxes, cabinets, Tupperware containers, etc., but then what the heck to do I do with this one random thing that can’t be categorized? I never realized that we often end up having too many “things” that don’t fit a certain category, so then we have too many containers with not enough stuff in them. For a logical person like myself, this can cause an existential crisis very quickly. With the alphabetized system, we don’t have to worry about having a new container for each category of “stuff” – just put the thing (or look for it) in the drawer based on its first letter. Genius! Although there is an ongoing debate about whether it’s called “white-out” or “correction fluid.” Nothing’s infallible.
There you have it.
That’s kind of me in a nutshell. There are other things I value as well – inclusiveness, belonging, community, justice, equity, the list goes on. However, I think that if you dig deep enough into the above 5 values, you’ll get to the other things I value, too. I can’t be inclusive without an open-mind or promote justice without logic, and so forth. But I’m curious! What are your core values? I love learning about how people tick!