I lived what most would describe as a normal life. Until I didn’t. On August 10, 2013, while on vacation, I was in a tragic boating accident. I lost my left leg, suffered extreme injuries to my right leg and lost temporary function of my right arm. I faced a daunting recovery journey, amidst balancing a career as a vice president at Hallmark Cards and being a wife and mother to a 2-year-old and 4-year-old.
Through this chaos, I found clarity. This unexpected journey taught me these important and universal lessons that apply to every facet of our lives, including our professional lives.
Leverage the power of perspective. It’s common to say, “That puts things in perspective!” when you hear some tragic news. This notion is powerful, but often short-lived. Once the next distraction enters our brain, we typically let go of the power to see the important versus the trivial. Through my recovery process, I learned I had to find ways to make perspective last. I would do this by simply—and actively—focusing on my perspective. I would ask myself questions such as, “How could this situation be worse?” or “What’s the hidden advantage?” These re-framing tools were essential to my recovery. I also learned how to apply these tools in my professional life. At work, it’s easy to focus on what’s wrong or what could be better. Instead of indulging oneself in this natural obsession, leverage what’s going right and what is working. Use this broader perspective to better understand what’s really important and what’s really going to make an impact. True, I learned these simple yet worthy management lessons through hardship, but you don’t have to experience tragedy to apply the same outlook. Challenge yourself to look for the good.
Get resourceful. Until my accident, I thought I was resourceful. I would have labeled myself as “scrappy” (in a good sense). After going through my recovery process where every single daily routine was a challenge, I discovered a whole new level of resourcefulness. In the early months after my accident, I couldn’t participate in my kids’ bedtime routines. Their bedrooms were upstairs, and I was in a wheelchair. As a working mom, this special and snuggly part of the day was sacred to me. One day I couldn’t take it anymore, so I found a way to get out of my wheelchair and crawl up the stairs. I would rock my daughter to sleep and text my husband to come and transfer her to her bed. Then, I would crawl to my son’s room and read books and snuggle. I was forced to either get resourceful or miss out. So I got resourceful.
Countless experiences like this made me question if I could be more resourceful at work. What more could I do with what I had? How could I just begin, versus waiting for more money or more time or more people? I truly do believe resourcefulness is one of the biggest differentiators in workplace performance.
Find a way to believe. Have you ever been given a goal or project at work that you didn’t think was possible? A “stretch goal” you felt was truly a stretch? When we feel this way, we inevitably sabotage our ability to deliver the goal.
I distinctly remember some dark winter days where I didn’t think I would ever truly be happy again after my accident. I couldn’t shower without assistance. Walking to the bedroom felt like running a marathon. Though I was trying desperately to be positive, I was struggling to believe I could find a way through this disruption to a (dreaded term) “new normal.”
Once I started to realize my ability to see and believe a positive outcome was crucial, I focused on what it would take to make me believe. I started to document my progress to help me see an upward trend versus obsessing about the challenge du jour. Put in ponytail today. Wore prosthetic leg for two hours straight. I forced myself out of my comfort zone time and again to build some leading indicators of success. For instance, I went zip-lining in Mexico five months after my accident versus canceling the planned vacation. I’ll never forget the feeling of the wind on my face and the belief in myself that stormed through my heart.
I learned through my struggle that it was my responsibility and mine alone to find ways to chart a mental path to confidence and conviction. Likewise, if you challenge yourself to say, “How can I accomplish this?” instead of focusing on the barriers of what can’t be done, you can reach goals—both in your life and at the office—far beyond your expectations. As leaders, creating conviction and fueling motivation are essential. And by the way, this type of thinking also creates resourcefulness. (See point above.)
Lindsey Roy is CMO Hallmark Cards where she oversees all product development, marketing and commercialization for Hallmark greeting cards. Lindsey has led teams in innovation, digital development and product merchandising and was named VP as one of the youngest in the history of Hallmark.
In my role at Hallmark where I lead marketing, product and digital initiatives, I am convinced that we have so many opportunities to deliver our mission of helping to create a more emotionally connected world. This mission is timeless, but I believe in today’s world it’s more relevant than ever.
Be vulnerable. I remember writing a blog update that rotated between various leaders at Hallmark a couple of years before my accident. Frankly, it was boring and uninspiring. It was the blog equivalent of saying that your biggest weakness is “being too hard on yourself” during a job interview.
At that time, I wasn’t willing to really share the hard stuff openly with others. The stuff that makes people relate to you. During my recovery, I wrote a blog initially out of necessity to update people efficiently on my medical progress. Somewhere along the way I became extremely open. Vulnerable. And people reacted. We all have hardships and fears and challenges. And we all need to help each other realize ways to overcome, to succeed, to thrive. Vulnerability, in the appropriate doses, builds trust, humanizes leaders and helps us all relate to one another. I brought this newfound vulnerability with me to the office. When I was invited to speak at a quarterly leadership meeting, I chose not to share the standard and expected business leadership advice and instead shared what was really on my mind: the story of my accident. I showed personal photos and discussed details about what I’d experienced. I took a risk by deviating from the norm at these meetings, and it paid off: My story resonated and people appreciated my openness to tell it.
Before my accident, if you’d told me what was in store for me, I would have said there’s no way I could handle it. But then it happened, and I didn’t have a choice. I had to overcome the challenge, and I did. At work and in life, it can be easy to opt ourselves out of things because we think we can’t do them. What if instead we said yes, dove in and figured it out along the way? My bet is that we’d realize how much smarter and stronger we are than we think.