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Allowing the personal in a professional world

Today’s a bad day. Like really bad. And yet, an important presentation is scheduled in 2 hours. What do you do?

There are two extremes to this:

First, the audience owes you nothing. Investors, customers, partners, the board, they don’t have to care about your well-being. It’s a professional exchange and so, in a way, it’s the professional thing to do to just get over it, be a professional, and do your job.

And yet, we’re seeing more and more examples of a different perspective. Most prominently, Naomi Osaka took the right to skip the French Open for mental health reasons. A few weeks later, Simone Biles did the same at the Olympics. Although these two athletes are about as professional as it gets, both of them decided that their personal health was more important than their professional duty.

Even more, they decided to be open about it and become vulnerable by stepping up and speaking up about their mental health. They decided to make it highly personal in a highly professional field.

It earned them an enormous amount of respect.

The truth for you on any given day is almost certainly in between those extremes. There is no simple truth, no simple advice to make things personal or to leave the personal off the table. For any given person on any given day at any given location, the decision about how to balance the personal and the professional might be different.

What we can learn from Osaka and Biles is that it’s ok to make it a choice. To trust your gut. To be vulnerable.

Today, professional includes personal.

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