11/30 A Visit To A French Pastry Shop (And What I Learned About Leadership)

A Visit To A Paris Pastry Shop
Tuesday mornings, the women leaders in my Mastermind are on a shared call to share wins and challenges. There is ‘leadership gold’ to be mined from these conversations for sure. But there is also ‘life’ gold.
On her last trip to Paris, Jen shared that she did a pastry tour of the Marais with her family. (The Marais is the neighborhood I am living in for the month of June.) She recommended making the trip to find these ‘sugar bombs’ at “Aux Merveilleux de Fred,” literally translated “Fred’s Marvelous.”
So I rousted myself from bed, put on my sneakers and workout gear and took off for my Tuesday morning marvel. I make a point each morning to go and marvel at something in Paris. Otherwise, I would just sit down and work, like I do at home. What’s the point of being here?

The pomp and circumstance hits you the minute you happen upon the store front at Aux Merveilleux.  Video 

The “cornerfront” is painted a brilliant peacock blue, the store name in gold letter script above the doors, high enough to fit a horse carriage through. Inside, meringues for as far as the eye can see behind glass cases.

Miniature ones. Big ones for the ‘damn those calories’ folks.
“Coffee, strawberry, caramel, dark chocolate.”
The clerk ticked off the flavors.
The name “Merveilleux” is a nod to the women and a time in France (1795 and 1799). The French had just come off the “Reign of Terror” when the government had executed thousands of people considered threats to the French Revolution. There were mass executions, arbitrary arrests, and an environment of total fear and suspicion.
The public was heaving a huge sigh of relief and now luxury, decadence, and silliness were the order of the day.
The Merveilleuses decided to scandalize Paris with linen and gauze dresses, almost transparent and displaying ample cleavage. Women even made their dresses wet in order to make them cling to their figures, pairing dresses with wigs in blonde, black, blue, and green. Greek style sandals were tied above the ankle with crossed ribbons. They would gather in salons to discuss politics and economics. But their main objective was to observe the art of taking their time and appreciating good and beautiful things.
The mood at “Aux Merveilleux de Fred is similarly light. There is no coffee. No place to sit. Just “light” fare. The meringue cake is lightened using whipped ganache instead of butter cream.

I got a hot dog bun piped full with fresh chocolate, and ate it on the stoop outside.  Video

I thought about what it means to stop and observe good and beautiful things in my leadership.
By doing so:

1. I gain perspective. It allows me to see beyond the immediate problems and challenges, and think about the long term impact on my business.

2. I maintain my emotional well being.  Being in a leadership role is sometimes stressful and demanding. So much context switching and decision making daily. Taking the time to appreciate beauty and doing things that give me joy helps me maintain my emotional equilibrium. 

3. I get inspiration. This morning, I’m even inspired by the Marveilleuxes, who had a ‘devil may care’ attitude after such a dark period in history.  I’m here in Paris to think about innovations in my business and problem solving. These stories bring a new energy to my work.
I’m spending a month in Paris doing client strategy for folks who want to work on their thought leadership. I’m also moderating 2 panels at the InvestHer Conference. If you would like to do a VIP day with me, Istanbul, Barcelona, and of course New York, are still available. More info here

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