In eighth grade, when I went to the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee Nationals in Washington DC, I rose for my third round. “Myrhhed. The adjectival form of the word Frankincense and Myrrh.” Panic rose in my throat. “To be myrhhed is to be tainted with a perfume the Three Wise Men brought to the baby Jesus.”
I was raised a bloody Hindu.
Jesus, the Three Kings, Frankincense and Myrrh. These were all Christian concepts. I had no idea what that meant. “M-U-R-D,” I began, my voice quivering.
I think back to my 60-year-old father enlisting on an Indian dating site while still married to my mother, and the first time I encountered racism in Boston.
“Incorrect!” The judge yelled.
Clambering off the stage, I searched for my parents in the crowd. When I finally found them, they reeked of disappointment. I sat meekly down next to them.
Later, my mom would tell me that my dad had been filming with his video camera. At home, he would play that video of me failing over and over on the big screen TV in the basement. He would turn the volume up loud so that I could hear it from my pink bedroom. “M-U-R-D”, I would hear my little voice say. “Incorrect!” the judge would bellow. Then nothing.
Over and over again.
I pleaded with my mother to make him stop, but she had no more power than I did.
Someone said to me, “I wonder, sometimes, if you are motivated by the fear of not succeeding.”
I think about leadership differently today. Good leadership is about mind-training, not reacting with emotion, total self-care, and priming my mind. I could have handled the stress of the moment. But I didn’t have those skills in 8th grade. My definition of leadership today is very different from my parents.
Saturday morning, we talk about leadership with the young people of LadyDrinks. We ask “Am I a leader? How is my definition of leadership different than my parents?”