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January 18, 2007

Bounty

My cup runneth over. Bible, Psalm 23:5

Several years into my investment banking career at Smith Barney, my boss hired Ana Gomez, a young woman born and reared in Colombia, who had just graduated from Cornell with a civil engineering degree. Adorable, effervescent and so very smart, my superiors began giving some of the more substantive work to her, bypassing me. I was devastated, and supremely jealous. (Yes, indeed – I wanted to trip the prom queen – desperately). Needless to say, I didn’t mentor her. I just couldn’t. I didn’t have it to give.

Recently I told my friend Lana Grover about the Intellectual Immigration Fund, and she said to me, “Whitney, before women will mentor (make figurative contributions to the Fund), they need to feel a sense of bounty.”

I experienced bounty at a Christmas party in early December. So that they could fete their friends with desserts, the Robisons spent an entire day visiting some of Boston’s best bakeries and pastisseries. Truth be told, when I go to parties I often go light on dinner just so I can have more dessert. But that evening there was SO much dessert, I found myself waiting longer than usual to eat, and eating less. I kept thinking – when I’m ready, there will be enough.

My childhood friend Liz Economy seems to experience bounty in her life generally, and in her professional life especially. An expert on China, Liz works at the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-partisan think tank. Last summer when she needed to hire a research assistant, instead of simply bringing her top pick on board and getting on with her busy life, Liz picked up the phone and made calls on behalf of several of the top candidates she didn’t hire to help them find great jobs elsewhere (for example, at The New York Times).

Why would she bother?

Because Liz felt bountiful – she already had enough acclaim, and in this instance, enough political capital, to feel she had a storehouse from which she could give, and therefore she did.

These days, my sense of bounty usually extends beyond dessert parties, particularly in the professional sphere. Because of this feeling of having more than enough, I find that I am willing and happy to share the professional limelight, to encourage others’ endeavors, and even expend my time and influence on their behalf. Of course, I have the “more-than-enough” feeling some days more than others. But when I do, and I can give, my cup runneth over.

In what area of your life do you feel a sense of bounty, and can give from that bounty?

As a community volunteer, mother, artist, professional, athlete?

Who within your sphere of influence would be a grateful recipient of a portion of your bounty? Perhaps there is someone who you truly like but just haven’t reached out to yet – maybe because you were scared. Could you start a conversation about what you know how to do or offer a simple word of encouragement?


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Comments

This is an important post...especially in the lives of women. I have noticed in my interactions with women both in professional and personal capacities that we have incredible abilities to nurture and share with each other. At the same time, we also have an incredible power to be destructive, jealous, and "catty" with each other. I think dealing with each personal or professional interaction from a place of "bounty" or abundance is essential not only to our own growth and development and healthy perspective, but also strengthens all of us (women and men). It is such the "natural woman" mentality to think in terms of "limited supply" when the reality is that there is enough and plenty to spare. As I have put this into practice in my own life I have been amazed at the opportunities that have been presented to me and to others. The little effort I exert to act out of abundance always returns ten fold and in ways that I least expect. I am still learning and refining this process in my own life but I have at least recognized that the true gift of acting out of abundance is that I honor the best in myself and am true to the goodness inside of me. Thanks for bringing up this subject! I hope to incorporate more of this attitude into my way of living moment by moment.

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