If you wake up these days feeling the tone and outlook of the world around you has taken a surreal shift, you’re not alone. Like many of us, I have enlisted my feet and hands in fuller engagement in our democracy. It feels good. But as much as that outer expression helps, I’ve felt a parallel need to process these changes inwardly.
Six friends and I took two hours on a recent Friday night to ground ourselves in the new reality through a series of short writing exercises followed by honest conversation. We explored questions about ourselves and shared what we came up with in the hope of finding a path forward.
These six friends and I—we call ourselves The Circle—have been meeting semi-monthly for about fifteen years. We’ve explored our lives through various prisms, including dream interpretation, Jungian archetypes and the 17 stages of the Hero’s Journey. We take turns orchestrating the evening, using various tools with the aim of distilling insight.
On our first post-inauguration meeting, it was my turn to lead the evening. I came up with a short visualization to help put us in touch with our inner wisdom. Afterwards, we took up our pens and worked silently together to explore five sets of questions in the hope of shielding our inner weather from the outer climate.
Having the Courage to Explore Your Canyon
When I was in college, I had a powerful dream that I was standing on a cliff over a vast, vaporous canyon. With me was a giant Great Dane with the heart of a horse whose job was to lead me down the trail. Later a Jungian dream analyst told me the vast space was my soul, not to be feared but to be explored. The dog-horse was my guide, and if I didn’t descend on my own, life would take me there. Better to go voluntarily.
If you’ve ever trekked the real Grand Canyon, you know the river that formed it was a buzz saw through time. Each descending layer of rock represents billions of years. The deeper you climb, the more you penetrate the oldest part of the canyon. We are like canyons, too. We operate on the busy surface, preoccupied with the here-and-now of careers, family and friends, but it can be enormously grounding to take time to journey down to our center.
The hectic surface of life is full of the people, places and situations that occupy the here-and-now. They reflect back the refrains that circle in our heads. But if we take a moment to step back from fires at work, interpersonal conundrums, political chaos or whatever weather is raging on our cliff top in order to slip down into the peaceful space of our inner canyon, we can gain clearer perspective.
The constant noise of life can make us skittish about silence, but the deepest part of you, ancient and timeless, is your pure essence, the you-ness that would still be you even without your job or family or even your name—the core of your being that carries and supports you. It’s worth a visit.
The levels of rock in a canyon are like the layers of your experience, the storms and earthquakes you lived through, both personal and collective. They can remind us of how we’ve reacted to difficult times in the past, moments when we stayed centered or lost touch with ourselves. We can begin to notice our signature reactions and go-to patterns. Maybe we’ve been operating on autopilot without realizing it. Even a moment of introspection can help us retake the reins.
CENTERING QUESTIONS IN TIMES OF CHANGE
Alone or with friends, take a few minutes to write your reaction to the following questions, picking and choosing the ones you are drawn to, or better yet, the ones you absolutely do not want to answer. Exploring the question you have the most resistance to may give you the biggest payoff.
1. DO I TRUST MYSELF AT WORK AND IN LIFE?
In what situations at home or work do I not trust myself? When have I acted in a way that’s not true to myself? Do I believe more in outer or inner security? Have I paid more attention to the care of appearances or my deepest instincts?
2. CAN I LOOK MY FEAR IN THE EYE? HOW ABOUT MY POWER?
If my anxiety were visible, what would it look like? When does fear take hold of me? In what circumstance do I hand my power over? Does lack of self-trust allow fear to control me? If I could look my own power in the eye, what would I see?
3. WHICH NETWORKS IN MY LIFE ARE SUPPORTING ME? OR DRAINING ME?
What alliances am I part of at home, at work and socially? Which groups strengthen me? Which are draining? How can I fortify my healthy networks and disentangle from the others?
4. WHAT EXPERIENCES AM I SEEKING?
If I’ve deliberately chosen to be in my current life circumstances, in this space and time, in my current relationships, job and society, what am I here to experience? How can this changing time enable me to become my truest self?
5. WHAT GIFTS DO I BRING?
What is my highest inner priority, my driving force? How can I strengthen it? What gifts, talents and tools can I offer to changing situations in my job, relationships or society? How can my contribution make me more myself?
After exploring these ideas alone or with friends, the storms on the surface of your life may still rage, but your inner weather may be calmer, clearer, and renewed with self-trust.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.