Hard Work and Play

Published June 17, 2019

Albert Bandura's self-efficacy theory was covered last week. This week is an extension of that post and I'd advise reading it to frame this one a bit better.

One of our goals at Jupiter is to build a non-homogenous team. While performance itself is gender-neutral, I’ve sought out sources to explain How-We-Got-Here in order to deepen my understanding. One of the studies I read quite recently about differences in male and female CEOs1 says this,

Differential treatment of boys and girls in traditional Western society regarding the ability to take risks in childhood play promotes less self-confidence and self-esteem for women in work contexts

Women are not socialized to take risks from a young age. This has cascading effects as they enter the workforce… impacting how they ask for raises and promotions, how they advocate for themselves, and how they fit in.

This last part is of immediate concern. This industry’s gender ratio is getting worse2 and senior talent is harder to recruit as experience needs rise.3 Retention is table stakes if I want to hit my 50/50 ratio goal.

Retention is too large a topic to cover right now so we’re going to focus mostly on how someone feels in their position under the conditions they can control. Self-efficacy is a big part of that.

While thinking about this though, I thought: why am I still here?

Walk Like a Girl

My parents had a laissez-faire approach to life and me: whatever. So, I wasn’t one of the many who were raised to avoid risks (or pushed to take them) until I left the confines of my house and started meeting everyone else. I was told I wasn’t good at sports and I shouldn’t bother.

I often think about this in conjunction with this commercial by P&G,

I’m willing to bet this isn’t unfamiliar to other women either.

Life went a little haywire for me in my twenties and I started to hike because I didn’t know what else to do with myself. After a year of day hiking through my own depression and attempting to make something of life, I found the Kungsleden trail in Sweden.

I was going to be around there for a conference and it seemed like it was destined that I walk it. Why else would it show up in Google? I didn’t think I could do it but I prepared as best I could and off I went.

Photo of me on the Kungsleden trail, first day

I walked my first 100km backpacking trip alone. It took me under a week. From the moment I cleared the mountain towards the final hut, I couldn’t stop smiling. I’d never done anything so hard before and had never been so happy before in my life.

Pictures from the Kungsleden trail

Hiking made the difference.
Backpacking made a bigger difference.
Doing it alone made all the difference.

Somewhere on the trail I found something I had never thought was in me and it was further reinforced by amazement expressed by people I met along the way. From then on, I would hike even harder trails: in all conditions, at extreme heights, on all continents, and become relentless in my pursuit for self-challenge.

Pictures from trails around the world

The hobby changed my career and helped frame hard work and effort in a way I understood. I wasn’t connecting with Silicon Valley-esque ambition; I connected with my steps, one after another, and they walked me towards finish lines I never thought I’d reach.

As I did more, I craved more and eventually found bodybuilding. When I went out on stage for the first time I heard that voice again: I can’t do this. I chased the fear again and am still chasing it now.

My progression in bodybuilding

I take my trail lessons with me with confidence growing every day. I know I have more to give. Starting a company doesn’t seem like that big a deal now. I’ve been nearly naked on-stage, for god’s sake.

Hard Work and Play

Everyone in tech is delivered the same hustle-porn story: work hard in this career and you will be rewarded. Not enough people talk about ways you can build self-efficacy and I offer this story up as another data point.4

Building confidence outside of work deepened my belief patterns: I can do this. This extended into my career and kept me going as I was building my self-efficacy. My hobbies built my fundamental goal-setting skills, my discipline, and my patience for delayed rewards… exactly as the researchers identified: through play.

Live fully outside of your career. The energy will come back in spades.

1 W. Fitzsimmons, Terrance & Callan, Victor & Paulsen, Neil. (2013). Gender disparity in the C-suite: Do male and female CEOs differ in how they reached the top? The Leadership Quarterly. 25. 10.1016/j.leaqua.2013.08.005.

2 Accenture, Girls who Code. (2016). Cracking the Gender Code. Retrieved from Accenture.com.

3 Lorenzo, Rocío. (2017). How diversity makes teams more innovative. Retrieved from ted.com.

4 Some may take this to mean, "you do not need to learn skills related to work." This is not what I mean–I'm referring purely to the idea of building self-efficacy which compounds your ability to learn over time.