Sunday, May 20, 2012

Coke: My choice drug

Just so you know, I'm not a druggie. But recently a friend and I were contemplating how we can find time to do it all... Work, be a mom, take care of our husbands and our home. She (jokingly) said she'd have to take up cocaine to find a balance and time for it all. Lucky for me, a different kind of coke helped me discover the answer to my conundrum.

First and foremost let me say that I was invited to attend the Conversations with Coca-Cola Conference to learn about their Live Positively program. Coke hooked me up with a flight, hotel, and food. I'm not gonna lie, when I first got there, saw my hotel room, and the agenda, I had to ask myself what they wanted in exchange for all this wining and dining.

The journalist side of me thinks "UH OH!" Especially with the recent Huffington Post article snuffing at bloggers vacationing with McDonald's. But here's the thing. Bloggers aren't journalists. Bloggers openly share their opinions in their articles and journalists do not (or should not). Some bloggers' opinions can be swayed by swag and only write positive reviews, others choose to write how they REALLY feel regardless if they love it or hate it.

I, as a moonlight blogger, definitely have a fun time sharing my real opinions on random topics that I couldn't on air at my day job. So I enjoyed the trip as a blogger, with slight skepticism as a journalist, wondering when they were going to drop the bomb about what they wanted in return. But the bomb never fell.

We enjoyed a free tour of the world of Coke, where we got to taste Coke products from around the world... Some tastier than others. Among them was a European drink called Beverly which as you can tell, everyone loved.
There were also lessons on fitness and nutrition. Subway trainer Monica Vazquez game us some tips, and showed us some workouts we can do easily in our home. We had a plank-off and I won. ... NOT. But I wasn't the first one out.
Some of the most interesting lessons to me were about building our brands, and learning how Coke is making a difference in the world. Thankfully, they didn't tell me I had to blog about my experience, or tell me what to tell my friends, but I did walk away inspired after some "AH HA!" moments that I need to write down and remember.

Before going to Atlanta, my career goals were all over the map. Part of me wanted to be a stay at home mom, running some kind of business from home, another part of me was terrified at the thought of not working full-time and giving up everything I've worked towards.

When I opened my agenda the first item that caught my eye was "vision boards." I LOVE vision boards. It's kinda my thing. They can help you remain focused on a goal when you keep it visible in your home.

Funny enough, I forgot to snap a picture of mine and they're mailing it to me, so I can't share a photo right now. But it did have a couple pictures of Oprah, words like "balance" "quality time with family" and a quote about letting my daughter know she can be whatever she wants to be, and I'll do whatever it takes to help her.

Shortly thereafter we listened to a Women in the Workplace panel that was the single most motivational part of the conference for me.

In front of us sat seven successful women executives who all work for Coca-Cola, and have some sort of family of their own. From single moms, to soon-to-be-married, to being caregivers for their relatives, they each have an important personal life that comes first.

I asked each of them how they find a balance between wanting to be successful at work but also wanting to be just as successful at home and here's essentially what they said: Balance is a false goal. You can't balance everything perfectly everyday all the time. Sometimes you've gotta sacrifice a little of one for the other, but the most important thing to remember is to give your all and focus on the task at hand. When at work focus on the job, not wondering what your kid is up to, and when you're at home, leave the blackberry in your purse.

I grabbed Wendy Clark, Senior VP of Marketing Communications for Coke and, one of the panelists after the session and talked to her about one of the things she mentioned "I'm a better mom because I work, and I am better at work because I'm a mom." This resonated with me, and when I thanked her for that comment and told her about my battle with guilt she told me our kids don't know any different. Her children have never known her as a stay at home mom, or life outside of nannies and/or daycare. It's just a part of their lives. She said it's important she doesn't ever say things around her kids like "I wish I was at home" because that can make things confusing for them, and make them wonder why she does work if she doesn't have to.

A few other words that stuck with me during the Women in Leadership panel:
-Give your mentors permission to be completely honest with you.
-Stop trying to be perfect at everything and worry about what REALLY matters to your family.
-It's not a race. There are not finish lines where we're going.
-Take risks, and always feel a little uncomfortable in your job (it'll push you to get better).
-Define your own success and don't let anyone elses vision dictate your own.

So much food for thought! And so inspiring to see so many successful business women within this organization. Their "Live Positively" initiative not only does a million different things for local communities, schools, and quite frankly the planet at large (with recycling and such), it also gives employees a way to keep their families first when necessary as a part of their balanced living goals.

Right now there are about 29% of women in leadership roles in their company but they want to continue bring that number up. And they have a goal to create 5 million women entreprenurs around the world by 2020.
Between the conference and watching my favorite local news anchors in Atlanta, I came home completely pumped about my career goals.

Once again I witnessed it is possible to have a successful career and a thriving family life. It just won't be a perfect balance like I may have hoped. No need to become a coke addict. At least not the white stuff. But a trip for the Coke Conference was just the right dose of what I needed.
A big thank you for the invite, the lessons, and the chance to drink all of the coke products my heart desired. I was peeing like a race horse the whole trip... Yet I still with I had taken 10 more bottles of that Minute Maid Strawberry Passion stuff home cause it was like a slice of Heaven.

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