Barbara Corcoran, the petite blonde of Shark Tank fame, celebrated her 70th birthday by staging her own funeral in 2019. She invited friends to her New York penthouse, where they encountered her lying in a coffin, wearing a red dress. A rabbi gave remarks about her; after guests paid their respects, she jumped out of the coffin and danced the tango to Diana Ross’s song, “I’m Alive” with a cardboard cutout of a nun. While some people (like Mark Cuban) thought it was “creepy”, I think it was brilliant!
I recently had a similar experience, when, as an assignment for Marie Foleo’s B-School, I was charged with asking 20 people I’m close to to name my 3 Greatest Strengths. While I hesitated for a moment (I didn’t want to impose) I decided to “go for it” and sent out an e-mail blast with the question. After all, I was asking for my strengths, not my weaknesses, so how bad could it be?
I’m fully aware that the way I see myself may not be the way others see me. For example, at one Book Club meeting (wine may have been involved) we went around saying one word that described each of the Book Club members. I was surprised to hear two people say “Accomplished” about me! While I was grateful for the compliment and do take pride in my accomplishments, it certainly wouldn’t have been a word I would have picked to describe myself. It also made me think maybe I should lay off the self-promoting texts about my latest magazine article!
My first response to this question came quickly, with my friend Leonor saying I was: “socially and environmentally aware, creative, passionate, cultured and ever-evolving.” I loved all these compliments and the first and last were two no one else noted and important to me. When I started dating (IN MY 40’s!) I made a list of qualities I wanted in a significant other. “Open-minded” was one of the qualities, which I feel is in line with “ever-evolving.” If we don’t have an open mind and the willingness to evolve, we stop growing.
The point of the exercise was to find a commonality among the responders and use my strengths to improve my business. Almost everyone I asked (with the exception of three people) answered, giving me 20 responses to review. The second person to respond, our fearless Bookclub leader Sumita said: Creative, Enterprising and Dependable. I loved these answers, especially being dependable. As the oldest child of four, I always felt a responsibility to set a good example for my younger siblings and I hope my friends do find me dependable. If I say I’m going to do something, I will absolutely try and deliver.
I asked Zeke this question, thinking he’s one of the people who know me best. Boy, was I wrong! He said “You love your kids, you love your grandkids and you love tennis.” “So loving,” I said. “That’s one.” When pressed for an answer he gave me an even worse one: “Your hair and your boobs.” Ugh. He finally settled on a good cook and a good hostess. Hmm…
Christopher was one of three people who didn’t answer but A.J. said: thoughtful, love my grandkids and get people to donate money to charities, another one no one else mentioned. I don’t really like asking for donations for charity, but apparently I’m sometimes successful at it.
I wrote three things I consider my top strengths myself, to see if they lined up with what others said. Mine were: Independent, Creative, Tenacious and Funny (so four). My friend Susie also said funny, as well as organized, following through, good memory and creative. Christian also said a good memory, as well as a good listener, generous, considerate and thoughtful. Allison and Kelly both noted my gift-giving prowess and my Mom said cultured, sensitive and a talented writer. My daughter-in-law Courtney said thoughtful, creative, a good writer and a great Gigi (probably my favorite role in life.)
So… drum roll please, my number one Super Strength (according to friends and family) was: Thoughtful, followed by Creative, A Good Writer and Determined with a three-way tie to: Independent, Cultured (ooh la la!), and Funny. I’m really glad I did this exercise as it gave me a peek (a positive one) into what people think about me. It was like having a funeral and eulogy while I was living. I recommend it to everyone, although the fact it was a school assignment I had to do made it easier to accomplish, not like I was just fishing for compliments!
Most people just sent me three words, but others elaborated. Allison said “This exercise made me think about how much I admire and love you.” Aww! That makes me feel great and some of the responses actually made me cry. Most of all, they made me grateful. Like the Tonya Tucker song goes: “Bring me my flowers while I’m alive.”
Thanks to everyone who participated in this exercise and for those that filled out the Foodie In Miami survey I sent out to try and improve my website! Through B-School (like Business School, but online and fun) I am completing the courses and hope to have a new-and-improved Foodie In Miami website out soon.
We go through life. We shed our skins. We become ourselves.Patti Smith
Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.Judy Garland
Up Next: Meet Your Freezer, aka Your Best Friend