Maril MacDonald is CEO and founder of Gagen MacDonald, a leading strategy execution and change leadership firm that guides C-Suite executives through the human struggle of transformational change. She’s held global corporate leadership positions with British Petroleum, Bayer AG, Pitman-Moore and Navistar International — and numerous industry leadership positions, including Chair of the Arthur W. Page Society. In 2011, she founded Let Go & Lead, an on-line C-Suite and Thought Leader community dedicated to new philosophies and strategies for leaders.
My parents taught me that real success in life comes from finding what you love and giving your whole self to it. Start your career by running to something. Pick the path that makes your heart sing, and then play on your strengths and backfill your weaknesses.
Here are some principles I use to lead my life and lead Gagen MacDonald:
Be where you need to be, and only you really know where that is.
There’s so much hand-wringing over worrying about what other people think. If you’re clear, they’ll be clear, and they’ll get behind you. Because when you put your intent out into the universe, the universe conspires to make it happen.
I studied Russian, tutored math and science, had jobs in communication, HR, and marine transportation. For the last 19 years, I’ve run a management consulting firm, and I’d be hard pressed to say which of those experiences best prepared me. Life isn’t additive, it’s cumulative.
The most powerful story you’ll ever tell is the one you tell yourself.
Make it powerful. What we focus on manifests itself in every decision we make, so affirm the positive. Never tell yourself that you can’t, or that it’s too difficult. Neuroscience has taught us that we each have the power to rewire our brain. Rewire your lights to be set on bright!
What you seek to know is more important than what you think you know.
Wisdom is knowing what you don’t know, and being curious enough to welcome those who may know more. We need to be story-tellers, data analysts, synthesizers, and leaders. When you don’t know how to do something, it’s exactly what you should run toward to learn everything you can.
There is no “right answer,” so the real power is in asking the right questions. There are the things we think, and the things we know. Opportunity lies in knowing the difference.
When in doubt, do the loving thing.
To love yourself, you need to be a loving person. Everything else is just a distraction that comes from fear or self-doubt. It takes courage to love and to be loved. Love isn’t just a noun, it’s a verb.
If you’re looking for inspiration, read Mother Teresa’s poem, “Do it Anyway.” If you’re not looking for inspiration, do it anyway. J
Ground everything in gratitude.
There’s been an amazing amount of research on happiness. It all points to the same thing. Happiness doesn’t come from one’s circumstances, but from how one chooses to view them. My brother taught me an amazing insight. Simply reframing something from “I have to do this” to “I get to do this,” changes everything. Try it right now by saying to yourself “I get to…”