As I was packing my bag for Tokyo, I noticed that I was packing my “Kathy Matsui” dress, a sheath business dress I purchased in 2002 that emulated the style of the Vice Chair of Goldman Sachs Japan and Chief Japan Equity Strategist. Matsui is someone I’ve long admired for her body of work on Womenomics. In fact, I wore said dress to interview to be her summer intern in 2003. Through the interview process, it became clear that Goldman was looking for a Japanese native to fill the position, but the admiration and… dress persisted. Ann Taylor, size 4. Wearing this dress elicits my “Kathy Matsui” persona and confidence, and it also represents my belief that, for the modern woman, clothes should be outworn, not outgrown.
Body of Work: the entirety of the creative or academic output produced by a particular individual.
The term, body of work, would typically conjure images of an artist’s portfolio, an author’s literary collection, or a professor’s compilation of publications, but don’t we all present our primary “body of work” wherever we go? Our most prized vehicle isn’t the car we drive; it’s our physical body.
How is your body of work operating? Is it delivering you from point A to point B easily, safely…expediently? Are you proud of it when you pull up to meet a client? Or, are you ashamed and hiding it away? Is it keeping you from living….or is it serving you and enhancing your life?
Sarah-san, you seem so in-control of your body, what you eat…don’t you ever feel like letting yourself go or not doing these things?”
I look back at my Japanese colleague in surprise, but then start to nod as I see what she sees and how she is seeing me. In my head, the past few days have been of total freedom eating all the things I love in a country I visit a few times a year. But, what I “love” to eat appears to be very restrictive to my friend. She has watched me select the healthier options at our o-tsukare-kai (evening reception) and listened to me describe my morning fitness habits and my excitement to hit the gym over the weekend.
In the ramp-up to a contest, everything I eat is prescribed, I’m doing cardio at both ends of the day, I’m lifting and dieting intensely to achieve an ultra-lean contest frame. As I get closer to stage, there may be days where I have to eat the exact same meal six times a day…and it’s not exactly tasty cuisine (think cold asparagus and chicken breast…)! So, for me, the range of foods and fitness protocol I’m following in Tokyo seems indulgent, relaxed, luxurious….but it’s just relative to what I have conditioned myself toward in the past. More pertinently, I recognize I have certain “bright-lines” that may ebb and flow quite a bit depending on how close I am to my next context, but they never disappear. And, the reason they don’t disappear is because I receive some payoff from them.
Bright-line rules: clearly-defined rules or standards, which leaves little or no room for varying interpretation. The purpose of a bright-line rule is to produce predictable and consistent results in its application.
When you incorporate “bright-line” rules into your daily eating and manner of living, there are certain boundaries you never or rarely cross. A common bright-line rule most of us can relate to is brushing our teeth. In the fitness realm, bright-line rules help you maintain a physique and a fit lifestyle. Taken to an extreme, of course, is problematic and can become “disordered”, but bright-line rules are generally beneficial to the transformation process as they prevent self-sabotage and slippage.
To stick, though, all bright-line rules must carry a payoff…at least initially…until they become a way of life or routine. Fewer cavities and fresher breath reinforce our teeth-brushing habit, but what about eating and exercising a certain way? For me, the payoff has to go beyond a contest look or the way I look on vacation or a special occasion…it has to be life and… career-enhancing.
In my fitness line of work, maintaining a certain look is obviously good for business, but, even in my white-collar pursuits where I am rewarded for my intelligence and analytical skill set, I realize my bright lines help me lean in, step up, and shine when my shy tendencies try to take over. They offer an impression that I am disciplined, hard-working, and productive. To say that first impressions don’t matter is a bit ridiculous. Of course they do. But, these first impressions go beyond mere looks or a pretty face — unless you are a model! They are about the energy and “vibe” you give off. It’s about how you carry yourself, how you stand up, how you move, how you express yourself in voice, eye gaze, and enthusiasm. All of these things are influenced by what you eat, how you feel, and how you take care of your “body of work”.
In the West, there is a tendency to separate and compartmentalize ailments and pursuits. In fitness, we separate the body from the mind; in intellectual pursuits, the mind from the body; and in spiritual growth, the spirit from the body. These attempts eventually fall apart. Our body only takes us so far when our mind isn’t on board. Our intellect will suffer when our body isn’t cooperating. Our spirituality falters when we don’t feel grounded. Daily practices and “bright lines” keep us healthy in body, aligned in mind, and grounded in spirit.
One of my early figure skating coaches, Mrs. Smith, was a stickler for good posture. She would have me skate with a hockey stick behind my upper back to ensure I remembered to squeeze my “wings” together as I glided across the ice. While I was mastering the axel jump, she pulled out a neck collar brace from her Mary Poppins bag so I wouldn’t drop my chin as I leapt into the air. Excellent posture and a head held high allowed me from an early age to overcome my shyness to land jumps and land on top of a podium in the skating world. I later learned the same holds true in the corporate world.
How would your life be different if your body was different in ways you could change? Think beyond the cosmetic or age. This is about life. Living. How are you living? How are you feeling in your skin? Are you refraining from activity or behavior because of your body shape, health, or perception? Or, put differently, what would your optimized body of work enable you to do?
Every woman should have a “Kathy Matsui” dress that allows them to shine for years and years.
Dream big. Desire more.