All I need to know I learned in the Junior League. Okay, so maybe I picked up a few things elsewhere, but the Junior League has been the source for so many good things in my life. I’m talking about Junior League here because that’s my group, but there are other organizations of women. While they all have challenges, there are particular things that I could not have learned anywhere else. Whatever you think about the Junior League in particular, and women’s organizations in general, I offer here my experience.
10 things I’ve learned so far:
1. Best friends help you hide the body.
Nothing builds team faster than getting a job done. Take your ropes courses and your weird corporate ice-breakers. Give me a room full of women–the shy ones, the bossy ones, the ones that make you spit Chardonnay out your nose–and let’s get to work on something for someone else. We might complain a little, but we’ll get the job done and we’ll love each other more in the end. (Or not, and that’s okay too.)
2. When in doubt, serve something salty, something sweet, and a soda.
Oh, to be a real Southerner and know these things. Alas, I am not. While I often feel like a stranger in the strange land of hospitality, I have also learned to adopt the ways of these creatures who seem to have been imbued at birth with the ability to make guests feel at home. I keep trying. What I’ve learned so far is that it doesn’t have to be fancy. A salty, a sweet, and something to wash it all down goes a long way toward making life a little more pleasant.
3. It really does make a difference when the name tags match the invitations match the napkins.
Okay, it doesn’t, but it does. I am not one to complicate a simple situation, and not a fan of making everything “special,” which nearly always results in a giant competition of who and what can be the most special of all the very special goings on. Some of my favorite gatherings have taken place on a driveway around a box of wine. But when you are going for special–sparingly, mind you–the details matter. And they don’t have to be overwhelming or over-the-top. Steer clear of Pinterest for this one. Call the hostess you love best instead.
4. We can do more than we think we are capable of, always, every time.
We are bigger together. We are better together. That part is obvious. I can accomplish more with a team than I can all by myself. But even when we’re all alone, just having a support system in place makes me more confident. I have infrastructure, and help. I have a network of women who will push me up, along, and out of bed if needed in order to get the job done. And it doesn’t matter whether that job is at home, at work, or in the League.
5. Public speaking won’t kill you.
I learned to speak in public at the general meeting. And guess what? I shook, I sweated, I fumbled all my words. But I didn’t die. And it was kind of fun. I found my voice and I learned to use it to affect change in the room and in the community. So if you’re ever asked to get up in front of a group of women and speak, do it. Make words through the terror and then get up and do it again next time.
6. Everything in life is easier with friends, especially bossy ones.
Sometimes you just need a wingwoman, someone who is there for you, who gets you at least a little. When you join an association of women like the Junior League, your network is built in. Even the horrors of public speaking are minimized when you have a kind face in the front row, cheering you on. Treasure those friendships you make in the League. You never know where they will lead. Seriously, never underestimate the power of women coming together for a common goal.
7. If you don’t have a friend in the room, you can always make one.
And for those times when you don’t know a soul in the place, the League gives you valuable tools to get to know them. Need a friend? Just ask. What’s your placement? Where are you from? Why do you supposed they chose these horrible t-shirts? And if all that fails, feign interest until you can safely move on to the next potential friend.
8. Cause for celebration is everywhere.
We’re back to the Southern thing, because that’s where I found myself in the Junior League, but I suspect there are Yankees capable of whipping up an Arbor Day cocktail hour or a National Pencil Week potluck. Celebrating success is so important to future success. Sometimes we need a theme in order to feel entitled to celebrate the success of an ordinary day. So bring it on, birthday of the inventor of the Cupcake. I eat frosting in honor of thee!
9. Everyone else is not the leader. You are the leader.
I have had a few strongly worded discussions over the years about what is a leader, and whether or not all members of the League, or any organization, are interested in taking on “leadership” roles. Here’s the deal. If you’re at a committee meeting, you’re a leader. Someone is looking up to you, or not even up so much as at–they are looking at you to get something done. Someone hopes you have the answers, or at least the stilettos to fake a solution until the right one comes along. You are the leader. Act accordingly
10. Yes, there will always be “those girls.” What’s your point?
A lot of the criticism I hear about the Junior League is based in misinformation, but the complaint that the League is full of “those girls” is true. So what? Look around. They are everywhere. I dare you to find a concentration of women where there is not a contingent of the kind of back-biting, stuck up, materialistic morons we all hoped we left behind in middle school. What I know to be true is that organizations of women also attract the kind of women I most want to be around. Smart, sexy, seriously capable, and most-of-the-time immune to the petty things that are bound to creep into our interactions.
For most of my adult life, I have made my best friends in the Junior League. And as one of them likes to say, “That’s not nothing.”
Need a fun program for the coming year? Invite me to speak this fall, or at any of your 2014 events! Your members, all busy women who find time to give back to their communities, leave feeling appreciated and inspired. I love to speak to groups of women. If you need a speaker for your women’s group meeting, let me know. I have several programs available or I can tailor one to fit your specific needs.