Reflecting on the gift of industry recognition

What does gifted mean to you? I recently posted this question and was rewarded with a variety of thought-provoking responses. Reactions ranged from, "a natural ability," to "working hard and becoming a subject matter expert." For many people, innate or acquired intelligence and skill, as well as gifted school programs for children were the first things that came to their minds, and mine, too. I didn't see any responses using gifted as a verb.

Gifted is what always jumps to the forefront of my mind when I think about Digital Insurance's "Women in Insurance Leadership." This year, I was gifted being selected as an honoree. That was a gift that Nathan Golia, Editor-in-Chief, announced in a personalized email he sent me on July 12. This wasn’t a standard announcement; he referenced specific work I’ve done and the effort I’ve made for the industry. Being honored, his time, the ensuing recognition, the company of the nine other winners, being selected by past year’s winners—these are invaluable gifts and not one bit of this privilege is lost on me.

I didn’t know what to expect from the recognition until I got the second email from Nathan describing the five-hour photoshoot we all needed to attend in New York City for the cover of Digital Insurance’s October issue.

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I arrived at the studio on August 1 just before 9 am and there were a few other honorees already there. I was nervous. I brought five different options for attire (we only needed three). I had read through the day’s agenda a few times to make sure I was fully prepared and had some understanding of what to expect.

I sat down and opened up to the other women in the room and mentioned that I probably brought more than I needed. That opened the door to laughter and fun as the other women talked about the challenges they also had pairing their selections with the recommended attire. They, too, had printed the agenda (now, wrinkled in their hands) and scanned through it several times. In that moment, I recognized something wonderful existed within each of us and was reaffirmed throughout the day. We are each gifted with exceptional talent and natural abilities.

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Vulnerability can connect you with others like no other emotion can.

We worked really hard to make this a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime experience. We prepared ahead of time, showed up early, and we exceeded the expectations of production staff (they made a point of telling us just that). We abided by the guidelines (well, most of them anyway) and listened well. We were respectful of every single person involved and we bonded, instantly. We didn’t form exclusive cliques and we didn't make any comparisons. We embraced our differences, laughed, and encouraged one another. I believe this is the very reason we were there that day. As I stood among these brilliant, confident, kind, smart women, I also realized that despite not being in a formal gifted program growing up, I indeed earned my spot as a gifted professional, just like them.

Through all the hard work and sacrifices we’ve made over the years, we’ve created exceptional talent within ourselves. We’ve reached a place where we are confident both professionally and personally, which allowed each of us to unabashedly celebrate the achievement. I saw these admirable traits in all the women throughout the day.

We nervously stepped on set, then quickly owned the moment.

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On this day, it was about us. That doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it's so incredibly important to fully embrace it. Just like everything else in life, that moment will be fleeting.

This time in life is a magical place to be—when you stop striving and you begin to recognize that you’ve developed an expertise and worked hard to be where you are. You know your flaws and you can laugh at them. You recognize your talent and you’re happy with the person you've become. I feel lucky and so incredibly honored to stand alongside these women. Thank you Digital Insurance for recognizing the hard work and talent of women in our industry for the last 12 years and thank you to the men and women who support this program.

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I believe you can become gifted by honing your natural abilities, working hard, and serving others. And all three of these things must be applied or you'll never fully maximize the value of your talent and you won't be able to share it with the world. What a loss that would be.

You can also be gifted something wonderful, and when you don't expect it, it's that much greater of a reward. I didn't receive this award the first time a colleague submitted a nomination—and that's a good thing. It wasn't the right time for me.

The success you achieve is created by you, and it really only needs to be realized by you. Keep after it.

Work hard. Be curious. Be kind. Be humble, listen, and most of all, don’t forget to celebrate and own your achievements. You deserve it.

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