Living In The Gap BY Tiffany Ellis
When I am in a discussion with a new group of people in which I intent to network or connect, I steer clear of the oh so basic “What do you do?” question. That tells me so little of a person and yields my understanding only to my perception. How boring is that? Instead, I dig deeper in order to be authentically interested in what they are about, can impact me, or better yet – what we can do together. I use the “tell me about yourself?” question. Also, I ask someone to name something they are good at, about their next goal in life, or what they do in their spare time that makes them very happy. I’ve learned that this approach breeds commonality and a real interesting conversation/connection. I listen as they speak without thinking of my response. My point is to connect on a deeper level in order to connect to a service opportunity.
By a service opportunity, I mean the opportunity to help them do more of what they are good at, achieve their next goal, or do some of those spare time happy activities together. At the very least, share some information or advice if I feel they are open to it. Connecting this way naturally lends itself to something for me be it a new friend with similar interests, an opportunity for a better or extra job, a mentor or mentee, a new client, or learning something new! As a result, I can be a new advocate for the person or share experiences for support.
~ I say all of the above to say~
When I was in my biggest gaps of life situations, it was my authentic connections of my newest friends that helped my life and my family immensely! Not just because I needed them but because we’ve shared so much together and was there for each other in the good times that it was natural to be of service or authentic help in the challenging times. I have many friends that have been a blessing to me that I was a blessing to them for no other reason than I care to help fill their gaps when they have them if I can. Being there for someone when they are “vulnerable” be it financially, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, etc makes it easier for them to help me when I am feeling the same. My husband, family, friends, volunteer groups and sometimes old coworkers are often my authentic connections that have filled my gaps in many ways when they did not have to.
Some of my gaps included:
~Often being the only Black, female, new, and young employee so my self worth was always tested.
~Being excited about a new amazing job only for it to be rescinded a day before the start.
~The stressful events of moving several times in a few years when plans failed.
~Feeling left out of my friend groups as a new mom.
~ Being undervalued by leadership when I was capable of being a better leader myself.
~Starting a business by doing what I couldn’t find for our family.
~Having an often overwhelming home life of 3 young boys, a traveling spouse, and a needy extended family.
It was in these gaps that my mindset of service to others and service to make each situation the best possible, that everything got better. It was in these gaps that my carefully built network encouraged me to pray, fast, laugh, say no if need be, say yes if need be, go a little harder, relax a little more – whatever I needed at that time for my family because they knew me best at my core.
What I found was even in my time of need and my time of needed understanding, I could be a free spirit because I am grounded in and surrounded by the good of my connections. Family, friends, and often strangers would help me abundantly during so many times be it kinds words, laughter, showing up, great advice, opportunities, etc. I do know a major key in that is when I connect with someone, it is often so I can help them be the best version of them in any way I can. Who doesn’t love someone like that?! That goodness always comes back to me in the form of love and appreciation even if not by who I would expect. I always say, and I tell my kids, you can never go wrong improving the lives of others so be that without expectation. Expect the best of yourself by being the best of yourself.
An intentional mindset for the good of others is the key when connecting with people and can help maintain your sanity when you are living in your own gap. Keep your network worth you being someone they are connected to. It is this mindset, time and help from others that I was able to permanently close most of my gaps!
The practice of gap living has built an amazing resilience and earned joy. Growth has hurt sometime and I’m all better from it! That young Black girl that always had to prove herself at work grew to operate as the head finance executive under a mission she loves where self-worth radiates now more than ever. Having opportunities come and go has taught the importance of being grateful anyway. Feeling left out as a mom sometimes moved me to be more empathetic to others. I am now a part of an international organization of other moms that volunteer together on a monthly basis and we make sure we support each other and other moms. The challenges of starting the 1st business gave me connections to those that helped me start another one. Being overwhelmed at home gives me the insight to know when another dad or mom is experiencing the same and I make sure to help or connect them to someone that can. Most of these happy endings would not be if I didn’t start each off by thinking …….ok how can I make this situation better for someone else then me?
Be a gap closer and your gaps will surely close as a means.