I have a lot of firsts in my life. I’m the first in my family to finish college. The first to have a corporate job, travel abroad and see the world. Early to a world with a social footprint and a public life.

Also, I was early in my career. Learned about the cloud and consumerism through my early work at Alberto-Culver. (Walmart has been doing cool things with its vendors for over twenty years, and we’re now just hearing about it.) I also learned how mobile devices would change B2B e-commerce (and insurance) when I worked with a mergers & acquisitions group at Kemper Insurance. And I saw firsthand the impact of automation and the internet of things (IoT) on manufacturing and R&D when I worked for Pfizer.

Back in the day, those experiences made me ask a lot of questions about how we treat people. It was clear that HR was in the business of supporting leadership decisions and protecting the company from risk. People are inherently risky — a line-item on a budget that impact shareholder value — and my job in HR started with risk-management and ended with compliance. Have a heart, smile, listen. But never forget your role.

It’s tough to be first, which is why I left HR and fell into blogging and social media. Unfortunately, having been writing online since 2004, I was also early to the emerging field of digital communications. When I tried to tell my friends and former colleagues in HR and marketing about the benefits of “social networking,” they laughed at me.

Once, I was booed for speaking about the benefits of Twitter and Facebook. Now, these same people can’t look up from their phones and use Twitter to trash-talk me. Hard to feel sorry for people who currently don’t realize that mobile devices are hijacking their brains.

Being early, and, also, different, is one of my greatest strengths. It’s also incredibly lonely. People are unkind to new and unfamiliar ideas. When they finally adopt your early ideas, nobody says thank you. It’s like being roadkill. Sure, you’re there first. Now get out of the way, or we’ll run you over.

So, that’s all depressing, except that I just finished Brené Brown’s new book and felt better about being early and being alone. She describes this place as “the wilderness,” and you can brave it — and even enjoy it — by having a curious mind and a solid relationship with your values.

Can you lean into criticism while having faith in your beliefs? Is it possible for you to endure judgment while having compassion for people who don’t see things your way? Will you demonstrate empathy for other people who are in the wilderness and understand things you don’t yet see?

Brené’s book was useful in helping me recognize my place — and putting me in my place — about life, my values, and my role in going first. That’s why I hope you pick up the book and join us for #HRBookClub. Later this month, we’ll discuss Braving the Wilderness. Brené will also appear at WorkHuman, a conference that I’m attending, and I can’t wait to hear her keynote session.

Enjoy the book, leave a comment if you’ve already finished it, and let me know what you think of this month’s first selection!

4 Responses to On Being First and Alone
  1. Martin Snyder

    Don’t discount that the upper classes have always been deeply suspicious of ideas, and of those who wield them, and Amercia’s ever-increasing class envy/hegemony seemingly does not fail to bring that along too….. ergo “elites” and their pointy heads etc.

  2. Richard P Kurth

    You might like this.

  3. Sara Koehn

    I am so happy I came across your post on LinkedIn about the #HRBookClub. I have been following you for a long time but only get to read your blog every so often. I downloaded the sample of Brene’s book because I wasn’t sure it was for me or I would like it. The sample left me wanting more so I bought it last night. Being a HR Director, you can definitely feel alone in the world of your organization because of the decisions you have to make or things that need implemented. I am looking forward to reading this book and going through the journey with you this month.

  4. HRcupofcoffee

    I am excited to challenge myself to read 12 books in 2018, Laurie. Thank you for spearheading this #HRbookclub! Like Sara, I too read a sample of Braving the Wilderness this morning because I wasn’t sure if it was for me but I was hooked by the second page. I picked up the book this afternoon! I’m excited to start it. I also listened to Brene’s Ted Talks which were interesting, comical and motivating.