intense?   yes.
ferocious?    no.
aggressive?   NO.
savage??    what??
vicious?    absolutely not.
cutthroat?    come on. 
competitive?    nope. 
violent?    i'm a grandmother for crying out loud. 
destructive?    never.  
fierce?   hmmm ...
I've been called a lot of things in my 60 years. Some adjectives I'm not so proud of (late, headstrong, stubborn, bossy). And a few I'm damned proud of (creative, kind, scrappy).  Last year a brand new adjective entered my universe and had my name attached to it - a word that on its own would NOT be a compliment to me - but with a second word framing it, putting it in context, is one of the biggest compliments of my life. 

The word is fierce.  I don't want to be that. 
In context:  fierce at midlife?  Biggest compliment ever. 

Adjectives are cool. I'm a word nerd so I geek out on this kind of stuff. Some adjectives are super fun to say out loud,  like "remarkable" - that middle syllable has a power and punch which just feels so good rolling off your tongue - you don't have to say another word - it's a perfect last word.   Some adjectives are camouflaged, like "interesting" - it's not negative or mean, but loud and clear it is not a compliment either. It's a hall pass in a sentence, non-committal but contrived. ouch. Some adjectives gather other voices to side with it, like "creepy or annoying" - it just has a negative-group-vibe to it - bullying in sheep's clothing. The opposite with a positive-group-vibe would be "approachable", which is good on so many levels. Some adjectives sound mean but are an ultimate compliment, like "disruptive" - in the entrepreneur world it's what you dream to be;  the new idea that trumps everything else - a unicorn-wannabe. Some adjectives are comparative - stating that you're not the winner or the loser, but you're better than the other guy,  like "smarter, faster, braver." I'd take those. And finally, some adjectives trick you, like "clever or fierce", they sound strong but they sit right on the edge of darkness making you question and search for possible hidden meaning (ie: clever and fierce really mean cunning and clawing.)

The word fierce connotes both power and promotion. But whether you're an individual, a brand, a business, or leader with a mission, there's a fine line between promotion & power, one that shouldn't be crossed. When you're sloppy it gets slippery and promotion and power morph into self-promotion and power-trips. This is when you start losing people. I fiercely believe this. 

You don't need to be Webster dictionary fierce to be fierce.  What I know in midlife - and it took me many years of observation and experience to gain this wisdom, is you don't always need to be on the frontline to lead. You don't always need a selfie and a clever caption to be noticed. Sometimes the quietest leaders earn the best followers - real followers.  Showing vs. telling. This is what we understand in mid-life. At our age we're not the center of attention anymore, we're not bound by group-think and it's liberating. We can think better, see more clearly, plan more efficiently, and lead better. Leading at our age wears many hats, but we're good at multi-tasking.  Whether your job is caregiver to aging parents, C-suite position, volunteer work, babysitting grandkids, newly retired, entrepreneur/startup, fresh start, same old ... our wrinkles and gray roots bring with them a confidence to speak up and know something. Why?  Because we do. 

My music startup is a grass-roots business with my name on the brand. Whatever you call me or how you describe me links directly to my work. I like that I started this when I was 50 because I really didn't care how the music industry did things, I wasn't afraid to do things my way. I think I would have mainstreamed more had I been my younger self. I don't scream loudly or beg for followers or showcase my work every second of the day. I lead by doing. We've raised thousands and thousands of dollars for starving artists in an industry that can't figure out how to pay artists. We host tons of sold out concerts - with large listening audiences - for emerging artists who are so talented yet still unknown, creating a huge live music community of people who aren't getting downtown to loud, late, crowded shows. So I bring artist and fan together, one artist and one fan at a time. I'm doing it my way. 

So if you call me "fierce" I will push back and say that's not me. 
But if you call me "fierce at midlife" I will wear that badge with honor, 
for it puts everything into context:
I am
fiercely devoted to family
fiercely considerate of others on this planet
fiercely defending my opinions & beliefs without fanfare
and in my work:
fiercely focusing on my goal to impact the music industry
fiercely leading music fans to create a better community for artists
fiercely advocating that artists should come first before venue & commerce
fiercely believing that I can start a quiet movement to engage more with our artists
 forever fierce in midlife and beyond


Please meet some of my Fierce at Midlife friends 
whom I admire and respect for their work 
and for making an impact in this world:


    DEB GUY    
Director, Women's Exchange - Chicago
What does it mean to be Fierce at Midlife?              
In my mind, Fierce is to be grounded, knowing you take care of yourself first to then give to others: your partner, your family, your friends, your work, your community. Your order may be different;  yet you have learned to keep your eye on the ball, self-care. With this, you believe in yourself and know what makes you tick. You honor this and you stay in harmony with it. Forget the universal glass ceiling, you are aware of your own. For me personally, Fierce does not mean, barking demands. It is an inner-strength stemming from knowing you are loved and loving. Fierce is acting out of clarity, not confusion and again, I believe it comes with a self-awareness, vision and commitment.

SpaceDefined, Designs4Dignity - Chicago
What does it mean to be Fierce at Midlife? 
My mother died when I was in my early 20s. She was a youthful, vibrant and stunning 60. And she was fierce - fiery in the best ways. In addition to always sharing her love, compassion, humor, wit, vision, beauty and strength she left her kids with great words of wisdom:
     Figure out what you love to do.
     Determine how can you make money doing that.
     Then, give back.
Being fierce at midlife means the time is here to give back and follow my mother's example.
I've run my own interior design business for 20+ years. For the last decade I've been able to parlay my love of design and interest in the nonprofit community by being part of Designs for Dignity: A nonprofit that provides safe, healing and hopeful environments for those in need, at risk and often marginalized. Being fierce means creating positive environments to show people they are valued, cared for and that they matter. It's about being the change we want to see in our communities.

   LESLIE LEGAN     -Chicago
Young Life (teens), World Relief (refugees), Love, Inc. (homeless /poor)
The invitation intrigued me. What does it mean to be fierce at midlife?
So, I have been collecting and storing and sorting and teaching and growing and acting, and then midlife hits. My trajectory shifts. The bell curve plots me on the graph in a place that feels depressing, degrading, dark, declining. That dot is not me!  I will not allow the changing season of life to be the vortex dismantling my strong foundation. How does my midlife FIERCE respond?  With a/an:
-Formidable spirit of justice, righteousness and truth
-Illumination of experiences to smartly navigate the future
-Energy and fervent courage 
-Rejection of busyness, aggressively
-Curiosity as my powerful fuel
-Enlightenment of one who trusts the process of aging with courage

Artist -Chicago    website
What does it mean to be fierce at midlife?
To me, being Fierce at Midlife means knowing and appreciating exactly who I am. It means collecting all my imperfections, laying them out there on the table and proudly calling them perfection. It means knowing my truth, speaking my truth and living my truth without apology. It means being willing to be vulnerable. It means speaking up when necessary. It means making choices from my heart rather than from my head or from other's opinions and voices. It means being a leader. It means getting incredibly comfortable being uncomfortable. It means being grateful. It means embracing my gifts and talents and finding my unique way of expressing them in order to spread more love into the world every minute that I breathe.

... and more friends are coming



If you're in Chicago this summer visit our free music fest


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