This imperative to let your special brilliance shine bright is the most recent of many pieces of wisdom shared with me over the past 21 years (!) by my mentor, friend, boss, and second mother Marie Brown. I wish each of you could know Marie. At least my oldest friend in the world, Dale, got to bear witness.
Marie is the founder of Brown Publishing Network, a company she started in a small room in her house which just celebrated its 25th anniversary with a black tie gala in Boston. I stumbled into an internship there my senior year at Wellesley. I remember being in the Career Office, waiting to discuss some internship in Boston where I could make photocopies in a government office for free. The staff person got off the phone and told me about the woman who called from a small publishing company right here in town. I called back from the office (impressing her with Wellesley's speed!) and before I knew it I was making photocopies for $10 an hour...good stuff in 1987! Not only did Marie keep me on after graduation and teach me the finer points of writing, editing, and project management (with her ace editors Gale, Maryann, and Margaret on me like hawks), she got me started in the catering business, insisting (because she knew I would love it) that I cater the office holiday party. I spent that finals week in my dorm room, forcing myself to return to my texts between session of pouring over cookbooks and Gourmet magazines. The only reason she knew about my cooking was because I insisted on making cupcakes for her children's class after finding out she planned to buy them at the supermarket.
The point is, once Marie believes you can do something, she'll support you in excelling at it. Back in the day, when we were on a tight deadline (when were we not??), she'd buy dinner for anyone working late and would roll up her sleeves right along with us to get the job done. I suspect that hasn't changed in the least, except that now she has two young grandchildren instead of two young children.
At the gala on Saturday, it was inspiring to hear that my story was everyone's who ever worked for her. Friends regaled me with stories of the 20th anniversary celebration (now why did I miss that?) when she whisked away staff and spouses for a lavish New York weekend. As she handed out very generous gifts, she shared why each person was important to the history of BPN. Then she listed all the children born to the people of BPN. Then she named all the grandchildren born to the people of BPN. Then she named all the dogs. I almost minded when she left Isaiah and Miel off her list, but she remembered the one who spent some puppy time under my desk, and when I heard Belly's name, everything felt exactly right.
Generosity. Integrity. Work ethic. These are the words that came up over and over again on Saturday night. And oh yeah, if you're wondering where her pioneering spirit comes from, here's her mom. Check it out!