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  • Maria Vandenburg

The value of just being present

One of the first new concepts I was introduced to in my MBA program was the time value of money, but I have found myself recently taking that concept one step further, and recognizing the importance of well... time. The power in really truly being present and focusing on the current moment.


Before I get too deep, we can talk about my English lessons for the week.


Items I have learned today

-The only apparently "correct" or "proper" version of English is the British version. American spelling is just plain stupid - so be very careful if you happen to be an American living in London and your use of the letter “z”

-The “correct” pronunciation of the letter “z” is “zed” (I may or may not be rolling my eyes here)

-Commonly used adjectives also have a completely different meaning over here, for example

· Smart – Does not mean really intelligent, it means that you are very professionally dressed

· Brilliant – Also doesn’t mean really intelligent, it means really funny

· Fit – Doesn’t mean that someone works out a lot, it means that they are very physically attractive

-I also had an ENTIRE lesson on what it meant to be an adolescent boy growing up in England. You weren’t considered cool by your ability to get girls, you were considered cool by your sense of humor (or humour if I’m going by the “proper” spelling of the word – and yes, I am still rolling my eyes) and your ability to not be the “whipping boy.”

-Whipping Boy: someone who is bullied


If I am going to be completely honest with you all, January has actually been a pretty tough month.

It might have been the fact that I travelled home for the holidays and then had to reacclimate to the time zone, or my work project has kicked up another notch (one of these days I should tell you guys about it, I am leading the GDPR efforts for the company, trying to make sure we are in compliance or have a plan in place to get to compliance by May 2018 when these new European data laws come into effect), or that I have had to get adjusted to British grading system (where 70/100 is considered really good, a distinction) and take my first Finance based assessment with Finance being my weakest link.


I often found myself really stressed with limited sleep, struggling to focus on the task a hand because I was so worried about all of the things that I had coming up.

Even though it has been tough, I have been so grateful for the people in my life.


I’ve had numerous people check in and make sure I was OK, I have been reassigned to a new mentor at school who I am incredibly excited to work with, I’ve been invited to be a part of a Developmental Circle and have a mentor through the publishing company l work at. I am also making a point to focus on myself daily through intention inspired.

There have just been some pretty incredible moments, even in my struggles.


The most recent example happened last week.

I was on campus for my Board Mindset Module and we were studying Crisis Management. At one point we were all going to be given a crisis situation, then left with 30 seconds to prepare and present. So, not a lot a time. I may or may not have mentioned this but I am NOT a fan of public speaking. I feel really proud of myself every time I do it, however the thought of it does not fill me with joy. I thought I was going to be able to avoid this particular exercise as we were running out of time, and then our professor/new MBA Director Nodas asked if there was anyone “Who was particularly nervous/challenged by public speaking.” My stomach dropped. I knew I had to go. I knew I had to push myself, and my entire MBA family did as well. When I sighed and stood up to get my crisis situation the room applauded. I hadn’t even presented yet!

They were just applauding my courage to tackle this particular fear.



So I get my situation (there has a sudden death on the company and I have to address the executive team for the first time and announce the interim plan), and as I am freaking out in the hallway when the Acting Head of the Leadership and Development Katalin Illes “happened” to walk by.


She immediately sensed my fear, came up to me, put her hands on my shoulders, looked me in the eyes and said “you are going to do great.” That moment was incredible.

She gave me an infinite amount of support by both her words and her actions.

I went in the room still nervous of course, but so grateful for that boost.


I emailed her afterwards to thank her and she responded with the following:

“What I did on the corridor is an illustration of what 'being present' means .

When you are in the moment with all your senses you notice what needs doing or who needs help. In this state you are able to tune into the needs of a person or of a situation and do what is most helpful. For me it is almost automatic when I am truly centred, when I am not, I miss valuable opportunities. I do not always get it right and I always regret when I am not truly present. It gets better with practice.”


I loved this so much because it shows that we are all human. We all can't "be present" always. But what can do, is strive to be the best version of ourselves always and recognise that everything can be an opportunity.


This month has been about re-enforcing that. I know that I often get in my own way by my thinking, It’s easy to say you are going to let things go, but not quite so easy to do.


January has shown me what I already knew, the value of really truly being present and focusing on the here and now.

More soon.


© 2020 by Maria Vandenburg