41 years old and back to school and campus! Well, for a mini business retreat. Last week I attended the Tuck Executive Leadership & Strategic Impact Program at Dartmouth business school. How I hid my Lyme brain from a class of 29 other executives,and some of the most prestigious faculty in the country during the 5-day intensive program is worth a degree in and of itself! Better to say “adapted” than “hid” as adapting is what we must all do, working around our limitations when it comes to memory and processing. As life (and learning) must not stop!:

  1. I did NOT do my homework ahead of time, in the weeks leading up to the session. Noooooooo. That would have meant reading 150 pages of painfully detailed case studies only to forget them! Soooooo I read each night only the cases due for the following day. Having the freshest possible memory I could for answering tough questions on the spot the next day was the goal.  It meant missing out on the social activities during the evenings but let’s be real…I have Lyme…I’m not social anyway! In fact it was a great excuse not to have to be social! Win-win!
  2. I raised my hand to proactively contribute comments.  I did so amidst the rapid fire questions from the professors. That way they’d be less likely to call on me as I’d just “had a turn” And that way it was less obvious that I couldn’t remember or process the readings! That’s called a preemptive strike!
  3. I raided the executive dorm’s kitchen for complimentary snacks and beverages. Of course I did! I felt like a 20-something again pulling all-nighters studying and stressing! I grabbed granola bars, waters, fruits and earl grey tea bags, packed them into my laptop bag, and tried to keep my mind as fueled and sharp as I could during class the next day!
  4. I let other leaders be the leader. Kind of against the whole theme and premise of the week, but a survival must. On the day of the team challenges and exercises (like building and solving puzzles and getting through a maze)–I took a back seat, letting others be the minds behind the operations. I had to be the follower and not the leader and that was fine with me if it meant not blowing my cover–that I couldn’t  even grasp the activities at hand!
  5. I created a diversion by highlighting my strengths rather than revealing my weaknesses. At every opportunity, I turned tough questions into a chance to showcase my creative, branding talents. For instance, when asked to summarize the valuable business lessons of the week, I simply replied that “this Princess of Pacesetting has to get Participative in her approach”…referring to–yet deflecting from answering in more detail–some of the complicated technical language and information we had learned. A laugh from the class means I got my point across without blowing my cover! I had survived!

It was a week marked by some of the heaviest brain fog I’ve had to battle through in a while…of course?! Not to mention feeling hormonal and fatigued, but I did it. I adapted, pushed on, performed and contributed in my own way. And as always, the reward is often much greater on the other side from having persevered and succeeded despite everything. And now, I hope this can serve as a reminder and example to anyone striving to be the best leader that they can, Lyme and all.

A morning at Dartmouth as foggy as my brain!!