Feeling a Sense of Bounty

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My cup runneth over. Bible, Psalm 23:5

Several years into my investment banking career at Smith Barney, my boss hired Ana Gomez, a young woman born and reared in Colombia, who had just graduated from Cornell with a civil engineering degree. Adorable, effervescent and so very smart, my superiors began giving some of the more substantive work to her, bypassing me. I was devastated, and supremely jealous. (Yes, indeed – I wanted to trip the prom queen – desperately). Needless to say, I didn’t mentor her. I just couldn’t. I didn’t have it to give.

Recently I told my friend Lana Grover about the Intellectual Immigration Fund, and she said to me, “Whitney, before women will mentor (make figurative contributions to the Fund), they need to feel a sense of bounty.”

I experienced bounty at a Christmas party in early December. So that they could fete their friends with desserts, the Robisons spent an entire day visiting some of Boston’s best bakeries and patisseries. Truth be told, when I go to parties I often go light on dinner just so I can have more dessert. But that evening there was SO much dessert, I found myself waiting longer than usual to eat, and eating less. I kept thinking – when I’m ready, there will be enough.

My childhood friend Liz Economy seems to experience bounty in her life generally, and in her professional life especially. An expert on China, Liz works at the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-partisan think tank. Last summer when she needed to hire a research assistant, instead of simply bringing her top pick on board and getting on with her busy life, Liz picked up the phone and made calls on behalf of several of the top candidates she didn’t hire to help them find great jobs elsewhere (for example, at The New York Times).

Why would she bother?

Because Liz felt bountiful – she already had enough acclaim, and in this instance, enough political capital, to feel she had a storehouse from which she could give, and therefore she did.

These days, my sense of bounty usually extends beyond dessert parties, particularly in the professional sphere. Because of this feeling of having more than enough, I find that I am willing and happy to share the professional limelight, to encourage others’ endeavors, and even expend my time and influence on their behalf. Of course, I have the “more-than-enough” feeling some days more than others. But when I do, and I can give, my cup runneth over.

In what area of your life do you feel a sense of bounty, and can give from that bounty?

As a community volunteer, mother, artist, professional, athlete?

Who within your sphere of influence would be a grateful recipient of a portion of your bounty? Perhaps there is someone who you truly like but just haven’t reached out to yet – maybe because you were scared. Could you start a conversation about what you know how to do or offer a simple word of encouragement?

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