Life lessons from a friend: it’s about the shoes

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Bausch + Lomb executive vice president and chief compliance officer Susan Roberts for Rochester Woman Magazine (February 2013 issue) in a feature article — “Leading with Gratitude.” Susan is a 2013 Athena Award nominee, one of the first women to serve as an executive leader for Bausch + Lomb, an in-demand mentor, philanthropist, and — I’m proud to say — one of my closest friends.

While there’s much more to her story than I could ever attempt to write, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share a slice of her life with Rochester readers. Within Susan’s many roles — leader, mentor, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend — I have always seen her act with grace. From book club, to pregnancy, to vacationing together, we’ve shared love, loss, laughter, and tears. We’re both raising sons, born two days apart, whom we hope will grow into respectful, kind, young men. Susan believes in the power of faith, family, and friends, which have helped her achieve her goals. Her friendship is a gift I hold not only in my heart, but am reminded of whenever I look upon the faces of our boys, best friends to this very day. I can say this with confidence as I type because he’s actually sleeping on our family room floor!

While interviewing Susan for the magazine article, our conversation meandered, unhurried like a labyrinth without dead ends. There was so much I wanted to include in writing an article about Susan, but had to leave out because of space constraints. I hope you’ll read the article, and as a bonus, I’ve chosen a few life lessons from Susan to share with you here. Enjoy!

1. “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” —Neale Donald Walsch.  The idea is that if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you got. Susan loves adventure and has been known to leap out of a plane at 10,000 feet to skydive and slide feet-first down a luge track at 50 miles an hour.

2. “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” —Vince Lombardi. Susan’s late father always told her: “Whatever you decide to do, do it well.” The hardest part is in committing to what you want, but once you have it, give it all you got!

3. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” —Charles Darwin. Susan says that people often attribute the quote “survival of the fittest” to Darwin, but what he really said and meant was that the ones who have the ability to adapt and be flexible when it comes to change are the ones who will survive. That idea has played a role in her career and she shares it when speaking to young professionals.

4. “It’s all about the shoes.” Cinderella’s life changed when she put on a different pair of shoes. When she was a trial lawyer, she visualized putting herself in the shoes of the jury and asked: what does the jury need to know to decide in my client’s favor? When she went to B + L, she put herself in her boss’ shoes and asked, what does my boss need from me? She did the same with her direct reports — what are their concerns? Colleagues — what are their pressures? When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, it provides a whole new way of looking at a situation.

5. “Keep your perspective and choose your attitude.” Instead of saying the words: ‘I have to…’ replace it with: ‘I get to…’ When you start saying, I have to go to work, or I gotta go running, it sounds almost like a chore, a burden. If you think about your friend who was just laid off or your brother who has a disability and can’t run anymore, it’s a gift that you “get” to do those things. It’s about gratitude.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this musing. If you have, please consider sharing with a friend. You can always send me a note, or post a comment on my blog, or on Facebook.

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