Carla Harris is a juggernaut. While climbing to the highest levels of Morgan Stanley, she’s also become a motivational speaker and author. And all the while, she was a gospel singer, an impassioned and successful one (she’s seen the Carnegie Hall stage from both sides of the proscenium). This is such an impressive an interesting combination of talents.
I especially appreciate that Carla’s persona had a gradual genesis. Once upon a time, she kept her singing a secret from her Morgan Stanley colleagues. It helps me to know that, because much as I hate to admit it, I’ve felt the urge to disappear some of my history, too. And it wasn’t just when I was up and coming either.
I have a music background of my own. I often find myself joking in front of an audience about how I am putting my prestigious degree in flute performance to “excellent use” in the field of retail financial services. I earned at BFA in flute playing, from Boston Conservatory of Music. I find myself wondering, with frequency, if it is downright odd to keep listing this degree in my online profiles. So I’m a classically trained flutist: what does that have to do with business development? Did I give up on my passion? Did I somehow lose my way, as a young person? Am I less of a player in my chosen field, because I pushed hard in another direction for so long?
After years of talking about niche marketing, the role of the personal in the professional, I should know better.
Occasional doubts aside, I’m proud of what I accomplished as a musician. The work ethic music fostered, the performances skills it demanded, the thrill of connecting with an audience it promised: these are all part of my repertoire today.
And it always means I have something to talk about besides my business. Sometimes I remember what I read about admissions at Harvard (Carla Harris’ alma mater) when I was in high school. Grades were not considered ‘too important’ (although — cough cough — successful applicants usually had great ones). What mattered were the interests, activities, and personal statements.
In other words, the will to be one’s authentic and complete self often made the difference.
There are brilliant people everywhere. But I think there always will be a premium on interesting people. These are the people who get things done, yes, but they do them with spark, innovation, humor, or from a distinct perspective. Who would you rather have handle the big account, the brilliant person who could tell you about singing in Carnegie Hall, or the brilliant person who had been planning for nothing but a business career since age 15?
I know whom I’d choose. And midnight worries be gone, I’m glad to own my BFA, and admit that I love to inspire a crowd and share a message. Early on, I used a flute. Now I use my insights on self-promotion and business. But in a fundamental sense, nothing has changed. I still love connecting with people, and I love putting on a show.
When you can be real about who you are, you open the door for others to reciprocate. So don’t hide your secret or abandoned talents. Let them shine, until they attract more of the very same people who inspired you once upon a time.