Mardi Gras: Lessons to Work By

I just concluded my first Mardi Gras celebration and it was an unexpected blast!

If you’ve never been to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras season, there is nothing that I know of that compares with the experience.

Being a planner, and since Mardi Gras was a bit of a mystery to me my first time, I started studying up and doing my due diligence about 6 weeks before the celebration began. I interviewed friends to help figure out the not-to-miss parades, tips, tricks, and traditions. I also studied the history and downloaded the parade tracker app. I was set – or so I thought.

This experience reminded me a lot of what we go through when we’re about to start a new job. We know that there is going to be a learning curve so we often study up, thinking this will prepare us for everything. But it doesn’t compare to actually going through the experience yourself.

Since we can’t prepare for everything prior to a new experience, here are a few lessons that I learned that will apply to both planning your Mardi Gras experience and a future work transition:

1. Judgments: Trust yourself and know that you’re probably wrong.

I love to play a game while I’m people-watching; I make up a story about who they are, how they got here, where they’re going, and maybe throw in a secret that they keep. It’s a fun way to entertain myself, while keeping in mind that it’s just a game.

We all snap judge others, situations, things – it’s totally natural, and one way for our brains to rapidly processes the large number of stimuli that we are subjected to each day. It also allows us to quickly assess a situation to see if we are in danger, which was a key way for our ancestors to (usually) keep from being eaten by predators.

If I had a nickel for every time that my snap judgments were off or straight-up wrong, I’d be a wealthy woman (and don’t snap judge ME by thinking that I’m just an inaccurate assessor, I’m also often right). So, what I’ve learned is that snap judgment is an important and useful tool, as long as I remain open to receiving new information and do not let cognitive bias take over.

By testing our judgments and theories, being open to new information, and continuously retesting our subsequent judgments, we can arrive at a much more accurate perspective.

This served me well during my first Mardi Gras. I’m not much of a parade party goer and I don’t love large crowds or loud venues, but I was still able to fully engage in the fun.  

2. Listen.

There is so much to listen to during Mardi Gras that it’s easy to just tune everything out as background noise. But this would be unfortunate.

Listening is a critical part of storytelling – it’s the necessary converse. We need our stories heard to feel understood ourselves, to share our history and culture, and to connect with others through shared experiences. But, if there is no one to hear our stories, if no one is listening, then the story is lost and wasted.

Mindful, conscious listening allows us to enrich our lives, be it through music, stories, or simply sharing a laugh - it’s how we relate to one another and find common ground.

During Mardi Gras it was not an easy feat to listen, there was so much to hear, so much noise. But I’m thankful that I was able to focus on, and listen to, the beating of the drums in the parades that were so powerful they made my heart vibrate and hips automatically want to sway. So, I swayed with others around me and we connected to each other through the beat.

Then I focused on listening to the stories of the parade-goers next to me. I heard what they loved, their past parade victories of coveted throws, how they came to New Orleans and never left, and their favorite secret places in the city. I found new friends, learned unwritten history about my new city and made a deeper connection to my community.

We are social beings, we want to trust each other and be around people that make our lives more enjoyable. It doesn’t matter if we’re on a parade route or in the workplace. Listening is critical to connecting with one another and learning about the culture.

3. It’s not a sprint.

Mardi Gras season (Carnival) officially starts on Twelfth Night and goes until the day before Ash Wednesday, which means, depending on how much you want to experience, it can range from a few weeks to a few months. If you are really going to be engaged and enjoy yourself for the long haul, diligent self-care is critical.

Similar to starting in a new company or role, there is so much to learn, and a lot of energy is quickly expended since everything is new and you’re working full time to make a positive impression.

To prevent burnout at both Mardi Gras and at work, a consistent practice of self-care is necessary.

Physical self-care consists of such practices as quality sleep, good nutrition, lots of water, and exercise to keep your energy up and prevent burnout.

Mental care, often forgotten, is equally important. It may include meditation, spending time with loved ones and building partnerships to help you navigate potential office hurdles or, in the case of Mardi Gras, watching out for random beads coming at you from the floats that you didn’t see.

Do you want to make your work transition feel like Mardi Gras? Do you want to have reasons to celebrate your work transition instead of it feeling stressed?  Do you want a partner so you can approach it thoughtfully and strategically? If so, I’m here for you