At some point in my childhood, I started to develop a slouch. Now, I will trace this back to two things: My backpack was about half my body weight and I was 5’5” before I reached middle school. Feeling tall and awkward (I looked like a few long toothpicks someone glued together), I am sure my slouch was a desperate attempt to not stand out. Regardless of the reasons, my parents were not happy with the recent regression of my posture, and on came the talks. We discussed the long terms implications of slouching- health, body image, professionalism, etc. My parents continuously reminded me I should be proud of who I was- all 5 feet 5 inches and 85 pounds of me.

But nothing was working. They would call me out in the moment, and I would become embarrassed. My face would catch fire and I recall saying, “MOOOOM” or “DAAAAD” in that long, drawn out, annoyed way more then one or two times.

At some point my parents, after realizing their efforts thus far were fruitless, had the genius idea to turn it into a game. They sat me down and told me they had developed a “code phrase” that would help to give me in-the-moment feedback without the embarrassment. If they noticed me slouching, they would casually ask, “Danielle, where’s Waldo?” and that would be my reminder to sit up straight. I agreed to try it, realizing that this was not as embarrassing as announcing, “Danielle, you are sitting like an animal” to anyone who was listening.

It did the trick. My parents would gently lean over and just ask where Waldo was and I would immediately smile and sit up straight. It was not as anonymous as believed and soon became a common phrase my family would say, regardless of the occasion or environment, and without fail, all six Aaronsons would sit a little straighter (and stifle a laugh).

Now fast forward to me as a young adult. Luckily, I no longer slouch (but if you see me slouching, you know how to straighten me up!), but there are plenty of things I am working on. Things I need constant feedback and coaching on. Some of them are easy to admit- I get aggressive when I perceive someone as rude, which means I do not go to question mode, I jump to the aggressive defense. And some of them are not as easy to admit- I am trying to stop biting my nails, I have a hard time working on teams, and I struggle when I am not in charge. Sometimes it would help to get in-the-moment feedback, to get my own little, “Where’s Waldo” moment from those I know love me and support my success. I am lucky I am surrounded by those individuals in all aspects of my life. Asking for the support is the hard part for me.

How about you? What is your “Where’s Waldo” opportunity? Who can you recruit to support you as you go through the struggle, excitement, frustration, and growth of these development opportunities?



Danielle Aaronson

Danielle Aaronson

Danielle’s mission is to inspire leaders to make intentional choices that move them to positive action. She speaks at conferences, management summits, and leadership programs as well as facilitates efforts with executives and senior leaders at organizations seeking to influence their culture. Her mantra, “be the change you wish to see in the world” has allowed her to strive every day to be the best she can be and help others recognize the potential they have to make a positive difference. @deaaronson

close slider

    Subscribe to the InnerWill email for inspirational stories and tips on how to build engagement, trust, and success at work and beyond – delivered right to your inbox every Monday morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.