Underdog No More
by Jennifer Sey
I have a new job. Same company, new role. And while there is not a lot to lose - the brand I'll be marketing is ailing (No where to go but up!) - there is a great deal to gain. I am the global marketing lead for Dockers, a brand that is suffering the pains of the country's economic woes in addition to generally not being on top of its game. I have been led to believe that I was handpicked to contribute to the task of turn around. To contribute to the business' refurbishment would be of significant benefit to the company and its employees, not to mention a boost to my career.
In my last job at LS&Co., I was no one's first choice. I was turned down after the first round of interviews and had to plead to be let back into the process. After four months of being poked, prodded and tested I was offered the role with what felt like some reluctance (but that could've been my own self-doubt after being denied initially). I didn't resent the skepticism. I'd rather come in with low expectations and exceed them. I'm a fighter. I like to disrupt others' notions – and my own – of what I'm capable of.
Valid or not, I've seen myself as an underdog my whole life. As a gymnast in the 1980's, I was no one's first pick for '86 Champ. I was relatively un-athletic compared to the Mary Lou Retton's of the world (if you saw me now you'd have no trouble believing this), I'd been severely injured on a very public stage and I was more heart than technique, some might've said. And did. But that didn't stop me from clawing my way to the first place spot, staying focused in the heat of competition when others faltered. Once I got there it was hard to maintain the mojo. I was accustomed to underdog status, fighting to prove to people that I was good enough. Once I was on top, it didn't seem there was any need to go on fighting. I lost my devotion to the sport, then promptly lost my ability. Then I retired, defeated and back to feeling like an underdog.
I'm not sure where this pervasive orientation comes from. I know to most it wouldn't appear that I am an unlikely victor. Despite expected travails, I've been successful professionally while managing to jump start a writing career mid-life. Who's the underdog there? It doesn't change the fact that that is how I've always seen myself and it's an orientation that is hard to shake whether or not it holds true anymore. Perhaps it's because I'm a Jew and that is generally how my people – at least my family members – view themselves. The Seys and Feldbaums have always liked to talk in some amount of jest about being “The Chosen” but when it comes to modern day life, they've preferred to see themselves as put upon. As martyrs waging war against those who cannot or won't accept our greatness, our Chosen status.