The Story Economy Blog

On Penthouse Suites and Feeling Appreciated

chicago skylineLast week was “show week”: the culmination of a three-month corporate scriptwriting project. I arrived in Chicago (the site of the show), ready for anything. I’ve written enough of these shows now to know that anything can happen. (Anything!) Sometimes there’s a catastrophe at two in the morning. Sometimes a whole segment needs to be rewritten only an hour before show. Sometimes things just explode and everyone stumbles around trying to catch the falling pieces.

So I was ready.

I waved my key card in front of my hotel room door, walked in, and sat my suitcase down. I was on my phone checking messages for a full minute before I even looked up and noticed that I was standing in a beautiful and spacious penthouse suite.

I looked at the little envelope where my room number was written, and went back out to the hallway to check the number on my door. Yep, it matched.

I must be in the wrong place, I thought. Why would I have such a room? I wasn’t an executive or a VIP.

I stepped into the bathroom, peering around with a mixture of awe and glee, feeling like some country girl who has never been to the city before. It was literally the most amazing hotel bathroom I’d ever seen in person, complete with a giant soaking tub (and wall-mounted TV), a gorgeous oversized tile shower, and a double vanity that ran the entire length of the room—which was approximately the size of my living room at home.

I went back out to the huge main room, and opened the curtains. In front of me was a panoramic view of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. (I took the picture above from my room.)

All I could think was: what is going on here? Who am I to have such a room?

Back downstairs a few minutes later, I caught up with the client.

“Um, did you know that I have a suite? Was that on purpose?” I asked.

“Yes! We wanted to show our appreciation for everything you’ve done,” she said.

I felt honored and humbled. I had given the project the biggest chunk of my energy for weeks, and to have that recognized felt awesome. In fact, by the end of the show, I felt more appreciated than ever. This isn’t some totally new experience: my clients are often appreciative! But something was different this time, and my own thoughts had as much to do with it as that fantastic penthouse suite (it was fantastic, by the way!). I was paying attention this time. And as I did, I noticed three distinct, intersecting thoughts around appreciation.


  1. Appreciation is contagious.

backstageWhen you feel appreciated, it changes your frame of mind. Not only was I better able to notice and take in the nice things people were saying (instead of just shrugging them off with a “just doing my job”), but I also felt my own appreciation deepen for my team (the empty chair you see to the right is where I spent the week!). For example, I received a lot of good feedback for one particular segment I wrote. I snuck into the audience to watch the segment live on stage. As I saw the final product and the audience’s positive reaction, I realized that my writing was only one very small part of the whole thing. Without proper lighting on the stage, no one could see it. Without good audio, no one could hear it. Without graphics, no one would have a visual reference. Without a great stage design and fabrication, there would be no place to deliver the content. Without stage managers, no one would even get to stage. Without a show caller to call the cues, nothing would be in harmony. Without a switcher, nothing would show up on the screens. Without a producer to orchestrate all of those people and activities, none it would have happened in the first place.

It’s very easy to get caught up in your own work. I talk endlessly about my own work and struggles! But this time around, I was really noticing the tight teamwork and the essentialness of every single person on that team. I appreciated that I was part of something much bigger. Again, this isn’t a new thought. But because I wasn’t mired in exhaustion this time around (I had a tub to soak in, after all), I was so much better able to look up and notice.


  1. Appreciation and money are tied together.

Was it just a coincidence that, after three years, this was the first year that I charged what the project was truly worth?

There is a connection between charging what you know you’re worth and feeling appreciated. I think it starts inside—some little switch you flip inside yourself that opens the door. It’s scary to throw out a big number and say: this is what I want! I’d like to tell you that I am an expert negotiator, full of confidence at every turn. The truth is, it’s still hard, after 13 years! But when I am able to ask for the fee I believe the work is worth, I do better work—and that work tends to get noticed more.

So no, I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all.


  1. Appreciation has a demon side, too.

It’s called ego.

There is a tricky line between feeling appreciated and letting your ego take over, and I’ve seen many people cross this line.

This was definitely my least favorite thought. I really wanted to just pretend like I wasn’t having this thought and stare at my penthouse lake view instead.

The thing is, I’ve come across a lot of smart and talented people who are thoroughly praised for what they do . . . and thoroughly assholes behind the scenes. I’ve seen big-name keynote speakers who get brought in—people with really awesome messages and presentations. They say one thing on stage and inspire everyone. And then they turn around and treat the lowest person on the totem pole (lowest in their eyes) like crap. They run the stage manager ragged or say rude things to the hospitality or show staff.

To be fair, I’ve seen the opposite, too: there’s plenty of goodwill and humbleness out there!

It’s a small world. The stories about these people get circulated, and make awesome anecdotes for post-show cocktails. We all laugh and roll our eyes. She did what? He demanded what?

But a demon lurks under it all. I don’t ever want to be appreciated so much that I forget I’m just a girl from Kentucky who is still easily impressed by a jumbo bathtub. I don’t want to forget that it was scary to ask for more money. As embarrassing as it is sometimes, I don’t want to lose my stupid habit of blushing when people compliment me on something. I don’t want to ever be the subject of embarrassing anecdotes (unless I’m in on the joke).

As we wrap up July, I appreciate many things. I appreciate that this project is over, and that it went so beautifully—thanks to a tremendous team and a gracious client! I appreciate that my son turns seven years old today, and I am home to help him celebrate! I appreciate that I never have to worry when I leave town because my husband holds it together at home much better than I ever could.

And I appreciate feeling appreciated.

Hokey-sounding or not, it does make it all worth it.


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