Dedication to Dreamers

On my own two feet, from loosing my legs to learning the dance of life - Amy PurdyThis is how Amy Purdy’s session was introduced this week at the first VOICES Inc. talk this week. Amy Purdy is the 2014 Paralympic Medalist, she’s a double amputee with a profound story of determination, courage and beating the odds. Many know her for her performance on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Her story was a reminder about three things.

Being Your Story: “If your life was a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?” This is how Amy opened her talk and explained it was the question that guided her decision and path after her life of freedom and independence took a detour and when her life would rely on machines, mechanics and innovation, while her desire for a life of adventure was still strong.

Knowing Your Purpose: It is clear that sharing her message of triumph is Amy’s purpose. She affirmed this with her actions to start a non-profit organization Adaptive Action Sports, and her championship and petition to have Snowboarding as one of the competition categories in the Sochi Olympics (2014). It is often our passion that carries us through challenges. This is when we’re forced to dig deep and figure out what we’re made of. At this year’s Creative Conference in Portland, Steve Emerson, Visual Effects Supervisor LAIKA commented that people shouldn’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration is a component of creativity, not a catalyst. People who love what they do enjoy the process of whatever they love. I sat in the audience and nodded profusely. Of course this is true! We can’t just wait for the next TED talk, conference or book to inspire us to action. When I’m reflective, uncertain or unsure I often think about my purpose to be a changemaker to enable people to perform at their best. This is where all paths lead.

Finding Assets in Obstacles: Being emotionally and physically broken was hard and Amy talked about how her biggest loss turned into her biggest asset. The comment signaled the power of attitude and was a reminder that while we can’t control everything in our lives and we can’t control other people, we can control how we respond to a situation.

It takes courage and energy to try new things and to overcome challenges. It can take mental, physical or/and emotional energy. Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or ambivert, it takes less of one energy and more of the other. Depending on your style, trying new things can give you energy too. It also breeds anxiety or fear. It gives me energy to listen. I love going to conferences, listening to speakers like Amy.

In just a short amount of time her life has been transformed at least twice or three times. She’s been on the road with Oprah on her Power of Intention tour, competed on Dancing with Stars, got married, won an Olympic Medal. Its fair to say that having a list of accomplishments on this scale won’t be everyone’s list (although maybe dreamers’ lists). But Amy’s story offered a reminder for all of use that we don’t have to be limited by circumstance.

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Appealing to Employees’ ‘Purpose’ Sweet Spot

Our WE team of ambitious, passionate colleagues (before our 24-hour pro-bono marathon)
Our WE team of ambitious, passionate colleagues (before our 24-hour pro-bono marathon)

In December, two of the 2014 trends about corporate societal engagement by CECP resonated as we reflected on Waggener Edstrom’s second annual CreateAthon event. The post highlighted that companies are paying closer attention to their culture and how it aligns company values with employee values because employees are looking to work for companies that share their values. Alignment between the values accelerates business performance. Second, employee engagement continues to evolve. There is a link between how companies support employee engagement and invest in communities. Both factors contribute to creating a meaningful culture that attracts and retains talent.

It has been three months since WE’s event, and the shared joy, camaraderie and connections that employees experienced are still palpable because CreateAthon speaks to employees’ aspirations and expectations in three ways.

  • Something Greater than Oneself: Employees are not driven solely by their own achievements or the company’s goals as an end in itself but by the world around them and how they better society. A 2014 article in Inc. magazine highlighted the results of a Deloitte study that stated 73 percent of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged, compared with just 23 percent of those who don’t. CreateAthon builds new communities within companies that work toward clear outcomes that have a far-reaching impact. This is inspiring to employees.
  • Focus on the Experience: In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” People seek fulfillment in their everyday lives. Employees have a desire to create and participate in experiences in pursuit of greater happiness. Experiences like CreateAthon stay with people, they have emotional longevity and can be relived. Research indicates that experiences define a person’s sense of self more than possessions.
  • Opportunity to Thrive: CreateAthon is a social learning experience. During CreateAthon we build an equal playing field regardless of job title, experience or skill-set. WE employees valued having the opportunity to try out a new skill. Studies have shown that younger generations tend to feel uncomfortable in rigid corporate structures where information is often siloed. The CreateAthon experience is a microcosm of the types of workplaces that companies are being challenged to deliver at scale. Being in an agile, flexible and fun environment gives employees the perfect opportunity to thrive.

The Power of Simple

Colorado, USAIn our patch work world of busy social calendars, family functions and professional demands, complexity is an outcome of life that we confront most days. Our world of complexity is  powered by technology, an over-abundance of information and high expectations. Deliberately embracing the notion of simplicity or simplifying our ways is refreshing; I’ve learned that its a strategy to live a more meaningful life.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the adjective simple, “Free from duplicity, innocent and harmless, honest, open and straightforward.” The word suggests greater clarity because if we spend time focused on simplifying a situation, task or priorities, there is a greater likelihood that we have a clearer focus and understanding for why we are doing something. The idea of taking some time to pause and process the reason for why we’re doing something , as opposed to jumping frantically from one task to another raises our consciousness about the choices we’re making which means we can focus on quality of activities versus the quantity of items that we’re checking off the to-do list.

Simplicity breeds gratitude, higher productivity and greater fulfillment. Undeniably, the idea of simplifying is an aspiration every day. If we remind ourselves frequently, train our brain to be deliberate and focus, we will be more intentional and happier.

Live simply.

Mentors matter

I’ve been dabbling with a book by Sylvia Ann Hewlett titled Forget a Mentor, Find a sponsor for several months. I still haven’t finished the book however believe both mentors and sponsors matter. They have different roles in our professional life. How to make the best use of time with mentors perplexed me for a while even though I could imagine the value of tapping the wisdom and life experiences of those who have walked a similar path. How to frame the conversations or determine when to approach a mentor was less clear. I’ve learned that trusted mentors can provide and perspective to guide choices (note, I did not write advice). They are perfect people to connect with to:  

  • seek guidance on how to handle professional situations and relationships
  • uncover ideas and gather diverse perspectives on how to approach a new experience, unfamiliar task or uncertain situation
  • learn and be inspired about what to be thinking about next (ask your mentor what they are reading, blogs they follow, events they’re planning to attend or have recently attended and WHY or WHAT they learned).

 

The Last Lecture

In my eyes Randy Pautsch’s approch to his life’s challenges is admirable and innovative. He is an exemplary example of living life to the full, he has chosen to make the most of his circumstances and sought innovative ways to manage his life journey by teaching others, fighting pancreatic cancer and raising awareness, preparing for his children’s life in unqiue ways (when he won’t be around). The story is hard and the strength which he, his wife has shown is remarkable.  There is no doubt they face hard days together, when I watched the Primetime show this week with Diane Sawyer, I was inspired and sad. There are numerous videos on YouTube …