Last year I spent time with campus visitors who were a part of the Nelson Mandela Fellows Program. The group was comprised of some of the brightest, innovative minds from Africa. This summer the program returned to our campus and I was fortunate to be asked to engage with the fellows again. One of the program coordinators told me that the topic of my conversation would be “Sustaining your vision” again this summer. I thought about how my conversation might differ this year from last year’s conversation. (http://www.sisterintheshadow.com/sustaining-your-vision/ ) I learned that I grew over the last year because my list of ways to sustain a vision included more suggestions.
Through my journey, I learned that I needed the support of other folks to be “successful.” In addition to that lesson, I shared the following:
- Receive the voices of others who believe in your ability to achieve your vision. I started my blog because someone else told me to do it after she decided that my voice needed to be heard. After I heard the same sentiment from another lady, I continued to write. I made more investments of time and resources into the blog after learning from another person or two that my words resonated with them because of the transparency and relevancy to common people.
- Embrace the constructive criticism and guidance from experts in your field or mentors with demonstrated concern for your professional and personal development.
- Accept coaching from your mentors and partners in your field.
- Develop the ability to engage in self-reflection which leads to self-awareness.
- Do not fear exploring new directions to contribute to the audience that is best suited for your offering.
- Own your decisions and the outcomes that follow from those choices. Accountability is key to your success.
- Work hard to learn something from every experience. Being the person who knows everything is not attractive and it means you fail at humility.
- Be humble. Humility is not demonstrated by telling folks that you are humble, but by doing the thing that you are gifted to do regardless of the reward. Humble people use their special gift for the benefit of the community simply because the community will be enhanced.
- Remember the lessons that are foundational in your life. My lessons were taught by my parents: a. you can make somebody’s world better every day and b. you should leave things better than when you found them. I work to apply these lessons to my encounters with students or with situations that impact students every day.
- Find the thing you are passionate about doing and do that thing as often as you can. I told them to be excited about the trifecta of finding the thing, being allowed to practice that thing, and getting paid to do the thing you love to do.
The responses from the fellows surprised me. Many fellows commented that my conversation made them feel emotional. I knew that much of the information I shared was from my heart. I told a story of my journey that happened to be filled with rides on the figurative emotional rollercoaster. I pride myself in being an excellent storyteller and their responses confirmed that my stories projected the heartfelt concern that I have for my audiences. We talked about the loneliness of leadership and the fear that comes with being judged when you become transparent in front of a community, local or global. Some fellows shared their personal stories of loss of family members while other shared stories of separation from family in their search of a dream they believed would improve the station of their families and their communities. I enjoyed encouraging one writer to return to blogging on her terms and be encouraged by two other writers who have published more than one book. I think was all agreed that there was benefit to living out our passions for the benefits of our communities even if we found only one person who benefits from our work. I hope that each member of my audience will use one or more of these tools to sustain a vision.