So You Want to Change the World?…..

I know you’re out there, even though I cannot see you.

Maybe we have already met. Or perhaps our paths are yet to cross in some interesting or circuitous way. That’s how it usually happens, some chance encounter or a connection through a friend. Or sometimes just a radiant energy that leads to further conversation. Although your stories are all unique, a distinct pattern has begun to weave itself. Perhaps the following profile resonates…

Although people are naturally drawn to you, you often feel alone, fundamentally different from those around you, like an outsider peering in.

Although you experience joy, you would not describe yourself as fun in the usual sense. Your happiness has a serious and reflective quality, a kind of gratitude rather than youthful abandon.

Although you are an achiever, you seldom take pride or satisfaction in your accomplishments. Instead, you refocus on the work ahead, yearning to use your gifts and talents toward the greatest impact.

You are at your best when serving others, and although you feel blessed with a strong sense of purpose and mission, sometimes these gifts feel like heavy burdens that are yours alone to bear.

Perhaps I know you because I am of your kind, and I seem to have developed a heightened sensitivity to your energy- like an airy layer of possibility floating above the negativity and fear that protect the status quo.

The great news is that our number is growing, and those who radiate the strongest are young and brilliant, determined to use their talents to make significant and lasting change. They seem to know instinctively that our systems are broken, and they are ready to serve and lead, understanding that the two are inexorably linked. And perhaps most importantly, they are not afraid.

But they desperately need our help. Their power can only be activated through opportunities to mobilize and leverage their gifts. When the spaces (or jobs) are too tight or restrictive, or the goals too narrowly defined, their potential fails to be realized, with only the most local benefits and impacts.

In order to increase their numbers, we must actively cultivate the talents, passion, and sense of purpose that lie latent within all children and adults. But for these young professionals, the Super Stars who are ready and eager to make their mark on the world, we must put their talents to use recognizing that they are special and finding ways to connect them with the communities they long to serve.

For those of us lucky enough to meet these individuals, we must serve as their mentors and sponsors, helping organizations utilize their talents either through existing or customized opportunities. And when necessary, we must help them create new models and paradigms, connecting them with resources and support, nurturing their efforts and helping them take root.  This clearly calls for a deepened level of engagement and commitment.  However, once we contemplate the implications, we will realize that the true burden- and possibilities- are collectively ours to bear.

Developing High Impact Service Projects

 

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“How can we maximize our collective impact?”

We were discussing the adoption of a new local service project, something long-term that would allow us to get closer to the community and make a meaningful contribution.

We had entertained this discussion many times before, but never in quite the same way. Usually it was in the form of self-critique, pointing out what we didn’t do well, or enough of. After all, the mission of Rotary is “service above self” so the question of whether our output was sufficient seemed both natural and heavy as we continued to ponder the direction of our club’s growth and evolution.

But for me this time felt qualitatively different, and the moment resonated with promise.

By framing the question as such, “How can we maximize our collective impact?” we had opened a secret door. And if we chose to enter, it would lead us to something big and important, as long as we had the courage to see it through. 

With the question hanging in the air, the probes quickly followed. “Who are we at our core? What do we do best, and enjoy most?” The responses flowed easily.   

However, the next question, “What do we have that our community needs most?” gave us pause. It was clear that our city’s needs were great, but there were also so many resources and organizations. We would need to be careful not to duplicate services or even worse, inadvertently compete. We agreed to study community reports in hopes of identifying critical gaps and opportunities. 

But we also needed to define the boundaries, the lines that we promised not to cross. As Rotarians we were all volunteers, paying significant dues for the honor of being members. As such, we had little tolerance for going outside our comfort zones. And with membership being such a critical issue, we would have to stay firmly within our sweet spot, maintaining our current members while continuing to attract more. 

The promise was tantalizing- identifying a new service project that would serve a significant unmet need, leveraging and supporting other community programs and resources, while being uniquely suited to our club’s respective strengths and interests.   

So what did we come up with? I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say that our new project, which is still in its formative stages, promises to be both exciting and ambitious, in all the right ways.

But perhaps even more important than the project itself is the associated birthing process. By framing our new endeavors, whenever possible, within the guiding question “How can we maximize our collective potential?” we can ensure that our efforts are both inherently important and uniquely ours. And when we are truly working- or serving- in our sweet spots, not only will we find the fulfillment and satisfaction that we crave, but we will also attract other like-minded individuals who are ready to join us, and our capacity for impact will continue to grow.

-Mara Huber

Lenses, Focus, and the Pursuit of Brilliance

 

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Success, Fulfillment, and Humanitarianism…. these are three of my favorite lenses. I’d like to take this post to introduce you, in case you’re searching for a set of your own.

Success is a lens that drives many of us. It helps us to set goals and strive for growth and achievement, while seeking evidence of our competence. Although the need for success can catalyze our movement and fuel our perseverance, it is inherently neither positive nor benevolent. If untethered, success can manifest as addiction, threatening relationships and general happiness, and accordingly should be kept on a short leash.

Fulfillment is a highly personal lens that is tied to our core needs and gifts. The more we know what fulfills us the better able we are to focus our time and energy. In this way, our fulfillment lens- if well defined- can manage and steer our success, navigating us through the inevitable pitfalls and landmines. And although fulfillment is in some ways self-directed, we all share a fundamental need for human connection which gives this lens a somewhat broader and brighter orientation.

Humanitarianism is my favorite lens. It’s also the broadest in terms of its focus and reach. Humanitarianism helps us gaze beyond ourselves and our immediate circumstances, thinking about the broader community and world, as well as ideals and principles that unify and elevate us. Our humanitarianism lens helps us to be better and stronger, and lifts us up out of the weeds toward more noble goals and impacts. It gives us courage to be leaders, and keeps our other lenses in check by pulling them upward and outward toward the greatest level of brightness.

While each of these lenses is inherently limited, when working together they expand our possibilities and potential. When we are shining at our brightest we are able to help others calibrate their lenses toward greater success and fulfillment. But it is when we are at our best and join with others who are also shining brightly, that the real magic happens. Suddenly, the possibilities seem limitless and ideas and solutions materialize with little effort or obstacle. This is when virtually anything becomes possible. 

This notion of collective brilliance has benefits well beyond the success that we crave. When we are shining together brightly we gain a sense of shared intimacy and connection that is resonant with fulfillment, purpose, and mission. Interestingly, these are the very ingredients that can be missing when we strive for success or fulfillment alone.

How ironic that the pathway to personal and professional success may be best accessed through gazing beyond ourselves and our immediate struggles.  In this way, lenses can provide us with the focus and clarity to brighten our vision- individually, collectively, and societally- so that we can maximize our potential and impact toward the greatest good.

Clearly, helping one another develop and utilize these lenses toward a collective brilliance is a goal that is worthy of our most focused pursuit.