Live Your Purpose Series
Stories of Authentic Lives and Courageous Risk Taking
Volume One - Introduction
Explore, Dream, Discover
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -- Mark Twain
When I was growing up, I always wanted two things for myself. I wanted a ranch filled with horses, and to be a writer. I didn’t know how, as an Irish Catholic girl from south-suburbia Chicago, I was going to achieve these dreams, but I was pretty sure that this was my destiny. Could I actually make a living at these things, maybe – maybe not. Did that matter – not really. I just knew what I wanted.
So, instead of making a beeline to the end goal, I chose the meandering route. Trying new things, daring to be out there on the edge of experience just for the sake of the experience and what it may teach me. Some may have seen this as reckless, chancy, non-conformist. I always saw it as living my authentic life. In my mind, I couldn’t be a good writer, a good mentor, a good friend or partner, unless I had really lived.
I am not alone. Our world is filled with people that chose to be courageous and live their authentic life. This series of articles is about them. Some of them are famous. Their risky decisions have changed all of our lives. Some of them you will not know. Their choice to live authentically has been impactful on a smaller, while no less inspiring scale.
5 Secrets to Risk Taking
These will form the basis for the articles to follow. While I have not decoded the human genome or solo-climbed El Cap, I have had some experiences with each of these 5 steps and will share my stories below in hopes that they may inspire some small action in you, or give you that last burst of courage to take that next step.
I’m not saying that to live your true purpose you must take up rock climbing or white-water rafting. That is why the most important step starts with defining who you are, what your true passions are and where you want to end up. Remember, these may also change as you gain experiences and knowledge. Climbing Mt. Everest used to be very high on my bucket list. Now, unless there are quick, affordable advances in joint replacement, I realize this has shifted to the “used to be on the Bucket List” list.
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Make Great Leaps
When you take yourself out of your comfort zone, you give yourself the opportunity to realize your potential and build confidence. Taking on new responsibility in your current position, or volunteering for an experimental new role, not only gives you the reward of confidence, but also helps you stand out to company leadership. According to Jason Hanold, CEO of search firm Hanold Associates (who finds and counsels HR leaders for companies such as Amazon and Nike) "With each one of those moves you have an opportunity for accelerated learning, accelerated compensation, versus someone who finds a place they're comfortable and sets and perches right there," Hanold says.
Many times, these opportunities for growth are within your current organization, many times they are not. When I was just out of college, rock climbing was my passion. But, I made my living in high-end retail management. To beat the annual 3% raise, every 4 years when I was headhunted, I took it seriously. The results provided me with life-long benefits. Not to mention the leaps in salary at every change, I had the great opportunity to be mentored by some of the best in the business at each stop, learned management skills from the top in the industry (and filled my closets and kitchen with amazing linens and gadgets at a fraction of the price!).
Great leaps can also come when you dive into a new field, learn a new skill or follow a passion. There are only two things that can happen when you pursue a desire. One, you will be successful or two, you will have learned something invaluable. The first is self-explanatory. The second takes shape within your mindset.
A question often asked during an Executive Level interview is “Describe a time you failed and how that made you feel and how you reacted.” I love this question! Because it allows me to really be my true self, and the company either agrees, or doesn’t – making the fit apparent or not. My answer to this question has always been the same. “I don’t believe that I have failed.