RMYP Summit & That Warm Fuzzy Feeling

I just got back home from the tail end of the Rocky Mountain Young Professional’s 2012 Summit and I am, to be perfectly honest, re-energized, but also overwhelmed with all the steps that lay before me. The summit’s tag line was “leadership starts now” and there were three different tracks for the event: professional, personal, and community. I’m on the committee to help plan the event and so felt compelled to attend even though networking fills me with a distinctively sharp displeasure. I couldn’t make it for the full day yesterday, but I could come today’s half day where I got to enjoy a panel discussion and a closing key note.

The track I chose was community where a small group of us got to have a very intimate discussion with three leaders in the non-profit space. Saviney Chandrasekhar from Denver Public Schools & Minds Matter, Erin Guttenplan from Edge of 7, and Lisa Mattis from Big City Mountaineers.  All, by coincidence, were from the education space.

It was really a wonderful discussion. They weren’t getting on a pulpit about their specific organizations, but really diving into how they got to where they are today, the qualities it takes, and balancing business with your passion. Does that sound familiar to you? A year out of graduating and I’ve probably been to over a dozen entrepreneurial lectures about “finding your passion” but up until this point much of the passion has been about the snow sport industry and, while I really admire them, I felt distance from their objectives. Where as this RMYP panel was about making your purpose your work and that purpose being helping the community. Just a wonderful idea.

One of my favorite points was a “business model” from the Zappos founder. When most people look for their career they look for…

  1. Pleasure. How much much initial satisfaction it gives them, like indulging in ice-cream and fresh brownies. This could be clout, a good salary, or a cool title.
  2. Flow. That is, getting into the groove of what you’re working on, becoming adept at it to the point where you are satisfied with what you accomplish and how good you are at it.
  3. Purpose. Lastly, after you’ve done this job for a while you start to understand your purpose, within the company or just a general comfortableness.

However, those truly special business people people (the ones that I suspect just light up a room when they enter and a conversation flows from their lips as easy as a smile) flip that process in reverse. They find a job that fulfills their purpose first, grapple with the new position until they work out a flow, and then the pleasure comes automatically (if not instantaneously). Isn’t that beautiful? Living with purpose. According the key note speaker, only 27% of people report that they are in jobs that they want to do.

Besides that they discussed the qualities of leadership and the dynamics of working in a non-profit specifically. This is something I wrestled with while hearing them. The panelists said that, just being their at our age and with our varied interested told them that we had the qualities to be a leader in a non-profit, that we don’t have to be tremulously step into volunteer roles, that we could start today on the member of the board helping lead an organization (the define the roles as Do-ers, Mangers, and Leaders).

I’ve never considered myself a leader. At times I can take charge of a group because the perfectionist in me want to be able to do everything.But in these situations I definitely consider myself more of a “Do-er.” If you tell me to do something, I will go out and accomplish that project to the very best of my abilities. At the same time, I don’t do it thoughtlessly, I don’t need to be managed, I do fine working independently (an important quality, they said). Part of it is that Jacklynn is not confrontational and in my head I always imagine leaders to be those charming-but-bold types. Of course they talked about the effectiveness of Quiet Leadership—especially in non-profit work. So maybe this “leadership thing” isn’t as far out of my scope as I think it is.

Another thing that Saviney said that I really liked is the relationship between luck & chance and optimism & pessimism. Chance is flipping a coin and it landing on ‘heads’ when we picked ‘tails.’ Luck is taking what happened and making some good out of it. Mmmm, how about them apples? Things have only failed when we let them fail: when we give up. We all have the capacity to turn things around and change our chance into luck. (That doesn’t mean, Katie, that we can’t mope in a our beds for the odd afternoon if someone bad does happen, I think).

The key note afterwards was by Richard Franklin, regional director of Cleantech Open and Missy Franklin‘s father. I didn’t know what to expect, but he did end up talking about his work for Cleantech Open. So, Richard has an extensive background in executive positions for an impressive number of leading companies and now works for this environmental innovation entrepreneurial accelerator foundation.  Does that make sense? That was a lot of words. Basically this foundation serves to help people with brilliant ideas to change the world put those ideas into action, into business plans and get investors. They have initial applicants, then semi-finalists, and then training as they compete to win more money to successfully launch their ideas. Like, really good mentoring. Richard gave a ton of case studies and told us about different project people had invented and through out devastating statistics about the state of our environment. For instance, a mother in California developed the…chemical property to make diaperscompletely disposable. As in, they’ll completely decompose in three months. Pretty neat right? No, it’s a lot more than that. Do you know that we throw away 40 million diapers in the the United States? That’s literally a ton on plastic just sitting in our landfills forever.Oh, and you know that when I said 40 million, I meant,40 million diapers a day? Yeah. And do you know that our landfills are 80% full now?

Now for the point where I reflect on all the information I get. Sorry about the recent trend of long-winded posts.

First of all, I absolutely loved both of these events. I am super susceptible to idealism. If idealism is a disease, I have absolutely no pessimistic antibodies.  The first was really informative, and the second was personally very moving to me. During parts of Richard’s talk I felt physically anxious with the desire to do something good for the world. Knowing about these problems and not doing anything is equivalent to perpetrating them.

In the back of my mind my thought was always to get more agency experience (basically become a better designer) in order to establish myself and then to work almost exclusively with non-profits. But I don’t need to wait, not really. I am pretty sure there are agencies now that work primarily with charities. If not grad school, that is where I should be applying myself. That’s what I care about and that is what would make me happy. I would be proud to be a part of that agency and that’s where I can bring the most of myself into my work.

My top causes, the ones that I feel the most strongly about are: Education (especially in regards to literacy), the environment & sustainability, and arts & arts appreciation/education. Those are the things I am most drawn to and compelled by.

Ok. Those are the things I know about myself. Now to start those wheels turning.

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