Day 1 of M.A.D. LEADERSHIP CHICAGO 

Prior to the Aspire M.A.D. Leadership Chicago conference I wrote abour last week, there was a webinar to prepare. 

One question posed to webinar attendees was, “What is your main motivation to attend M.A.D. (Making a Difference) Leadership?”

  1. Improve Leadership Skills
  2. Make a bigger difference in the world
  3. Figure out future career and life goals 
  4. Make a life or work change
  5. Something else

Intentions are powerful. Declaring your direction and what you want to achieve can gain more results than going into any new project or adventure blindly.

Throughout the program, attendees had a chance to network and spend time speaking out loud about dreams, goals and vision. But what I loved was that it didn’t stop there. Goals do not mean much without action and that was a big focus of the event. Attendees could learn the steps for how to take action and create steps for making a difference. 

Before the event began, attendees checked-in and got to select their own journal to jot down notes, ideas, contacts, plans, follow-up, etc during the week. I attended an Aspire Foundation event last year and I still have my journal. 

This year’s event in Chicago included 12 sessions. I will take my next few blog posts day by day. Day one sessions included topics on the power and impact of being a MAD leader in today’s competitive organization and global economy which was led by Aspire’s founder, Dr. Sam Collins. On day 1 attendees also heard from Linda Cruse on how to create a life and career you love and be a catalyst for change. Linda Cruse is an international aid worker, disaster management specialist, author, inspirational speaker and social entrepreneur. You should check out her book Marmalade and Machine Guns.

Linda said a lot that resonated with me. She talked about the work she does around the world but how it’s important to create environments that foster independence. You have to train people you teach to be without you so they don’t become dependent. It is valuable to co-create then leave. That to me is not important only if you are assisting in third world countries but a principle that rings true in every country in any life. Parents, school teachers, managers can all take that same piece of advice and apply it. I know I want to. No one should want to create someone who cannot be independent to think, live and thrive on their own. 

Some other faves Linda mentioned are as follows:

“We come with nothing and we go with nothing. At the end of the day we have our purpose so don’t miss living your purpose by one day. How do you want to be remembered?”

“Why not? Two words that will change your life.”

“Have a board of directors for your life, in your life.”

“You become who you have coffee with.”

“Buy an experience for Christmas or Thanksgiving. You’ll talk about it for years. Buy experiences, not things.”

To wrap up day 1, there was also a panel session on making success. The panelists dove deeper into the ideas of balance and resilience being possible for MAD Leaders. 

One of my favorite takeaways was something someone on the panel said which was,”No…is a gift you can give someone. It’s you saying, ‘I can’t do it’ so they can find someone else versus saying yes then you can’t commit to it. 

Next week I’ll tell you more about day two of the Aspire Foundation MAD Leadership Chicago conference.  

The totally fab Volunteer Team I was part of

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Aspire, Inspire, Trailblazing Women

​I love being in a room with powerful women and men, especially women. Powerful though not because of their title or status but because of their spirit. Aspire has done it again!

This week I spent volunteering for The Aspire Foundation M.A.D. Leadership Chicago conference. 

This was a symbolic full circle for me. Last year, I attended my first Aspire conference on Trailblazing Leadership in London (click link to read one of my most popular posts on traveling in London). If you have been reading my blogs for some time, you probably remember my posts (like this one here!) about that trip.

This week, I feel like I met the most beautiful souls. People who help you believe in humanity. People who believe in diversity including diversity of thought, of people, of ideas and dreams. People who were open, loving, thoughtful, compassionate and serious about making a difference to change the world, knowing that it starts with transforming their own lives so they can help transform the lives of others.

150 women attended each day from front line, manager and senior positions in the corporate, academic, local government, small business, nonprofit and charity worlds. There were attendees on scholarship, students, mentees, mentors and a few amazing men attended as well. 

As a volunteer, I got there early each morning and stayed late each night, giving my best energy, smiles, help and support to everyone who needed it. I helped with setup, breakdown, did the social media (Search #madleaders on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn), checked attendees in at reception each morning, helped delegates during and between the sessions, supported the volunteer team and all other duties as assigned. 

I got just as much if not more from volunteering as the attendees did. I got to see the experience from a different point of view this time around. I was nervous about how that might turn out but it was a brilliant decision. I worked closely with Dr. Sam Collins, the Founder and CEO of Aspire whose mission is to Make a Difference to 1 Billion women by 2020. 

At the beginning of the conference and before it started I spoke aloud intentions for what I wanted to get out of it. What did I want to see for myself? What did I want to see for the attendees? What did I want to see for the volunteer team? Some of my answers were re-energizing, restoration, peace and clarity.  I feel like I got even more than I asked for and that’s pretty incredible for a few days.
There were 12 fantastic sessions over 3 days. I have so much more to share but I will cut this post short so I can give the other content it’s full airtime. Next week I’ll start sharing more details about the conference sessions and some take-aways that really impacted me. 

I had to start somewhere because I am so excited. This week gave me a renewed energy and outlook on my present and my future. I am a M.A.D. (Making A Difference) Trailblazing Leader. 

Onward #madleaders!

Our Second Day in Infamy

Today America pauses in remembrance of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. 

It is so hard to believe 15 years have passed since that day which will forever be etched into our memories. A day which we will never forget, no matter how many years pass. 

Last summer, I visited New York for the first time in my life. Before I left, I knew one stop I had to take was to the site of the World Trade Center, where the Twin Towers once stood, where Ground Zero has been transformed, where the Memorial fountains now cascade into the remains and where Freedom Tower extends strongly into the New York sky. 

It was such a sobering, emotional experience. I stood at the edge of the north tower memorial and read the names. I said a prayer for peace. 

Fifteen years ago I was just 2-3 weeks into my freshman year of high school. I didn’t even know what the Twin Towers were. I was in a computer class during the attacks, my first period of the day after homeroom. I was able to watch the news stories as they poured out onto the internet. I saw the images over and over. Over the next few days, my tv at home tried combing through the confusion and sorrow over all of the attacks that day in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.  

None of it made sense. Even still we can’t make sense of it. 

A few years ago I was on the Hawaiian Island, Oahu. During my visit, I went to the site of the Pearl Harbor attacks. I met men who survived and listened to their stories. I took a boat to the Memorial that sits over the USS Arizona. Our first day in Infamy…December 7, 1941. The tears, the death, the sadness. I prayed for peace that day too. 

Survivor Uncle Herb was such a beautiful soul to meet

In the darkest of times, we find things to cling to. In our days of infamy, we saw many examples of unity, strength, resilience and hope when we needed it most. May our love continue to triumph over hate. 

There were many lives lost on September 11, 2001 and we will not ever forget you. For the families, friends, nation that grieves over our loss, may Peace continue to find you and be with you. 

One World Trade Center/Freedom Tower

Does your Destiny include Happiness?

I have strong and coherent beliefs about purpose and meaning of these lives we live. Your happiness in life & love matters and there is purpose in it all. 

I think everything happens for a reason. It may not always be clear but I believe our small day-to-day pieces fit into a larger picture, like a puzzle. My beliefs shape my actions and are a source of comfort to me. 

When I think about how special it is when destiny connects, examples like this come to my mind. Have you ever run into someone you know out of nowhere and it seems like the most random thing and thought, wow what a coincidence? I have moments like that occasionally. Then I think to myself of all the people and moments in time, how did it work out to be in this moment? The only thing I can think is it must not be that random. It totally makes me believe things are connected. 

Funny enough, watching Sleepless in Seattle made me think of writing this post. I love a good Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks rom-com. 

In the movie, Meg Ryan’s character is engaged to this plain, boring fellow that she is willing to stay with because they can make it work. They are too familiar and used to one another. He doesn’t excite her or make her feel in love. They happen to be so predictable it becomes clear to her that it isn’t enough. She is willing to settle instead of be truly happy. 

In the magic of Hollywood her search for love and happiness during this movie, things work out even though her path to get there was a little crazy.

Meanwhile, Tom Hanks’ character has just lost his wife to cancer. He has a small son and relocates his life to Seattle for a fresh start away from all the memories of his wife whom he loved madly. His son shares their story on a late night radio show, seeking the right new partner for his dad and ladies all over are smitten.

The movie tells the tale of these two particular strangers across the country eventually finding themselves in love through a series of events. Some random and some not so random. 

About my earlier point on seeing someone you know randomly there is a line from the movie that says, “Destiny is something we’ve invented because we can’t stand the fact that everything that happens is accidental.” I just can’t bring myself to believe that with no doubts. 

I do think we actively play a role. We have to or life just happens to us. I still have to believe things that seem unconnected might also have dotted lines behind the scenes that connect them and make them matter. It may not be clear in that moment but it all matters.

When it comes to your destiny, do you choose happiness?

I hope everyone would but I know some would think they don’t deserve it. I want you to know that you do.

If sacrificing your happiness can come so easily to you it may be just a matter of time before you sacrifice other things that matter to you…your comfort, your peace of mind, etc.

Another great quote from this film, “I love you. But let’s leave that out of this. I don’t want to be someone that you’re settling for. I don’t want to be someone that anyone settles for. Marriage is hard enough without bringing such low expectations into it, isn’t it?”

I am grateful to have a love that makes me feel safe and protected, happy and free. When I think of where my life is and where I want it to go, my happiness is sacred.
Life and love is not perfect nor always easy but it should be worth it. Your destiny depends on it.