Overcoming Obstacles: Day 2 of M.A.D. Leadership Chicago

The last two weeks I have been writing about this amazing conference I volunteered at. It was hosted by the Aspire Foundation and was a program focused on developing (mostly women) leaders who want to make a difference. 

You can read my first 2 posts here and here

Today I am sharing what happened on Day 2 of the event. It was appropriately titled, Overcoming Obstacles Day.

What is your biggest obstacle? How could you overcome it?

What is needed from you to overcome this obstacle? 

There were 4 sessions that day. The first session was about defining your purpose. Who are you and why are you here? 

Attendees were able to choose 2 speakers to sit with and share with. I sat with a speaker who has done ultra-marathons. She is also a businesswoman, wife and mom. She gave great advice and and tips on following your inner compass and going after your purpose to increase your impact.

Between sessions of course there was networking for attendees to take full advantage of the wisdom and endless connections available to those daring enough to seek them out. 

One of the most impactful sessions which was full of powerful stories on transformation came just after lunch on day two. 

3 speakers shared personal testimony about their journey past unbelievable hardship and struggles to a better future. They each found amazing women and men along the way who helped them push their lives out of darkness into light. 

It was hard not to shed a tear or two listening to some of the stories. 

One young lady, Nasreen, flew in from Nepal to share her story about overcoming a small-minded community where her mother told her sister to stay in a forced marriage with an abusive husband to Nasreen escaping to a big city and finding herself as a child laborer working in a sweat shop, making thousands of shirts a day in a tiny room. She eventually was able to leave that life and managed to start her own business then came in contact with someone from Canada who wrote an article about her. She’s also been featured in Forbes magazine which she had never even heard of. 

Sometimes you meet people with a light and love that cannot be explained. Nasreen is one of those people and I feel more wise having met her.

Other than a reflection session for some due quiet time, the day wrapped up with a session on collaborative leadership and the most fun project possible.

Here is the video for the Jessie J Price Tag tribute we did for our ‘Awamu (being together) project in Uganda filmed by yours truly.


Until next time mad leaders…

With Nasreen Sheikh from Nepal after she shared her amazing story


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