Reflective Progress

It is only with stepping back that I truly make lasting discoveries.

That’s what this INML program has been all about. In part.

The last couple of months have also been about me. me. me.

What do I need as a leader? What do I want as a leader? What do I do as a leader?

The microscopic look at me came just at the right time both personally and professionally. But I lacked the time to pull back and refocus at the same time. So I forgot about it.   I forgot about the big picture. When you look at a hair through a microscope, you see every detail but you can’t recognize it as a hair. It’s just a line with details.  It’s only when you back up that you realize it’s a hair. In fact, not your hair, but a cat hair.

Last night I graduated from Boston University’s Institute for Non-Profit Management and Leadership. It’s the first time in my life I realized that I’m not the over-achiever I always claim to be. I am, in fact, an habitual under-achiever.

If you know me personally, you probably think I’m insane to make that statement. I’m a single parent, working full-time, pulling a micro-theatre up by its boot-straps, baking my own bread, exercising, putting my child first, cat-owning, not-your-average-girl-next-door kind of woman. But it’s true. Here’s why.

In front of me stood the head of the program, Barry Dym, who just published his fourth book. The next speaker, Robert Lewis Jr., a dynamic and passionate speaker blew me away not because of his articulate thoughts but because he cared. He cared. And he was changing the world because he cared. Four students later: a familiar-faced woman in my own class who I had always wanted to know more about but I learned more about her history from four minutes than I’d bothered to find out during 8 months of learning. she stood surrounded by her fellow ‘practice session’ students; a tall rhythmic man who lost his brother to gang violence last November, breathed his way through and thanked the many mentors he found; a tiny powerhouse of a woman who spoke lightly of her purported infectious laugh and helped us see the world through the eyes–her eyes–of the child of immigrants who was raised in poverty and was now changing the world; a spoken word artist who shook the room with his words and our voices. Four students later, I remembered why I started GAN-e-meed, why I am consistently drawn to teaching and mentorship, why my child always has my priority, why I have spent countless nights wondering why. why. why: because I care and I want to change the world.

Sure, it has helped to learn about accounting, marketing, public policy, fund raising, networking, and all the other essential parts of making a successful non-profit. But somewhere along the line I forgot why I wanted to take this program. It became all about me. me. me. Instead of them. them. them. Them is what’s important.

I am here because I want to make the world a better place.

If I can do what I’ve done with my life and its impact on the world as an under-achiever, what can I accomplish as an over-achiever?

It’s taken me 8 months to get smart enough to ask that question.

Someday, I will answer it.

In the quiet hours when we are alone with ourselves and there is nobody to tell us what fine fellows we are, we come sometimes upon a weak moment in which we wonder, not how much money we are earning, nor how famous we are becoming, but what good we are doing.
-A. A. Milne, Not That It Matters


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