Why do you do what you do?
What compels you?
Me? I stand equally yoked in today and yesterday - constantly studying and learning
from progress. Yet, my true passion blossoms while anticipating next steps and
creating innovative strategies for organizations.
Growing up, I remember how excited my sisters and I would get waiting for daddy to
come home from TDY. He was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and was gone a lot on
tons of missions. My eyes were always staring up into the sky; looking, searching,
anticipating the sight of daddy’s plane darting across the sky.
My uncle was an amazing storyteller. He would capture the imagination of everyone
nearby. Without even trying, he would weave us in and out of the characters in his
stories. He’d have all of us mesmerized, sitting on the edge of our seats. Listening,
imagining, anticipating what would happen next.
Younger, a group of my friends and I used to load up our cars every weekend. We
packed equal amounts of food and camping gear as we packed people. Maps in hand
we ventured off, most of the time not knowing where we would settle. Those were
grande road trips! Tons of laughter, decades-long friendships, amazing food on the
open fire, and stories that had no end. We set off excited, eager to explore, daring each
other to new heights of bravery, and always anticipating the thrill of what was around
the next corner.
Memorable projects at work revolve around collaborations with others, impactful
insights, and numerous discussions visioning future possibilities. My merry band of co-
conspirators and I would set our sights slightly beyond what we could grasp. We’d create strategies to get there, or get as close to ‘there’ as we could. We were ambitious; dreaming of improving the lives of others, boldly stepping forward, curious about what would unfold. Our band was forever optimistic that we would not only hit our targets, but surpass them. We challenged each other and inspired folks along the way anticipating many breakthroughs.
Reflecting on some of my adventures shortly before I celebrated my birthday (as we all
tend to do), I found myself wondering what all these marquee moments had in
common. For me. What is it about all of these experiences that I continue to pursue,
share with others, and can never get enough of?
It wasn’t obvious at first. Initially, my thoughts wandered all over the place - everywhere
I’ve been, all the people I’ve collaborated with, all the projects we’ve successfully completed. Also, I invited several close friends to dig into this question with me.
Suddenly, the answer jumped right off the white board!
What we discovered was revealing - both about me and what motivates me. The
commonality with these experiences that rings most true to my core is how all of these
showcase the thrill of being on the edge looking for answers. Seeking, exploring,
searching, investigating, daring, pushing boundaries, and chasing the unexpected.
Anticipating. Finding solutions.
Many opportunities within your work mirror these attributes, as well. Leadership,
innovation, transformation, mentoring, teaching, research, collaborations, and
accountability, to name a few. There aren’t many things we do in work, or in life, that
don’t allow the attributes above to shine.
So, what about you? I want you to do the same activity that led me to my discovery.
Relax, let go and have fun with this...
1. Today, spend 30 minutes and reflect on your greatest adventures.
2. Identify two things about these adventures that deeply resonate with you and who
3. Finally, ask yourself if these two things are also what motivate and drive you. Is this
what keeps you awake at night?
What did you discover?
Once you find the intersection(s) of your experiences and recognize how that
influences you, allow it to compel you forward.
For me, anticipating and finding solutions not only motivates me, it pretty much defines
me. It’s who I am and it’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. It compels me forward.
I know you’ll find this helpful in guiding your best next steps. Please share with us what
compels you forward. Let’s learn from each other.
Nancy H. Cummings, EdD