Updated: Mar 26
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 ‘breakthrough innovation’.
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, inspired folks along the way and anticipated many breakthroughs.
Reflecting on some of my adventures shortly before I celebrated my fiftieth 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 (even though the words are highlighted now). Initially, my thoughts wondered 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 in and tackle this exercise 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.
Anticipation. Finding solutions.
Many opportunities within your work mirror these attributes, as well. Leadership, innovation, transformation, mentoring, teaching, research, collaborations, and accountability, to highlight a few. There aren’t many things we do in work, or in life, that don’t provide opportunity for the attributes above to shine.
So, what about you? Relax, let go and have fun with this…
Today, spend 30 minutes and reflect on your greatest adventures.
Identify two things about these adventures that deeply resonate with you and who you are.
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, anticipation 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. Comment below and share what compels you forward. Let’s learn from each other and affirm the paths we've chosen.
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Nancy H. Cummings