Personal Success Through Support of Others
I recently experienced remembrances and a sense of new possibilities during the same week. I dealt with two significant life events – the death of a beloved aunt and my son’s college graduation. I attended the wake and funeral services in Maryland for my Aunt Carolia and a few days later the graduation ceremonies at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts for my son, Rande. It was the cessation of my Aunt’s journey and in many ways the commencement of my son’s.
My Aunt Carolia was a woman of exceptional capabilities. Among the things I loved most about her was her amazing sense of loving kindness. She was 87 years young when she passed away. She graduated from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) with a double major in Physics and Mathematics. Can you imagine the challenges of a woman in the 1940s with those academic credentials? That was rare for any woman in that era and doubly so for an African American woman.
Following her graduation, Aunt Carolia got a job working for the Federal Government in Washington, DC. Her manager was a man without a college education who was paid more than triple her salary. It became clear to her that career opportunities were limited. So, she returned to school and became a nurse. Ultimately, she rose to become a Director of Nursing at Howard University Hospital.
After my mom and dad, my Aunt Carolia and my Uncle Charles (also deceased) are the two people I credit for making me the person I am today. Giving to others is what they seemed to do for a living and they thrived while doing so. They were so unselfish and vibrant in their giving. They did not expect anything in return other than for those they helped to succeed in life. Aunt Carolia’s death was a difficult loss but she is in a better place today with God.
As I said, in the midst of this sorrow and sense of loss, a few days later I had a remarkable high with my son’s, graduation. Graduations are always a time where new possibilities reign. There is so much optimism, expectation and nervousness about the future that dominates the atmosphere.
My son is charting his own path forward working for a nonprofit organization, BrandHaiti (promoting entrepreneurship and economic investment on the island country of Haiti) and focusing on entrepreneurial ventures with his high school and college classmates. Altruism and capitalism, a decidedly different path than the one I took as I headed to Wall Street right out of college.
Ironically, all that I was feeling that week was pulled together neatly by the graduation keynote speaker Mr. Eric Greitens. Mr. Greitens is a remarkable man to put it simply, a Rhodes and Truman Scholar, White House Fellow, Educator, Humanitarian and Navy Seal. That is one hell of a resume! I certainly wanted to understand the Humanitarian and Navy Seal connection and Mr. Greitens did not disappoint. He neatly tied together my week and helped me realize the source of my professional passion as an Executive Business Coach and Strategic Business Consultant.
Mr. Greitens’ founded and is currently the Executive Director of the non-profit organization The Mission Continues. The organization’s focus is to help post 911 veterans transition to service in civilian life following their military service. His reason for founding the organization goes to the core of his message to the graduates and the point of this blog.
He told us a few revealing stories to knit his message together. As an undergraduate researcher at Duke University he spent time aiding war refugees in Croatia and Rwanda. He was providing assistance to people who struggling to survive. He took note of the fact that the refugees that coped most effectively with their plight were those that were more concerned with the care and survival of loved ones than their personal needs. He noted that people that have only their own survival to consider seemed to have less of a reason to be strong and make it to the next day.
Mr. Grieten’s used these observations years later to get through Navy Seal training. Seal training is considered to be the most challenging military training in the world. There was a time during the training when he felt that fear would over take him and he would not finish (approximately 90 percent drop out). But when he transferred his concerns about his personal plight and welfare to considerations about the men in his group that were depending on him and he was able to endure.
Similarly, Mr. Greitens’ spent time visiting disabled service men and women at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was struck how those he visited wanted to do one thing, to return to their units. The reality is these service men and women would not be able to do so. He did realize that as they turned to considerations of what to do in civilian life, service was the primary focus. They all wanted to figure out how they could make a difference and feel valued. In other words, their best way to survive the adversities they had encountered was to be of service to others. Mr. Greitens realized that supporting these veterans in this endeavor was a calling where he could make a difference and continue his mission and calling to serve.
I did some research for this posting and I found this particular passage from Mr. Greitens that says it best,
“… when times are the most challenging, when the difficulties you are confronting tax all of your talents, all that is left is your character. Those that survive and thrive during these trying times are those who can step outside of themselves and their personal feelings and think about others and help them continue the fight that is necessary for their survival and success….”
What I drew from Mr. Greitens’ comments, from my Aunt Carolia’s life and from my son’s step into what I call altruism and capitalism is the following:
Having to live, survive and succeed for someone else propels us past the obstacles in our path. It is such a powerful lesson for life in general. I personally reflected on times in my life when I engaged in a “Pity Party” for myself complete with self-justified indignation in what went wrong and my personal misfortunes. Success came for me when I got beyond myself and recognized it is not all about ME!
Today I love to help managers and leaders become more effective because I know it helps the overall economy and society because great managers employee and inspire great employees. This is my passion! This is what gets me up in the morning. It is where I know I can help others and help myself.
I felt compelled to share and would like your feedback. As always post any comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.
Next week I will continue going through the 15 Keys to Building a Quality Long-Term Organization. We are covering Key #11 Information is Your Lifeblood, but the first 10 can be found here on the site.