“I have those butterflies in my stomach again.”
I smiled reading the last line of an email to my friend and mentor. The date stamp was August 2014.
It took me back. Two months prior to writing the email, I had made a huge career leap. I not only left my job, but stepped aside from a 22-year career in investment management. I flew overseas, spending the summer at a girls’ high school in rural Kenya. To share my journey, I created a blog. With my first post, I formally announced my decision.
By August 2014, I was back home in San Francisco settling into my new role. But this job was different. I was my own boss. I reminded myself that I didn’t have to prove some initial “quick win.” I could be patient; my initial responsibilities were simply to explore, learn, and share.
I was still experimenting with my new venture and what to call it. I hadn’t set up a company or given myself a fancy title. Some people described me as “retired.” I cringed at the label (and still do). But at that point, I couldn’t offer an alternate descriptive.
I don’t know how I found Jacki’s article. But through the magic of social media, a respected leader whom I’d never met became a role model and mentor.
I related to Jacki’s background– her Wall Street career, obsession with leadership development, and passion for women and girls. Like me, she left a prominent role because she believed she was meant to serve on a bigger stage. She described a day-in-the-life that was multifaceted– writing, speaking, hosting events, serving on boards– giving everything she had towards her vision.
Jacki’s post reminded me that when you leave a leadership role, you take your leadership with you.
Those initial weeks had me doing a lot of re-connecting with former colleagues, clients, and old friends. I was especially eager to connect with those who had made a similar career shift. What was their story? What could I learn from them?
I found this excerpt in an email to a former colleague:
“The three things I am obsessed with are leadership, girls education, and global investing– and how they connect. Last night, I saw an article on LinkedIn by Jacki Zehner and I said—this person is thinking exactly the way I am thinking!! So now I actually have a model to look at. Take a look: www.jackizehner.com“
Over the past two years, I’ve remained consistent in my three circles of focus– leadership development, girls education and empowerment, and global investing. I continually hone in on my sweet spot. For example, East Africa is my geographic focus, and impact investing is my preferred methodology.
I currently partner with six organizations (four non-profits and two impact investing firms). Serendipity has been key to our finding each other. I’ve chosen them just as much as they have chosen me. I invest my time, talent and treasure in their success. My strategic mindset and background in sales and marketing is welcomed. I serve in consulting and advisory roles, host events, and make connections.
On top of that, I travel, write, speak, and coach. I’m now a self-described connector of people and ideas across the U.S. and developing economies. I find that the more gifts I give, the more I receive.
Several months ago, I received one of my most amazing gifts yet.
A representative from my brokerage firm asked if I would be interested in attending a workshop on Women + Investing + Impact. The event would be hosted by Women Moving Millions, whose mission is to catalyze unprecedented resources for the advancement of women and girls. He also asked if I might like to speak on a panel titled “Women Like You Share Their Stories.”
I was familiar with the organization; it was led by Jacki Zehner.
Could he have thrown a better bullseye?
My answer to all of these invitations was an emphatic yes! But I was curious– how did this invitation come to me?
Apparently I had been referred by someone in the financial advisory industry. I spent the day pondering potential sources. Weeks later, my question was answered. My nominator was a man I had never met.
Michael is a regular reader and frequent commenter on my blog. I appreciate anyone who reads, let alone “likes” or comments on my writing.
I considered the irony of it all. Michael had referred me based on our virtual relationship. And through his referral, I would meet a woman whose leadership I had admired virtually.
Last week I received my gift.
I was one of 70 women (and a handful of men) at the workshop. I was able to share the experience with five friends, each of whom is on her own “money & meaning” journey and is an advocate for women and girls.
And as part of the workshop, I shared my story on stage.
My goal was to be honest and practical. My own discovery journey started over a decade ago. By sharing my personal story, my wish was for each person to think deeply about her values and unique gifts, and to design and live a life solely around the things most important to her.
Yes, I grew up in the investment industry, so perhaps I’m more comfortable than most on the money and investing part of these discussions. But there are plenty of areas where I’m still a student– angel investing, impact investing and the nuances of non-profits. To learn, I join communities. And I build my own communities. Within these safe zones, my questions aren’t silly; rather my outside perspective seems appreciated.
Finally, the day was special because I got to meet Jacki Zehner (and yes, she’s even cooler in person!)
Was this serendipity? Or did I have a role to play in it?
Surround yourself with those who inspire you. Design your own life itinerary. Speak your truth and use your voice. And generously share your gifts with others.
I believe there’s a recipe for creating your own serendipity.
I have a hunch my friend Jacki would agree.
Photo by Jodi L. Morris. The “values cards” in the photo were courtesy of Danielle Oristian York of 21/64 (www.2164.net), who kicked off the morning with a fabulous session on money messages and values. I share my selected top five values. Check out their site for all kinds of great resources.