A wise friend gave me some sage advice years ago about nurturing ideas. She put her hands together and quietly opened her palms toward me and said, “You must hold your idea gently in the palm of your hands, feeding it and caring for it until it’s strong enough to fly. You might think it is ready, but if it needs more love and attention before it can catch the winds and soar, it may simply perish before it ever has the chance to know its’ greatness.”
Throughout my life, this advice has given me the patience to look for signs along my journey to direct me to the next fork in the road or pause at the next rest stop as I wait for guidance. It has taught me time and again that the creative process is very much akin to sailing. It is never a straight path but requires constant adjustments as the winds change, as new information appears, or, when I find myself in the doldrums with absolutely nothing happening. On those occasions, I am forced to humbly pause and wait, accepting that I am not in control, no matter how immense my urge to forge ahead into the great unknown.
And so it was with the Collective I. My “twinny”, Stacey Canfield, and I were brought together in one of those creative bursts of energy. Often convinced we were split at birth when the coffee starts flowing and the ideas start percolating, our greatest joy is to create new concepts and support the other in their heart work. I was hungry to convince the world, in particular the business world, that every individual and every company had a part in creating true change, that it was not someone else’s job. Stacey was prodding me along on this quest. As I preached, persuaded and advocated, I garnered her enthusiasm for there is nothing more contagious than true passion. By the third latte, we had decided that we would create workshops and give everyone our great advice.
The name of our program would be The Collective I and we spent hours and literally days collecting words that started with the letter I ... innovative, inspirational, individual, intelligent, important, imaginative, intuitive, impressive, inventive … the texts flowed all day long describing our target market of socially evolved customers. We created sales packages, postcards, logos, newsletters, videos and content. We looked at venues and caterers, created databases and business cards and we were ready, ready to tell the world everything we knew. As a photographer and image consultant, she could educate them on their personal brand and messaging. As a lawyer, I could guide them through the pitfalls of starting a business, particularly a global business, which was a field of expertise for me. We advertised and we waited. We advertised some more. No one signed up. And like anyone who has a brilliant idea to share, we were surprised and saddened that our efforts had generated so little interest.
In the midst of all of the chaos and busy work, we had decided that we needed a newsletter to help us market our new business which would include articles about social entrepreneurs and companies committed to corporate social responsibility. It would also include a tool box of tips written by us to help this innovative group of business people. As the newsletter began to take shape, Stacey took a deep breath and decided that it was time to engage in her own passions even though she supported mine. She became more and more convinced that the project should become a program under the WGN Global Fund, a non-profit I had founded as a partner to Women’s Global Network whose original mission was to educate and support women entrepreneurs globally, helping to eradicate poverty through microfinance. After years in the world of economic development, my interest had expanded to other forms of social enterprise as a vehicle for change. I had become convinced that a bridge needed to be created through this non-profit advocating a “train the trainer” approach. I believed that young, enthusiastic women needed to come together and learn about social enterprise so they could effect change in a much greater way than I was attempting to do, one woman at a time.
And so, I found myself alone on a new path with a group of bright and eager teen girls whose families were thrilled and enthusiastic with the mentoring program and opportunities that the newsletter, Collective Mind Matters, afforded. Publication rights, resumes with real work experience, a broader vision of the world and the significant projects that creative caring people were engaged in would be the gateway to many other opportunities for these young trailblazers.
Through the winding road of this experience, with all of its twists and turns, disappointments and joys, the project took on a completely different shape than its original intention. I was careful not to hold it too tightly, to be open to change and receptive to its ultimate outcome, even if very different than what I had originally envisioned. And what I learned in the process, and in its evolution, was that it was not about the “I”, it was about the “Collective I”, and not the litany of adjectives we had been amassing.
I realized that it wasn’t up to me to teach everyone all that I knew. It was up to me to listen to the collective wisdom of the group and to simply share and be a part of this vast body of knowledge. I found that by respecting and appreciating this compendium of wisdom, there were solutions to problems that seemed impossible to tackle alone. Insights were contributed by old and young, formally educated and street smart, introverts and extroverts. And, as we discovered that we are all global thought leaders, that it’s not relegated to a select few, we were reminded that we are all connected through this universal database of intelligence.
I believe that the problems of the world are not “theirs”, they are ours to solve and we cannot look apathetically away or we may find ourselves face to face with the very same challenges in our own backyard.
Food, water and shelter, basic human needs, are out of reach for nearly half of the world’s population, a population that is increasing by leaps and bounds.
1.3 billion human beings live without electricity, light or any conveniences.
Half of the world’s population earns $2.50/day, less than $1,000 a year to support their families.
22,000 children die from extreme poverty today and every day.
7.2 billion people live on the planet with another billion projected to be here by the year 2025 and 9.6 billion 25 years after that.
A shift to healthier diets across the world is critical to avoid dangerous climate change and ensure global food security as food for all will become less available if scarcity is not addressed.
How can these topics that be ignored by you or by me? Doesn’t every single one of us need to take one step, at a minimum, to provide a life of abundance and happiness for all of our fellow global citizens? My hope with Coffee Connect, the Collective i program, Boomer Reimagination workshops and the Social Responsibility Toolkit is that you will go on this journey with me to the land of possibility, that you will rejoice in the amazing strides your fellow human beings are making, be comforted that you are in good hands with your next generation and that you will be motivated to join this important undertaking in some measure. For you are an important contributor and we need your wisdom to fill in the gaps, to make sense of things that don’t make sense and enhance the colors of this fabric we call life.
Copyright © 2017 Linda L. Lattimore“