I was conceived in Manila, Philippines, at Clark AFB, and was born in Fort Worth, Texas, the daughter of a very young couple navigating the challenges of military life at the end of WWII. Upon their return to Texas, my father took a sales position with a pharmaceutical company and my mother worked hard to be a proper housewife, devoting her days to raising her daughters and helping her husband scale the corporate ladder. By the time I was five, we had moved to Lima, Peru, followed by Mexico City DF, as he entered the international world of business.
Following along on each step of his journey, I learned to appreciate the history and antiquities of the places we lived while becoming fluent in other languages. The most important lesson of all was, I learned to know no strangers. Race, religion or socioeconomic circumstances posed no barrier. Even at a young age, it was clear to me there were those who had much but more who had little. I witnessed extreme poverty in several developing countries during my formative years, often finding myself face-to-face with other small children who were hungry, holding their palms up to me, no parents in sight.
As I began to think of college, my hope was to become a social worker, to help those on the outskirts, but my father wanted to ensure I could take care of myself financially, so he steered me to finance and legal degrees.
Many years later, after my children had left the nest, I found myself in the world of microfinance through a series of unexpected and seemingly random circumstances. As a result, I founded Women’s Global Network, a women’s business networking organization, and the WGN Global Fund, a 501(c)(3), whose mission is to support and educate women about social enterprise as a vehicle for change. WGN grew into a large membership network of professional women in the US and abroad who felt a responsibility to help women less fortunate around the world with small loans.
The power of the collective was humbling and inspiring. Hundreds of disadvantaged women were funded and children who had previously been unable to go to school received money for uniforms and transportation. Their lives were improving, and our members appreciated their own good fortune even more after traveling to Africa and Latin America to meet their global business partners.
As for me, it felt as though I was engaging with the very mothers of the small children I had been face-to-face with as a five-year old. Only this time, I had a lifetime of experiences and a wealth of knowledge, and I could help.
I had a business degree and a law degree. As a corporate executive, I knew what it took to start a business. I could speak other languages and felt a kinship to their cultures. I had been a single mother with two young daughters under the age of five and remembered what it felt like to lay awake at night not knowing where the money would come from or how I would manage through the challenges ahead of me. I could relate to these women and offer them encouragement and business tools—the value I could provide them was tangible. The difference between my dreams and desires of helping at 16 and 50 was the life experience I had gained along my journey.
I am clear now that each of us has an important role, a unique piece to the jigsaw puzzle of life that cannot be completed without our gifts and talents, the most important of which are not always learned through formal education or work experience. I have been striving all my life on a constant quest to equalize the playing field, to find solutions, to make a difference.
After being contacted by a number of people wanting to help but unclear how to, I began to understand how deep this hunger runs in many of us and how pervasive it is in our communities. Fundamentally, our desire is to be of service and to have a positive impact on others.
While digital overload screams urgency in our faces every day—about climate related catastrophes, political chaos and discord, human rights issues from trafficking to pay equalization, fear and unrest on the streets, in our offices and schools—it’s hard on many days to feel a sense of joy, much less purpose. It’s even harder to understand how we can help when the issues seem insurmountable. We are just ordinary people navigating our own daily hurdles. So, we are left much like a deer in the headlights, paralyzed, not moving forward or backward, as the problems we witness get closer to our own backyards.
It takes a village, a community, friends and advocates. It takes “Solutionaries”—those who see a problem and are willing to step up and try to fix it. Each of us has walked a different life path, giving us unique talents and skills no one else on the planet has. There are issues that touch us and call to us because of those experiences.
Unfortunately, numerous books tell us we must have a “purpose” or “passion,” but figuring out what that is can be daunting for many. These words have become overused buzz words, leaving many people feeling inadequate because they can’t identify with or connect to concepts so encompassing. The words are limiting as they attempt to bind each of us to a single purpose when, in actuality, we have many, and they will evolve as we grow and continue to gain wisdom and additional talents on our journey.
It took me many years and a lot of reflection to understand why social enterprise was so important to me. It started when I was five but did not manifest until my fifties. And then, looking back, it all made sense. Solutionaries – You are the answer! is a study of your life journey to help you get clarity on your piece of the puzzle. Often the benefit of hindsight is overshadowed by our constant peering into the future, but it is our greatest teacher and sets the foundation for all that is to come.
I look forward to meeting you in the world of innovation. Many kindred spirits are now joining us at our masterminds, online classes and facilitator training. Collectively we can create positive impact like never before. Remember, you hold unique answers and we need your wisdom. Our puzzle is not complete without you.
Copyright © 2018 Linda Lattimore