I recently had several interactions that reinforced how important it is to not expend energy or worry on what others think or say, but focus instead on knowing yourself and finding a selfless purpose.
This week, I had the privilege of hearing Colin Powell speak. He came to open the Veteran Services Center at Temple University and share his leadership experiences. He told us that after he was given command over a group, one of his lieutenants was upset that some of the men were saying that he got the job because he was black. His response was, “Who cares what they say!” His advice to the audience was not to worry about what other people say. Instead focus on working hard and being competent. He described how he was given opportunity to advance even in the most menial jobs because others noticed how he was working and he was rewarded for that competence. Colin Powell did not go to an elite military school. He grew up in the Bronx, struggled in school, and attended the City College of NY, where he discovered the ROTC and his life’s passion. He talked about being a leader that is selfless and kinder than necessary. His message was powerful and inspiring.
I also got the opportunity to share my leadership lessons with others this week. I attended a Women in Tech mixer with high school and college students who were interested in hearing from women professionals who have careers in high tech. I really enjoyed the interactions. One of the themes that I heard from others was how hard it is to be a woman in a the high tech industry. That has not been my experience. Like Colin Powell, I didn’t pay attention to whether others doubted my ability, I just did my best, tried to make a positive difference, and worked really hard. I was rewarded for competence and have been given opportunity after opportunity.
The most meaningful exchange of the evening made my entire week. Pallavi Kotturu, who is a senior at Temple, approached me. After a few minutes of talking about both of our experiences, she asked me what I was passionate about. As I explained that my passion was developing virtuous organizations and leaders, she lit up and shared her purpose and motto, which is:
Empower Yourself & Those Around You
As we shared a deep connection and moment, I was so blown away that this young woman had already clearly learned what had taken me decades to understand. She had already discovered what it was like to live in freedom. She understood that being clear about who you are and connecting to a purpose that is focused on others gives you unlimited power, strength, and potential.
So this week, I got to learn from two virtuous leaders. One who is toward the end of his journey and another who is just starting hers.
My challenge to you this week is to notice whether you are feeling limitless. If not, take time to connect to a purpose that is focused on others.