During a recent guided meditation, I was invited to let go of any idea of what the session was supposed to be like and simply be present in the moment. I had to laugh that even in times where I am trying to focus and relax, I was stressing over what focusing and relaxing could and should be like. That experience of letting go describes the bulk of my learning journey to date as a Bush Fellow – I am actively working to let go of any idea of what a Bush Fellow does, thinks, acts like, etc. and instead be very intentional about what I want my time as a Fellow to include. It’s easy to compare yourself to others and even to perfectionist ideas for yourself, but the minute-by-minute choice to learn and dream big is starting to feel more natural.
While it’s hard to put myself in the shoes of a new Fellow, as I believe each person’s journey is personal to them, there are a few key thoughts that I would invite that Fellow to consider.
1) Are you dreaming big enough? It took having the considerable resources available from the Bush Fellowship for me to realize how much I had been limiting my dreams and vision out of feelings of scarcity. What have you always wanted to learn or try? And what narrative have you been telling yourself that it’s finally time to let go of? After years of struggling with imposter syndrome, I can feel my confidence growing. When you work on yourself, you see results and progress.
2) How do you learn best? For me, I need a mix of structure and adventure. I needed the structure to bring something I could check off the list, as the Fellowship overall felt incredibly abstract, simply asking how you are transforming your leadership. I started by focusing internally on what was holding me back as a leader, before moving into more academic studies and then case studies.
3) Are you pausing to see how far you have come? When I have an end destination in mind, it can be hard to celebrate the journey, but in the life-long journey of improving as a leader, it’s important to acknowledge lessons learned. Only size months into my fellowship, I can see differences in how I react to certain situations, and I can connect that to the coaching and mentoring I’ve been investing in as I work through a fear of risk and failure.
4) How do you continue to tweak your plan and perspective? Just because you documented your plan does not mean it is in stone. And simply because you had a perspective at the beginning of your Fellowship does not mean that will continue to be accurate or serve you well as a leader. My applications to the Bush Foundation and conversations regarding my Fellowship were all centered on scaling social enterprise. Three months into my Fellowship I realized I had a very big unspoken assumption that it was understood the reason I wanted to scale social enterprise was to scale businesses that solve a community need, not just to prove we can scale this model. I now watch my language much closer, casting a much wider net than perhaps traditional definitions of social enterprise.
5) What will live on past your Fellowship? This is an area I am still working on, as I want to make sure that the knowledge and experiences I gain aren’t lost after my Fellowship, and that my hypotheses are shared more broadly than my network. I also am actively examining how I can make sure that habits of self-care, reflection, and learning are part of my lifestyle after this Fellowship.
It’s amazing how much I have learned from focusing on my own development as a leader for the first time in several years. I feel an urgency to encourage, remind, and support others to make time to invest in their leadership; as to bring change to our communities at the speed and quality we need, leaders need to be at their best. I have joked about it with other Fellows, but it is intimidating to work on your leadership, as we are human and will not be perfect as we work to improve. We must remind each other to be kind to ourselves, so we can then be kind to others. We also must remember that we are meant to live in community, not alone. Together we can bring peace and justice to our world.