A quote from Pillow Thoughts II reads: "You can't skip chapters, that's not how life works. You have to read every line, meet every character. You won't enjoy all of it. Hell, some chapters will make you cry for weeks. You will read things you don't want to read, you will have moments when you don't want the pages to end. But you have to keep going. Stories keep the world revolving. Live yours, don't miss out."
I could not have imagined the chapters in my life story reflecting the last two years. I had amazing highs and bottom barrel lows. One of my highs was being selected to participate in this fellowship program and embarking on the healthcare MBA program at the University of St. Thomas. I did not realize at the time that God was opening a door for me to pause and learn necessary skills and behaviors to help me navigate some stormy waters ahead. I thought I was going to learn about leadership and how to implement systemic change externally, in Minnesota's healthcare landscape. I did learn that. But more importantly, I had the opportunity to learn about myself and the opportunity to effect personal, internal changes to face systemic changes that would impact my life. Over the last two years, three close family members passed away - my father, my sister and my mother-in-law. In facing the grief associated with each loss, I took risks that I never would taken prior to this fellowship opportunity. When my father passed away, I shared my pain publicly and learned that there was strength and community in vulnerability. When my sister passed away so suddenly, I learned about the urgency of now. "Tomorrow is promised to no one." When my mother-in-law passed away, I learned that fear, even legitimate fear, should never prevent me from doing the next right thing. (My mother-in-law passed away in Chicago on April 10, 2020. Her funeral was on April 24, 2020 in Chicago. Due to the pandemic, I was so afraid to travel and potentially expose myself to COVID. But I knew that it was the right thing to attend her funeral, honor her and support my husband. After much prayer and planning, I attended her funeral with my husband and we were both safe.) Learning to be vulnerable and to courageously take opportunities as they present themselves helped me navigate my personal life. If I did not have the time and opportunity to build the discipline of reflection, I would have missed those lessons learned in pain that can be applied to other areas of my life, including the way I serve/lead in my family and my community.
Prior to the Bush Fellowship program, I thought it would be selfish to take time to learn about myself, understand the impact of my childhood trauma or implement selfcare practices. I was always running and running late to work, to meetings, to pick up my kids (I have five children and a dog), to get them to sports or music, etc. At our Bush Fellowship orientation, there was a session on selfcare. After hearing the presentation, I thought this is interesting. I committed to trying it. It has been so fundamental to my journey. I since learned that while it is important to serve others - that feeds into my purpose, it is equally important for me to invest in myself. As I invest in myself, I have more to give to others and I have continued joy in serving others.
I did learn a lot of technical, science-based leadership skills in my Healthcare MBA program. I also learned about financial management, accounting, building a business case, innovation, healthcare law and policy, healthcare economics and statistics. I also had the opportunity to meet and interact with wonderful individuals. (One of the highlights was a zoom call with James Comey). I think that the biggest lesson I learned over these two years is the importance of self-leadership - this is the greatest leadership challenge I face everyday. If I can't lead the person in the mirror, how can I lead others? Self leadership is relevant for sustained influence and for sustained performance. One of the leadership videos I watched was a presentation by Andy Stanley and he stated that there are three decisions necessary for exceptional self leadership. They are:
1)I will be brutally honest with myself even when the truth makes me feel bad.
2)I will prioritize what I value most over what I want now. (There is always a tension between the immediate and the ultimate. Don't settle for the immediate. It is usually not what is valued most.) This requires me take the time to discover what I value most.
3)I will not attempt to lead myself by myself. It is necessary to be in community with individuals with common values not just common interest.
I made these decisions and will continue to live by them.
Unfortunately due to COVID, my project to outline the case for an alternative medical license for international medical graduates in not finalized. Some key meetings could not occur during this time. However, I plan to complete those meetings and present the final product to the Commissioner of Health in hopes of gaining support to move forward to the implementation phase. On another note, tomorrow I will present my capstone project for my MBA program. By this time tomorrow I will have completed my MBA program! In our home, there are three of us graduating this year: my daughter, from the University of St. Thomas with a BS in Neuroscience and a minor in French; my son, from Minnetonka High School; and moi, also from the University of St Thomas with a MBA. We plan to celebrate with a private, home graduation and prom for my son. This too is a chapter in our story.