It is very hard to quantify what has happened to me since I became a Bush Fellow. To prepare for this Learning Log, I went back and reviewed my monthly reflections from the past months. I can see my evolution each month and the changes in the things that I am thinking about. My progress, of course, can be measured by actual activities completed. Starting classes at CUNY, attending conferences, meetings and gatherings with other Bush Fellows have all been accomplished. These goals were written in a plan and were supposed to be completed. As a leader, I am used to adhering to measurable goals and being accountable.
For the most part, I’ve kept to my strategic plan. Goals and objectives are identified, research was done to make the best use of the funds available and applications were made to allow me to participate in long-dreamt of opportunities. This was exciting, and I thought that that was what I needed from the Fellowship. What I found out was, I had only just touched the surface of what I could expect from this opportunity. It was not about the things, it was about me, my personal growth.
I did not expect to have new ideas about leadership development and self-care. But, by thinking about these, it created new thought pathways and made me reflect on my achievements, mistakes, and goals I had set for myself. Instead of thinking about the here and now, I changed and began to think differently; bigger, bolder, and more broadly about the impact I could make on the future. I found that I had much more I wanted to do, that my work was not yet done. I thought I knew how to be the leader I wanted to be and that I had all the skills and experience needed to do that. After all, I was already a community leader. I was wrong.
This journey, this valuable experience, has given me the time I needed to replenish my energy, develop new skills, and create new visions for the work I wish to accomplish. It is funny how you don’t know what you lack until you have the time to really look.
The process of applying for the fellowship was daunting, to say the least. With each round of applications, we were asked, “what do you need to be a more effective leader?” I drilled down on this question with each step of the process.
What did I need? I responded only one thing – to complete my educational plans. Round one done. I discovered something that inhibited me from doing the good work I wanted to do. It was all I needed.
What did I need? I was asked again. I responded with completing my educational goals and creating new networks to develop contacts, so I can further my outreach efforts. Wow, I’ve got it all figured out now!
What did I need? Again, scratching my head, I evaluated what I truly needed, and the answer became very clear – time. I needed time to assess my work and time to develop a strategy for success. I realized during this process, that I reacted instead of led. I filled holes that were deep to level off the problem, not really ever focusing on the problem itself. Time would give me the energy and answers I needed.
What did I need? Oh, my goodness, I needed a lot. I needed to be part of a group of dynamic community leaders who wanted to see the best we had to offer the world. To grow our networks, develop new technologies, to make the systemic changes needed to propel our communities into the future. That was what I finally found out I needed.
What this process has given to me is a community of people who dream as big as me, who want to do the heavy lifting that needs to be done to make lives better. The vision of the Fellowship is not about me, it is about us. As community leaders, we assume roles and take on challenges because we are leaders. We are the people who get things done, we create opportunity where others see limits. We are the ones who can move mountains because we already have. By banding together, we can support each other’s dreams and visions and eventually be the leaders we dream to be.
There is a saying, “if you want change, be the change.” That is what this journey is about.
The Fellowship is not about the 24 months, it is lifetime opportunity and the opportunity of a lifetime. The dream of Archibald and Edyth Bush to create better communities exists inside of me and all Bush Fellows. So, I encourage all applicants to follow the vision of the Bush Foundation – Think Bigger. Think Differently.