April 2015

April 2015

Updated by
Sylvia Bartley

What grounds me? What’s my path and purpose? How do I ensure my actions are in alignment with my personal mission of living consistently with my spiritual awareness? These are the questions I ask myself daily, knowing that I’ll be guided by them to being the best person I can become. Of course there are times when this isn’t the case. So, for me, of utmost importance are remaining open, aware and receptive to new ways of thinking and being, staying connecting with like-minded people, and aligning my passion with my work. All of these are key to achieving my life’s purpose.

I’m steadfast on my path to spiritual enlightenment and the Bush Fellowship has given me the permission -- as well as a platform -- to enhance my growth so that I can become a better leader. 

When I look back on my 12 months of being a proud Bush Fellow, I can confidently rattle off a list of things I’ve achieved, as well as the progress I’ve made with my projects. I’m executing well, which isn’t so much about personal progress, per se, since this is a strength I’ve demonstrated throughout my career. As I reflect, I’m evolving in my capacity to make a difference – to have a greater impact in my community, and for the people I serve. I’m finding that focusing on what grounds me – recognizing transformational moments and aligning my personal mission with my work – these all open me up to more opportunities for spiritual and professional growth.

Photo from the Transformational Leadership Collaboratory

Being a conversation starter at the Transformational Leadership Collaboratory (TLC) program is an example of a transformational moment I experienced recently. My story was ‘bold,’ and I led from my heart. My personal mission statement was the “red thread” throughout my story. I was moved and enlightened by the feedback from the participants and other panelists. I constantly seek to be “on purpose.” At that moment, I experienced what it felt like to be “on purpose” -- doing work consistent with my spiritual awareness. These moments empower me to do more. The TLC program, as the title suggests, is transformative. I was fortunate to connect with one of the founders the evening the 2014 Bush Fellowship cohort was announced. This was my first new connection as a Bush Fellow, and it’s a perfect example of how a new connection can blossom into a beautiful, meaningful friendship.

My values and beliefs are deeply woven in all I’m inspired to do. My approach to work has shifted – I find myself leading more from my heart and making choices based on my value system, as opposed to my head and external influences. I’m using my multisensory system more as a guide when I find myself in challenging situations, or when I have to make difficult decisions.

My growth, expanded level of awareness, knowledge and thinking continue to evolve as I navigate through this tricky stage of my life, with good support from my Executive Coach. Life really does have a whole new meaning when I view it through this lens. I can safely explore my fears, question my purpose, see my potential and learn how to be present in each moment under the guidance of my Coach. She understands the importance of aligning my spiritual journey with my work. She’s providing me with invaluable guidance, and has helped me to achieve ’ new heights. She has a special gift for opening me up to new possibilities. Our relationship is very precious; she is a positive force. I look forward to continuing my journey with her.

It’s also apparent I’m “on purpose” whilst working in education, contributing towards closing the academic achievement gap for the underserved children and families in North Minneapolis. The partnerships I’ve developed with the public charter schools -- the Harvest Network of Schools (HNS) -- is equally precious. HNS is doing tremendous work providing a first class education for the North Minneapolis community.

Spending more time in these charter schools, actively involved in helping to launch a new purpose-built Charter Management Organization(CMO), is rewarding and fills my soul. Having the ability to use my skills and experience I’ve acquired in my profession, to help serve families in my community, is as rewarding as witnessing the wondrous effects of Medtronic Deep Brain Stimulation on patients. Both are focused on improving the quality of life for the people we serve, and both provide me with a sense of satisfaction that is indescribable. Civic engagement is core to my being and having the privilege to work with education practitioners like Eric Mahmoud gives me energy and inspires me to do more, no matter how busy or tired I may be.

As a consequence of my involvement in the schools, my leadership skills have naturally enhanced. I’ve gained new experiences in school operations, finances, board governance, charter school law, Minnesota state law, fund development, community engagement, and influential leadership. I’ve learned a great deal on the ground, working with the school staff and by attending national charter schools conferences. I’m also honing my skills by helping to explore and draft recommendations for an innovative model that may help us achieve our goal of serving 3,800 children with high quality education by 2025. This is exciting, since the impact on our community will be huge when we achieve this goal.

Photo of African American Leadership Forum MeetingThe work aligns very nicely with the work of the African American Leadership Forum (AALF). As Co-chair of AALF’s education workgroup, I’m pleased with the progress this passionate group of volunteers has made identifying ways, and partnering with best practice organizations/people to eliminate the achievement gap between white children and children of color. The work is complementary to my work with the schools and provides ample opportunities for me to lead, speak publically on education and builds stronger relationships with key players in this field. AALF has also provided the platform for to me work on my vision to help build vibrant, healthy African American communities in the Twin Cities. It’s all connected! For example AALF recently launched a new fellowship program under Jeff Hassan’s leadership – The Josie R Johnson Leadership Academy. Here, 23 talented African American leaders applied and were selected to be the first cohort of Fellows. They are currently undergoing 12 months of leadership training, development and exposure to leaders in key sectors of our community, including education, health, economics, criminal Justice, corporate, philanthropy and government. The program has engaged 30 African American leaders as mentors from these sectors, and I’m honored to be one of them. This work has given me a new level of energy; it’s refreshing to work with this eager group of dynamite Fellows. I can’t help but be more engaged, helping Jeff as much as I can to organize and execute on the program. Working with the program grounds me and the beautiful thing is the program is sponsored by the Bush Foundation. It all connects nicely -- the forum, HNS and my Bush fellowship.

Artwork from Sylvia Bartley's BlogIn addition to the core work above, I’m also tapping into my creative side and bringing more of spiritual self to work. I’ve painted a couple of pictures, written a mini series of blogs entitled Connecting Technology and Spirituality: Reframing the Human Consciousness through Brain Modulation. And I’m in the process of writing a book proposal so I can go deeper into the topics I explore in my blog. I have a new found love for writing. Attending the James Shannon Leadership Institute as part of my development provides me with an opportunity to learn how to be more expressive with my creativity to further my leadership skills. My network has increased significantly with like-minded people from the creative world, which I’m enjoying thoroughly. I’m attending events and conferences I would not typically attend like TLC, the Noble Peace Prize Forum and The Shannon Leadership Institute Program. But amidst all of the new growth opportunities, I’m exercising self-care by carving out time for reflection and relaxation.

My ultimate learnings over the last 12 months as a Bush Fellows are simply about how to be my true-self in all aspects of my life. I’m not quite sure I’m there yet, as I know this is a life-long journey. I’m learning how to let things flow -- to be compassionate with myself, and to nurture my heart so I can reach my full potential in my lifetime. It’s becoming clear that all roads are leading to this place of enlightenment, and I’m grateful to the Bush Foundation for supporting my journey.