The first call for the fall cohort of Foundations is next Tuesday and I have to say I am so excited about the group who have chosen to join us this round. This work is introspective, it’s worthwhile, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But one of the things I love most about the folks who come into this work is that they’re not afraid to work toward positive change : in their businesses, their lives, and their communities.
When I initially started my business, I often used the word changemakers when speaking about people like you, my audience, my people. Being a changemaker isn’t easy. We can often feel bogged down by the state of the world, angry about ongoing systemic injustices…and overwhelmed by, well, <gestures vaguely to everything>.
It can feel hard to stay on track. Sometimes it can feel like the work you’re doing isn’t important or necessary. Sometimes it can feel like you aren’t making the impact you want. Sometimes it can feel like too much. And sometimes it can feel like the song you’re singing isn’t the same as everyone else.
A quick story:
A long time ago I was the Executive Director of a non-profit. One year, my organization sent me to a conference for leaders in the social and environmental justice space. It was an intimate conference (there were 40 of us) and a great opportunity to network over fresh pressed juices as the sun went down over the Pacific Ocean.
So there we were on the first day of the conference, 40 changemakers standing around in a big room when a woman walks in and asks us to stand in a circle facing each other. Once we were in position, she stood in the middle of the circle and introduced herself. She was to be our singing teacher.
Cue mortified silence.
40 people : front line activists, people who were comfortable leading massive protests, shouting into megaphones, spokespeople to the press, knocking on doors, making phone calls, using their voices in any way necessary to forward the cause.
You could tell what we were all thinking…
No. Immediately no.
And yet, changemakers are willing to do the work so begrudgingly, mumblingly at first, we sang. We sang even though we felt awkward. We sang even though she had us facing each other. We sang all week together and in the end, we sounded pretty darn good for a bunch of folks more comfortable shouting chants than harmonizing melodies.
But it wasn’t all movie montage. In fact, most of the week we struggled. It’s interesting that even a group of people who celebrate and encourage diversity work very hard to fit their voices into unnatural octaves simply because of what they think their voices “should” sound like (newsflash: I am very much not a soprano). We stood there, facing each other, comparing ourselves, feeling uncomfortable about this ultimately simple thing.
Then one day, our instructor stopped us in the middle of a song and she said something I will never forget:
“We can’t sing in harmony if we all sing the same note“
You need to sing in your key. Not mimic others. Not fall into the trap of multi-figure formulas. I’ve said this for nearly a decade: your voice is needed. Yours. The way you show up in the world. The way you do your work. The way you take action toward a more just, more beautiful, more equitable world.
Keep going. Keep working. Keep singing.
And if you feel like you missed the boat on Foundations this time, hit reply. I have 3 Spark Intensives left for the rest of the year. Is one of them yours?