Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Ramble Regarding Enabling

I've finally discovered my cause in the world: I'm an enabler.  More importantly, I embrace this calling, but perhaps not in the traditional sense of the word.

Some background: there are millions of adept, well-educated and incredibly intelligent people out there who understand metaphysics and statistics and how best to address international trade policy.  Moreover, there are hundreds of thousands of people in my own backyard who run Fortune 500 companies, create ingenious engineered solutions and run research laboratories of the highest caliber.

Each and every day, my wheels turn in this way: I interact with people and organizations, and my mind races at 120 miles an hour with ways that they might best interact and support one another.  Truly.  I don't say this to be melodramatic or self-serving.  I've simply realized that my place is to connect people, companies, organizations and places for the greater good. 

I'm not referring to match-making to create love and marriage (although I've been known to dabble), it's more about partnerships.  This particular company, for example, for which I have the utmost respect and admiration, simply must know about this particular individual who could help the organization soar to new heights.  And likewise, this particular non-profit organization (which may or may not have a thing to do with the mission of my own) must interact with this service organization.  It all sounds so simplistic in written form.

Perhaps it is just a way of explaining (or excusing) my rabid behavior when meeting someone new who I'm certain will change this community, if not the world.  While I may tend to be a little over-enthusiastic, it's just my enabler brain operating at warp speed.

This would seem to be a fairly self-absorbed essay in finding oneself (and, of course, it is) - but here's the point: previous generations have defined themselves by the appropriate training, education and life experiences to allow them to serve a company for a lifetime.  Subsequent generations have sated themselves with ample knowledge to pursue a field, even if it meant several company shifts throughout their career.

Today, kids don't wonder whether they will be ballerinas, firefighters or teachers (to all of our detriment, to a certain degree).  An individual can now pursue a career consisting of their hobbies, their likes and their particular forte.  Nonetheless, it makes my heart sing when my daughter interacts with a firefighter, a police woman or our favorite flower shop owner (http://www.brickstreetbotanical.com/, I'm shameless).  For a minute, she considers that future for herself, and I believe she finds it as comforting as I do in that moment.

But in all likelihood, I can't even begin to fathom what she will do with herself to make a living someday.  I know she's smart, I know she's nimble and I know she's creative.  At the very least, I hope she comes to understand her core competencies.  I know that I'm an enabler, a connector, a builder of partnerships.  While you won't find this on a job description, this (arguable) skill set has landed me a string of fulfilling jobs, each of them paving the way for the next. 

It's easy to spot a seeming disparity in my supposed career path, from my first gig at the Wenatchee Valley Museum (WA) in the eighth grade through interior design assistant, civil engineering intern, medical transcriptionist, hydro dam tour guide, video store clerk, sports team gopher, administrative assistant, event coordinator, corporate partnership liaison and onward.  If my past were as checkered as it sounds in that list, perhaps I'd be shy about sharing it.  However, each of these tremendous opportunities to work with disparate personalities in disparate fields has paved the way for me to grow closer to home with each step.

I now have the great fortune to lead an organization that makes my heart sing.  My parents would tell you that I've never held an unfulfilling job that I haven't loved with every grain of my being.  I would argue that was good parenting, and the ability to be happy in my own skin no matter the circumstances.  I now stand at the helm of an organization that influences the future at each and every turn.

On the surface, we appear to be a warm, fuzzy nonprofit organization where kids get to have an overnight field science experience, sit under the stars, inhale the bracing air and attend a summer camp or two.  That's great, but it isn't the reason I'm there.  This organization has a life-altering impact on kids and families, and in turn on businesses and the greater community.  Kids certainly absorb sustainable practices, learn to reduce waste, spend hands on time learning science in a way that textbooks could never convey and experience the outdoors in a way that will accompany them for life.  More importantly, they take away life lessons about courtesy, conservation, ethics, the natural world and dozens of other things that will make them better citizens, neighbors and colleagues later in life.  Honestly, that's why I'm there.  And in this instance, as an enabler, I serve them best by staying out of the way while our amazing staff impart their knowledge.  They're enablers too.

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