Finding the bright spots

A year ago last week, I had my last day at my dream gig. I joined the 21inc team full time in January, and found myself making a big decision that I couldn’t have foreseen.

21inc was founded in response to the fact that droves of young people were leaving the Maritimes.  If everyone left, what would happen? A few keen people noticed that in fact, not everyone HAD left.  The maritimes are a pretty small place, and they wondered – why don’t all of these awesome people in different sectors don’t know each other?  I bet we could get a lot done if we talked more.  Well, actually more like – if we talked more, and listened even more than that.

And so, some of my favourite people decided to get people on a bus and take them around to see all of the awesome stuff that was going on in NB – basically, an adult field trip (and who can’t use a few more of those!). That’s when all of these young people realized that, despite all of the negative press, parts of NB were thriving. I’m currently reading the Heath brothers’ ‘Switch: How to change when change is hard’, and one of their first suggestions in making change is to find the bright spots – find the few out there who are shaking it up, and defying the odds. And that’s what 21inc did – they went out and found the bright spots in NB, and then later, across the rest of the Maritimes.

The goal became to accelerate leadership for those who were in the Maritimes, however they had found themselves here, from across all sectors.  And it made a big dent. Over 10 years, 21inc brought together 300 people for in-depth programs to see the bright spots in the Maritimes, and realize that they too, were bright spots.  Some of those people have left, some have stayed, and some have gone and found their way back.

I felt so lucky stepping into my role taking the helm of 21inc, alongside a great board of directors, and a network of truly inspiring folks.  Once I got in and got to work though, I started to get a little paralyzed by the fact that the organization was on very, very shaky financial footing.  I met up with the founder, and chair of the board, Lisa, for coffee.  I told her where we were.  I told her where I was.  She looked at me, and gave me some really great advice (as she always does) and said: “okay, how about this.  Go find out exactly how much we need to get us to the end of April”.  So, that afternoon I did just that.  And the number, I gotta say, scared both of us. That was a really important learning moment for me because she helped ‘point me to the destination’ (see the Heath brothers framework).  She helped make this big, hairy problems achievable by helping me realize, ‘okay, you know what the problem is, now make it specific so that we can solve it’.  That is INVALUABLE advice.

We embarked on a pretty exhaustive fundraising campaign, and made it to our goal for the end of April.  We were able to close up shop, and find a sister organization who agreed to house the mandate for awhile, and set up a transition council.

I was lucky enough to spend my last days working for the organization at an inspiring conference in Toronto.  I exited out of the organization hopeful.  I had learned so much, and I was proud of what we were able to accomplish in such a short period of time.  And I had no idea where I would go next. Which was liberating.

That was a year ago.  The older I get, the more quickly time passes.  It’s January, and then all of a sudden, it’s May. I know that’s been said by millions of others, and somehow you never quite believe it until it becomes true for you.

Stay tuned for some takeaways from that year.

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