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EPIP Perspectives – To a 2013 Full of Courage

Check out this perspective from EPIP member and leader, Christi Tran:

inspirationThe smell of alcohol burns my nostrils, and the cold metal of the stethoscope unnerves me as it traverses my back. Still, I sit in silent confidence, my legs dangling off the edge of the examination table, my hands sticking to the paper I’m sitting on.

“So, Christine,” the doctor says, “looks like it’s time for your annual shot. Can you please turn around and take off your jeans for me?”

With cool self-assurance, I obey. My mom gasps. The doctor guffaws.

Earlier that morning, I had put on 18 pairs of underwear, my 6-year-old mind confident that this could serve as an ironclad deterrent to vaccination. As I sat flushed with embarrassment, the doctor – with unnecessary zealotry – pulled down the powerless batch of underwear and promptly plunked the syringe into my bottom.

As a foundation program officer, I used to share this story at grantee convenings as a call to each of us to channel the creativity of our 6-year-old selves, whose ingenuity and resilience prevail over the fear of failure.

Not long after I last shared this story, I left my foundation role for what I hoped would be an intentional and breakthrough 6-month chapter in my professional and personal life. During this time, I committed to channeling my intrepid, inner honey badger.

I admit that what’s resulted is more akin to getting an unpleasant shot of reality on my backside.

I’ve applied to and have been rejected from a number of jobs and projects, sweated over health insurance, sweated again over mortgage payments, and shunned Facebook/LinkedIn lest I stumble across another unbelievable promotion, or even worse, expose my bluff as one of those “in transition.”

But while the lessons have been hard, and the disappointments humbling, this exploration has been both a blessing and a sustained practice in self-compassion.

The past three years have forced us in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors to find a way to do more with less, and the many heroics accomplished during this time have been nothing short of admirable. Now we’ve wrapped end-of-year payouts, gorged ourselves on holiday decadence, and ruefully resolved to do better in the new year.  For of us, it’s clear that 2013 will be marked by transitions, explorations, fresh commitments, and almost certainly new trials and tribulations.

I‘ll share two principles that I plan to practice this year – not because I believe they can lead to greater success personally or professionally, but because they represent an honest search for authentic self:

  • First, embark on a disciplined pursuit of less, as Greg McKeown implores us in his recent HBR blog. Stick to what fuels to my passions, unapologetically.
  • Secondly, lean into vulnerability and take that leap for something I want.  Watch this excellent TED Talk by Brene Brown, who defiantly yet gently reminds us that “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

To practice discipline and vulnerability requires great courage, both to free ourselves of external expectations and conventional hallmarks of success, as well as to embark on new, potentially-risky but hopefully rewarding pathways.  Not unlike channeling the best parts of our emboldened 6-year-old selves.

Social change has never come from anything less.

Here’s to a 2013 full of courage.





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