People study, businesses are built, and careers are made on describing, documenting, and criticizing legacy leaders. There is a mysterious essence that successful figures hold. Are they born with it? Is it a learned characteristic? Did they make a “deal with the devil” for it? The gamut runs wide in speculation.
What is broadly agreed upon is that there is an indescribable human quality legacy-leaders possess.
Oftentimes it is referred to as that elusive “It” Factor, or “Star Quality”.
And by the way, this is not a blog post about my leadership or me having anything near an “It” Factor or “Star Quality”!! haha But bear with me, I will get to my point shortly.
As many may recall, I was selected as the youngest ever President/CEO for the Alaska Native Health Board; the statewide voice on Alaska Native health, wellness and policy. I did not submit my name to be considered for that position.
I was a single mom with three young daughters. I started in a temporary position as the Executive Assistant summer of 1999 with ANHB.
I was lucky to get that job.
I was hired at $9.00 an hour on a temporary basis. That temporary job turned into a full-time position. I was 29 years old, had just left my long-time boyfriend, and got my first apartment on my own with my three daughters.
I was fortunate to qualify for child care assistance from Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Anchorage.
I had $80 every two weeks for groceries after rent and utilities. I do not know how we survived, even now when I look back on those times.
The landlord let me move into the two-bedroom apartment when all I had was $400. God puts people in places. This landlord and his wife were small business owners. They were chimney-sweeps. They were my Godsend.
My oldest daughter, Rachel, turned 12 while we lived in this apartment.
I had a conversation with her that went like this: Rachel, you are legally old enough now to babysit your younger sisters. I want to finish my Bachelor’s Degree so that we can have a better life. That will take you and me working to make our lives better. I will have to work as I normally do, and I will be gone in the evenings attending night school. But I promise you that our lives will be better when we get through this part.
Rachel and I made that agreement to work together for the betterment of our family. it was me and her. She was only 12, but I relied on her and put on her great responsibility. She accepted it and followed through with bearing that responsibility too.
Our definition of a better life was simply having more than $80 every two weeks for food. But when you are in that position, more than $80 every two weeks for food is a huge change for a better life.
There are pivotal moments in your life. If you pay attention, you can recognize them.
For me, when I recognized these moments and corralled the energy within that moment, amazing life changes took place.
I spent three semesters in night school finishing my Bachelor’s Degree. The last semester I completed about 32 credits. It got to the point that I could not extend that schedule out any further.
6 weeks after completing my degree, I was selected as the President/CEO of the Alaska Native Health Board.
The significance in accomplishing those two goals is not about the status, prestige or title.
The significance was that I kept my promise to my daughter, Rachel, and our lives became better.
Life is a course through different scenarios, challenges, with internal and external drivers. More often than not, we do not have control over most of it.
For me, in the midst of the most dangerous storms in life, I have been able to engage my organic and animalistic trait for basic survival. I am a lot less tolerant now, in a healthy way. I am a lot more skeptical now. I am not so trusting now. And I know for certain now, that all people do not have my best interests in their heart.
The fact remains the same as it always has. And that fact is the power of poverty. Poverty illicits strife. Poverty illicits human behaviors. These behaviors are choices people make. All these choices come from decisions made by someone who lives with that fear-driven button, “fight or flight” having always been pushed.
Self-understanding and self-appreciation is armor. Once you know who you are, no one has the power to successfully redefine you as THEY want you to be seen – good or bad.
Resilience is the vehicle to longevity and survival in life, relationships, career, mind, body and spirit. By embracing my personal traits from that toolbox God has gifted me, I have weathered the storms.
I weathered immaculate storms that ripped me apart, tore me down, and separated me out into a thousand miniscule pieces of sand.
And then I chose to corral the energy of that storm and transformed once again, into a stronger, more self-assured, and better version of me.
We each have our individual gifts that are stored away in our God-given toolboxes.
We all have the tools to be the hero of our own story.