Not sure where to start? Let a Thought Leader lead the way!

You could do the hard work yourself. Or, you could…

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In every field and niche, there are key players who drive the conversation forward. Usually, they gather people who share an interest through their blogs and websites. These “thought leaders” are hubs for spreading new ideas and facilitating conversations between readers. Finding just one amazing thought leader can give you access to hundreds of ideas, opportunities, and resources.

Here’s an example: In 2015 I piloted a study abroad program to Scotland with two of my best professor peeps. Minor detail: None of us had actually ever been to Scotland.

We spent hours on early-morning Skype calls with UK-based sustainability professionals sourced on LinkedIn, working across two time zones. We lost entire weekends coordinating logistics involving trains, busses, ferries, airplanes, hostels, hotels, retreat centers, farms, and ecovillages in a country we had never seen. (To be fair…we camped out at a resort to make the extra work more fun.)

Then…we met Lusi.

Lusi ran a Scottish association dedicated to permaculture. She knew everyone in the field, the unique sites that were off the beaten track, distances between locations, and even the quality of public transport between them. She was embedded in the community to such a degree that she could advise us on who was doing really great work…versus who just had a great website. Based on her input, we revised our three-week program to something much stronger than we could have done on our own.

That’s the power of a thought leader.

Connecting with the thought leaders in your fields of interest gives you a massive head start. Finding them can be a bit of a trick, but it’s SOOOO worth it because by following them you’ll create a stream of higher-quality information on your areas of interest than you could ever find on your own. The info they share allows you to:

  • Access high quality resources that have been vetted by a leader in the field, so you don't have to dig them up and evaluate their quality on your own.

  • Learn about opportunities to take your interest a step deeper (such as meetups, workshops, conferences, and other ways to engage with “real people”).  

  • Build your knowledge base of hot topics, key players, and big ideas that are shaping the field, so you can be an informed conversation partner at networking events and a knowledgeable candidate for interviews.

  • Observe what’s going on in the field from a safe distance, to see if you’re really interested in the conversations going on there. When you’re ready, you can participate. Joining a conversation will give you quick feedback on the value your comments add to other members...which can be really, really encouraging if you’re not sure how your experience or expertise translates to another field!

  • Confirm your interest in the field...if the content you connect to online doesn’t get you excited, you can move on to explore another path.

Ready to Find Your Thought Leader(s)? You can download a step-by-step guide for this Career Experiment for FREE right here. The password arrives via email 2 seconds after you sign up ;)

Good luck, and let me know how it goes!

Action: It's Your superpower

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“I think I need to Purel my tush.”

So said Alicia, another teenager on a volunteer trip to Bolivia, where expeditions to the bathroom were a multi-step process:

  1. Stuff your pockets with as much toilet paper as necessary, since it doesn’t come free in the stalls
  2. Dig out your headlamp, since the bathroom complex didn’t have electric lighting
  3. Find a buddy to keep you company on the walk across the dark field to the bathroom complex
  4. With a narrow beam of light for guidance, leap across a stagnant puddle to the rotting log sitting in front of the toilet seat, so your feet could be out of water while you did your business
  5. Purel everything

The reflection staring back at me in the mirror that night wasn’t “me.” This girl was streaked with mud, hadn’t washed her hair in days, and had pit stains down to her waist.

I don’t know exactly how this happened, but at 17 I determined I was spoiled rotten and should volunteer in a developing country to get a bigger perspective on life. (I also couldn’t tell you how my parents decided to go along with this whim, sending me off to Bolivia for a month with a highly dysfunctional national service organization I found online.)

Four months later, I found out what happens when you drop a perky prom queen with a love for platform sandals and hygiene into the Bolivian Amazon with no air conditioning, billions of bugs, and a single bathroom to share between 13 teenagers.

Her identity grows.

Until this experience, I would have told you that the “authentic” version of me was poised and put together. Being a teenager, I demonstrated this through fashion: Handbags coordinated with the rest of my attire and perfectly manicured fingernails. Quite quickly, I realized that being "put together" was of no value when aggressively scrubbing spider larvae off of cement walls.

Early on in that month I determined to push through the homesickness and sense of disorientation that came from not knowing how to be successful in a strange new environment and culture. By end of the month I could add another word to that list of "authentic" traits: Adaptable. 

As a teenager, I hit on an insight that Herminia Ibarra calls the "authenticity trap." This is the idea that we tend to use "authenticity" as an excuse to keep doing what's familiar, rather than push into the great unknown. In her words, “Because going against our natural inclinations can make us feel like impostors, we tend to latch on to authenticity as an excuse for sticking with what’s comfortable.” 

The way out of the authenticity trap is by taking action, putting yourself into new situations that draw out your potential. 

These experiences aren't about reinforcing who you already are, but about discovering who you could become next. 

Action is your superpower. It transforms you

Are there any ways that you're letting "authenticity" bind your powers? 

  • If you catch yourself saying "That's not my thing," could it be? 
  • If you decide not to pursue an idea or interest because "I'm not really that type,"...are you sure? 
  • If you turn down an opportunity because "I couldn't do that,"...have you tried? 

This week, why not take one new action and see what happens? If you take this challenge, please drop me a line at Laurah@betterbetter.co with a brief note on what you learned or gained. I'd love to send you a special gift in return. 

 

What do you need more than insight? Outsight.

Outsight

When I went to Alaska for a post-college summer working at a B&B, I already knew I loved to bake pies.

I had no idea that I'd meet some brilliant mountaineers, wonder what the fuss about the great outdoors was all about, get over my fear of peeing behind a tree, and find myself trekking in the Himalayas three months later.

Insight said, "Yeah....I'm not a big nature girl."

Outsight said, "...yet."

"Outsight," according to the brilliant Herminia Ibarra, "is the fresh, external perspective that comes from doing new and different things - plunging ourselves into new projects and activities, interacting with people outside our daily routines, and experimenting with new ways of getting things done."

Outsight is forward-looking. It gives you access to the parts of your identity and potential that are still waiting to be discovered...or created.  

Insight, in contrast, is backwards-looking. It's based on what you know about yourself already, from your experience of everything you've been or done in the past. Insight helps you zero in on values and strengths. But basing career decisions on insight alone means basing them on your past...not your future.

In other words, don't let insight put you in a box prematurely.

There's a lot more "YOU" to be discovered by getting outside of your comfort zone.

The best part about outsight is that you don't have to wait for it; you can meet it head on. Ask for a challenging stretch project to learn about who you are in an experience you haven't yet encountered, or volunteer strategically to find out what capacities you draw out in a new working environment.

As you develop your outsight, chances are strong that you'll discover career options that you  never considered (or never knew existed!) along the way.