Several years ago, my life was in the midst of a major transition. I was in a hard place. With my naval career behind me, I was searching to find my life’s next chapter. While I was doing some consulting in the aerospace sector, it didn’t seem to fill me up. As a means to an end or to my “next,” I had taped the following quote to my refrigerator door
for inspiration:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ― Reverend Howard Thurman

I remember it well, that small strip of paper given to me by a professional coach. There it sat curling at the edges just above the kid’s elementary school drawings on our stainless steel “canvas.” (Funny but now I remember it had a small outline of airplane in the bottom right corner – of course!) The words of theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman were asking me to reconsider my life’s purpose. Morning and night, I would read his words again, and again, … and again. What was my answer to the question he posed? Then one cold, snowy morning after months of reflection, I peered out my kitchen window and the answer appeared.

Leadership is what makes me come alive.

Undoubtedly, I had known the answer for years as it had existed deep within myself throughout my life. But, as we all do from time to time, we forget. I forgot who I was and what I was called to do. The answer is what led me to the Naval Academy, to begin my journey as a leader. There I learned the foundational elements of leadership and embraced the importance of responsibility, authority and accountability. The answer is what sustained me throughout my 28-year naval career as I further developed and continually practiced the skills and art of leading.

But that chapter was over. I had to rediscover myself – to discover how I would take my passion for leadership into the future (and in a world outside of the military).

Leadership is my passion.

The answer to Thurman’s words that snowy morning led me to the decision to pack up my life and move across the country to Vanderbilt University to study leadership and get my doctorate in Higher Education, Leadership and Policy. From there I went on to lead the Center for STEM Education for Girls for several years. And then came the call, “would you be interested in teaching leadership?” Excitedly, I jumped on the opportunity and now I’m back at Vanderbilt teaching leadership to undergraduates.

Reconnecting with my passion for leadership led me to right where I am now – developing the next generation of leaders for our world.

Have you ever found yourself in a place of transition? Perhaps Howard Thurman’s words might help. Take time to (re)discover your passion. Believe me, you will be surprised where that might lead you!

P.S. Oh, and the answer led me to launch my new book Flight Lessons. It comes out in February.

Photo credit: Ian Schneider, Unsplash