This month's theme at The Hivery is Making an Impact. We've explored how to do that at the business level through social responsibility strategies, at the local level at a nearby school's garden cleanup, and at a community level through our We Rise Scholarship program.
Often, the question isn't "Do I want to make an impact?," but rather, "How do I make the best impact I can with the tools and resources I've been given?"
From the work that I've done with women at The Hivery and from my very fortunate position of getting to be part of many women's next chapters, I've learned that finding your unique contribution to this world often starts with sharing your story. We have the capacity to serve others and make a massive impact when we are willing to share ourselves. From there, we can approach our service to others with open hearts and our truest voice. Below is a step that I took a few years ago to step out.
I often talk at The Hivery about what it means to put yourself out there and the power of telling your story. By making a practice of using our voices and taking creative risks, we expand what is possible, not just in ourselves, but in the impact we can have on others. Today, I wanted to share a story of taking a personal risk in order to open up my mind, heart, and practice so that I could encourage other women to do the same.
My legs shook uncontrollably on a foggy day in early 2014 as I walked into the basement of the Mill Valley Public Library. I took a deep breath and opened the door to a panel of five adults who were minutes away from judging me as I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother, a nationwide storytelling series, with a live performance at the Brava Theater in the Mission District in San Francisco.
It had been a long time since I'd auditioned for anything. The nerves, self-doubt, and slightly sick stomach of my previous life as a dancer, flooded back. I suddenly remembered the reason that I often hated auditions. The vulnerability, the risk of rejection, the fear of humiliation. Giving yourself completely to your craft, and then holding your breath while another person judges you, is not for the faint of heart.
But there I was. This time using a story that I had written about my mother as my medium, instead of my dancing feet. This was perhaps my most personal story, a story some friends didn’t even know. I decided to listen to that voice and began. I was nervous, but determined to stretch my own boundaries. When I began telling my story, my voice shook, but as the story continued, I felt in my gut, that I was meant to share my experience. The audition went so well that I was selected to open the show a few months later in San Francisco.
The night of the event I couldn’t have been more nervous. Who was I to tell my story to an audience of 300 strangers? And, would anyone care to hear it? But as I stepped on stage, something happened, something physiological. I shakily brought the microphone to my mouth and instead of a high, fluttery voice, I heard a lower, more solid, tone come out. I spoke from a place deep within my belly. It was at that moment that I realized that it was there where my truth lived all along.
The story went great and the audience receptive and warm (read to the end of this post to watch my talk!), but I learned so much more from the experience than I ever could have anticipated.
I learned that I wanted to speak like this, live like this, for the rest of my life.
TRUTH AS IMPACT
I launched The Hivery a few months later and since then have called upon that deep place inside myself more times than I can count, especially when telling a story about fear or vulnerability. Every time I’ve spoken the truth about being scared, about having no idea what I’m doing (I still feel that way on a weekly basis!), about feeling in-over-my-head, I hear “me toos” from countless women.
I’ve learned that using our voices can be one of the most authentic ways to make an impact. That courage is contagious and can have ripple effects on humanity. I’ve learned that our deepest impact is our personal impact that can then be unleashed in service, and being honest, open and vulnerable is one of the most effective ways to not only set us free but to set those around us free, too.
HOW TO MAKE AN IMPACT TODAY
Just in case you’re wondering how you can make an impact—be it by getting on stage, starting a new project, helping a neighbor, or the like, here are my three biggest pieces of advice.
Share it. Have an idea? Share it with five people in one week and watch the ripple effect. I’m willing to bet that one of those people will say something that spurs on a second action, then a third, then a fourth, and so on.
Believe in the power of small actions. I believe small actions lead to big actions. Challenge yourself to do one action every day, even if that action is writing a paragraph in your journal about what you want to do or believe in. No action is too small.
Let your impact permeate your life. If you have an interest in making an impact in one area, start approaching other aspects of your life with the same thoughtfulness. When I wanted to make an impact with women and work, I knew I’d needed to show up with compassion, listen and make space. I quickly learned that I operate best when I approach my friends and family in the same way.
Bottom line: There are so many ways to make an impact. Spreading your truth, speaking your mind, being vulnerable—those are amazing ways to help yourself and those around you. I believe that every hour you have the opportunity to be of service to another human being. You don’t have to wait to be an executive director of a non-profit. You can make an impact right now, as you are reading this—in this moment!
Thank you for reading my very first post in a series called “Grace’s Corner!” In this monthly series we will explore our monthly theme at The Hivery, and my thoughts and advice around it.
If you would like to see my Listen To Your Mother performance, click the image below.