One founder shares what helps her keep things in perspective.
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Early in my career, I was easily overwhelmed. I overextended myself, and soon my responsibilities and commitments and ambitions piled up into this mass that felt unfathomably large — until, one day, my manager gave me something that is still on the bulletin board over my desk 26 years later, even as I’ve now transformed my career: It’s a postcard picture of Earth.
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I worked in federal contracting at the time, and my manager gave it to me for perspective. He wanted me to look at Earth and think about the significance of what I was trying to accomplish, and the stress I was feeling, and to do so in the context of what others around the world faced. I started to do this during late nights in my office, when I hadn’t seen my family in days, as I lived on caffeine and cheese nabs. I imagined the good happening to people around the globe. I also imagined the bad — people starving, enduring war, or losing their homes — and then weighed my situation. I would say a prayer for them, and I would remember that my time on Earth was limited.
With this perspective, and my manager’s encouragement, I went back to school, then took a job with a Fortune 500 firm as a contracts manager and rose to become a director and VP. I recently started my own consulting business to mentor small companies entering federal contracting. I’ve found that many folks feel they must make a good impression or prove themselves, and that to do so, they cannot admit when they need help. But I can see it in their eyes or hear it in their voices. I tell them what my manager told me: Step away for a few minutes, prioritize your actions, and focus on what your best can be in that moment.
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Many people say they want to change the world, and we tend to lionize those who think big. But I’ve always felt that changing the world starts in a small way, through those with whom you come into daily contact. Most people want to feel seen, loved, and respected by others — not because they are part of something huge, but for the unique individual they are. That is how I hope to make a difference in their lives. And who knows, maybe beyond what I see, my presence ripples out to their circles of influence, which reaches others’ — creating waves akin to those that make up all that blue in my picture of Earth.