Have you ever worked with someone who you swear has a mission to make your life miserable? Every time he or she walks by you they do or say something to just piss you off. Whether or not that person truly has a mission to make your life hell will never be known, but have you ever thought about your own mission?
Sherece West, President & CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, spoke at the first Emerging Leaders Salon hosted by EPIP on Sunday at COF's Leadership Summit and mission was the undercurrent running through everything she said. Her background is one that unfortunately is heard often in the Black community: poverty, alcohol and drug abuse and despairing surroundings. But even in those surroundings, she saw that everyone--from her own family to the crack-addicted mother on the streets--wants to do better for themselves or their children. Her upbringing enabled her to have the resolve to get out of her surroundings and have compassion for family, neighbors and community. She wanted to learn and be open to what others had to say and gave advice to the attendees to do the same.
When she was young she made the decision to make her mission to use her "time, talent and resources to contribute to the eradication of poverty". Everything she has done professionally has been done as a means to fulfilling her mission. She said that she pursues her mission first and her role (past, present and future) in philanthropy is secondary.
When asked how she handles the myriad of issues within poverty and community advocacy, Sherece brought it back to sticking with your mission. She said Doing what I can and how I can is how I stay focused. Focus on what you want to get accomplished and how you use your resources and time to do it. In what she does, she tries to at least leave a legacy where after she's gone from that organization, someone else can advance it further.
Sherece was also asked what her defining moment in her career thus far has been. Again, she tied the story into to working towards her mission. She described a time while she was at Annie E. Casey when a wealthy Black woman in Louisiana expressed interest in Sherece to take the helm of a local foundation. When Sherece saw the neighborhood being served by this foundation, she initially wanted to say no because the situation looked hopeless. But while driving back to Baltimore, she was suddenly reminded of the Bible story Jonah and the whale. Louisiana was God's way of telling her that this was the next step in fulfilling her mission. As life would have it, soon after she arrived, Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana and she was called to take the helm at the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Fund. The initial call to Louisiana was her "defining moment"--this was God's response to her question on how she could be used towards her mission of eradicating poverty.
So what's your mission? What compels you in what you do in life and/or work? That person at your job may have a mission in life to piss you off everyday, but at least he has a mission. What's yours?