By Diza Sauers
I recently had the opportunity to sit on a board for an organization facing a sobering moment of fiscal instability. It had become a crazily built castle propped up by one over-burdened, highly charismatic director who had a beautiful vision, but built beyond the capacity to deliver. The mission was altruistic, and I joined whole-heartedly, calling upon experts from my own contacts to assist in saving the ship. Audacious goals were established, strict fiscal guidelines put into place, and a road map created.
In my life, I have had the great good fortune to have the right people appear at the right time. They come unbidden, as if just waiting for me to open the door. I felt that way about the group of individuals who assembled to help this organization. Yet, despite our efforts, we failed. The next year was a painful one to witness – goals were not met; fiscal sources dwindled; the road map yielded some dead ends. As we wiped the star dust from our eyes and accepted some grim reality, we discovered an incredibly talented young woman embedded within the organization, a talent on the rise who was roped to a very difficult situation. It became clear, while we might not save the ship, perhaps we could save a very deserving person.
Inevitably, the organization underwent the painful but necessary transformation. While it wasn’t saved, it was thoroughly reorganized, pushing its existence into a short term framework: the new strategy will work or the organization will cease to exist. The very talented young woman (let’s call her Parker) awakened to the world beyond. Through mentoring and cultivating the relationships of those around her, she moved forward to join a new organization that put her on the track to a much more visible and prominent position. The rest of us disbanded from the board and moved on.
Recently, I was revisiting this chain of events with one of the former board members. As we talked about the difficulty of the past year and the natural regret that comes from having made a failed investment, my colleague looked at me and said, “Perhaps that was the reason we all got together – it wasn’t to save the organization, it was to bring Parker into a better place, to better serve our community. I can live with that.”
And she is right. This wasn’t a failure, but a success that arrived from another direction. I love it that these moments often come to us from circumstances usually beyond our control. In my own life, I have watched as connections have yielded jobs, shifts in fortune have turned into transformative opportunities. From the most unexpected quarters arrives an abrupt change in life, and if I stay open to it, a pattern usually appears that moves me toward a greater understanding, an unfolding opportunity. With it usually comes someone or something that connects me to the world in way that enriches my life. I call these gracelines. Invisible Gracelines.
When we sit with the right intention and build with the people who align with our values, we open up worlds and ways of connecting that lead us to an unfolding sense of purpose. Perhaps it is the simple recognition of the way we are so inner-connected. Perhaps it is having the balance to embrace unexpected change, to resist the urge to name something a success or a failure, but to simply move forward with what unfolds next.
It is easy to be grateful and motivated when things line up just right – we get that job, we make that connection, we nail a promotion. But how much richer when we are able to let things go and find the graceline that weaves us all together, and accept a new way of being.
Professor of Practice
Director, Business Communications Program