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Passion to Purpose: Living Your Mission for Seismic Shifts #WHM

Celebrating How One Woman in One Moment Can Make Life-Changing Impact (And What We Can Learn From Her Example)

In my final semester of undergrad at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), I'm not embarrassed to admit: I failed. I did not deliver.

I was offered a graduate assistantship at UNL Campus Recreation, a nationally recognized program. I just had to take the GMAT and get admitted to an academic program. Simple enough for a smart girl, right?

Wrong. Painfully wrong. I couldn't achieve the required score on the GMAT to be admitted despite tireless study and two attempts. Regardless of my excellent GPA, glowing recommendations and impressive resume, my test scores meant my application wouldn't even be looked at (I'll save a rant on the absurdity of that for another day).


I missed my chance for a golden opportunity…or so I thought.

What happened next changed the course of my career and my life. And, left me with a goosebumps-level understanding of how one leader in one moment can create lasting change. To celebrate Women's History Month, this is a story of how one woman leader made transformative impact and what we can learn from her example.

The Starfish Mission

I went to my would-be supervisor, Vicki Highstreet, to deliver the news of my rejection and that she would have to move on and hire someone else. I never expected what she said next:


“Well, we will have to try again and get you into another program next semester! Have you thought about Higher Ed Admin? They don't require a test.”

As my brain was in a shocked swirl of "Wait, what?!", she emphasized she still wanted me to be her graduate assistant and that she knew I was far smarter than what a test could measure. That one decision, in one small moment, made a life-changing impact on my career. I had to look no further than the desk we were sitting at to receive instant understanding of what this Vicki Highstreet woman was all about.


Right near her desk, she had this poem framed:



Leaders and soul-driven humans: take a lesson from Vicki, a transformative woman leader for the ages, and not just articulate your mission but embody your mission, live your mission one starfish at a time.


Vicki exemplifies the powers of human-focused leadership that our world so desperately craves. Following her example, and taking passion to purpose, looks something like this:

  1. Get clear on your mission, vision and precisely what you want to create in the world;

  2. Write it down or find a symbol to represent that mission/vision/call to creativity;

  3. Put that statement or symbol where you can see it every day;

  4. Then, go live it, one small moment at a time.


The Power of Seismic Shifts


“It turns out that trust is in fact earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.” -Brene Brown (emphases added)

We can easily replace “trust” with “impact:”impact happens in the smallest of moments. Not heroic deeds nor highly visible actions but through a daily commitment of taking your passion to purpose. In Vicki's case, it was the unwavering intention of treating each student that had the luck of sitting in her cushy office chair like the boy treated the starfish along his walking path.


And, take heart. Widespread influence won't happen in one fell swoop. It happens in small "seismic shifts." Just like real seismic activity in geology, widespread change happens one millimeter, one vibration, one rumble at a time. For anyone that lives in geologic areas or has witnessed the beauty of mountain ranges, you have experienced how these seismic shifts collect, collect, collect over time to create astounding results.

Just like the earth's vistas, your mission/vision/call to creativity may evolve in shape and structure over time, but the commitment of creating change in the world does not. Becoming a living embodiment of your clear passionate purpose will be a force and a magnetic energy upon everything in your path.


And, it happens one seismic shift, one starfish at a time.


I'm proud to be a starfish.


Photo: Vicki and me at NIRSA 2017. I would not be writing you nearly a decade later if this powerful woman hadn't been human-focused and if she didn't have a clear mission and vision of what her leadership was all about and what she wanted to create in the world.


Creating Your Career Compass


Full of passion but no idea where to start? Check out this free vision assignment: Vision Work. This is the first assignment in the Career Compass Package. Vision work challenges your brain to flex its creative muscles and provide clues and building blocks for your mission, vision and call to creativity. The Career Compass works to help clarify your passionate purpose.


My Challenge to You for Women's History Month


In celebration of Women's History Month, who is a woman leader or soulful human that has created seismic shift(s) in your life? Grab this free Thank You Note Builder + Template and send them a word gift!


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Vicki is right. I could see your special passion and envisioned you taking a hold of this passion and sharing it with others. Never under estimate yourself, your talents, your dreams nor your feelings. You are a woman of passion, drive and delivery. Keep up the good work as you are just getting started; the world has yet to see the best of you. A person who believes in their dreams and visions and loves to share them with others will always succeed.

Sharon M.

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Whitney Hinshaw Sullivan
Whitney Hinshaw Sullivan
2021年3月11日
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Shar!!! Thank you so much for your words of support. Your unwavering encouragement of my dreams has been truly empowering to me. ❤️❤️❤️ @melniker@montana.edu

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Whitney, your passion for making the world a better place is infectious! I appreciate the shout out, but you had it in you, just needed to throw you in the surf to ignite it! It's like the example I heard about the women's restroom sign . . . it wasn't a skirt, it was a cape all along! Virtual hugs to you until we can be in-person and I guarantee we'll hug the tears right out of each other! ❤️ vic

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Whitney Hinshaw Sullivan
Whitney Hinshaw Sullivan
2021年3月11日
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Thank you, Mama Vic!! Virtual hugs!!!

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