In Jon Mertz’s new book, Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders, Jon talks about Soul Sparks:
“Soul sparks are those small ignitions of inspiration that fan into big changes, new directions, or fresh works. They come from deep down inside. Make your body and mind shake with excitement. These are soul sparks.”
I am blessed to have had bosses who saw soul sparks in me and gave me opportunities to develop and spread them. These bosses mentored and supported my soul sparks up to the highest levels of the company and made sure I succeeded. They viewed their job as lighting the fire and clearing the path for me. Because that was how I was managed and led from the start of my career, because that was really all I personally and gratefully knew, that was how I managed and led others; how could I know otherwise?
Just as one candle lights another and can light thousands of other candles, so one heart illuminates another heart and can illuminate thousands of other hearts. ~ Leo Tolstoy
In my career, I’ve helped clients ignite soul sparks and surpass goals we thought were long shots. I’ve had C-suiters give air cover to employees with soul sparks that when implemented changed industries, delivered value propositions for their customers’ customers and created opportunities for new hires and employee growth. Needless to say, this is fun, rewarding and keeps sparks spreading.
Perhaps most joyful has been fueling soul sparks with Millennials I’m privileged to mentor who also mentor me. Serendipitously, many of their stories are posted on Swearer Sparks! I love “my” Millennials sense of entitlement. Yes! Entitlement –of being entitled to pursue their soul sparks to change the world and ignite soul sparks in others.
Soul Sparks challenge orthodoxy
Sidney Kusher founded CCChampions as a junior in college to match kids going through the horrors of cancer treatment with pro athletes and heroes, to help them feel like champions. Sidney’s soul spark changes the lives of these kids, their families, their doctors and nurses and their “champions” in ways he never could have anticipated. And it changes the lives of those of us who have been a part of this journey. I’ve been privileged to help Sidney keep the spark going when the daily frustrations of managing a staff, fundraising, and emotional drain of cancer’s reality take a toll. But soul sparks cannot be contained. Soul sparks are contagious. I don’t know who benefits more – Sidney when I help him be the leader at 24 I wasn’t at 30 or me from his wisdom, honestly and authenticity. Despite the rapid growth of kids in need without the rapid growth in staff to support it, CCChampions March Madness March to Friendship surpassed all expectations and broke records – raising enough funds to support 40 new kids with cancer!
Soul Sparks ignite when the focus is on others, not on oneself.
Jayson Marwaha and Han Sheng Chia started MED-International as sophomores in college providing medical equipment and tools for maintenance in emerging markets. They started in Zanzibar with incubators and X-ray machines that were too ‘old’ for us in America. Computer science and engineering students caught the spark, developing tools to track and repair equipment so it could be up and running to save and heal lives. MED tried to grow into other emerging markets, but no viable business model emerged. After a summer of research in Tanzania and Ghana, they realized that to scale and impact patient care, they needed to be on the ground most of the time. As a board member, I should have pushed shutting the business down earlier, since there was no viable path to profitability. As a mentor, I knew they needed to come to that conclusion on their own, having tried all possibilities. In the end, they created an elegant, gracious and compassionate solution – they open-sourced the software so it can be used in any hospital anywhere in the world. In the four years MED was running, it saved lives. Not many of us can claim that.
Soul Sparks are real. They drive us to innovate and to make an impact. So what will you do to ignite the Soul Spark in others? Find a way, because it will ignite a spark within you!
This post is part of a community-wide initiative on Soul Sparks celebrating the launch of Jon Mertz’s book, Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Please read it and visit his site, Thin Difference.