“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” ~ Henry Ford
So just a few days ago it happened: I gave the the Spring Commencement Address to the University of MD’s School of Public Health. This was such a monumental milestone in my life and I’m still pretty excited about it! Between getting really positive reactions from the students (even their parents!) and ongoing kudos from faculty members – it was truly an experience of greatness.
For many things in our lives, saying yes or no is a vital choice we have that allows us to curate, to a certain extent, what our future will look like. Remember those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books from back in the day? I used to love reading them – my brain would always start asking that age-old question: what if?
The same rules apply to how you create opportunities to increase your impact. In the commencement address, I ended by telling the students to build their own world so they can in turn improve our world. As they take on challenges to grow their own development, that will help the greater mission to improve public health on a larger scale.
Obviously when coming to the crossroads of an opportunity to say yes, it helps when you feel strongly that it will align and build upon your body of work. This is also a great thing when you feel slightly nervous about what will be on the other side of that yes. Case in point: me accepting the invitation to give the commencement address. I knew that I wanted to build and inspire the next generation of public health innovators but obviously the thought of speaking in front of thousands of people was a bit daunting. But I said yes (then figured out how to reduce that fear of failure!) and the massively positive ripple effects of that decision are still manifesting!
Step one: make a decision to learn and grow.
Step two: get a vision on what change you want to bring to this work of health impact.
Step three: the significance of your body of work grows exponentially when you move past your comfort zone and go all in on the right kind of “yes” moment.
The future of public health is in need of those who can ask “what if?” and then get going on it.