I have always felt different. Not because I don’t fit in. I fit in. I was voted friendliest of my high school class. You don’t get that auspicious title without being told by a lot of girls that they want to just be friends or without being someone that gets along with people. On the other hand, I have had at least three people I have worked for look me in the eye and say, “I don’t know what to do with you. You do great things, but I am not sure where you fit in.” Sometimes we all feel like we live in the twilight zone. This is normal. It is how we deal with the world at these moments that are critical to our own development as people. We can simply quit and try to just fit in. Or we can rebel and be cast out by those around us for being different. In my opinion, those with guts never quit trying to connect what is accepted with what is different in a way that makes everyone better.
This blog is for change agent junkies. It is about always seeing the world with hope. It is about never giving up in showing people how things can be better, even when you feel no one understands you. It is about finding a way to interact with those around you with honor even when you don’t agree with what they are saying. It is about the willingness to be a life learner no matter how painful the lessons may be. It is about knowing yourself and getting in touch with your soul. It is about living by the principles of trust, transparency and collaboration. These are the tenets of the evangelist. They are the value core that should never be abandoned.
This is not about being a great entrepreneur. Recently, in fact, my good friend told me that he is working in a stiff environment that is trying to bring about change by telling everyone they should “act like an entrepreneur”. He works at a big huge company that avoids risk at every turn and expects conformity from its disciples, yet has the audacity to use this new movement to get people to say what they want but not support the real behavior. And as we spoke, he told me that to act like an entrepreneur (and while he works there he is a very successful entrepreneur) you need to do two things. First, you have to have undying conviction to make your ideas live. And second, he told me that you need to want total control of your ideas. When he told me this, it sounded right to me. And while many would say amen, that is me and I need to go out and start my own business because I am like that, this is not what makes a change agent great.
An evangelist must have the undying conviction of an entrepreneur, but they do not need control. Evangelists want to influence others to be part of driving the change. Being an evangelist is about having the humility to help people see what is possible so they can be empowered to see it through. Evangelists want to lead but don’t always want to take credit. They love people and drink in their differences like the finest wine. Evangelists get a rise out of connecting with those around them, because that connection is the essence of passion. Passion definitely comes from within, but a true evangelist feeds off watching others succeed.
And frankly, being an evangelist in Corporate America is a lonely job. Real evangelists live between the cracks of what is going on. They are the ghosts who take the risks, but don’t always get credit for the end state. They are connected to everyone around them, but feel connected to no one. They are people who are screaming to be remembered that it was their idea when those they helped are more than happy to take the spotlight forgetting they ever struggled to get started. In Corporate America, they are recognized for being different, but are often don’t get the seat at the table they deserve because they don’t always do things “the way we do things around here.”
And this story is about being an innovator, but not really. Innovators are brilliant people who create great ideas or concepts that produce value. I have lived in that space my whole career. In fact, much of what I will write will talk about being a great innovator. Why is it not really about being an innovator? Because along the journey of not fitting in, of being different, I realized that great innovators evolve. I once wrote a tweet that I had to read over and over again because it just put all the pieces together. What was this tweet? It was a simple statement; innovator is to pupa as evangelist is to butterfly. Anyone can produce great ideas that bring tangible value. It is a great skill that can change the world. But there is more to it than simply being the master of meeting a customer’s needs. True greatness comes from taking a great idea, and inspiring others to be a part of its greatness because together that idea can be bigger, happen faster and bring learning to more than just the person that created it.
The message I want to send is this; everyone has the power to be an evangelist. Why? Because being an evangelist is nothing more than making a personal commitment to becoming a life learner. I have thought a great deal about how I have reached this moment in MY life. A moment where I am clear enough to understand how I took the things I learned across my many lives and put them together to become a professional evangelist. It is just who I am and what I do. Because it doesn’t matter how or when, I believe that we all have moments of feeling different. And when we feel different we have a choice. We can choose to fit in because it is too risky to stand out or we can embrace feeling different, try to understand why it is happening, so we can adjust to ensure we are effective at championing our cause. It doesn’t matter what that cause is and whether it is as simple has having the patience to help deal with a 4 year old who is being stubborn about putting on red pants when the purple ones are dirty or as complex as trying to get the 20,000 people in a company to change how they do things, no matter what you must focus on making it happen and believing you can. In my life, I have time and time again placed the things I learn over the role I am supposed to play. And when you can do that, you can learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime.
And so begins our journey at evangelistdna.com. I hope you will join me in creating a community that helps create a tangible place that those who are evangelists learn from each other as well as a place where those who want to understand us come to learn about us. Only through our sharing, collaboration and community can we bring greater focus to a role we all play but few of us recognize we do.