Leading With Empathy and Purpose
During the Covid-19 pandemic a lot of companies have shown us how they can lead with heart and as I like to say, walk the purpose walk. Instead of focusing on the bottom line, or the “what” behind a company’s business model, more than ever we are seeing how organizations understand that to truly reach their customers they must lead with purpose and empathy. I found myself working through this recently while working on a heart-driven project called YOU ARE ENOUGH that I started 10 months ago. As someone who has dealt with depression and the feelings of hopelessness and isolation that comes with it, I wanted to find a way to help others who may be living in the same darkness. How could I heal while healing others? So I came up with a super simple idea. Why not put a billboard up in my hometown of Redondo Beach, CA that simply displays the words, YOU ARE ENOUGH on it? Pretty cool, right? Does not seem like a hard thing to make happen. A cool and simple idea that would have a lot of layers and twists and turns to it. This idea has turned out to be a campaign that has legs and I have found myself taking a journey that I will always cherish and hold close to my healed heart.
It is July 1, 2020, and the billboard launched today. I was alerted a 5:00 am that it went up and I jumped out of bed as soon as I heard and raced down the road to see it. As I drove towards it, I could see it standing proud with its cobalt blue background and white words that were so strong and supportive. I wanted people driving by the billboard to feel held, seen, and have a sense of connection while they were taking in these words. This billboard was not going to be an advertisement for a client or for me for that matter. Instead, it was meant to be a vehicle to share words that are positive and supportive without any strings attached. We live in a scarcity society today where we are already bombarded by 30,000 plus messages telling us that we need to do more, get more, be more to be enough. Nope, my billboard was going to be positive and supportive. I was not going to “tell” and “sell” and instead wanted to help hold a space for people so that they could lean into their worthiness.
There were many times that I wanted to give up on this campaign. So many people told me straight out that they did not get it and that it was not tangible. A lot of people asked me how am I going to make money and why would anyone want to donate to such a project? What is in it for them? And what about the call to action? How would people know what to do if there is no website on the billboard or company name? This is where it got tricky for me. I went back and forth on whether or not to put my company name on the billboard. I finally decided to put it on it and while the billboard was being printed up, I stopped the presses at the last minute. I was so sad when I signed the artwork paperwork and needed to listen to this. I talked to a few friends about my angst and one friend, in particular, said that when you are trying to mix currency with the heart you end up making mud. A very Buddhist statement indeed. But he was so right. I was walking in the mud with my head down instead of remembering why I was running this billboard campaign in the first place. As soon as I decided to only have the three words on it, I felt so light. I was on the right path to healing.
I struggled with getting donations due to the timing of the billboard going up and also, as I now understand, because of how a lot of people value and interpret money. There are those who will go buy a cup of Starbucks every day but not want to put five dollars toward a campaign such as this. Then there are those, like a majority of my donors, who really could not afford to donate to a cause. I had to raise $2000 in 30 days and ended up getting a total of 18 donations which is not a big number. But what I learned was that this was so not about the money. People helped support me with encouraging words, advice, helping me with a website, being part of a podcast I started, passing the word along, and listening to me talk about it ad nauseam. The biggest thing that I learned from this is that I had to continue to remain true to myself and my purpose around this project. The money would come, and if it did not, I would pay for the billboard myself. There were going to be naysayers and there were going to be people who would not even want to go there and figure out what the words YOU ARE ENOUGH mean to them. But there were also going to be a lot of people who wanted to help as they strived to heal themselves and help heal and support others.
I set out to help others with three simple words know that they are ok, they are not alone, and that they are enough. I am giggling as I type this because I know a lot of people are going to drive by it and wonder what the heck this billboard is all about and who put it up there. There will be a lot of people who experience the billboard this way and I hope that I can break this thought pattern by keeping this campaign going with more billboards that we can get up throughout the country. If we keep seeing these words up on billboards maybe they will just sink in. We do not have to do anything, buy anything, or be anything to BE ENOUGH.