What does it really mean to be mission-driven?
I can’t talk about what it means to be mission-driven without thinking of my good friend and Work Bigger graduate Allison Callow.
Allison and I met because she became a reader of the blog back in 2016. I reached out to her for feedback (as I often do), and the rest was history.
Allison decided to join the Spring 2017 Work Bigger program, and I got to work very closely with her to help her figure out her next steps.
To me, Allison is an inspiration because she’s been working from a mission-driven place long before Work Bigger existed.
In this interview, Allison talks about her greatest obstacle and what she’s doing to tackle her biggest struggles, what it means to be truly connected to your work, and how she found the courage to listen to her voice.
Without further ado, meet Allison.
Give us some background. Where are you from, and where did you start out?
I grew up in a small town in Northern California. It’s an interesting place – we had a mayor that was a marijuana dispensary owner before it was commercially legal here, a Green Party majority in city council, and a terrified local citizenship of anything technological (we had an opportunity to have WiFi throughout the entire town but the locals shut it down on basis of “radiation threats”).
I saw the power of an active citizenship, but also the downsides of small town thinking.
I’ve always felt like I needed to escape my small town and I’ve always been interested in people and other cultures, so my first trip abroad was through a sister city program in Japan.
That experience changed my life and I will never forget my host family. I went on to get a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from UC Davis.
When I was eight, I wanted to be an astronomer and attended the same College for Kids course in Astronomy for two summers. The world beyond our own fascinated me and I always felt connected to something much larger than myself, larger than humanity.
Can you share with us what your mission is? What kind of work do you want to do?
My mission is three-fold:
- Elevate and expand human consciousness and the human spirit in order to create a shared vision that allows us to live more holistically and authentically in life.
- Create a more sustainable and just future.
- Build community through storytelling, conversation, and bringing my whole self forward.
My mission is an evolution in progress as I continue to explore life and what it means to be in the world.
I find myself thinking of this quote: “When you are born in a world you don’t fit in; it’s because you were born to create a new one”
I do think a new world is possible with all the amazing people in the world and we must work together to build and create it.
My work is calling towards deeper learning and experimenting with life at this time. I recently gave notice at my current nonprofit job so I could apply to graduate school, devote more time to my writing, and work as a consultant, while experiencing life beyond where I have ventured before.
What was it was like to quit your job?
Quitting my job was both exhilarating and slightly terrifying.
I feel like this is the first time in a while I have made a decision that was purely for myself and truly in line with what my gut was telling me that I needed to do.
After giving my notice, I felt relieved.
Ironically, I also feel the most calm as I wrap up work in the next five weeks. I have moments of questioning myself: “Did I make the right choice? Maybe I should have stayed a few extra months.”
But I know there is something more for me. Here’s to discovery and trusting in the process!
Can you recall what experiences led you here? What has led you to your mission?
It was a slow gradual evolution for me, but something that I think has always been within me.
I am curious about life and society, and so I’ve worked in a variety of fields in my career: from marketing to fair trade sales, from sustainability education to elections campaigns and nonprofit program development.
I also traveled abroad for four months during one of those years. Because I’ve been so curious about how the world works, I have always followed my curiosity and been able to essentially prototype my life the past five years.
One theme that has been consistent throughout my roles has been storytelling, which is such a core human experience that it almost brings tears to my eyes.
One of my favorite jobs was an internship at the nonprofit Opening Doors. I had the opportunity to share stories of Eritrean and Iranian refugees who had come here for a better life.
Hearing and sharing their stories reminded me of the power of the human spirit and how we have so much to lose as a society and as a world when people suffer.
Because being curious is core to the way I live my life, I spend a lot of time researching professional development tips, the future of technology, and climate change solutions, and anything else that strikes my fancy on the Internet.
In one of my deep dives into the Internet, I discovered Belma’s blog and the rest they say, is history.
As someone who always thinks community and connection is essential to individual progress, I completed Belma’s Work Bigger program to start to share some of my deeper ideas of life and found out that sharing is my way of blossoming into a more authentic version of myself.
What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome these challenges?
My biggest challenge is by far myself and my own self-doubt. I think it’s hard to be vulnerable and admit your flaws in this world, especially in a professional setting, and I have struggled to find a place where I can bring my full self forward without wanting to hide.
Because I’m such an inward thinking and inward feeling person, I can sometimes get stuck in my own thoughts and insecurities.
Besides myself, because my dreams are so big and sometimes too abstract for some people, I find myself openly sharing with people who may not understand my dream. That’s okay – I just had to stop sharing so much so that I wouldn’t be exposed to as much negativity and doubt.
I honestly think a strong community and coaching has helped me the most. Finding people who aren’t afraid to dream big has been a saving grace and reminds me to keep moving forward. It also has allowed me to connect more to the world, which is what life’s all about: connection and experience.
What advice do you have for 20 to 30-somethings who want to make an impact through their work but are currently feeling stuck or lack the conviction they need to follow their path?
Look within yourself. Spend some time connecting to yourself and really getting to know you – as my mom says, “the longest relationship you’ll have in life is with yourself.” When you really understand yourself, then you can start to move forward towards finding your mission and making an impact.
Take care of yourself. You can impact the world in so many ways, but the best way to do so is by being you.
Ask questions. Stay curious. Take risks. Give yourself credit even if it seems you are going slow. Reach out to people for support and inspiration.
Making an impact through your work can be draining if you focus too much on other people and not your own well-being.
When I find myself overextending myself, I think of this quote in the Talmud: “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
And finally, I leave you with my one of my other favorite quotes, that helps me write even a sentence when I feel like I have no more words to give.
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop” – Confucius.