I remember sitting by the fence of my school’s playground during third grade recess, counseling my friends through their problems and encouraging them to be the best they could be. I had an innate sense of my life purpose at a very young age! In fact, I believe many of us do, when we look back at what captured our hearts and imaginations during our early years. But it wasn’t until my last year of college that I had an Aha! moment concerning how I might be able to live my purpose professionally.
Our college president had asked me to be the director of our public affairs conference. After months of brainstorming, the student team proposed that we do the conference on democracy. I rejected the idea out of hand: as a business student, I saw democracy as an outdated political concept with little relevance to the dynamic Internet age we were entering.
However, over the next weeks, the idea of democracy grew on me. Intuitively, I could feel that it resonated with my soul, but I didn’t understand why. My classmates continued to rally for the idea, so I dug deeper into the concept. As I did, I began to see that my life purpose—which by that point I’d started to realize was to help people fulfill their potential—could only happen in an environment of freedom and possibility rather than one of fear and control. Democracy, which is based on the principles of freedom, provides the space and the platform for each of us to rise to the zenith of our individual and collective destiny.
For me, this was a thrilling realization. I knew right then that I had caught a glimpse of what I would be doing for the rest of my life.
That spring we had a successful conference and I felt I had found the path to expressing my purpose professionally. While still in college, I started a non-profit organization devoted to exploring how to run companies more democratically. I knew if my purpose was about helping people fulfill theirs, then I had to devote my life to creating the conditions in which they could do just that. I had to stand for freedom in the place where we spend most of our time: the workplace.
My sense of purpose has evolved and expanded over time. Today, eleven years later, I have a successful for-profit company called WorldBlu, committed to elevating the human spirit by inspiring and supporting the development of democratic workplaces all over the world.
I believe when we give ourselves permission to live our purpose in all areas of life—with family, friends, in our community and professionally—it makes life a dashing, bold and, paradoxically, unselfish adventure. Because WorldBlu is the outgrowth of my life purpose, I have the courage, inspiration and stamina to give myself wholly to it and live a very fulfilling and enriching life in the process.
TRACI FENTON is the founder and CEO of WorldBlu,
a media and training platform based in Atlanta, specializing
in organizational democracy. Traci Fenton was featured in the
July/August 2007 issue of Networking Times.