I stare at the clock.
It’s like time stands still.
The hands on the clock barely move.
I can’t wait for the show to start.
Finally the host starts to speak.
My story is read on national radio!
I can’t believe it!
I feel so excited and proud.
I feel inspired.
I know it instantly.
This is my purpose.
I’m going to be an author.
I was six years old and this was the first story I ever wrote down.
My mind was full of stories and I knew I had to share them with the world.
I would often run home from school, lock myself in my parents bedroom and walk around and tell myself stories. I rarely wrote the stories down because I was so full of energy and enthusiasm for my stories that I couldn’t even sit down. My brother and sister would make fun of me for talking to myself, walking around, moving my hands. Of course it looked funny doing this all the time but I didn’t feel I had a choice. I had to do this to get the stories out of my head.
It was my vision to become an author.
But the world was not as excited as me.
It’s not a full time job to be an author. You can’t live from just being an author.
I was so disappointed because I knew this was my purpose.
Being optimistic I started to look for solutions.
And sure enough I found my second passion: teaching.
I had always admired my teachers and they had hugely inspired me.
This was it – I was going to be a teacher and an author.
I felt so relieved finding a solution.
Just as I had upgraded my vision the teachers went on strike. As it turned out they couldn’t live from their salaries.
I was devastated.
And my vision started to fade away and one day there were no more stories.
They were just gone.
Maybe you have also been inspired, maybe you also had a vision.
But maybe you also couldn’t take the next step, think big and take action.
And this is how most passions die.
Our vision is not strong enough to survive outside influences and our own negative thinking which Seth Godin calls the lizard brain.
But sometimes our vision is so strong that nothing will stop us.
Today I will share with you 3 stories from my life where the vision was strong enough that I could go through being inspired, thinking big and taking action.
I always loved drawing.
When I was 11 years old I was designing dream houses for my class mates. These houses included everything a child could wish for. They were big of course, had swimming pools and for my friend, a horse lover, a stable, so she could attend to her horses. On the weekends my parents would drive around new neighbourhoods and with ice cream in our hands we would admire the new houses being built there. I was fascinated by the idea that you could take a drawing and turn it into a real house.
I decided to become an architect, 11 years old.
That same summer my family went on vacation to south of Germany. I had done my research. I knew I couldn’t study architecture in Iceland. I knew I could get a student loan to study abroad. Now I just needed to find the location. I knew it when we arrived in Freiburg, Germany. This was the city. I stood on the square outside our hotel and I looked around to remember the vision and then I said to myself quietly so that no one would hear. “I am going to come back and study here.”
9 years later I stood on the same square to start my studies.
My vision had been so strong that nothing could stop me.
No outside influences or negative thinking.
The lizard brain didn’t have a chance.
It had taken me 9 years from being inspired, thinking big and taking action to implement the vision that I had.
And 16 years from deciding to become an architect until I became one.
My mother was so proud.
But there was just one little problem.
This was not my purpose.
And I decided not to work as an architect.
I didn’t want to disappoint anyone but I just felt I was meant to do something else.
And maybe you have this feeling too that you are not on the right path, that you are meant to do something else.
Listen to that voice, listen to that gut feeling and look for that path that you are meant to take. I kept looking for mine.
And one day I did the most courageous I have ever done.
I picked up the phone and made a phone call that changed the course of my life.
I had been working as a project manager in a software company for a year. One day I come to work and the company had been sold. It was a shock. I didn’t like that the company had been sold and we would get a new boss. The more I thought about it, the less I liked it. I felt I had to do something about this. But I didn’t know what. I was just a project manager.
But then I got this crazy idea that I could become the next CEO. The idea was so crazy, I threw it away instantly. But it kept creeping back into my head until it wouldn’t leave me alone.
I got this crazy idea that I could become the next CEO - watch the TEDx talk now
Maybe you had this too.
You push an idea away and it keeps coming back: again and again.
Until you finally accept that you should do something about this.
My vision as a CEO was here to stay.
I had no idea what to do.
I started to do my research just like that 11 year old girl that wanted to become an architect. I figured out who had bought the company and what kind of documents they expected from a potential CEO. I wrote the two page memo and sent it off.
Then came the long wait.
It was like watching the clock waiting for that radio show.
Weeks went past and nobody called. I started to doubt they would ever call me. They probably had someone else in mind. I was a nobody. No business education. No experience running a company. Why should they hire me? It was a crazy idea. And the lizard brain was having the time of its life.
I took one day off from work and exactly that day the new owner visited the company. Thoughts rushed through my mind. Did he have my memo? Why had he not called me? How could I reach him? I knew I had to do something that day or forget about the whole thing. I was somehow able to get a hold of his mobile number.
I hesitated… and then I made the call. Making that phone call was the most courageous I have ever done. And the new owner was so inspired by my bold action of asking for the job that he hired me. It took only one month from being inspired, thinking big and taking this action that changed the course of my life. But it can go even faster.
I loved being a CEO. But I also felt the need for this business education.
So I studied at London Business School.
It was there that I listened to Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Nissan-Renault, talking about his amazing turnaround. After the talk I felt compelled to tell him that I worked on turnarounds too. But the lizard brain kept telling me: He wouldn’t care about some Icelandic woman that worked on turnaround of small companies. I pushed the lizard brain away, took a few deep breaths, and then I walked up to him where he stood surrounded by dozens of MBA students. I stretched out my hand and said: Hi, I’m Sigrun and I have worked on turnarounds too. He got all excited and wanted just to talk to me. And we’ve exchanged a few sentences and then he handed me his business card. “Please send me an email. We are always looking for new managers with fresh insights.”
Carlos Ghosn offered me a job after 2 minutes - watch the TEDx talk now
The lizard brain went awkwardly quiet.
It had taken only one hour from being inspired, thinking big and taking this action that started something amazing.
I sent off that email and a few interviews later I received the phone call. We want to offer you to become Managing Director of Nissan in Sweden. I had no experience selling cars or running a larger company.
Again a decision maker was so inspired by my bold action of just talking to him that he wanted to hire me. It was the job opportunity of a lifetime. And my family was so proud.
But I got doubts.
Was it really my purpose to run a car company?
I was at crossroads in my life and just started a new relationship but, yeah, this was not my purpose.
What about that six year old girl who wanted to become a teacher and an author.
I turned the job offer down.
Very few understood my rationale.
But for me it was time.
It was time to go and live my purpose.
I stand before you as a six year old girl who still wants to become a teacher and author.
It took me 36 years to get here but finally I was ready. I learnt a lot in those 36 years.
But my biggest learnings came from being inspired, thinking big and taking action.
My vision today is a grown up version of my old one. During the search of my purpose I met too many that think they can’t follow their dreams. It frustrates me to see all that potential and passion go to waste. Out of my frustration my WHY was born.
My purpose is to empower women, and men, to turn their passion into profits. Living from your passion is the best way to live with passion, every day, for the rest of your life.
I agree with Tony Robbins, Steve Jobs, Oprah – they all tell us to live with passion. But Oprah phrases it perfectly: “You’ve got to follow your passion. You’ve got to figure out what you love, who you really are and have the courage to do that. I believe the only courage anybody ever needs is the courage to follow your own dream.”
I want to encourage you to follow this recipe.
Be inspired to create a vision of what you want your life to look like.
Think big to create a plan on how you can achieve that vision.
And Take action to create your opportunity.
My boldest action was a phone call.
What is yours going to be?
Take that action today.
© 2016 Sigrun Gudjonsdottir for TEDx Zurich Women