We shook hands and sat down. They smiled and said “Nice to meet you, thanks for being here. I know it was a long drive.” I smiled back and said, “Happy to be here.” In my mind I asked, how long can I stay?
I slid two pieces of paper across the small, round table–one for each of them. They took a moment to skim the list of my experiences.
“Tell me about Inspired Scribble,” said the leader. “It says here you are the founder and chief inspiration officer.”
I laughed. This wasn’t the reason I was there. I reflected time to a month earlier, when I was asked by another prominent leader to sketch the front cover of my future book that would be published 10 years from now–I will be 37 then. After several long moments of contemplation, I wrote in big bold letters:
Living greater stories through the creative spirit
by Kristen Dalton, Chief
Innovation Inspiration Officer
Knowing by then I would be leading innovation as part of my day job, I crossed out the word and replaced it with the current job title of my creative project. By 2025, innovation will be cheapened to a dime a dozen. Everyone will be a DIY Chief Innovation Officer, I reasoned. There will be no need for experts.
Inspiration, however, is sacred. You can’t have innovation without first being inspired to change. That moment, sometimes, will never happen for people. I reckoned right then, that it would never be my job to so do, either. My job, as Chief Inspiration Officer, would be simple: keep breathing.
People will try to kill your ideas, your time, and your relationships. The food, water and shelter of our spiritual existence. It would be my responsibility to create the space to preserve and grow, to make the most with all we have, by discarding everything we know to no longer work.
“For the past four years, I have provided high school students with the opportunity to write their lives based on different criteria, and have given out $500 scholarships to the winner with the most authentic voice,” I answered, and watched their eyes light with interest, their mouths smile with wry intrigue.
“That’s really neat. What made you decide to do this?”
So I told her my heritage story. It can be summed up to a moment in high school. It was seminar in AP Humanities. Everyone kept talking about the checklist of things one must do in order to be successful. A rare vocal participant, I raised my hand, and with a shaky voice said, “I’m not sure I understand what everyone’s saying. If you don’t actually believe in what it is you’re doing, then why are you doing it?”
And with that question, seminar had ended. The room remained silent. It was then that I realized writing makes a nice antidote for parroting, the poor excuse one has for repeating appropriate responses. No, writing isn’t like that. Writing is a place where one could scribble their beliefs, and even if they changed, it would be all the more interesting. It would tell an even better story. Narratives require change. And truth. Shitty stories have neither. Some people call these li(v)es.
Fast forward to my SDMBA program for perspective: Everyone believed in what they were doing. They had doubts, but they believed. And they knew change was an absolute in their process. They spoke with conviction and were unequivocal in their professionalism. Perhaps more importantly, their humanity.
We switched gears and talked about my experiences.
“You wrote newsletters for three years?” they asked, incredulous. “Didn’t that kill your soul?”
“Just about,” I said. “I was a parrot.”
“Well, let me ask you this. What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I thought about this instinctively. The book cover that will be published 10 years from now flashed across my mind.
They looked at each other, and then at me.
“In the meantime, I need to have some really great experiences.”