Leena co-founded Leadership Long Beach. She was asked to share her thoughts on “Vision” to the incoming class…
“Where [there is] no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18 King James Bible) All thoughts, words and concepts have power. When you are cynical, when you say something is not possible, you block creativity, drown inspiration and slam the door on initiative, adventure and potential. Creativity…new original thought, happens in stillness, questioning and self-reflection. A new vision of living on this planet is essential for Long Beach, California, and our world, to thrive. The old ways are not dying. They are dead. The old systems have crumbled.
I envisioned Leadership Long Beach (LLB) in 1986 during a time of deep depression and soul-searching. I had recently married, uprooted from Florida to California, and grieved the sudden death of my father. As I reflected on how I missed my Leadership St. Pete community, I connected with an enthusiasm like I had never experienced. I spoke to leaders of other programs, from San Diego to St. Pete. I created a mission, vision statement, strategic plan, sponsor concept, and budget document. I attended the big weekly Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (LBACC) breakfasts and helped McDonnell Douglas representative Dewey Smith revive the Chamber newsletter as a volunteer. He recommended me to the Long Beach Centennial Executive Director and I became Project Manager, part of the initial three-member team to raise $1.8 million in assets and create 8-months of citywide events, VIP events and a Centennial Shoppe.
In 1987, I showed Dewey the Leadership Long Beach business plan. He loved it. Others told me “It will never happen in Long Beach.” I presented it to my boss at the Long Beach Centennial as a project to inaugurate the new century. Three weeks later I saw the document in my boss’s waste paper basket. I fished it out, wiped it off and quietly put the plan back in the drawer and in the back of my mind.
Fast forward to 1989. I was the first marketing director for Windes & McClaughry Accountancy Corporation; an awesome position that arose from the Long Beach Centennial success. Senior Partner Jim Sulley came to my office and told me he was going to be LBACC President. Jim asked for ideas on projects to improve the City during his tenure. I showed him the dusty proposal (Yes, I kept it with me). He listened politely and left.
A few weeks later, he appeared in my doorway, again. Since our first meeting, not only one, but three executives who recently moved to Long Beach all asked him if we had a “Leadership Long Beach” program like they had sponsored in other parts of the country. Jim arranged for the four of us to meet: Brent Hunter, new LBACC Executive Director, Peter Ridder, Publisher, Press Telegram and Dr. Peter McCray, new President of CSULB. I showed them my plan and we decided on the spot to go for it and graduate the first class in 1990.
Our four organizations became initial sponsors. I then met with Attorney Jim Ackerman; major Long Beach Centennial sponsor. He said he would only become a sponsor if I would be Executive Director. I about fell over. The thought never crossed my mind. LLB became my client at Windes and McClaughry; a magical and profitable collaboration. The Chamber was moving into the brand new World Trade Center and LLB scored an office in their suite near the Windes and McClaughry offices. The LLB vision magnetized amazing people who anchored a strong foundation.
If you look at this story, it all elegantly fits. But who could possibly see how Leadership Long Beach would manifest when I drew up the little plan? There was no concept of the Long Beach Centennial or the even the World Trade Center. The other three founders had no idea they would one day reside in Long Beach.
Dear Ones, what I want you to get from this story…is that you have a vision. You have a mission, a unique purpose…combination of talents, gifts, personality traits and passions. It may not be a “thing” it may be a quality of a transformational catalyst, compassionate heart or networking ability. It may be a secret dream or hobby. It may be some part you will play through your connection with others. It will feel like “home.” Keep focused on the “what”, not the “how.”
A fish was asked, “How is the water?” The fish said, “What water?” When you are on the right track in harmony with The Nature, there is alchemy…a flow.
A classical definition of Yoga is: Right place, right action, and right time.
Keep open to your dreams, your visions, because they are seeking you. They may seem crazy or impractical. You won’t understand how you can “make a living” or have enough time. People will tell you it cannot be done. Some will reject you (Who does she think she is?). Your vision may seem like a dud and you may even forget you even had the inspiration. But the Universe does not forget. So, find some quiet time daily to meditate, take the classes, Google your research, record your ideas, connect with those who share the dreams, find people who believe in you, say “Yes!” and cheer you on. Because one fine day, you’ll get a call and someone will say, “We need you to at 8am tomorrow morning to make your dream a reality,” And you will be ready.
Celebrate the dreams of others. Listen and encourage your children and LLB classmates to share their dreams. Big dreams keep us alive.
Smile politely and run away from those who diss your dreams, fast. And if you cannot find anyone who believes in your vision, call me. I know your infinite potential and possibility. There is no accident that you were selected to Leadership Long Beach. You have a vision. You are right where you need to be. Something wonderful is happening.
Leena St. Michael,
Co-founder Leadership Long Beach