Inform & Inspire Podcast

Isaac Serwanga Motivational Keynote: Failure, Fear & Faith (Metro EDGE Emerge Summit)

September 30, 2019 Isaac Serwanga
Inform & Inspire Podcast
Isaac Serwanga Motivational Keynote: Failure, Fear & Faith (Metro EDGE Emerge Summit)
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Inform & Inspire Podcast
Isaac Serwanga Motivational Keynote: Failure, Fear & Faith (Metro EDGE Emerge Summit)
Sep 30, 2019
Isaac Serwanga

Isaac Serwanga delivers a keynote presentation for 700 young professionals at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, CA at the Metro EDGE Emerge Summit. 

| Thursday Sept. 19th, 2019 

1. What's your personal mission statement? 
2. Let your failure be your teacher.  
3. Who's counting on you? 

Show Notes Transcript

Isaac Serwanga delivers a keynote presentation for 700 young professionals at the Crest Theater in Sacramento, CA at the Metro EDGE Emerge Summit. 

| Thursday Sept. 19th, 2019 

1. What's your personal mission statement? 
2. Let your failure be your teacher.  
3. Who's counting on you? 

Speaker 1:

Sacramento. Give yourself a round of applause for being here today. That wasn't good enough. The energy can go up. We're here. This is incredible. One more time. Give yourself a round of applause for being here today. Quick story. Absolutely not a part of what I'll be talking about today. So I'm getting my haircut, right? And I'm talking to my barber. And I'm a Sacramento native and I could not be more blessed, more excited, more honored to be on the stage today. And we're talking about the event and he's known me since I was a young kid. I'm 29 now. He's known me since I was maybe 9,10. And he said, "Are you speaking at Metro Edge?" I said, yeah, I can't be more excited. He said, "Oh my God, I gotta be there. When is it?" I said, Thursday, September 19 9:00 AM. "All right, I'll be there. Can I get tickets at the door?" I said, yeah. "What does it cost?" I said, $150 at the door. He said, "Oh, just send me the link. Send me the link. Facebook link or YouTube. I've known you for so long. I'll just listen to you in the chair when I next cut you." People around keep you humble. You know, its funny. When I was thinking about today and the environment and what I as a young professional on the journey of becoming could share with you today, there are a few things that came to mind. And one of the things that really hit me in the heart was how I arrived at this idea of 'inform and inspire.' It's a phrase that I kind of live by. It's something that I want to pour into everything that I do. Repeat after me. Inform the mind. Inspire the heart. Let me tell you one reason why I believe in this.

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About a year ago, 13 months ago , inform and inspire, we were invited to do some work with the company in Redding, California. So right up the ways. I couldn't be more excited as an entrepreneur going out to do some professional training. I remember at that time, how many of you guys remember the Shasta County fires? Anybody remember that? Devastating, devastating. Over 300 square miles burned, over 1100 homes had to be evacuated or destroyed. Eight people lost their lives. So I remember we sent an email back to them and said "Thank you so much for the contract. We understand that you're going through a difficult time right now. If you want to reschedule or cancel, we completely understand. Our thoughts and our prayers are with you." And the email that came back was interesting. The email said, "not only do we need you to come, but we need you now more than ever." And so the next day we went, I remember like it was yesterday. We hopped on the I-5. You guys know from Sacramento to Redding , you take the I-5, right? In the morning, we're 30 minutes into the drive and because of the fire, usually it would just be some mist around you but it was debris. It was absolutely devastating. We had to close every vent in the car because the debris was coming through physically and you couldn't breathe in the car. 30 minutes after usually the sunrises a bright yellow. But at that moment it was a dingy orange, almost brown. It looked like an apocalyptic movie.

Speaker 1:

So we get to the event and as a young professional, in my mind I'm thinking I have to be prepared to deliver the content that I'm supposed to deliver. We're talking about how young professionals can transition from industry to industry. So I have to be prepared to give the information. How many of you have ever been in a situation where even though the environment has changed, you know, you still have a job to do? So you're focused on the work, right? So I remember being so focused on the work and Lori , the person who brought us in began telling us stories. She said employees here know of individuals who had lost their homes . There was one situation of a family whose grandma was still in the home. They couldn't go back to get grandma because the fire turned into a tornado and you couldn't get in. It was a 50-50 chance of their own relative making it.

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So these were the stories that were coming about, but I still had work to do. You guys following me? So my mind was in two places. So I remember giving my presentation. We were going through the topics. I'm talking about credibility plus visibility equals opportunity. How to personally brand yourself so that you can make your way in your industry and transition if you need to. How to use your leverage both online and in person to build incredible relationships that put you in a position to succeed. And while I'm going through and I'm hitting on everything that I'm supposed to be hitting on, there was a moment where we're talking about transitioning in careers. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Speaker 1:

There was a woman to my right, your left and she raised her hand. We're going back and forth and she said, "I'm just going to let you know I'm a single parent with two kids. I want to go to graduate school, but there's absolutely no way I can do it because I have no support system. I hear what you're saying about transitioning and what you can do, but I can't do that in my situation right now because I have no support system." As a professional in that environment, what I've learned is that you can't go exactly towards the negative energy because what it will do is it'll cascade across the room. Anybody know what I'm talking about? But something in my gut was different that day, Sacramento. Something in my gut was different that day. And as she said that I turned to her and I said, "I know I'm not a parent. I know I'm not a single parent and I'm not in your situation, but tell me why you can't go to graduate school one more time?" And she said, "I just told you I have two kids, no support system. I'm a single parent. I can't do it." I had to make a decision. Instead of leaving it, I turned to her and I said, "I know I don't know your situation. I know I'm not a single parent and I have no idea what you're going through. I just want to let you know, I heard you say that you wanted to go to graduate school. You wouldn't be talking about it if it wasn't something that was still at the back of your mind. I don't know if that's something that you're going to do. I just want to say what you've done thus far as a single parent to get to where you are today, I love that. I believe in you and I support you in this moment. I just want to say that." And something interesting happened . She was stone cold, but at that moment as I turned to get into the rest of the presentation, I heard absolute sobbing on the right side. Have you ever heard someone cry where you heard them and you know they haven't cried in years? Like a deep type of sob , like you hit something real. And as she was sobbing in her own corner, her hands were covering her face I turned to her and I said, "I believe in you. I don't know what you're going through, but I still believe in you. Like what you've done this far is amazing. I believe in you." And at that moment I remember something shifted in the room. On the left side of the corner there was a man who stood up and said, "Girl, I love you!" "Not like that. Just, I love you. I love your journey. I love your strength." At that moment, another guy jumped up and said, "you're amazing. You're like a super woman ." Something changed in that moment, Sacramento. In the room, completely off track. Remember I'm supposed to be delivering my presentation, and 30 minutes subside and we're in the corner and people are hugging. I'm talking one of those group hugs. They're supporting her and all you could hear is positive affirmation after positive affirmation. I believe in you, I support you. It was a different type of feeling.

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For me as a young professional, I'll be honest with you, I never got the handbook for what to do when somebody literally has an emotional breakdown. No one taught me that, but I learned something as I reflect on that moment. I learned something as we drove back from Redding, California. I said, Isaac: inform the mind inspire the heart. Isaac, the work that you do is more than the work that you do. Isaac, sometimes you will be symbolically pushed into the fire to do work that you thought you would do, but it's for another reason. That moment for me, I realized something. I was there to give her that one word at that one moment. That was my job.

Speaker 1:

That was what I was supposed to do. How many of you have ever been in a situation where you're working with someone and you realize that you're just supposed to be there for them at that moment? Has anybody ever sensed that ? I need some hands. There's a quote by Goethe that says "if you look at a person as they are, if you look at a person as they are, they will always remain that way or maybe be worse. But if you look at a person as they could be, they will grow into what they should be." I realized at that moment that inform and inspire, inform the mind , inspire the heart was not just something to say. It was something that I had to live by. Every single person that I came into contact with, my question had to be, what energy can I give to you? What can I provide in this situation? What resources do I have? What positive energy can I push? How many of you manage teams or lead people by show of hands? Like the elbow has to lock. How many of you have ever been in a situation where you were talking to someone and it was about the work, but you could sense that you had to be there in another way? This is a keynote, but I like to do conversation , so if you hear something that hits, I want the "Yes." How many of you have ever been in a situation or work environment where you thought you were supposed to do the work, but actually you were there for the person? That moment taught me something that inform the mind, inspire the heart was something that I was going to live for the rest of my life. At that moment I said, Isaac the work that you're doing, you have to put people first.

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Everyone in here is in a different industry or different sector. Some people are part of the health sector. Some people would say I work for government. Some people will say nonprofit organizations . Some people will say I'm an education. It does not matter. We are all in the what business? We are all in the people's business. One, two, three. We are all in the people's business. Say it with some energy like you mean it. One, two, three: people. Sacramento, if you want to make your mark, the first thing that you must do as a young professional on the journey that you are on is that we can't look past the people that we interact with. We cannot. We had rehearsal yesterday and I've found that the people who have spoke before me, who I'm honored and privileged to be around, I actually just want more time to listen to them. They're incredible. So when you come to an event like this, I know there is great information, but to make this summit the best summit that you've ever been a part of. What if you subsided all of the wants and the needs that you thought you had coming into this event and instead you said that the stranger to my left and the stranger to my right is going to get the best version of me. The question that I'm going to ask everywhere I go, if I lock eyes with you, is how can I be of service to you? And what often happens when we put ourselves in that situation is we get back tenfold what we thought we would get if we were just selfish. If you put yourself in a situation where you say, I'm going to be the 51 out of the 49, everybody repeat after me, "51 49. Be the 51." In what situations or environments can you absolutely be the 51? How can you pour yourself into the situation and ask yourself, what can I give? What do I have? What resources can I give? I remember starting out as a young professional, one of the things that I understood was that, hey, I don't have money to give! But I have energy, right? I have insight. I could be attentive. I can give something. So the question that I'm asking to you all right now is to figure out: what is your personal mission statement? It's interesting because each of us as individuals, we would never do business nor partner with any company nor organization that didn't have a defined mission statement. If we didn't know your core values, what you stood for, the pillars of your success. If I didn't understand exactly why you were who you were, we couldn't do work with you. That's the absolute template. I have to know what you stand for in order to be someone who's going to connect with you. But what often happens for individuals is that we have no mission statement. I don't know what you stand for. We have to know what we stand for as young professionals before we do any work. I'm not talking about what your company stands for. I'm not talking about your family values. I'm talking you as an individual. When you walk into a room, what do you represent as an individual? When people around you see you, what feeling do they get? How do you leave your energy impression on the people around you? As individuals, we have to do that. That's the first step that we have to take when we're talking about making your mark. Everybody repeat after me: In order to make my mark, I have to define my mission statement.

Speaker 1:

If that makes sense say, yeah. The first step that we have to do is define our mission statement. The second thing that we have to think about -- or should I say the second thing that I've thought about on my journey, what I call the journey of becoming -- is that we have to redefine failure. We have to reposition ourselves as to how we look at adversity. I often think to myself, I'm realizing that adversity is the tool that life gives you so you can shape and mold who you are to become. Adversity literally pops up in your life to say, hey, I just punched you in the head. I just threw you on the ground because I want to see what you're made of. Adversity says , you're not the best version of yourself right now. I need to beat you up a little bit more.

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I remember something very vividly, I'm going back to my college days. Anybody ever took this devil of a course called organic chemistry? Whew . You can't see it, but I'm crying on the inside thinking about organic chemistry. So I'm in school, right. I'm at Princeton on the east coast. And , you guys might not know this, but in African families, if you're not lining up to be a doctor or an engineer, you're just not, you're just not doing anything. So I was on line to being a doctor, right. And I ran into this course called organic chemistry. Long story short, we took one test at the end of the semester and I get the score back and it looks like I fell asleep in the middle of the test. To the point where the professor came to me and asked, "I just want to make sure. Did you know there was a second half to the entire test?" I was like, "yeah I tried my best. I was really in there." It's funny now, but at that point it was like "ahh". So organic chemistry did that to me, right? And I failed organic chemistry. What happened for me is I literally had to relook at what I was studying.

Speaker 1:

Long story short, I switched my major to this thing called Sociology. Everybody say sociology. Most people would think sociology like you took the easy way out. But the honest truth was, I enjoyed studying the relationships of people. In sociology, I meet a professor named Professor Zelizer. In her class I come across an individual by the name of Mark Granovetter, who did a study at Stanford university about the strength of weak ties. It was amazing to me because he was talking about networking, the process of cultivating relationships for our personal or professional development. It made me start thinking, I said networking, n.e.t.w.o.r.k.: New encounters that widen our real knowledge. Networking: "never ever talk without offering real kindness." So I put this thing together and I was like, this stuff is really important. They don't teach this stuff. It did something to me. Remember I was the organic chemistry guy, I thought I was going to be on that road. I switched roads , follow me here. Now I'm doing sociology and as I'm pouring into this idea of networking, I start to realize that there are young people who don't understand this concept as well as they should. Next thing happens. Fast forward, I end up going and working in administration at Princeton University. On my off time, so 5-9, I develop a program called Profound Ivy where we talk about networking, helping young people make their transition into the real world. We'd go into it for three years, three years, all in it, all in it. And I love it. I get to speak like this, but instead of 700 it's like 30 people. But we're in it, right? And I'm following my passion. Everybody repeat after me. Follow your passion. Everybody say it like you're passionate. Follow your passion. I'm following my passion. I'm in it. I'm not thinking about anything else. Three years pass by and I'm doing it with one of my best friends and we're rocking, right? We're like, this information is great. Cats are coming up to me and saying, "I landed the dream job of my life because of the networking tree and the principles that you've taught." I'm like we have something, we have something here. Two years pass by and I say , you know what? I'm going to write a book about it. Not because I think I'm a great writer but because I think this information needs to be heard. How to Network in College comes out in December, 2016. How to Network in College - helping college students successfully navigate through their undergraduate and graduate years. I become a bestselling author. I don't say this to impress you. I'm trying to impress something upon you guys. My adversity. If I didn't absolutely bomb that organic chemistry test. Hear me. Because some of you right now are in situations where you're bombing something, something is hitting you in the head right now. You're absolutely failing. You're trying to figure out what's going on, but you're being redirected. You're being repositioned for your passion and you have no idea. I'm talking about the power of perspective. Everybody repeat after me. The power of perspective. Understand that when adversity hits you, oftentimes it's trying to teach you, but your perspective has to be great on it. If I were to say, oh my God, I got killed by organic chemistry, I'm an absolute failure. I wouldn't be standing before you today. Please hear me. I want to sit on this because I'm not talking to everybody, but I'm talking to somebody. You're in something right now and something is hitting you in the head. You're like, man, life is hard. I can't get everything together. I don't know what's going on in my life. I'm trying to put two pieces together. I just want to look like everyone else. I want to look like everyone else. Everyone else is going like this 'zoom, zoom, zoom.' I've got friends who are passing me by, but for whatever reason, I'm sitting here and I'm sitting in failure. I'm talking to you. Not all y'all . You. Your failure is your teacher. Your failure is your teacher. If you look at it with the right perspective and the right eyes, I promise you. I promise you. As real as I'm standing on this stage today, I promise you that often times life puts us in a position so that we can absolutely be hit in the head so that we can redirect ourselves and know which way we're supposed to go. If you feel me say yeah. If there's somebody in the back that feels me say oh yeah. I want to sit on that point for two seconds. For someone who's failing, it looks like failure. It feels like failure. You're not failing. You're perspective is off. I swear to you, I thought I was failing. I had no idea that that book would allow me to become the speaker that I needed to be, to now literally reach over 30,000 students and be afforded the opportunity to share my story like this. I'm no one special, but what I do know is that now I look at situations differently. So when failure comes my way, I say , I got you. I know what you're doing, I get you. I get you. If someone gets me say yeah.

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My last point. This is my last point. So my first point was, in order to make your mark Sacramento, you have to create your what? Your mission statement. My second point, in order to make your mark, some of you are on the journey of becoming and you have to look at adversity with a new perspective. Last but not least, everybody repeat after me. Everybody say fear. One more time. Everybody say fear.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. It's deep. By show of hands, how many of you guys have experienced fear? I need the elbow to lock. (Crowd laughter) So here's what fear does. Fear is restrictive. Fear stops us from taking the steps that we need to take to become the best version of ourselves. Fear is the thing that is literally holding you back from doing the thing that you're supposed to do. Fear is stopping you from becoming the leader that you're supposed to be. One of the things that I've learned in my past is that leadership is not a title. Leadership is an action. Leadership is not the title that you have. You can clap for that let's go. (Crowd applause) I'll stay here. Leadership is not a title. Leadership is an action. Leadership is not a noun. Leadership is a verb. Leadership is not what you look like or where you are. Leadership is the way in which you interact and how you treat the people around you. I'm trying to tell you something people. Leadership is each and every one of you are a leader right now. Young professionals, unemployed, if you don't know what's going on, you're a leader just by the way in which you operate. I'm being honest. Many of us are stuck and stagnant in situations because we believe that we need someone to give us the card to initiate what we're supposed to do.

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Someone here is supposed to start that podcast. Someone here is supposed to write that article. Someone here is supposed to have that difficult conversation with the people in their lives. Someone here is supposed to create that new relationship. Someone here is supposed to get off Netflix. Someone here is literally supposed to put their time and their effort in something new. Right now you're talking about work life balance. I'm telling you right now as a young professional that kinda doesn't exist. Someone here right now is supposed to focus on their dream and their goals and their aspirations. The question that I ask myself every time that I speak -- I don't look at this as a keynote. I look at this as an assignment -- the thing that I ask myself is if I don't operate in my faith and instead operate in my fear; If I don't chase my dreams and become the person that I'm supposed to be, who loses out? It's no longer about me. I remember the first time I gave a speech and my niece was to the left of me. After I finished, she walked up to me and said, "hmmm psst."

Speaker 1:

I was like, what? I can't hear you. But she spoke up and she looked at me and she said, "I'm going to give a TED talk too." I can't tell you how much t hat motivated me. I realized that I wasn't doing this for me. Every time I do something, it's not just for me. There are people who are watching you right now in your journey and you're inspiring them just by the way in which you move. There are people literally right now who are watching you, who are waiting for you to move in the right way. How many of you people know people who are younger than you who are watching your move? W e g otta move for them. We have to make our mark for them. And we talk about making our mark we're not talking about a line in the sand. We're talking about an inscription in a rock. What's the difference? The difference is a line in the sand can be pushed over at any time. Many times when people come to a conference like this, you get the energy and then you don't do the thing that you're supposed to do. Next Thursday it gets lost, right? The energy is gone. But when you take a rock and you and inscript it in a rock, how long is that gonna be there? Everybody say forever. Say it like you m ean it. Everybody say forever.

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Everybody say, I'm going to make my mark forever. Forever. That's the message that I want to leave with you. It's not just about us. Don't let fear hold you back. Ever. I don't care what aspect of life you're in. People are in different situations. Never let fear hold you back. Never let fear hold you back. You don't know who's counting on you. If you feel it, say yeah. Sacramento, if you're ready to make your mark say oh yeah. Can you give it up for your own dream? Come on now. Make some noise for your own dreams.

Speaker 1:

To end, together. You guys have been absolutely incredible. Before I end, I just want to say this. This is my dream and it's crazy because you guys are in it right now. I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I believe in you. And if you ever remember me, just remember inform the mind inspire the heart. Thank you.