Forward thinking: Finding your voice

Loren Simmonds

The year was 1995 . . .

In retrospect, I now know it was a turning point in my life for one simple reason. It was the year I found my VOICE. I had a dream for Lynnwood’s future. I ran for City Council.

I had lived in Lynnwood for almost 15 years. We had bought a home. My consulting business was well established. I had gotten acquainted with a significant number of business and community leaders as well as current and former elected officials.

One significant item was missing, however:

I found very few leaders or those aspiring to lead who seemed to have a vision or dream for Lynnwood. They had no voice. And if there is one word that expresses the pathway to community greatness, it is voice. Only those who have found their voice can inspire others to find theirs. The rest never do.

One of the expressions bandied about by political commentators during presidential election years has been of a candidate “finding a voice.” In fact, during a space of about two months in the 2008 election, seemingly every candidate found his or hers. For example . . .

  • On Nov. 11, 2007, TIME contributor, Ana Marie Cox, wrote about Senator Barack Obama “finding his voice,” at a Democratic party in Iowa.
  • During post-debate coverage on Nov. 28, 2007, CNN’s David Gergen asserted, “I think that the most presidential tonight was John McCain, who’s found his voice again.”
  • On Jan. 9, 2008, Jack Horowitz of the New York Observer wrote about Hillary Clinton’s primary election victory in New Hampshire. The headline: “Hillary, Triumphant, Finds Her Voice.”
  • On Jan. 16, 2008, Ana Marie Cox raised the question, “Has Romney Found His Voice?” in her article on Mitt Romney’s first-place finish in the Michigan presidential primary.

The question that begs to be answered is: What is a leader’s “VOICE”? Quite frankly, I’m not sure there is any one correct answer. However, I have come to the conclusion those who have found their voice have four things in common almost without exception.

First: Tapping into your talent~

Tapping into your talents starts with understanding where you excel. It involves recognizing your strengths and positioning yourself to leverage them. To tap into your talent consider the question: “What am I good at doing?”

Second: Fueling your passion ~

When you take part in activities that fill you with positive emotion, you are fueling your passion. Pursuits that spark your passion bring excitement, enthusiasm, joy and fun. To fuel your passion, ask yourself: “What do I love doing?”

Third: Being burdened with a need ~

When a problem in society lodges itself in your heart and won’t let go, then you have been burdened with a need. Perhaps the need is an injustice you wish to remedy. Maybe it’s a disease you would love to cure. Whatever the case, a burden gnaws at your conscience. To take stock of your biggest burden, wrestle with the question: “What need must I serve?”

Fourth: Meeting the need ~

Once a need has arrested your attention, then you can find your voice by taking action. A need compels you to do something besides criticize from the sidelines.

To meet the need, think about the question: “How can I align my talent with my passion in order to meet the need that burdens me.”

In a matter of a few short days, we will all ring out the old and ring in the New Year.  Figuratively speaking, we will all get a fresh opportunity to find our voice amidst new options and alternatives. I for one will be more than happy for 2018 to fade into the archives of history, for one simple reason:

The current year has been one long pruning process. As you undoubtedly know, to “prune” means something is cut away, something is removed, things happening that I don’t understand or particularly like. At times I have struggled with an attitude of bitterness and anger.

I have been repeatedly reminded of the passage in the Wisdom of the Ages which reads, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

I am ready for a year of growth, a year to flourish. I want to open new doors, build new friendships, and find my voice once again. Can you say the same?

Until next time . . .

— By Loren Simmonds

Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 37 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years, including eight as Council President. He remains active in the community by serving on the Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, Civil Service Commission and the Snohomish County Planning Commission. He believes that volunteerism sows the seeds of community. Loren is semi-retired and works as a writer, speaker and leadership coach.





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