Samantha Collins is a trailblazing social entrepreneur and award-winning expert in women's leadership. "Sam" is also a mom, a wife, a Ph.D. holder, a business owner, and someone who's "fiercely passionate about making a difference." Her nonprofit, The Aspire Foundation, offers pro-bono mentoring programs to women in 41 countries. A native of the UK, Sam now lives in Southern California with her family. She's also been recognized by the Queen of England.
Lisa: Sam, why are you so passionate about making a difference?
Sam: I've been this way since I was young. For me, like you and the premise of your new book, life is about waking up. It's about standing up and saying, let me do something about this situation. Let me make a change. Let me see who's interested in making that change with me.
Lisa: How can we instigate more of this type of awareness in each other?
Sam: Encourage that in ourselves and role-model that for others. Have a questioning mind. That's fundamental. One of the biggest problems right now is everyone is so busy and time poor. We need to create headspace and physical space to be able to have creative conversations.
Lisa: How do we create that space?
Sam: Become an entrepreneur. Have a social conscience. Be in charge of your own destiny, as an entrepreneur or an intrepreneur [someone with entrepreneurial skills who works in a larger company or organization]. It's easy to complain how hard it is, how much there is to do, how little time there is, how expensive everything is, that it's Obama's fault, or any other excuse. Instead, it's about taking personal responsibility to carve out time. I used to think that doing 12-hour plus days and having so many different projects was a badge of honor; I realized it's not. It's more about insecurity than anything. Some self-examination and self-exploring are needed to create that kind of [creative] space. However, you know and I know that if we don't, then something steps in to create it for us.
Lisa: What might be another badge of honor to reach for?
Sam: Individuals need to come up with their own aspirations and dreams, and measure themselves on their own definition of success. The problem with this is we are more and more a culture that measures success on hours worked or money earned or size of office or size of car. When it comes to [intangible] "soft" measures, I would encourage millennials or anyone to, instead, measure levels of happiness and fulfillment. If you ask people why they want money, they'll usually say: So I can be happy. Instead, ask: Am I happy right now? Ask on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you?
Fulfillment for me is happiness-plus. It's personal happiness, plus fulfilling that human need to contribute... levels of fulfillment based on how we feel. Do we feel significance and contribution [in] the work we do? Will we be remembered for it? Will it be a legacy to who we are? I think more people these days are really looking at [success this way].
Focus on your happiness and your fulfillment; put that first. Let's change society and change this culture that's focused only on work.
When I think about the work that you and I do, that so many educators do now -- there's a movement towards changing. It takes courage. The courage that comes from a heartfelt knowing that it's the right thing to say or do, even though there are potentially higher risks associated with it and there are possible threats to our security. That's big. A lot could happen. You could lose your job. You could not have enough money to pay your kids' school fees or health care. People are living in fear now. So [we should] encourage people that they do have what it takes, no matter what, within themselves. If you get fired, you'll find another job or start your own business or do something new like so many other people now. Tap into your heart and gut to know it's going to be okay, that there's nothing you or your family can't handle if you put your mind to it.
My mother committed suicide when I was 21. I went through years when bad things happened. I had no mother, no money. I didn't know anyone. I had no job. I had no career. I had no home. I was sitting in a train station in England and a woman walked past and actually gave me some money. She thought I was a homeless beggar. I realized there's nothing really bad I can't handle. I grew up with no money. I grew up in an area where there were gangs, and I was scared to go out the door. I had to learn to look out for myself.
Lisa: How do you go from that to being recognized by the Queen of England? What were you recognized for?
Sam: I was recognized as one of the top 200 women in the UK to impact business and industry. We were invited to meet Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.
Lisa: How did you go from being on the streets to that?
Sam: I took small steps. I signed up at a job agency for a part-time waitressing job; I went to a thrift shop and bought a black skirt and bowtie with my last money. Then they asked if I wanted a full-time position. It has always been like that for me: One thing leads to another. My eyes are always open. I ask: What do I want to do next? How do I make a bigger difference? So it's a slow incremental journey for me as opposed to big life-pivotal moments.
Lisa Arie is the founder and CEO of Vista Caballo, which provides custom elite-leadership programs with equine interaction and science based technology.