To make greater progress,
Find a goal bigger than yourself
When I first met Gayle Williams-Byers in the early ‘90s I was impressed by her determination. At the time, she had begun a coveted internship in the White House. She was supposed to be writing a paper about her learning experience as an intern, for 12 hours of academic credit from Case Western Reserve University, where she was a junior.
Gayle’s problem was that the only work she was given at the White House was making photocopies. She needed those credit hours, but didn’t feel she would be able to claim them because she wasn’t learning anything.
Gayle found her way to my Washington office through an acquaintance. She requested a few minutes of my time, then pretty much announced that she’d be transferring her internship to my team. She said that she’d do anything, that she’d make it worth my while to take her on, but that she needed a challenge and she absolutely had to learn something.
Today both of Gayle’s parents have PhDs, but when she was growing up no one in her family had attended college. And as one of her family’s three first-generation college students, Gayle was anxious to learn as much as possible. She regarded the semester in Washington as the opportunity of a lifetime, important not just to her but to her family and community as well. She wanted a full experience, even if it meant walking away from the White House and inventing something new.
Gayle returned to my office after graduation and kept working for the company while completing a joint JD/MBA program. Then, during her last years in DC, she was counsel to a Senate Committee. Along the way she encountered many challenges, from racism to breast cancer, but I never doubted her ultimate success. I knew she just wouldn’t quit hustling to develop her potential because it meant so much to her supporters. [Read more…] about To create a stronger career, find a bigger mission