Forging New Partnerships. Transforming Communities.

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Photos Taken by Arturo – Mujerave Staff Photographer

There is something beautiful happening in the countryside of Guatemala in Totonicapán. It’s happening quietly, too. Lives are being changed by the work of a community based organization – Mujerave, which was created by Kody Gerkin, a former member of the Peace Corps. I learned of Mujerave (moo-hare-ah-vey) after sitting on a panel with Emily Gerkin Guerrant, Kody’s Sister. She spoke about her brother’s passion with great zeal, which prompted me to dig a little deeper. I knew I had to find a way to get involved after learning of the values, commitments, and goals of the organization.

Mujerave’s mission is to contribute to the alleviation of poverty, the eradication of malnutrition, and the reduction of preventable illnesses by empowering women through sustainable development projects in indigenous communities in the department of Totonicapán, Guatemala. As for the vision of Mujerave: Through increasing food security, expanding community-based education initiatives, and improving health-related infrastructure in underserved rural, indigenous communities in Guatemala’s Western Highlands, Mujerave’s vision is a Totonicapán less burdened by preventable illnesses, chronic malnutrition, and debilitating poverty.

In 2011, at the LeaderShape Institute, I was asked the big questions, “what would you do for the rest of your life if money and time weren’t barriers?” or “what are you doing today to make the world a more just, caring and thriving place?” These questions stayed with me throughout the week and for many years to come. I still ask myself those questions year after year. My vision, though extremely limited and inarticulate at the time, was to make a division-less world. Nearly 6 years later, I can explicitly say that even back then, it had everything to do with ending poverty, creating opportunities for others to have better lives, and working with and on behalf of the global community.

After a few bumps and bruises, failures and mistakes, I began to realize that I didn’t have to save the world on my own. I simply had to do my part to make the world better in my own way, as well as find ways to support others who were already working in other capacities, industries, and communities. This led me to Mujerave, as well as a philanthropic partnership. I’ve made a five-year commitment to support Mujerave’s work to reduce poverty, increase gender mainstreaming in policy and action, as well as aid in sustainable development.

Many women around the world are powerful stewards in their communities, yet they are still overlooked and underrepresented in places of power. Mujerave provides resources and a space for women to use their voices, wisdom, and experiences to make their communities healthier, improve economic stability, and much more.

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To learn more visit: http://www.mujerave.org

Feel free to make a donation in support of the many projects that are currently taking place, as well as future projects.

Building Together – Finding Inspiration in Your Circle

Community is deeply important in regards to success, social support, and development. When I look at the community of family and friends that support and build me up, I can’t help but be inspired, hopeful, and deeply grateful. These are the people I love, I support, and care about. One of my intentions is to better express my gratitude toward them all.

The initial idea for this post came last Friday after I sat down with my badass mentor, Lisa Hadden, who does all kinds of great work related to Asset Based Community Development. To quote her, “The greatest diversity is the proliferation of gifts to your community. Our communities should allow space for people to become great.” This struck me in a way that resulted in a great deal of reflection over the weekend. Who was in my life doing amazing work? How could I support them? How can I share their stories?

I thought about mentors, friends, family members, and people that I’ve just stayed connected to in one way, shape, or form. The second inspiration came from catching up with my girlfriend. We talked about proactive strategies related to social issues related to education, politics, and enacting change. She’s a boss, challenges me to really be invested in ways I wouldn’t normally be, and she reminds me that there is good in the world.

The last note focuses on a friend and brother that has been in my life for nearly 10 years. Zo was on Snapchat discussing his journey toward joining the US Navy, having a beautiful baby girl, making long term plans for success, and where his life is headed. Seeing your friends succeed as well as find their niche creates a great sense of pride. He also dropped a few musical gems in between the positive notes.

I look at my circle and see tons of inspiration – My family is doing well (parents, brother, cousins, and so on). My best friend is moving to Georgia soon. My college best friends are in their careers and thriving around the country. Lastly, I LITERALLY (not in the ironic way) have friends on every continent, except Antarctica, that are fighting for good causes, building business, sharing their creativity with the world through music and art, and so much more.

Years ago I had the savior approach many passionate people have at some point or another. “I have to be the one to do it.” “This is my burden to bare” “It has to be me” mindset that can really cause you to do more harm than good. Great friends and mentors serve as a reminder that we, as a community, make the world better. “The world needs less ME and more WE.” Happy Monday, everybody.

Travel Series Part 3 – Nostalgic. Grateful. And Ready to Go Again

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Imagine coming home after four months of exploration, being fully present, and navigating life in places so unfamiliar that all you could do was stumble around for a while until you found your way? Midge Carter found herself buying tickets for trains with no destination in mind. She hiked mountains, walked out to island after the tide rolled out, and sat at King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh at sunrise with 16 amazing friends. (Photos at the end).

Today’s blog is about Midge’s four-month journey around Europe. From hot chocolate in Ibiza to longing for Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter by the end of her trip, Midge shared with me interesting stories about not wanting to leave, but finally coming to a place where she is grateful for her experiences, but so deeply ready to leave again. (She’s not particular about much, but she is about peanut butter. – “Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter or NOTHING”). In France, she found herself wandering around markets before heading out for a solo-hike. “I don’t speak French so I just walked around pointing at things and ended up with a few oranges and a baguette. I hiked up this mountain by myself and I sat on the side of it looking out at the alps… just sitting there like this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.”When you’re traveling for months at a time, you experience these peaceful, still moments where it’s just you and the world.

You also find that much of your success is related to the kindness of others. Traveling is deeply revealing – it shows us deepest selves, our strength, our ability to be alone and be happy, and our need to connect wherever we go. “There was one day when two of us met up with two friends for a hike and when we got to the top it was so windy and no one else was around. It was JUST us. It was just the most… it was one of those moments that feels so tangible because it’s so solid when you’re in it and you want to remember it.” These moments aren’t easily forgotten. We hold tightly to the moments where we felt most alive. We remember who was with us, what the air felt like, and how important the people around us were in those moments.

As the trip came to a close the emotions changed. The desire to get off the plane and escape back to a new place grows and grows. “The hardest part was that I didn’t want to be home. Especially because I spent the rest of the summer in the same town I grew up in. It’s like going from doing something interesting every day and all of sudden you’re back in the grind. It’s not like every day there (Europe) was perfect, but it wasn’t every day here.” While listening to Midge share stories of travel and her journey home, I couldn’t help but go back to the moment of landing back in the States after my first trip abroad. That feeling of I could be anywhere in the world right now, why did I come back here sets in. You think of just buying the first ticket out to wherever and going away again. It doesn’t last forever, but it does feel like it will never go away.

After a while, you come to a point where you’ve settled back in. You find that the grind isn’t so bad and you look back on all the memories made with amazing people. “I think I stopped being angry when I felt like I was doing something with my life again… And I’m at a point where I’m nostalgic, and grateful, and ready to go again,” The desire to travel never really goes away after that first trip. It intensifies and staying in familiar places too long starts to feel suffocating, but that’s when you look through old photos, plan your next trip and get on your way.

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All photos were provided by Midge Carter. Midge is studying public relations, a lover of Smucker’s All Natural Peanut Butter, and a fellow Travel enthusiast.

The Big Picture – Update

Between now and the end of 2016, I’ll be sharing a collection of posts in series format. As I become more selective of blog content, I’ll be looking for stories, guest writers, and people to feature. If you’re interested feel free to DM me via Instagram, @vince_thurman1 or Comment on this post.

Over the next three days, I’ll be highlighting three areas of travel ranging from planning your trip to having to come home after a few months of being away.

This week’s series will highlight three friends interested in travel. First, I’ll be highlighting Harrison Watts, who is preparing to leave on a four-month study abroad trip to Florence, Italy, which also happens to be his first Solo-Trip. Next will be Amanda Yats, this week’s guest writer who will share about her Love Affair with England. Finally, Midge Carter will reflect on spending a summer abroad.

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When Tuesday Feels Like Monday?

Ever felt like the week was dragging on? Find yourself feeling that first wave of burnout starting to hit? Don’t worry! You aren’t alone in that feeling. If you are in the US, you are probably falling victim to the “busy” culture. Busy culture is when we constantly tell ourselves and others that we are busy, that we have a lot going on, or that we do not have time for anything.

Here are five tips to get over the hump and practice resilience in the face of burnout.

Number 1: Take time to do something you actually enjoy doing. “Whoa Vince! You are saying that I have to stop being busy for a few seconds to do something I enjoy? I don’t have time for that.” Take 10 minutes out of your day to do something you enjoy. Scroll through Instagram. Go for a walk. Read that article you have been meaning to read. Get on a call with a loved one. Start with ten minutes and work your way up to a half hour.

Number 2: Stop saying that you are busy. The more you say it, the more your body feels it. You will get to the end of some days and feel infinitely more exhausted than others because of four words. “I am so busy.” Even writing that sentence felt draining. Find other ways to tell people that the last few weeks have been stressful. Also, talk about what successes you’ve had during this stressful time. Interject some positive outcomes into your conversations to let people know that your hard work is paying off.

Number 3: Stop Procrastinating during busy times. If you have deadlines to meet, projects to complete, and a variety of other tasks to finish, work on them. Set aside specific times to actually complete tasks. It will reduce stress and boost morale. Checking items off the To-Do List is one of the most satisfying feeling in the world – BTW.

Number 4: Set your intentions. I was gifted a notepad that is called the Daily Intention Tracker. My day is more productive if I fill out the notepad when I first arrive at the office. Writing intentions allows me to clearly articulate what I want to achieve each day. Putting my intentions on paper really helps me focus my energy on what I need to do. This practices keeps me from living passively and letting the day pass me by.

Number 5: Eat, Sleep, Shower, Repeat (Exercise too. – if that’s your thing). These activities are necessities and need to be prioritized into your daily schedule if you are feeling stressed. Eat an uninterrupted meal, which means no work, no texting, and no rushing. SLOW DOWN and taste your food. Sleep as much as you can. Shower – you’ll feel better and everyone will like you more. Do it all over again. Exercise can also help you destress and refocus on your priorities.

When I get to a point of being “busy” whether real or perceived, I get stressed. My eating habits go to shit. The quality of my work dips. Finding balance and taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to pump some energy back into your bones. Practice these tips and you’ll be well on your way to being back at your best. Happy Tuesday!

What Dreams Are Made Of – Review: The Dreamer Coffee Shop

Cafes and coffeeshops are among my favorite places in the world. You can find them in almost all cities, towns, and communities. Even if you can’t find a good coffeeshop, you can find a place with its qualities – warm, creative, simple, and just what you need to slow things down. That’s what dreams are made of. In the busyness of life, coffeeshops are the place I come to be still for a while.

As of late, my favorite place has been The Dreamer Coffee Shop; affectionally known as Dreamer to regulars. Dreamer has a simple, warm environment that is welcoming for individuals looking for a creative space to relax or groups looking to study (really procrastinate). The open concept, bright walls, large bay windows and warm lighting make this the perfect coffeeshop to start a quiet weekend or spend your Wednesday evening to get over the midweek hump.

The coffee is great, the people become friends, and the space is perfect. Some of my favorites are the Maple Latte, Apple Chaider, and just their plan Cafe Latte.

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The Dreamer Coffee Shop is located in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

Follow them on Instagram: @dreamercoffeeshop

Follow me on Instagram: @vince_thurman1

 

One Year of Blogging – Number 50

This is blog number 50! I started using The Big Picture to reflect on my experiences a year ago this month. It’s amazing to think about all that has happened in a year’s time and to see it backwards by revisiting certain posts. Some highlights are My Life or Master of None, in which I compare my life with a Netflix Series staring Aziz Ansari, What do you want to be when you grow up?, which focuses on navigating life as a young professional and developing skill to land a job you want, and the recent Office Spotlights.

For this post, I want to talk about the benefits of blogging:

  1. My writing has become more precise and focused. Blogging has been a great tool to practice writing without pressure. I can write at my own pace, revisit thoughts, and make edits after taking a step away from it. Is my writing perfect now? Not particularly, but it has gotten significantly better. Some people are gifted writers. I am not one of them, but that doesn’t stop me from practicing. Progress not perfection is my current mindset.
  2. Reflection is immensely important for learning. I have learned many lessons hours, days, weeks, and even months after having experienced some event, taking a class, or participating in an adventure. Quiet, intentional reflection leads to a deeper understanding of some concepts, a heighten sense of self-awareness, and a strong connection to what I experience. It is one thing to take in new information. It is another to process the information so it can be applied later. (It’s also one of my favorite activities as an introvert.)
  3. Stories. Stories. Stories. Storytelling is powerful! I look back on some of my blogs and laugh my heart out. I look back on others and feel a sense of contentment because of how far I have come. While I have gotten better at storytelling, I must say I have a long way to go before I have mastered this skill. Stories bridge the past with the future, which allows us to revisit moments that are important to us. This was a lesson learned from a friend and mentor, Carlos Cortes.
  4. Lastly, I’ve learned that blogging is a simple way to connect with people. There is a human element to many of my posts and often times they serve as a mirror to what others may have experienced or are currently experiencing. Making simple, yet meaningful connections that are rooted in authenticity is deeply important to me. Being able to do that through blogging is an avenue that is only just opening for me. I’m excited to see where it leads!

Here’s to one year writing for The Big Picture.

 

Style Revisited – Something New

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about style, being unfamiliar with fashion, and finally taking risks. I’ve decided to revisit the topic to share what I’ve learned about myself and style in the past few months. Here are six lessons I’ve learned:

  1. My confidence has grown tremendously. Taking risks and seeing them pay off is a great way to boost confidence. I’m not talking blind risk. I’m talking thoughtful, calculated risk. Making smart decisions after going through some trial and error. Some outfits were great and others were… Well let’s just say I won’t be wearing a few of them again. This has benefited me in my personal and professional life. Decisive. Bold. Flexible. Creativity. These are the words that come to mind.1
  2. Less is more… I paired down my wardrobe down to the essentials and a few extra luxuries. I have 7 pairs of paints including jeans/denim, 3 pairs of shorts, closes to exercise in, 8 dress shirts, approximately, and 10 t-shirts varying for seasons. Based on that count I’d say I’d have approximately 40-50 total items of clothing, excluding shoes. That can be saved for a different blog. I have less stress about deciding what to wear because I now have less an 100 items to choose from. It feels great. You can always buy what you need to fill in gaps.2
  3. Understand the occasion. Thinking back to a few years ago, I would dress how I wanted to dress. It wasn’t bad, but sometimes I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the occasion. There were times when I was overdressed and others when I was woefully underdressed. If you aren’t sure about what’s appropriate, ask. It’s okay to ask questions. Better ask and find out, than show up and be out of place. 3
  4. Be comfortable. Look Good. Feel Good applies here. First and foremost, you have to be comfortable. If you aren’t, people will notice, which doesn’t matter a ton, but you’ll probably hate every second of it. Constantly readjusting is a sign that you might not be comfortable. Make sure the fit is right on whatever you’re wearing. When the fit is right, the entire outfit looks better.Style 1
  5. Own your style and try new things. If you’re creative, find a way to pull an outfit together that you didn’t see before. If you’re unsure about that haircut or hairstyle, try it. If you don’t like it, change it. If you like to dress up, get out of bed a half hour earlier and get ready for the day. If it’s Saturday and you aren’t going anywhere, rock the joggers or sweatpants. 4
  6. Don’t let people dictate what is right for you. Style is about a swagger or an expression of your personality. Don’t force it and play around with the ideas you have. You might find that you like something you were afraid to try.

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Also a special guest quote from my friend Julie Fredrick: “SHOES ALWAYS MATCH THE BAND OF THE WATCH.”

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Photos taken by: @SarahFiorillo (Instagram)

 

Office Spotlight – Jesi Ekonen

Etsy Shops. Just Follow Your Art. Associate Director. Jesi is the creative genius who doubles as a Student Affairs professional who basically does six jobs. This spotlight is particularly special because I’ve known Jesi for a little over six years now. She interviewed me for LAS Competition Day in 2010.

Knowing Jesi has been a privilege. From the great conversations, to the times she’s pushed me to become a better professional, and all fun and funny moments in between, Jesi has been a tremendous mentor and friend over the years. She loves Dan Ekonen, Betty White and Mr. Jones. She’s wildly talented in the realms of art, whit, and sarcasm, which resulted in the creation of Just Follow Your Art (http://etsy.me/2eqYyTC). And she’s just cool.

Jesi and I share a love of wine/champagne, leadership development, all things potato, and just giving a damn about making the world better in big and small ways. Knowing Jesi has helped me become more creative, professional, and thoughtful. I’ve been lucky enough to work with you, learn from you, and just celebrate good times. Thank you for all you do, Jesi.

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Jesi Ekonen is the Associate Director of the Leadership Institute at Central Michigan University

Office Spotlight – Hannah Long

From her love of plants to veggie burgers (irony…am I right?), Hannah is a character in the best way! She adds a lightheartedness to the office that keeps us on our toes. Hannah and I had the pleasure of working together during her last undergraduate semester with the Ignite Leadership Program (Miranda Joynt was her co-coordinator).

Last year we shared weekly meetings and now we share the Grave (Grad Cave) w/FeFe. Though we’ll only get one year as grad students together, we’ll definitely have many memories to share. One of those memories is when my mom decided to give her a plant, which happened this week.

If you know Hannah, you know that fun, bulldogs, and bird doubles are not to be missed. That’s the energy she brings to our team. She keeps us fun as well as productive. She stepped into the graduate assistant role right away took off running (not literally). She’s been a great friend and team member in the Leadership Institute and we’re lucky to have her.

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Hannah Long is a graduate assistant in CMU’s Leadership Institute completing her first year of graduate school in the Master’s of Arts in Higher Education Administration.