More than 150 Echoing Green Fellows gathered in Joburg for the 2015 All Fellows Conference to refine and re-energize their leadership. Here's what we learned.
Heart at Work with Amber Rae
Amber Rae @heyamberrae
Amber Rae is a motivational force of nature. In the last two years, Amber launched the Domino Project with Seth Godin, turned insomnia into a global movement via Night Owls, and helped hundreds of people give their dreams direction, many of which were through The Passion Experiment. She’s been seen in The New York Times, Fast Company, Inc., Forbes, The Huffington Post, BBC, and ABC World News.
Work on Purpose is featuring Amber’s winding path as part of the Heart at Work series, because not only does Amber herself have purpose, but she has her finger on the pulse of purpose drivers everywhere. Echoing Green’s Heart at Work interview series highlights individuals whose changemaking paths we admire. Read Amber Rae's real-life story as she finds her Work on Purpose.
Work on Purpose defines work as the overlap between how you self-identify and how you spend your time. With that in mind, how would you describe your “work,” Amber?
My life mission is to “awaken people to their full potential so they can fearlessly pursue their dreams.” I’ve noticed that people begin to lack fulfillment in college, because they’re in a period of transition and they want to understand what brings them meaning as well as what’s next.
Right now, I’m at a very exciting moment, launching the Bold Academy, a 4-week experience designed to help college students and recent grads find clarity, build confidence, and unlock their full potential. With the Academy, we're bringing 24 students to Boulder in July and applications open today. If you want to do big things to “change the world” but aren’t sure how to get started, we’re creating this for you.
Knowing you, I imagine you aren’t big on labels, but to help our readers understand, would it be fair for them to think of you as a career—or life—coach?
You can call me whatever you want. Here's what matters: I'm hell-bent on cultivating a world where human potential is not governed by what we’re told we can and cannot do, but rather by our highest intentions and inner gifts. I'm obsessed with helping people live the lives they are meant to live, and I design my projects accordingly.
Let’s dive into your path. What was your first job or work?
I started my first job at age 5. My mom, a strong entrepreneur, sat me down and said, “Here’s how you make money.” I was fascinated. I noticed that parents in my neighborhood didn’t like their kids going to the local candy shop because it had gotten a bit sketchy. So I asked my uncle to help me buy candy in bulk at Sam’s Club. Every weekend, I'd sit outside and sell candy to the neighborhood kids. I remember making hundreds-and-hundreds of dollars over the summer and loving every second of the experience.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be the Editor-in-Chief of an inspiring magazine. From a young age, I always felt this deep desire to encourage and uplift people to do the things that mattered to them. When I was 12, with sponsorship from two corporations, I created an inspiring online magazine that shared stories of powerful women fulfilling their full potential. 5,000 young women subscribed. That's when I realized that I didn't have to wait to be Editor-in-Chief. No one needed to give me permission except myself.
What was your worst job?
In high school I decided to waitress at a local Italian restaurant. After two days, I quit and went back to my own projects and interests. I don't like being told what to do and I think I was made to work for myself.
Most recently, it took me 3 years and many different start-ups and paid positions before I found what I was meant to be doing after graduation. At times it was difficult because I felt like I was letting people down when I ended working engagements; but, these experiences ultimately led me to where I am now. They also taught me how to be really honest and upfront from the beginning. In each experience, I learned something new and was shown something I don't want. We always have everything we need in front of us to create our perfect future. It's simply a matter of making the most of right now, always doing our best, and knowing when to move on.
Could you tell me about your inflection points—the “aha” moments in your life?
Growing up, my next door neighbor Bob owned a computer business which he ran out of his home. Fascinated by these machines at a very young age, I started playing with computers at age 3 and got my first computer at 4. I've never stopped playing with them since. This helped me start my online magazine, work with Apple in college, and do everything I'm doing now.
A lot of my other "aha" moments stemmed from "oh no" moments. After college, I worked at an agency with big brands like Dove and Frito Lay. While a conventionally great job, I realized it didn't feel meaningful to me. So I left.
I moved to San Francisco with a desire to become more immersed in the Bay tech scene. After a year at a software company, I realized that as much as I love computers, the software side wasn't all that interesting to me. So I quit my job, sold all my belongings, and moved to New York with one suitcase and a dream. My heart said to go there and so I did.
New York kickstarted my journey toward self-actualization. I started working with start-ups I love like Photojojo, people I respect like Seth Godin, and also launched my own projects and ideas like New York Nightowls, revolution.is, and The Passion Experiment. I also got really into writing on my blog to encourage others to do what matters.
Most importantly, I gave myself time to think and pause and reflect and ask myself whether or not the things I was doing were energizing me. Energy is so key for me. I think it tells us where we should be focusing our time.
After two years, New York no longer energized me. It made me really tired. So I left.
Now I'm in Boulder. I moved here in November and it makes me feel like the very best version of myself. I'm much more grounded and focused, I'm dedicated to healthy living, surrounded by an incredible community of people, and I do what I love every single day.
What is it in you that made you not want to follow the rules, but to rewrite them?
I’m fiercely curious. My first words as a child were “what’s this?” And I've always been obsessed with asking "Why?"
A lot of things growing up didn't feel right or seem right to me. So I decided to do things my way instead. So far, so good.
What advice do you have for Millennials trying to access purposeful careers?
More than anything, trust your intuition. You gut is a signal to be trusted, not to be analyzed. Journaling has been really big for me. I write 750 words every morning to get in touch with myself and what matters.
Pay attention to what gives you energy. When do you do things and lose track of time? What deeply motivates you or even pisses you off? Whatever ignites passion is a sign of something you should be paying attention to.
Environment is also incredibly important. Ask yourself if the people around you are contributing to the process of awakening to your full potential.
Last, when you’re not sure what’s next—remind yourself that you’ll figure it out. Trust in the present moment, give it all that you can, and be bold if that's what your intuition is telling you.
Bringing about dramatic and lasting social change requires lifelong leadership and learning lessons along the way.
One clear way to drive change is to invest in leaders who have a direct connection to the communities they serve.