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Jay Forte on Pursung Your Dreams
Since some of our listening audience may not yet know who you are, would you please tell us a bit about yourself.
I was originally trained as a CPA, was a financial executive and corporate educator before starting Humanetrics, LLC, a teaching, consulting, and workplace coaching business, committed to connecting people to their talents and passions to influence performance at work and in life. I am the author of the new interactive millennial management guidebook, Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition: How to Invite, Incite and Ignite Employee Performance, and the new downloadable resource for job seekers entitled, Stand Out and Get Hired. Years in managing the financial side of organizations, coupled with creating education departments has influenced my bottom line and practical approach to helping managers attract, hire and retain today’s best talent, and for employees and individuals to learn how to identify and play to their talents for maximpact in work and life.
I have three great children, two through college and out on their own, the youngest still in college. I have a committed life partner who shares my dreams, interests and values. When not writing and speaking, I am usually in the garden or cooking in the kitchen.
You are a great success. Because of what you've accomplished and where you are in life, what would you tell others to inspire them today, regardless of where they are in their life?
Know yourself. Spend quality time with yourself. Be self-aware. Because the better you know your unique talents, values and interests, the more authentically you will live. The more true you are to yourself, the more control you have over creating a happy and high-impact life. Spend time getting to know your talents—what you are naturally good at—and what you love—your passions—to live and work in a way that plays to what you are great at and love to do. All performance is more significant when it matches your core personality and natural hardwiring.
No one can do this work of self-awareness and self-inspection for you. You own this life and have the responsibility to understand your many gifts and develop them for your best life. This is how you play to your strengths, live authentically and make the greatest impact in work and in life.
We all know that inspiration can change lives. Can you share a personal story of someone who inspired you and made a difference in your life or a defining moment or experience that inspired you or changed your life?
I have a friend who is battling a long and debilitating illness. He approaches each day with power, energy and optimism, particularly in suffering. He chooses to be happy spending time with people who matter and in a garden that gives him amazing joy. Every day is a blessing. There are no negatives in his outlook. This attitude reminds me of the need for all of us to choose our outlooks, to own our attitudes and our responses. Some look for what's negative, what's bad, and what's missing. Others look for what's positive, what's good, and what they have. My friend has taught me that we can rise and shine or rise and whine, and that shining is the only way to go through life.
You make it look easy, but I'm guessing you've experienced challenges in your life. Can you share with our listeners how that has strengthened you to reach success? In other words, how do you overcome adversity?
It is amazing how resilient we are when given the opportunity. But to land on our feet in a period of change or challenge requires clarity—of thinking, planning and living. I started a new business in a dangerously down economy, with kids in college, a mortgage, insurance, no paycheck and an excessive amount of hours. It nearly destroyed me in its first year. The pressure to perform and be successful was mind-blowing. My salvation was in my clarity of purpose and my passionate focus on my vision for the business, being absolutely clear about its value and impact for others. Passion and clarity get me through adversity. I stay clear on my focus; I stay passionate about what I believe and do. In adversity, I find the right road and then the energy to be on the right road. It doesn’t always happen easily or quickly, but I have found that my two pillars—my focus and my passion—always help me land on my feet – in any situation even when the world around me is shaking.
Everyone has ideas on how to improve their lives, whether it be a new job, moving to a new city, or finding love, but change can be a bit scary sometimes. Can you please share an experience with us where you "stepped off the ledge" with only faith, and took a big risk, based only on your belief that you would succeed?
I grew up in a strong Italian Catholic family that lived by tradition and church. And imagine being the gay kid in this conservative and traditional family. I knew I was gay when I was very young but chose to live as if I were not, to comply with the way the family identified how life should be. I married a terrific person, because that is what others did. I had a great job and eventually shared three amazing kids, all the time pretending to be present but becoming increasingly disconnected and distant. When you pretend to be something you are not, it destroys you from the inside. And after nine years of living a very artificial and small fraction of life, I stepped off the ledge with a public acknowledgement of being gay to a wife, three children and two very large conservative families. Some have told me this took great courage. I knew that I was living someone else’s life, as if watching on the sidelines, without input or control as a spectator rather than as a player.
We are given our particular lives. We get what we get and are to live the lives we get, whether gay or straight, Greek or Italian, male or female. And it is our requirement to make something great from what we are given. Our greatest celebration of life is the acknowledgement of who we truly are, embracing it and living it to its greatest level. Self-awareness, self-realization and self-respect come from the inside. We must choose to value ourselves. We must choose to accept ourselves, regardless of the expectations or requirements of others.
The issue isn’t about being gay or straight. Rather, it is about whether you choose to live according to the expectations of others, or you choose to own the life you've received, to celebrate it, and to make it the most amazing life possible. I now have three great kids, a remarkable partner and a vision of life that is significantly larger and more authentic than anything I had in the past. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been extraordinary. The courage to step off the ledge comes from believing that with every change, something better will happen. Optimism inspires courage. Ownership inspires courage.
How can others do what you did?
Courage comes from within. Courage comes by believing you have the right to be who you are; you are not here for the approval of others. Courage comes from believing you have both the right and the ability to be happy, honest and authentic. Life is not a dress rehearsal. It is critical to be honest about who you are and how you use your gifts, and to believe that you are as you were intended to be. You have your entire life to develop your gifts and to make your greatest impact. But, it only works when you start from a place of authenticity and honesty. My guidance to others is always to be true to yourself. By believing you have the right to be as you were created, you will find the courage to make it happen.
What process, steps or exercises do you recommend that our listeners could do right now and each morning, to improve the quality of their lives?
I call this the ten-minute reconnect—for clarity and passion—and it includes four quick steps:
- Read from someone who inspires you to be your best. Find several authors and read from their works to activate your spirit, energy and internal fire.
- Recommit to your purpose of vision—what are you all about, how do you add value and what impact do you make. Reaffirm it to remind yourself of your value to yourself and to others. Be clear. Stay clear.
- Identify three things you are grateful for. Start to notice all that you have and the things that make you happy, instead of what is missing and what upsets you. Choose to see the good, the positive and to be optimistic. A focus on gratitude helps you see more reasons to be grateful which perpetuates the feeling—and you inspire others.
- Identify three people who need to hear something positive from you to remind you that your world is larger than just you. And, as you have challenges, others do, too. You may be the solution or the act of kindness that others need as they work through their challenges. Be available. Stay connected.
What's the greatest joy in your life?
I am a lifelong learner. My greatest joys are the epiphanies when the learning comes together to provide a greater insight, answer or explanation. This helps me understand how the world works and what my role is in it. My belief is that we are here to learn as much as we can about who we are and to realize ourselves fully. My greatest joy is understanding one more piece of the map on the road to enlightenment.
If you had to wrap up the wisdom of your life to leave as your legacy—call it YOUR BRILLIANCE—what important things that you've learned would you want to pass on to others?
Life (and people) do not come in only one size. Our uniqueness is intentional. Our individual talents and strengths are gifts given to us to prepare us to deal with our world, learn about ourselves and maximize our impact and value in our world. It is our daily responsibility to learn about who we are, what are our talents and gifts, and how to develop and wisely use them. It is our responsibility to understand ourselves and accept ourselves as we are then to own who we become. It is our responsibility to live honestly, openly and supportively of others as we know there is more than one road to enlightenment and wisdom. We have many ways to move through life. It is up to us to own what we have been given, to identify it, develop it, use it, appreciate it, and add value because of it. No two of us are exactly alike. No two of us should approach the world in exactly the same way. Our variety adds value to everyone's life and expands the definition of life for all of us. We can contribute each in our own way to the beauty and prosperity of the world. The world needs us as we are, not as fakes, not as limited images of ourselves – but the full real ones.
If you had just one more thing that you could accomplish in your lifetime, what would it be?
It would be to show people they have more control over their lives than they think they do. Imagine how much happier people will be, and our world will be, if we believe we have the ability to create the lives we want and learn to accept that others are able and capable of doing the same.