I recently joined 250+ young professionals from the Richmond, Virginia area for the annual 804UM (said like “8 oh forum”… I think that is so clever! I should mention for the readers outside of Virginia – 804 is our area code). The theme for the event was “Past, Present, Future” – and we spent the day discussing who we have been and who we want to become. The main stage speakers and the break out sessions unraveled an interesting theme of uncertainty with the young professionals. We were listening to established professionals tell us, with the benefit of hindsight, what they have done to reach their current successes at a time when most of us are trying to figure out how we are supposed make choices today that will affect our future, without being aware of what we want the future to hold.

Christy Coleman, the President and CEO at the American Civil War Center in Richmond and a keynote speaker at the 804UM, stated:

“The past isn’t something to be left behind, it is something that should propel us.”

Each of those choices we have made and each of those experiences we have been through shape who we are and who we will continue to become. Regardless of how similar these experiences align with a coworker’s or a friend’s, it is about the way we interpret and act on them. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl actually points out that “in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person [one became] was the result of an inner decision.” (p66) He goes on to discuss that it is not the event, or even the reasons behind the events, but the attitude of the person and the way they apply it to finding their purpose and meaning.

So as young professionals trying desperately to figure out what we want to see when we look in our mirror in 5, 10, or 15 years, I urge you not to attempt to gain clarity on the specifics, but clarity on what guides you and your decisions – that purpose and meaning that Victor Frankl discusses. To make conscious choices that put you in the healthiest space to take full advantage of any potential opportunity that comes your way. And to never forget that regardless of the situation, experience, or interaction, you have the ability to choose your attitude going into and coming out of it.

Do you allow your past experiences to propel you into your future?



Danielle Aaronson

Danielle Aaronson

Danielle’s mission is to inspire leaders to make intentional choices that move them to positive action. She speaks at conferences, management summits, and leadership programs as well as facilitates efforts with executives and senior leaders at organizations seeking to influence their culture. Her mantra, “be the change you wish to see in the world” has allowed her to strive every day to be the best she can be and help others recognize the potential they have to make a positive difference. @deaaronson

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